Thursday, August 17, 2017

SCHISMS AND HERESY

The following discourse is the outgrowth of a discussion on the subject mentioned above. I have identified and prefaced my comments with my name. Others are designated by their initials only. I initiated the discussion with the following questions. One member of the discussion added a message by John Wesley which was very good, and is included in its entirety.

Jim Storts: Will God excuse the person which promotes heresy because they lack knowledge of their error? Can Christians fellowship a heretic with the understanding that the heretic is ignorant of his heresy? How faithful should we expect the Holy Spirit to be in correcting a heretic from his ignorance.
Titus 3:10-11, "A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself."

CF: I think it's important to define 'heretic' and 'heresy.' Some people holler 'heretic' over the smallest difference in belief or opinion. We need a solid definition before the question can really be answered.

Jim Storts: What is your definition? The Strong's Exhaustive Concordance definition for the Greek word is "schismatic" one who causes division/schisms.

JC: I think context is exactly what you need here. Paul wrote to Titus on the basis of starting congregations and appointing elders in every group all throughout Crete Titus 1:5. So the bases of your questions are thrown into question as he is sent to build where nothing was built. [Jim Storts: Why would the “bases of your questions are thrown into question...? The statement seems inappropriate and irrelevant.] Wouldn't this verse be referencing Matt 10:14 and Luke 9:5 where Jesus left instructions for people that would not hear them? [Jim Storts: Luke 9:5 And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.]

SN: "Heresy" has had different meanings in different times in church history.
Jesus was a "heretic" in his time.
Martin Luther was a "heretic" in his time.
John Huss was a "heretic" in his day, in certain places.
The Anabaptists/Pilgrims were "heretics" in certain countries in their times.
[Jim Storts: Jesus and these whom SN has named were not heretics. They were falsely charged with being heretics which is just as sinful, on the part of the false-accuser, as being guilty of heresy.]

RW: If my understanding of Titus 3 is correct, I think the "heretic" application is specific towards those who maintain their Judaism in purposeful rejection or opposition to Christianity. Verse 9 seems to set up verse 10 for the context of the "heretic".
[Jim Storts: Titus 3:7-11, That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.
10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;
11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.
Note: that the word “heretick” comes from the word “schismatic” and the word “heresy” comes from the word “schism.” A person who is contentious and striving about the Old Testament Law, genealogies and foolish questions will cause schisms, which are divisions.]

RW:  As to today's application and how Christians apply this verse to other believers, that's more difficult to answer. If we define heretic as Arianism, then yes it's fair to apply Titus 3:10. But if we are defining heretic as somebody who allows a woman to wear pants, jewelry, etc or somebody who believes in 1 work vs 2 work, then I'm not sure we can apply this verse in those situations.
[Jim Storts: Arianism is an influential heresy denying the divinity of Christ, originating with the Alexandrian priest Arius (c. 250-336). Arianism maintained that the Son of God was created by the Father and was therefore neither coeternal with the Father, nor consubstantial.]
[Jim Storts: Then RW stated: “But if we are defining heretic as somebody who allows...” This is where the judgments of God dictate the proper and righteous conduct of those professing to be the children of God, Christians. If we through compromise and permissiveness, not only allow but, teach others that it is acceptable to not keep and obey the commandments of God, then do we not commit heresy by provoking contention and schisms? A schismatic is someone who causes schisms. A heretic is someone who teaches heresy. Heresy is committed when a person teaches others to believe and practice that which will separate them from the fellowship of Jesus Christ. To allow a woman to wear pants, which are breeches, without instructing her and teaching her that God has condemned such attire as a violation of His will to make a distinction between the man and the woman's appearance, will cause confusion which is likely to lead to schisms. Likewise, to allow a man to wear women's clothing is effeminate and a violation of God's will to make a distinction between men and women's apparel. Additionally, RW has included in his approach to doctrine the thought that teaching one cleansing work of grace as opposed to teaching two cleansing works of grace is not sufficient to classify a person as teaching heresy. If this is an essential and fundamental doctrine of Jesus Christ, and I surely believe that it is, then it is absolutely essential to instruct every born again child of God of the importance of presenting their body and life as a sacrifice to God and to ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is not an optional doctrine subject to the conflicting interpretations of men. A sanctified person can have fellowship with a justified person who does not yet understand the necessity of a second cleansing; but, I can not have fellowship with a person who actively opposes and teaches others that the second cleansing and the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a false doctrine. Jesus gave His life so that we can have this experience of the eradication of the carnal nature and the fellowship of the indwelling Holy Spirit. To teach others to oppose the second cleansing is surely schismatic and heresy.]

