"...Shepherd the flock of God which is among
you, serving as overseers..." (1 Peter 5:2)
Morris Bass, Rick Holt , Joe
"...let them serve as deacons,
being found blameless..." (1 Tim. 3:10)
Aaron Bass, Rich Brooks, Mike Finn
John Hague, Dan Head
"And take...the sword of
the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17)
In this issue:
By the end of the first century, the church of
Jesus Christ faced serious challenges from without and within. The Roman
Empire began persecuting Christians. Suffering and oppression were the
common fate of believers. False teachers threatened to destroy God’s people.
The Judaizers were quickly followed by the Gnostics.
Gnosticism, which developed into a full-blown heresy in the second
century, menaced the church for several hundred years. “By the beginning of
the third century nearly all the more intellectual Christian congregations
in the Roman Empire were markedly affected by it.” [Renwick #1].
Gnosticism was a unique blending of Jewish legalism, Greek
philosophical speculation and Oriental mysticism. It refers to “the thought
and practice especially of various cults of late pre-Christian and early
Christian centuries distinguished by the conviction that matter is evil and
that emancipation comes through gnosis” [Webster].
“Gnosticism,” stated Gwatkin, “is Christianity perverted by learning and
speculation” (II, 73). The intellectual pride of the Gnostics changed the
gospel into a philosophy. The clue to the understanding of Gnosticism is
found in the Greek word from which its name is derived — gnōsis,
“knowledge.” The Gnostics claimed to be the elite, the wise, the
philosophers, to whom was revealed a secret knowledge which the overwhelming
mass of mankind could never know. [Renwick #2].
Until the middle of the twentieth century, most information concerning
Gnosticism came from the church fathers who opposed it. However, in 1945 a
collection of Gnostic scrolls were discovered at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt
which shed more light on this teaching. This discovery confirmed the
accuracy of the church fathers in addressing this subject.
Biblical View of Knowledge
The Greek word gnōsis occurs 29x in the NT (Luke
1:77; 11:52; Romans 2:20;
11:33; 15:14; 1 Corinthians 1:5; 8:1, 7, 10, 11; 12:8; 13:2, 8; 14:6; 2 Corinthians 2:14; 4:6; 6:6; 8:7; 10:5; 11:6; Ephesians 3:19; Philippians 3:8;
Colossians 2:3; 1 Timothy
6:20; 1 Peter 3:7; 2 Peter 1:5, 6; 3:18).
According to Thomas, it is derived from the verb ginōskō [to
come to know, recognize, perceive], and is defined as “a knowing, knowledge”
BDAG say it describes “(1) comprehension or intellectual grasp of
something, knowledge as possessed by God and humans; (2) the content of what
is known, knowledge, what is known; (3) a dissident variety of knowledge,
knowledge … the oppositions of so-called knowledge (1Ti 6:20).”
Sources of Knowledge
from God the Father (Romans 11:33-36, esp. vs. 33), Christ Jesus (1 Colossians 2:1-4), and the Holy Spirit (1
Corinthians 12:6-11; 13:8-10; 14:6).
Demands of Knowledge
John the Baptist (Luke 1:76-77)
and the inspired apostles (2 Corinthians 2:14-17;
2 Corinthians 11:6) disseminated knowledge.
Disciples of Christ should be filled with knowledge (Romans
15:14-16; 1 Corinthians 1:4-8; 2 Corinthians 8:7; Philippians 3:8-11;
1 Peter 3:7; 2 Peter 1:5-11; 3:17-18).
Dangers are also present with knowledge: rebellion (Luke
11:45-52, esp. vs. 52), hypocrisy (Romans
2:17-24, esp. vs. 20), pride (1 Corinthians
8:1-3), carelessness (1 Corinthians 8:4-13,
esp. vs. 7, 10, 11), a lack of love (1 Corinthians
13:1-7, esp. vs. 2; cf. also Ephesians
3:14-19), and a reliance upon human speculation (2
1 Timothy 6:20-21).
Basic Doctrines of Gnosticism
that matter is wholly evil, and the physical body completely corrupt.
However, this position denies repeated declarations of Scripture. The
creation account repeatedly says, “God saw it was good” (Genesis
1:10, 12, 17-18, 21, 25) or “very good” (Genesis
1:31). According to the KJV translation of
Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the
firmament sheweth his handywork.” Everything created by God is good, and
nothing is to be rejected if it is gratefully received (1
God is Unknowable
that the true God is unknowable and unapproachable, infinitely removed from
the physical universe. How could One who is pure and perfect create a
material world so corrupt and alien to the divine nature? “He did not,” they
answer. Gnosticism affirms the fullness of deity is separated from the world
by a series of emanations, aeons, or angels, “all of which are necessarily
imperfect, the highest of them being more spiritual than the grade
immediately below. Of these aeons there is a gradation so numerous that at
length the lowest of them is almost wholly corporeal, the spiritual element
having been gradually diminished or eliminated until at last the world of
mankind and of matter is reached, the abode of evil. In this way the gulf is
bridged between God and mankind. The highest aeons approximate closely to
the divine nature, so spiritual are they and so free from matter. These form
the highest hierarchy of angels, and these with many other grades of angelic
hosts are to be worshiped.” [A. M. Renwick, ISBE, Revised].
When one of these
aeons was sufficiently remote from the Supreme God, and was on the
borderland of light and darkness, he created the world, and did so badly.
