How Heresy Helps

Has anyone ever said to you, “If the bible is so straightforward then why are there so many Christian denominations?” or “since all Christians claim to be led by the Holy Spirit then how come there are so many different interpretations of scripture?” I personally get these types of questions at least once a month.

Can you imagine what is must have been like in the time of the Old Testament Israelites? Imagine 5 different persons all claiming to be prophets meanwhile the average Joe of that time is trying to figure out which one of these bozos is really speaking for God?

Well, times have changed but the problem, unfortunately remains the same. There are many  “Christian” denominations that all make the claim to represent the true interpretation and application of God’s word with at least one church (i.e. the Roman Catholic Church) even claiming to be the “only true church, outside of which there is no salvation”(). How do we know whom trust?

Well some Christians are surprised to discover that God actually ordains heresy and heretical interpretations to come about, in fact, God says that heresy has a divine purpose, namely:

1. To prove (test) the people of God to see if they are really tethered to His word

Examine the following verses:

Deuteronomy 13:1-3
If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, (and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee,) saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

1 Corinthians 11:18-19
For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

So we see that divisions (or denominations) due to differences in doctrines, (which incidentally is frequently used as a reason to distrust that decisive truth exists within Christianity) when properly understood, is a God-ordained test to discover those who will tremble at His word (Isaiah 66:2) and those who will twist (2 Timothy 4:3-4) it to suit their own understanding.

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When I see the blood…

As I relaxed at home this past resurrection Sunday watching the Ten Commandments (staring Charles Heston) I was moved with emotion as I pondered on the scene where Joshua was applying the lamb’s blood to the two side posts and the upper post of a Jewish door in accordance with God’s instruction from Moses. That the passover lamb and its blood are types for which the antitypes are the Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) and His shed blood are obvious to most Christians; however, the simplicity in how the Jews attained to this exclusion from God’s wrath and the sufficiency of the lamb’s blood are two types which unfortunately go unidentified by many professing Christians. The corresponding antitypes are the simplicity of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 11:3) and the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice (Hebrews 10:14).

(Exodus 12:13) And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.

God said “and when I see the blood” not, when I hear the prayers [of holy people], or when I see your good works, or when I see your penances, or when I see your nationality, or when I see your church membership; nothing could satisfy God’s wrath except the God-supplied solution (of the lamb’s blood), all that God wanted in return was obedience (1 Samuel 15:22). As long as the Jews (or anyone for that matter) believed the word of God delivered by Moses regarding the efficacy of the blood and acted out this belief, they were guaranteed to escape the coming wrath of God (Exodus 12:13). In other words, obedience to God’s word was absolutely necessary, but the lamb’s blood was the only thing that could stop the wrath of God. No other solution, no matter how pious, could have met God’s demand for exclusion from His wrath. Incidentally (and consequently), no one could boast (after the plague) that they had escaped God’s judgment because of anything that they had done outside of God’s solution, such boasting would in fact, defy reason (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:27). Also, adding anything (i.e. our own sufferings) to the God-defined solution would no doubt have insulted and angered God as he would have branded this addition as “another” solution aiming to usurp the simplicity and sufficiency of His perfect and original solution (Galatians 1:6, 2 Corinthians 11:4).

Now if a person, after hearing Moses deliver the word of God, claimed to “believe” those words, but did not attempt to carry out God’s command, what do you think would happen to that person’s household? Well, obviously that person’s household would have received its measure of God’s wrath (the plague); this is precisely why God warns us in the second chapter of the book of James that faith without works is dead. If you say that you have faith or that you believe, the only way to demonstrate this claim before men (not before God as He sees the heart) is by living according to what you believe, this is what James means by ‘works.’ This is also why we are told in the first chapter of James that if we are only hearers of the Word and not doers we are deceiving ourselves.

Finally, (in Acts 16:30) the Philippian jailer doesn’t ask Paul and Silas “how was my redemption attained?” If he had, Paul would no doubt have replied “only by the blood of Jesus Christ.” Instead, He cries out to Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved…” and Paul said, “…believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Similarly, Christ (in John6:29), when asked by some “freeloaders” how they could work the works of God (which endure unto everlasting life) replied, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom [the Father] hath sent.” Therefore, let us try not to add to the solution of Christ’s Sacrifice, after all, He said, “it is finished” and we know that His blood is sufficient, all that is left to do is believe!

