Wars of the Heretics
Miscellaneous Sermons & Articles, September 2002
It was recently suggested to me that one of the surest evidences that Christianity is false is the plethora of denominations and sects. With several thousand of these, and daily increasing, people are concluding that this is because the Bible is contradictory and open to an indefinite number of interpretations. But is this true? And might there not, in fact, be a completely different reason which actually evidences that the Gospel of Yah'shua (Jesus) is true?
In reading the New Testament one is at once struck by the fact that over half of it is devoted to the refutation of heresy. And of all these heresies, the vast bulk of them arose within the newly claimed gentile congregations. Apart from one Talmudic Judaising heresy, every single eruption that took place in the Church of God (Assembly of Yahweh) concerned the former pagans. Those who had a background in Torah were not subject to the destabilising effects of these controversies.
My thesis today is that the divisions within Christianity are in actual fact the best evidence for its truthfulness, not because the divisions themselves are right, but because (a) there are powerful forces constantly at work trying to rip it apart, as though those forces were in some way threatened by it; and (b) because with few exceptions the vast band of schism is the result of not being properly founded on Torah.
There has never been a time when heresy and schism has not threatened the Messianic Community and the reason for this is that Christianity is not so much about dogma but about the perfecting life. Christianity is a community of human life in constant change. And the divisions we see within it are not because Christianity is flexible enough to be expressible in countless ways but because its driving force is the reformation and perfection of a very reluctant human nature pushed and pulled by hostile demonic and human forces wishing its destruction.
It is a truism that Satan does not bother very much with people who are off the path, because those off the path are little threat to his objectives. But once a soul stirs into life and places itself into a faith and obedience relationship with the Creator, he at once finds himself with an opponent bent on undoing his own dark labours. Whether this soul is walking perfectly in the Gospel or not is not as much concern to him as that he is placing obstacles in front of the building of his own kingdom. His disciples, social forces, and institutions are threatened. And when Satan is threatened, he rises up to meet the challenge.
As an apostle called to bring about an end-time reformation and restoration of the Gospel before the return to the Messiah, I have noticed, like Paul, that I am required to devote a vast amount of my time to countering heresy. This is not because I particularly enjoy this kind of labour, any more than the great Paul did, but because it is forced upon me. Heresy is any teaching or practice which would remove the soul from a vital relationship with Christ and place him, usually in small and almost imperceptible increments, on the slippery path to destruction. As we work through the Pauline Epistles we are not only surprised by the number of heresies that affected the newly formed Asian and European churches but how easily most of them could have been contained had the gentiles been well founded in Torah.
Because of the necessity of building and not quenching out a dynamic and living relationship with Christ, the first Council of Jerusalem, presided over by the Apostle James and half-brother of Yah'shua (Jesus), decreed that new gentile converts be given Torah in small and manageable doses (Acts 15). And yet it soon became apparent to the apostles that they could not leave matters at that. Throughout his writings we find Paul quoting from Torah, saying, "As it is written ...", and in particular, "As it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses (Torah) ..." to remind his listeners that the Gospel of Yah'shua (Jesus) is not something that has replaced Torah but is built upon it.
In our short existence, the New Covenant Church of God (B'rit Chadashah Assembly of Yahweh) has not only had to address the heresies that are swarming like gnats outside it in the wider Body of Christ, but ones that have repeatedly cropped up within it. A considerable amount of time was spent (I believe providentially, in retrospect) in the early days of NCCG, whilst it was still very small and learning to find its feet, in addressing heresies. It has not been a pleasant job but nevertheless a very necessary one. Bringing souls to a saving relationship with Christ, a task we share with nearly all evangelical Protestant and Messianic bodies, is the foundational or alpha step in Gospel life. Here we have laboured together with many denominations in the mission field. But in many ways this is the easiest part of our job. The toughest, and most punishing, is guiding the newly saved into solid discipleship and moving them from alpha-salvation towards its omega fulfilment.
It is interesting that the heresies that Paul had to combat are coming full circle in our day and presenting themselves once again. Our readers know well our long war with the Corinthian charismatic heresy which is threatening to engulf the evangelical Protestant world. You know of our recent battle in combating the paganism within the churches and of our clarion call to return to Torah. All of these have consumed much necessary time and energy. But the labour has not been in vain. The warnings given previously are beginning to have an effect on believers from every conceivable denominational background - the vision we have been clearly given, is now being seen by those once deceived by heresy as these false doctrines ripen in iniquity. Every false teaching, however cunningly concealed, does in the end expose itself, its true colours, and its true author. And what has been particularly interesting is that this unmasking has not come about through our own revelations necessarily but through simply understanding the heart and substance of Torah.
