Early Christian Heresies
In his New Testament epistles, Paul frequently warned his readers to be on guard against false teaching (e.g., 2 Cor 11:3-4).
Marcion of Sinope was a bishop in early Christianity.
The wrathful and war-like God of the Old Testament is a different god from the just and forgiving God of the New Testament, who, on discovering human suffering, appeared as Jesus Christ to bring salvation; the Old Testament is irrelevant; in the New Testament only parts of Luke and parts of the Pauline letters are authentic.
(1) It denies the unity of God.
(2) It misunderstands the humanity of Christ.
(3) It rejects accepted scriptures.
These cautions reveal that from an early point Christianity was open to distortions and heresies that took many forms through overemphasis on some and denial of other central Christian teachings.
The “super-apostles” who opposed Paul in 11:5 appear to have erred by overemphasizing their own righteousness and boasting about revelations they had purportedly received (12:1).
Perhaps they were similar to the Judaizing opponents Paul faced in Galatia, whose teaching required the continuation of Jewish customs and led to an imposition of circumcision and dietary laws upon Gentiles.
Paul condemned those who distorted the gospel through the addition of Jewish requirements (Gal 1:8) and preached salvation on the basis of faith rather than works.
Montanism was a later heresy that placed strict emphasis on law observance. It arose during the second century and encouraged excessive prophetic utterances in the hope of speeding Christ’s return.
Other early Christian heresies that denied central Christian beliefs included Gnosticism, Docetism, Ebionism and Arianism.
❖ Gnostics were a diverse group, but the main tenet of their philosophy was that the material world was by nature evil and that by knowledge one could ascend to the pure spirituality of the heavenly realm.
❖ Docetists, a subgroup of the Gnostics, affirmed the deity of Jesus but denied his humanity, believing that a divine being was incapable of suffering and concluding that Jesus merely appeared to be human and to experience pain.
Gnosticism describes a collection of ancient religions that taught that people should shun the material world created by the demiurge and embrace the spiritual world.
(1) God created everything, including people. There was no “demiurge.”
(2) Jesus did not transmit any secret knowledge. The means for full salvation are freely available from the public teachings and openly performed sacraments of the Church.
❖ At the opposite extreme, beginning at the end of the 1st century A.D., a Jewish Christian sect known as the Ebionites denied the deity of Jesus, preferring to uphold him as a human being who perfectly obeyed the law and was rewarded by being made Messiah.
❖ Similarly, in the 4th century Arians denied the divinity of Jesus, demoting him to the status of a demigod (a being with more power than a mortal but less than a god, or a person so outstanding as to seem to approach the divine). They argued that upholding the divinity of Jesus would contradict a belief in the oneness and immutability of God.
The creeds composed by the early church were an attempt to combat heresy and identify orthodox teaching. They emphasize the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, who is simultaneously fully God and fully man.
The heresies in this article and below are still believed today, they may have been added to another or altered. For example, “The Secret” says the same thing that Pelagianism did, just calls it something else.
When I was a non-believer a guy in jail tried to explain Jesus to me, and I told him that Jesus was about as real as love (I had thought people used the term “love” as an excuse for doing something stupid) or a three dollar bill.
He then told me that if I accepted Jesus into my heart and He isn’t real I’ve lost nothing. But if I don’t accept Him and He is real then in the end I’m in a heap of trouble.
That didn’t work, I was positive that Jesus was nothing but a con game. Years later I found out the guy was not wrong, that Jesus Christ is as true as the sun rising.
In the below chapter Paul continues to speak against the false prophets/teachers/apostles and he also tells of all the punishments and hardships he went through for Jesus.
He also tells of a time when he escaped from jail or managed to get away before he was apprehended in Damascus (about 3 days and 3 hours from Corinth). So tomorrow we are going to look at king that was behind this, which was…
2 Corinthians 10
Paul Defends His Ministry
1 Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:
“In presence am base…being absent am bold” – Paul had been meek and lowly among them, but if opposition to him and refection of his apostolic message continues, he will act boldly when he comes.
2 But I beseech you that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.
Manichaeism was a major Gnostic religion and taught that the world is caught in a conflict between the forces of good and evil, led by two gods, a conflict which has existed since the beginning of time.
(1) It postulates more than one god.
(2) In the beginning there was only God. Evil therefore could have entered the world only afterward.
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
“Weapons of our warfare” – Paul is prepared for warfare; his weapons, however, are not the weapons prized by this fallen world and fashioned by human pride and arrogance.
“Strong holds” – of “imaginations” and “every high things” defiantly raised “against the knowledge of God” among which are the faulty reasonings by which the false apostles have been trying to shake the faith of the Christians in Corinth.
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
“Every thought to the obedience of Christ’ – the center of man’s being thus becomes fully subject to the lordship of Christ.
6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
7 Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s.
8 For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed:
“Authority…for edification” – the primary purpose of Paul’s apostolic authority is constructive for building up, not destructive, for pulling down.
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius (ca. 250–336 A.D.), a Christian presbyter in Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of God the Father to the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
It taught that Jesus was different from God and secondary to him.
Christ was wholly divine, as well as wholly human, and, being wholly divine, could in no way be secondary to God the Father.
The demands he makes in his letters are written so that they may put right what is amiss and so that things may be in order for his arrival, thus removing the need for severe action (pulling down) and preparing the way for edification (building up).
9 That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters.
10 For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.
“His speech contemptible” – Paul’s adversaries used a professional type of oratory as their stock in trade, designed to extract money from their gullible audiences.
But Paul’s manner of speaking was quite different; it was plain, straightforward and free from artificiality – and it was also free of charge, which meant, if his slanderous opponents were to be believed, that what he said was worthless.
But in coming to Corinth Paul had purposely disdained academic eloquence and wisdom and was determined to proclaim the message of Christ crucified and the transformed lives of the Corinthian believers testified to the divine power with which he spoke.
11 Let such a one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present.
12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
Pelagius rejected the doctrines of original sin, substitutionary atonement, and justification through faith.
He, just like Oprah, taught that people were capable of holiness and therefore didn’t need Jesus.
(1) People are saved ONLY by God’s grace through their faith in Christ, not by the works they perform, which may have many motivations, including bad ones.
(2) It is illogical so speak of complete free will, since even free will is a gift of God, and therefore contingent upon God’s agency.
(3) It denies the contamination of all humans by original sin and allows for the possibility of sinless humans without the need of salvation through Christ, or of sinful humans able to gain merit on their own without reference to Christ.
“They measuring themselves by themselves” – the false teachers in Corinth behave as though there is no standard or comparison higher than themselves, but Paul boasts only in the Lord.
13 But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.
14 For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ:
15 Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men’s labors; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly,
16 To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand.
17 But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
18 For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
…Aretas IV of Nabatea and Petra.