“I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you” (1 John 2:26, ESV).
In the Apostle John’s letter entitled, 1 John, he writes it seemingly to address false teaching and specifically a heresy theologians have named “Gnosticism.”
Gnosticism is is a modern name for a variety of ancient religious ideas and systems that had their roots in the first century but became a more serious problem in the second century.
This religious philosophy held that matter is evil and spirit is good. The solution to the tension between matter and spirit was knowledge, or gnosis, through which humans advanced from a natural state to spiritual state. Gnosticism led to two false theories concerning the person of Christ: representing Jesus as a spirit and making Jesus a dual personality at times human and at times divine.
I don’t want to enter into a theological discussion about Gnosticism or Christology as John offers a simple and straightforward argument for a correct understanding of the humanity and divinity of Jesus. Besides, that discussion is well above my pay grade in these meditations!
But, I want to highlight an important matter embedded in John’s symphonic discussion in this letter that has just as much relevance for the Church today as it did when John wrote the letter in the first century.
“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive” (Romans 16:17-18, ESV).
In the Book of Romans the Apostle Paul offered several theological discussions about Christian living. In the previous post in this series from Romans (see Pusillanimous Christianity), we learned that Christians don’t need to be afraid of the future. If your hope is in God and God is in control of your life, then you have nothing to fear because God is in charge of your future.
In Romans 16 Paul continues the lesson about becoming a mature, grown-up Christian. He said that when a Christian is immature and naive, he or she is susceptible to being deceived.
That’s because there are persons that claim to be Christians, who even teach other Christians, but think more about themselves and stroking their own egos than they do about serving Jesus and helping Christians grow spiritually.
“Don’t give me either poverty or wealth; give me just the food I need. Or I’ll be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I’ll be poor and steal and dishonor my God’s name” (Proverbs 30:8-9, NASB).
We live in a world that glorifies success. To be somebody you must be accomplished, you must be prosperous and successful. So, pursue wealth, acquire power, attain fame. Or better yet, have it all!
“Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned.” (2 Peter 2:2, NASB).
In this chapter the Apostle Peter describes the rise and fate of false prophets. He says that heresy grows concurrently with truth. As the truth of the gospel is more widely and broadly proclaimed, there is a corresponding increase in the willful perversion of it.
Deceit is a growth industry that is fiercely competitive with the truth. In fact, the misrepresentation or distortion of the truth of the gospel seems to be as prevalent as the proclamation of the true gospel.