To give an illustration, let us take the widespread belief that many have that the millennium will be in heaven, somewhere "above". Because of this belief we have been fed the pre-tribulation rapture heresy, which insists that we are too good to remain down here during the terrible times ahead and that therefore Christ will whisk us away into the air and transport us to some heavenly paradise. But why do people believe in such fantasies? As you analyse the history of heretical teaching you discover consistently that it emerges from the rejection of a key set of doctrinal truths that at first seem to have no connection with the heresies concerned, and yet which inevitably lead to them.
Without doubt, one of the most damaging false doctrines that has harmed the Body of Christ is Replacement Theology. This belief posits that somehow the "Church" replaced "Israel", and that all the promises anciently made to Israel in Torah are now the property of the "Church" but all the curses belong to the Jewish people. This division of Israel and Church is not, however, biblical. The apostle Paul clearly explains that Israel - whilst no longer a theocratic nation because of Diaspora (exile) - never ceased to exist. In fact, contrary to what Replacement Theology teaches, Paul insists that the original Israel of the Old Testament consists in the New Covenant of those Israelites who have come to faith in Messiah (Christ) plus all those non-Israelites (gentiles) who have likewise come to faith. Those Israelites and Jews who rejected Messiah, he says, cease to be Israelites, whereas those gentiles who accept salvation are grafted in like wild olive branches into the rump Israel (Rom.11).
What this means is that there is no such thing as "the Church" - never was and never will be. There is only Israel. The word "church" (which derives from the Latin circe meaning a "circus") is not even biblical, even though it appears in our translations. Israel is described as the Assembly of YAHweh in the Old Testament, and in the New, as the Assembly of YAH'shua. Christianity is not an offshoot of the Israelite nation but it is the Israelite nation in reformation. That means that all scripture given to the Israelite Nation remains the scripture of New Covenant Israel.
The "Church" is never described in the New Testament as an institution but as either a "fellowship" or "assembly" (gathering of people). The nation of Israel was a gathering of the descendants of Jacob on a plot of land living the Law of Yahweh, the Torah. And the New Covenant Israel will also be gathered upon that same piece of land and live the Law of Yahweh (Torah). Why do you think that the apostle Peter calls believers "a holy nation" (1 Pet.2:9; cp. Ex.19:6)? We are a country, a people, a state - but presently stateless, in Diaspora, scattered amongst the nations.
What this means is that the little Republic of Israel is not Israel, and those calling themselves Talmudic Jews are not a part if any "Israel". According to Paul they were cut off from Israel (assuming that they are true Jews at all - and less than a tenth of them probably have any connection to Abraham). As a result of the confusion as to who Israel is, strange disjunctive theologies have emerged, and not a small amount of confusion. There are, as a result, even Christians who are claiming that the Jews do not need Christ because they have their own separate "salvation"! Needless to say this is rank heresy - there is only one salvation.
Because of this theological "doublethink" Christians have invented the doctrine that Israel's promises are to be fullfilled in Palestine and the Church's in heaven, and that is why in part Christians have been distracted away from earthly realities and are hoping, as the Jehovah's Witnesses once did at the behginning of the 20th century, that they are suddenly going to be whisked away into heaven when the bad times start. And yet the Bible plainly teaches that the Millennium is going to be here on earth and that there is no such thing as any "rapture" - merely a coming up of the Bride into the sky to meet the returning Messiah and an immediate return to earth. Indeed, does not the New Jerusalem come down to the earth (Rev.3:12; 21:2)? What would be the point of heaven coming down here if we are going up there? There wouldn't be anything left!
Heresy - the doctrines of distractions and damnations - distracting us from where we should have our focus and damning us by telling us we don't need to obey, just have a nebulous "faith". Doctrines that Christianity is a "private" solo faith instead of a communal one. Doctrines that tell us we need only "believe" and not do anything. Doctrines that tell us we have to prove we're a Christian by babbling nonsense. Doctrines that tell is that law doesn't matter, only what you "experience" inside.
The Kingdom of Heaven is a (presently dispersed) nation in Christ, living and working together as a people. It is not a political nation (yet) but a theocracy, and therefore "not of this world" system. It's not the Roman Catholic Church, the Mormon Church, or any other pretender to that theocracy. A nation is not run by thousands of people babbling nonsense and going away feeling an emotional high and mentally empty, but by those who love and live Yahweh's Law. It is not, moreover, the Israeli Republic to whom Messianic Jews feel a special connection and to which they often give a scripturally unwarranted allegiance, sometimes to the point of looking down on other Christians, races, and nations, as if they were somehow Yahweh's spiritual "master race". All true believers are racially and spiritually Israel but fortunately can't prove the racial connection - their only qualification is the fruits of their Christian living.
Heresy separates believers from God and brethren from one another. But is it, as some claim, inevitable? Not if you are committed to a obedience to the whole New Covenant Torah and not if you have truly been anointed by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). And how do you know if you have been anointed by the Ruach (Spirit)? Simply, you will display the fruits of the Ruach (Spirit), which are the virtues of godliness (love, patience, long-suffering, etc.) and allegiance to Torah.
This page was created on 2 October 2002
Last updated on 2 October 2002
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