RW:  //Will God excuse the person which promotes heresy because they lack knowledge of their error?//

RW:  God is the judge at final judgment. Only God can discern the motives of the heart and the knowledge that one has. Seeing as we're all fallible, it's hard for me to buy the concept that fallible creatures can obtain infallible theological positions.
[Jim Storts: There is the fact of the gift of divine discernment. God gives this discernment to ministers who are full of faith and the Holy Ghost. Acts 8:20-23, But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. 23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” Peter was not out of order when he proclaimed the wicked condition of Simon's heart. I am a fallible creature. I believe that Jesus Christ can and does deliver humble and contrite people from all their sins and makes them holy and pure in the sight of God. That is an infallible theological position and I will not believe otherwise.]

RW:  //Can Christians fellowship a heretic with the understanding that the heretic is ignorant of his heresy?//

RW:  Great question, it depends on the definition of heretic again. Can we fellowship Jews who deny the trinity? No. Can we fellowship believers who reject tithing, I would say yes. Context determines the answer in this case. [Jim Storts: Is this an example and issue of context; or, is it a matter of what is an essential foundation of faith and what is a matter of growing in knowledge of the will of God?]

RW:  //How faithful should we expect the Holy Spirit to be in correcting a heretic from his ignorance.//

RW:  The Holy Spirit is always faithful, but since we don't believe in a Calvinist version of God (ie: God will irresistibly make you do something) then we can expect that there will be times that people do not come to perfect theological knowledge. But this also begs the question do any of us achieve perfect theological knowledge? I would say we do not.
[Jim Storts: I believe that we can be certain about essential truth which are the fundamental beliefs necessary to obtain the salvation experience Jesus died to provide. Yes we can have perfect theological knowledge about those things which have been most assuredly and particularly revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.]

CF: John Wesley sermon attached

On Schism

By John Wesley

Sermon 75

(text from the 1872 edition - Thomas Jackson, editor)

That there might be no schism in the body. 1 Corinthians 12:25
1. If there be any word in the English tongue as ambiguous and indeterminate in its meaning as the word Church, it is one that is nearly allied to it, -- the word Schism. it has been the subject of innumerable disputes for several hundred years; and almost innumerable books have been written concerning it in every part of the Christian world. A very large share of these have been published in our country; particularly during the last century, and the beginning of the present: And persons of the strongest understanding, and the most consummate learning, have exhausted all their strength upon the question, both in conversation and writing. This has appeared to be more necessary than ever, since the grand separation of the Reformed from the Romish Church. This is a charge which the members of that Church never fail to bring against all that separate from her; and which, consequently, has employed the thought and pens of the most able disputants on both sides. And Those of each side have generally, when they entered into the field, been secured of victory; supposing the strength of their arguments was so great, that it was impossible for reasonable men to resist them.
2. But it is observable, that exceeding little good has been done by all these controversies. Very few of the warmest and ablest disputants have been able to convince their opponents. After all that could be said, the Papists are Papists, and the Protestants are Protestants still. And the same success has attended those who have so vehemently disputed about separation from the Church of England. Those who separated from her were eagerly charged with schism; they as eagerly denied the charge; and scarce any were able to convince their opponents either on one side or the other.
3. One great reason why this controversy has been so unprofitable, why so few of either side have been convinced, is this: They seldom agreed as to the meaning of the word concerning which they disputed: and if they did not fix the meaning of this, if they did not define the term before they began disputing about it, they might continue the dispute to their lives' end, without getting one step forward; without coming a jot nearer to each other than when they first set out.
4. Yet it must be a point of considerable importance, or St. Paul would not have spoken so seriously of it. It is, therefore, highly needful that we should consider,
I. The nature, and
II. The evil of it.

