Published by
Mt. Baker church of Christ
Bellingham, WA (1860 Mt. Baker HWY)    (360) 752-2692

Editor/Evangelist  Joe R. Price
Volume IX,  Number 39
  June 11, 2006
"All material is written by Joe R. Price, unless otherwise noted."

Times of services:

Bible Classes...........9:30 AM
Worship......10:30 & 6:00 PM
Bible Classes..........7:00 PM

Web sites:
Mt. Baker church of Christ 
 Bible Answers

"...Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers..." (1 Peter 5:2)
Morris Bass, Rick Holt , Joe Price

"...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:

Mark Mayberry


     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.

A 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” [1108].
     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

     Knowledge comes 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; 4:5-7; 6:4-7; 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 of Knowledge

     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 Corinthians 10:1-6; 1 Timothy 6:20-21).


Basic Doctrines of Gnosticism

  Matter is Evil

     Gnostics believed 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 Timothy 4:4-5).  

  God is Unknowable

     Gnostics taught 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

     Gnostics believed 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 John 4:1-3).

  Secret Knowledge is Key

     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).

  Moral Extremes

     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 2:20-23; 1 Timothy 4:1-5) and immorality (Romans 6:1-7; 1 John 3:4-10).

  Innovations Abound

     Gnostics made 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).


     In historical 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 Press, 2000).

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).

Webster = 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

The term 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. 

     Today 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.” ( conditions/explosive.html)  We are told “these episodes begin and end very abruptly, but may last for hours” (  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?,”

     The 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, 27).

     What 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,” 

     God’s 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.


Created by Chuck Sibbing - 06/08/2006

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