Dear ones, today’s discussion of early heresy once again requires Tuesday’s article, which you can read here. The early church faced a group who, among many other heretical beliefs, did not believe Jesus was God the Son. This group was called Christian Gnostics. Gnostic comes from the Greek word gnosis, meaning knowledge. This is the perfect term for the group, as they held to the belief that salvation comes from secret knowledge. Of course, only they had that secret knowledge, so to be saved you had to join their cult. We see this two dangerous false doctrines repeated in all the cults of today.
It’s true that ancient Gnosticism is alive and well today, and some attempt to trace its roots back before Christ. Either way, the ancient heretics, which it seems John addresses in 1 John, adopted Jesus Christ as one who had come down to impart the secret knowledge needed for salvation. The basic belief in Gnosticism is dualism, good and evil, the material universe is evil, God is good, therefore God could not have entered His creation as Jesus Christ the Son of God. This denial of the deity of Christ negates the atonement, Christ could only make atonement for our sins as the perfect, sinless, Son of God. The deity of Christ is not the only area of Gnosticism that’s in disagreement with Christianity.
Gnosticism has many faces, but the general view is that God is unknowable, and that he is too pure to have created the wicked material world. So, instead, he created emanations, which were lesser beings. One of those emanations wanted to know the unknowable god (which is not the true God) and through this desire an evil god was created. That evil god was the one who created all things, including the universe and humanity. Obviously, all of these beliefs are in direct opposition to the Biblical, orthodox doctrines of the historical Church.
The idea that one group has secret knowledge that leads to salvation is popular with all the cults we face today. It’s not Christ that they put their faith, but in the charismatic leader, prophet, or pope. Whether it’s Mary Baker Eddy, Joseph Smith, John Thomas, the Pope, Muhammad, or Charles T. Russel, these groups claim their leaders speak for God, or as God. In the same way, only a Gnostic teacher can give truth to their followers. Likewise, as the Gnostics have historically claimed, the cults all get the deity of Christ wrong. All, except Roman Catholicism, teach that Jesus Christ was just a man. Some teach that He became divine through His sacrifice, which leads to the little gods doctrine. The Roman Catholic Church is, as far as I know, the only group outside of orthodoxy that teaching Jesus exists in the communion wafer which is sacrificed over and over again for sin, called transubstantiation.
The Gnostic heresy is unique, in that it exists today on its own, as well as having its doctrines borrowed by other cults. Ironically, many of the cult leaders have a tendency to draw connections with early gnostic heretics, as if that somehow gives credence to their being a segment of Christianity. We need to be wise as serpents, and gentle as doves when we address these false religions. Each of these groups has a false gospel, or flawed view of salvation, which can not save. Let us love the lost enough to learn about the error and how to address them with the truth. We can not be the people who stand silently while Gods name is blasphemed among the nations due to these false religions. Lovingly, patiently, and with knowledge of the Scriptures, we must speak truth to those that believe in lies. I hope this series blesses you all, dear friends. As always, be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.