These days, subjects like false teachers and false teaching don’t get much air time in sermons or classes. That is why I think a little lesson on early Church history might be some good medicine.
The Church began on Pentecost, Acts 2, AD 30ish.
Jesus had warned His disciples of the dangers of false teachers as early as the sermon on the mount (Mt 7), throughout their time with Him (Mt 16) and also near the end (Mt 24). There were two kinds of false teachers that those early Christians battled: outsiders (Pharisees and Sadducees) and insiders Judaizers & Gnostics.
For 4 decades, even though those outsiders waged war against the early church, they were not the major threat. External persecution never has been the foremost danger facing Christians. The primary hazard facing the early church came from those spreading the poisonous heresy that mixed Judaism with the Gospel – JUDAIZERS. Adding anything to the Gospel message is like adding arsenic to a glass of pure water. The fighting over that issue was so intense that a special worldwide church meeting of all elders and preachers was called in Jerusalem. The notes of that meeting are in Acts 15. The bottom line: Gentiles were not required to be circumcised, not bound by the Law of Moses in any way; their salvation was to be unquestioned.
But as is true with all meetings, those with dishonest hearts will refuse the decisions made and depart to cause trouble. One need only read Galatians to see the trouble that followed the Jerusalem conference in Gentile regions. Judaizers, filled with lies and heresy, tried to destroy Gentile churches. Paul waged war with the Judaizers everywhere he traveled.
Then in AD 70 God intervened and used the Roman army to destroy the core of Judaism: the Temple, the genealogical records, all of the holy things in the Temple. And the city of Jerusalem was flattened. God proclaimed that Judaism was obsolete (Heb 8:13) and that it had no part in His plan for His children anymore; it was the church that made up God’s people. God basically silenced the Judaizers.
In the late 60s, Paul warned (1-2 Timothy, Titus) of a different gang of false teachers who would arise. Squashing Judaism did not end the church’s battles against heresy. John gave this group a name: ANTICHRISTS. John and Jude (1-3 John, Jude) wrote of the dangerous impact these false teachers were having in churches in the late first century. By the beginning of the second century they had another name: GNOSTICS. And for over 200 years Gnosticism spread it’s poison all over the world, including many Christian churches.
So, why the early church history lesson? Every Christian, of every era, must remember that there never will be a time when Satan does not stir up false teachers in his attempt to destroy the church. Knowing the TRUTHS in God’s Word will always be critical. And one of the scariest truths will always be: “my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge”, Hos 4:6.
If a “lack of knowledge” is a terrifying truth, then Jn 8:32 is the peaceful, indispensable truth:
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Where does knowing the truths in God’s Word fit in your personal list of priorities? Examine your time, your energy and your interests and you will soon know where it actually fits. Need to make some changes? God bless.
Mike Sublett is a pastor at Hi-Land Christian Church, 1615 N. Banks St., Pampa, Texas 79065. Email him at email@example.com.
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