This was the Demiurge, i.e., the God of the Old Testament. Actively hostile
to Supreme God, he created the evil material world. Therefore, according to
Gnostic philosophy, Jehovah/Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the
Creator of the world, is not the ultimate Supreme Being. He is neither
unique, good or competent.
A more blasphemous
doctrine cannot be imagined. Holy Scripture affirms that God is singular, (Deuteronomy
6:4-5), good (Psalm 73:1), and
also knowable (1 John 4:6-8).
Jesus is Diminished
that Jesus was only one of many intermediaries between God and man. However,
New Testament Epistles affirms that Christ holds a unique and supreme
position (Colossians 1:15-20;
1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 1:1-4).
Gnostics denied the
incarnation of Jesus Christ. Assuming the physical body is inherently
wicked, they argued that God could not have come in the flesh. Therefore,
Jesus was not fully human, but only appeared to be flesh and blood. Lacking
a real body, he was a phantom, spirit, or ghost. However, Scripture declares
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was
God.” Moreover, “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John
1:1-3, 14; cf. also 1
Prideful of their
privileged class, Gnostics claimed to possess secret knowledge inaccessible
to the mass of humanity. Accordingly, the hope of salvation was not by grace
through faith, but in esoteric understanding, mastering secret passwords and
formulas, etc. However, the Bible says we must guard against human
philosophy and speculation (2 Corinthians 10:5-6;
Colossians 2:8-9; 1 Timothy 1:3-4).
Gnosticism led to
two extreme, opposite moral views: asceticism and licentiousness. Since the
material realm is evil, one should withdraw from the world and abuse the
physical body. Since the flesh is carnal, one may sin in the body, while
serving God in the spirit. However, God’s Word condemns both asceticism (Colossians
1 Timothy 4:1-5) and immorality (Romans 6:1-7; 1 John 3:4-10).
drastic changes to the Bible. One Gnostic sect worshipped the serpent. One
school turned the Scripture upside down and taught that Pharaoh and Ahab
were saints while Moses and Elijah were sinners. In the Gospel of Judas, the
one who betrayed Jesus is the hero of the plot rather than a villain. In
contrast with such faithlessness, let us stand with the Psalmist, who said,
“The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances
is everlasting” (Psalm 119:160). Let us
agree with Agur, who said, “Every word of God is tested” (Proverbs
30:5-6), and Paul, who affirmed, “All Scripture is inspired by
God…” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
terms, Gnosticism was an active religious movement during the 2nd
and 3rd centuries. In comparative terms, it survives in the
smorgasbord approach many today take toward religion. Recognizing the folly
of trusting in human wisdom, let us be content with simple New Testament
Christianity (Matthew 11:25-26;
1 Corinthians 1:18-31).
BDAG = Frederick William
Danker, ed., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early
Christian Literature, 3rd ed., (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago
Renwick #1 = Alexander
M. Renwick, “Gnosticism,” Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, (Grand
Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960), p. 237-238.
Renwick #2 = H. M.
Gwatkin, Early Church History (2nd ed 1909), quoted by A. M. Renwick,
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised, G. W.
Bromiley, ed., (Logos Library System; Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans
Publishing Co., 1988, 2002), s.v. “Gnosticism,” Vol. 2, Page 484
Thomas = Robert L.
Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries:
Updated Edition, (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998, 1981).
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. 10th Edition, (Springfield, MA:
Merriam-Webster, c1993, 1996).
(Current events in the
light of Scripture)
IED: A Matter of Sin
Joe R. Price
IED (improvised explosive device, a homemade explosive device designed to
kill and maim) has been popularized by the Iraqi war. IEDs are the weapon
of choice for the Iraqi insurgents and terrorists.
I heard about a different kind of IED: Intermittent Explosive Disorder
(apparently, mental health vernacular for “road rage.”) Psychology Today
says this IED “falls in the category of Impulse-Control Disorders. The
condition is characterized by failure to resist aggressive impulses,
resulting in serious assaults or property destruction. Examples of this
behavior include threatening to or actually hurting another person and
purposefully breaking or damaging an object of value.” (psychologytoday.com/
conditions/explosive.html) We are told “these episodes begin and end very
abruptly, but may last for hours” (mental-health-matters.com). It is
reported that “sixteen million American adults, or more than 7 percent of
the nation's adult population, could be diagnosed at some time in their
lives with Intermittent Explosive Disorder” (“Are you suffering from
Explosive Disorder?,” iol.co.za).
Bible says this so-called impulse disorder is “sin.” “Outbursts of
wrath” is among the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:20. The word used
there is thumos and means “passion, angry, heat, anger forthwith
boiling up and soon subsiding again” (OLB Greek Lexicon). Proceeding from
inward indignation, “it quickly blazes up and quickly subsides” (Vine,
is going on here? Well for one thing, exoneration from responsibility.
(After all, how do you hold someone responsible for mental illness?) Human
wisdom notwithstanding, we are responsible for our sin (Gal. 5:20-21).
Psychiatry says “the type of road rage linked to IED can be controlled with
medication and therapy” (“Road Rage? It May Be a Clinical Disorder,”
word says “outbursts of anger” must be treated with repentance and
self-control or we will lose our soul (Gal. 5:22-23; Col. 3:6-8; 1 Cor.
9:24-27). IED: It’s a matter of sin.