I.

1. It is the more needful to do this, because among the numberless books that have been written upon the subject, both by the Romanists and Protestants, it is difficult to find any that define it in a scriptural manner. The whole body of Roman Catholics define schism, a separation from the Church of Rome; and almost all our own writers define it, a separation from the Church of England. Thus both the one and the other set out wrong, and stumble at the very threshold. This will easily appear to any that calmly consider the several texts wherein the word "schism" occurs: from the whole tenor of which it is manifest, that it is not a separation from any Church, (whether general or particular, whether the Catholic, or any national Church) but a separation in a Church.
2. Let us begin with the first verse, wherein St. Paul makes use of the word. It is the tenth verse of the first chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians. The Words are, "I beseech you, brethren, by the name of the Lord Jesus, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms" ( the original word is schismata) "among you." Can anything be more plain than that the schisms here spoken of, were not separations from, but divisions in, the Church of Corinth? Accordingly, it follows, "But that ye be perfectly united together, in the same mind and in the same judgment." You see here, that an union in mind and judgment was the direct opposite to the Corinthian schism. This, consequently, was not a separation from the Church or Christian society at Corinth but a separation in the Church; a disunion in mind and judgment, (perhaps also affection) among those who, notwithstanding this, continued outwardly united as before.
3. Of what nature this schism at Corinth was, is still more clearly determined (if anything can be more clear) by the words that immediately follow: "Now this I say," -- this is the schism of which I speak; you are divided into separate parties; some of you speaking in favor of one, some of another preacher, -- "Every one of you saith," (verse 12) "I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas," or Peter. Who then does not see that the schism for which the Apostle here reproves the Corinthians is neither more nor less than the splitting into several parties, as they gave the preference to one or another preacher? And this species of schism there will be occasion to guard against in every religious community.
4. The second place where the Apostle uses this word is in the eighteenth verse of the eleventh chapter of this Epistle: "When ye come together in the Church," the Christian congregation, " I hear that there are division" ( the original word here also is schismata, schisms) "among you." But what were these schisms? The Apostle immediately tells you: (Verse 20) "When you come together," professing you design is "to eat of the Lord's Supper, every one of you taketh before another his own supper," as if it were a common meal. What then was the schism? It seems, in doing this, they divided into little parties, which cherished anger and resentment one against another, even at the solemn season.
5. May it not be observed, (to make a little digression here, for the sake of those who are troubled with needless scruples on this head) that the sin which the Apostle charges on the communicants at Corinth in this chapter is usually quite misunderstood? It was precisely this, and nothing else, "the taking one before another his own supper;'" and in such a shocking manner, that while "one was hungry, another was drunken." By doing this, he says, "ye eat and drink" (not "damnation:" a vile mistranslating of the word, but) judgment, temporal judgment, "to yourselves:" Which sometimes shortened their lives. "For this cause" -- for sinning in this vile manner -- "many are sick and weak among you." [Jim Storts: I do not agree that the translators propagated a “vile mistranslating of the word” krima (kree'-mah) which means a decision (the function or the effect, for or against a "crime." If properly understood and rightly divided either word “damnation” or “judgment” is appropriate and synonymous in this text.] Observe here two things: First, What was the sin of the Corinthians? Mark this well, and remember it. It was taking one before another his own supper; so that while one was hungry, another was drunken. Secondly, What was the punishment? It was bodily weakness and sickness; which, without repentance, might end in death. But what is this to you? Your cannot commit their sin: Therefore, you cannot incur their punishment.
