Three Heresies in the Church

There will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them.

–2 Peter 2:1

You’re probably familiar with the term melting pot. People have described the United States as a melting pot because our country is made up of people from various cultures and beliefs. In the same way, the Colossian church was made up of Christians from all different backgrounds. And some people were bringing their old beliefs and philosophies into the church.

Paul addressed three specific heresies in his letter to the Colossians–heresies that are still present in the church today. The first was Gnosticism, which comes from the Greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge.” The Gnostics claimed to have knowledge beyond Jesus Christ and God’s Word. (Anytime you hear that, your heresy alarm should go off!) The Gnostics said everything spiritual is good, but everything material is evil. Therefore, they denied that Jesus Christ dwelled in human form. They rejected His virgin birth, physical death, and physical resurrection. Paul responded to the heresy of Gnosticism by repeatedly talking about the bodily flesh of Jesus Christ. For example, he said in Colossians 2:9, “In [Christ] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” Jesus was 100 percent God and 100 percent human.

A second heresy Paul addressed was Eastern mysticism. In Colossae, some mystics used astrology to try to determine their future, and others worshiped the angels. We see the same thing today. There are Christians who begin their day with a cup of coffee, a verse from the Bible, and their horoscope. But Paul wrote against the practices of mysticism.

A third heresy in the Colossian church was legalism. When some Jews in Colossae converted to Christianity, they tried to bring the Old Testament laws into the church. They said, “We need to trust in Christ for salvation, but we also need to follow the dietary laws and the Sabbath laws.” In Colossians 2:16–17, Paul responded to the heresy of legalism: “No one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day–things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” Legalism continues in the church today. People try to add requirements to salvation beyond trusting in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, or they add to the commands in the New Testament that govern our behavior as Christians. But Paul said the Old Testament laws merely pointed people to Jesus Christ. Now that Christ has come, we don’t have to follow the old laws unless they’re repeated in the New Testament. We are not to add to the requirements in God’s Word.

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Today’s devotion is adapted from “Growing Strong in Christ” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2011.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.

 

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