P.S. Incidentally, parallel “simplicity” and “sufficiency” types also occur in Numbers 21 where God’s judgement (fiery serpents) befalls the murmuring Jews and only those snake-bitten Jews who believed the God-ordained solution (of simply looking at a brazen serpent that was lifted up on a pole) attained immediate healing from certain death.

God’s decisions are not determined by our decisions. Really?

Certainly there are many examples where God’s decision are not based on our decisions
(i.e.

1 Corinthians 1:21:
“…in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” — In other words, it was solely the decision of God that the world through earthly wisdom would never be able to know God. In addition, it was solely God’s decision to save man using the God-ordained method of preaching the Gospel.

or

John 1:12-13
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” — In other words, the sons of God (or any person for that matter) were not born because of man’s decision but God’s decision.

)
but is this the case for every decision God makes? In regards to God’s foreknowledge, Dr. Henry Morris, founder of the modern day creationist movement states in his New Defenders Study Bible Commentary for Romans 8:29 that:

God “foreknew” that Israel would be His people (Romans 11:2), yet He later chose them by His own will. It clearly suggests planning ahead of time, not just knowing ahead of time. Nothing takes God by surprise; His decisions are not determined by our decisions. Yet in every case where God’s planning and predestining are involved (e.g., Acts 2:23), it is also true those who acted according to His foreknowledge carried out those acts of their own volition. He promises that “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Yet He also says that “He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).

Even if we were to stipulate (contrary to scripture) that knowing ahead of time also meant planning ahead of time, does this necessitate that our decision to believe was really God’s decision?

I agree that “those who acted according to [God’s] foreknowledge carried out those acts of their own volition” but why must we assert that knowing ahead of time (foreknowledge) also means planning ahead of time? Did not God (fore)know our decision before he planned (predestined us to be conformed to Christ) in Romans 8:29? Is it not the foreknowledge of God (regarding our obedience) that determines which persons are elected?
This means God must have known something ahead of time about these people that he’s going to elect. But what would God have to know? If He’s just favoring one person over another (solely according to the good pleasure of his will), then he doesn’t have to (fore)know anything.  The following verses clear up the matter:

Romans 8:29
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” — Notice the chronology, it is not listed this way arbitrarily.

1 Peter 1:2
Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

It is abundantly clear that foreknowledge precedes fore-planning, predestination, or any other action that occurred before the creation of man on behalf of man.

Unfortunately, this line of thinking is also popular among Calvinists as they also suggest that man’s choices are irrelevant to God and His sovereignty especially in the area of Soteriology. To be sure, there are dozens of examples in scripture where God explicitly suggests that His decision is based on a decision that we have made, I have listed a couple below:

Hosea 4:6
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

Psalms 119:155
Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statutes.

2 Thessalonians 2:10-11
And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

Isaiah 27:11
… for it is a people of no understanding: therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will shew them no favour.

It is necessary to address one particular objection that is raised whenever anyone claims that God reacts based on our obedience to his belief mandate in verses like John3:16 and Acts 16:30. The skeptics refrain goes something like this: If God grants salvation based upon a human response (i.e. obedience to the Gospel) doesn’t this constitute works upon which someone may boast? The confusion that this question arises from lies in a misunderstanding of the efficacy of a non-God-ordained propitiation. In other words, we are saved because we believe in the solution (the Gospel) and everything that is implied by belief in that solution (belief in all biblical propositions). Our obedience to the Gospel, although required, is not ‘works’ because it not a valid or alternate solution and thus could never supplant the true solution. In fact, there is no alternate solution; this is why belief in the Gospel (Christ) is the only way to eternal life. So, although you could boast that you have believed and others did not, your boasting would have no merit, sort of like one American boasting to another American that he has the right of freedom, when all along he never died for the freedom (some brave soldier did) and the American to whom he is boasting can attain to the same freedom by simply believing in the reality that he too is free.