6. But to return. It deserves to be seriously remarked, that in this chapter the Apostle uses the word "heresies" as exactly equivalent with the word "schisms." "I hear," says he, (verse 18) "that there are schisms among you, and I partly believe it:" He then adds, (verse 19) "for there must be heresies" (another word for the same thing) "among you, that they which are approved among you may be made manifest." As if he had said, "The wisdom of God permits it so to be, for this end, -- for the clear manifestation of those whose heart is right with him." This word, therefore, (heresy) which has been so strangely distorted for many centuries, as if it meant erroneous opinions, opinions contrary to the faith delivered to the saints, -- which has been made a pretense for destroying cities, depopulation of countries, and shedding seas of innocent blood, -- has not the least reference to opinions, whether right or wrong. It simply means, wherever it occurs in Scripture, divisions, or parties, in a religious community.
7. The third and the only remaining place in this Epistle, wherein the Apostle uses this word, is the twenty fifth verse of the twelfth chapter; where, speaking of the Church, he seems to mean the Church universal, the whole body of Christ) he observes, "God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked, that there might be no schism in the body:" (Verse 24, 25) He immediately fixes the meaning of his own words: "But that the members might have the same care one for another: And Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with is or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.": We may easily observe that the word Schism here, means the want of this tender care for each other. It undoubtedly means an alienation of affection in any of them toward their brethren; a division of heart, and parties springing therefrom, though they were still outwardly united together; though they still continued members of the same external society.
8. But there seems to be one considerable objection against the supposing heresy and schism to mean the same thing. It is said, St. Peter, in the second chapter of his Second Epistle, takes the word Heresies in a quite different sense. His words are, (verse 1) "There shall be among you false teachers, who will bring in damnable," or destructive, "heresies, denying the Lord that bought them." It does by no means appear that St. Peter here takes the word Heresies in any other sense that St. Paul does. Even in this passage it does not appear to have any reference to opinions, good or bad. Rather it means, They will "bring in" or occasion, destructive parties or sects, (so it is rendered in the common French translation) who "deny the Lord that bought them:" Such sects now swarm throughout the Christian world.
9. I shall be thankful to any one who will point to me any other place in the inspired writings, where this word "Schism" is to be found. I remember only these three. [Jim Storts: Wesley forgot to include Titus 3:10 where instructions are given on how to respond to a heretic.] And it is apparent to every impartial reader, that it does not, in any of these, mean a separation from any Church or body of Christians, whether with or without cause. So that the immense pains which have been taken both by Papists and Protestants, in writing whole volumes against Schism, as a separation, whether from the Church of Rome, or from the Church of England, exerting all their strength, and bringing all their learning, have been employed to mighty little purpose. [Jim Storts: I think that John Wesley is saying that a schism in the congregation should not cause a schism from the congregation. (see point number 10 below) It is a call to endeavoring in the unity of the Spirit until we come to the unity of the faith. However, we do know that schisms in the congregation, (if not corrected with Holy Spirit filled men and women endeavoring to teach with patience, longsuffering, meekness, and humility lest they who judge become the judged) will result in a schism from the congregation.] They have been fighting with shadows of their own raising; violently combating a sin which had no existence but in their own imagination; which is to once forbidden, no, nor once mentioned, either in the Old or New Testament.
10. "But is there no sin resembling what so many learned and pious writers have termed Schism, and against which all the members of religious communities have need to be carefully guarded? I do not doubt but there is; and I cannot tell, whether this too may not, in a remote sense, be called Schism: I mean, "A causeless separation from a body of living Christians". There is no absurdity in taking the word in this sense, though it be not strictly scriptural. And it is certain all the members of Christian communities should be carefully guarded against it. For how little a thing soever it may seem, and how innocent soever it may be accounted, schism, even in this sense, is both evil in itself, and productive of evil consequences. [Jim Storts: This is where we, who are sanctified and full of grace and power over all the power of the flesh, must be patient and longsuffering with those who are weak in the faith. Paul taught this well: 1 Corinthians 9:22-23, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.” And again in Romans14:1, “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.”]

II.

1. It is evil in itself. To separate ourselves from a body of living Christian, with whom we were before united, is a grievous breach of the law of love. It is the nature of love to unite us together; and the greater the love, the stricter the union. And while this continues in its strength, nothing can divide those whom love has united. It is only when our love grows cold, that we can think of separating from our brethren. And this is certainly the case with any who willingly separate from their Christian brethren. The pretences for separation may be innumerable, but want of love is always the real cause; otherwise they would still hold the unity of the Spirit in the bound of peace. It is therefore contrary to all those commands of God, wherein brotherly love is enjoined: To that of St. Paul, "Let brotherly love continue:" -- that of St. John, "My beloved children, love one another;" -- and especially to that of our blessed Master, "This is my commandment, That ye love on another, as I have loved you" Yea, "By this," saith he, "shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another." [Jim Storts: Amen!!! Amen!!! Amen!!!]
2. And as such a separation is evil in itself, being a breach of brotherly love, so it brings forth evil fruit; it is naturally productive of the most mischievous consequences. It opens a door to all unkind tempers, both in ourselves and others. It leads directly to a whole train of evil surmising, to severe and uncharitable judging of each other. It gives occasion to offense, to anger and resentment, perhaps in ourselves as well as in our brethren; which, if not presently stopped, may issue in bitterness, malice, and settled hatred; creating a present hell wherever they are found, as a prelude to hell eternal. [Jim Storts: Amen!!! Amen!!! Amen!!!]
3. But the ill consequences of even this species of schism do not terminate in the heart. Evil tempers cannot long remain within, before they are productive of outward fruit. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. As he whose heart is full of love openeth his mouth with wisdom, and in his lips there is the law of kindness; so he whose heart is full of prejudice, anger, suspicion, or any unkind temper, will surely open his mouth in a manner corresponding with the disposition of his mind. And hence will arise, if not lying and slandering, (which yet will hardly be avoided) bitter words, tale-bearing, backbiting, and evil-speaking of every kind. [Jim Storts: These paragraphs are the words of wisdom. Healing is in the obedience to the law of love.]
4. From evil words, from tale-bearing, backbiting and evil-speaking, how many evil works will naturally flow! Anger, jealousy, envy, wrong tempers of every kind, do not vent themselves merely in words, but push men continually to all kind of ungodly and unrighteous actions. A plentiful harvest of all the works of darkness may be expected to spring from this source; whereby, in the end, thousands of souls, and not a few of those who once walked in the light of God's countenance, may be turned from the way of peace, and finally drowned in everlasting perdition. [Jim Storts: How sad, but how true.]
5. Well might our blessed Lord say, "Woe unto the world because of offenses:" Yet, "it must needs be, that offenses will come:" Yea, abundance of them will of necessity arise when a breach of this sort is made in any religious community; while they that leave it endeavour to justify themselves, by censuring those they separate from; and these on the other hand retort the charge, and strive to lay the blame on them. But how mightily does all this altercation grieve the Holy Spirit of God! How does it hinder his mild and gentle operations in the souls both of one and the other! Heresies and schisms (in the scriptural sense of those words) will, sooner or later, be the consequence; parties will be formed, on one and the other side, whereby the love of many will wax cold. The hunger and thirst after righteousness, after either the favor or the full image of God, together with the longing desires wherewith so many were filled of promoting the work of God in the souls of their brethren, will grow languid, and as offenses increase will gradually die away. And as the "fruit of the Spirit" withers away, "the works of the flesh" will again prevail, to the utter destruction, first of the power, and then of the very form, of religion. These consequences are not imaginary, are not built on mere conjectures, but on plain matter of fact. This has been the case again and again within these last thirty or forty year: These have been the fruits which we have seen, over and over, to be consequent on such a separation.
6. And what grievous stumbling-block must these things be to those who are without, to those who are strangers to religion, who have neither the form nor the power of godliness! How will they triumph over these once eminent Christians! How boldly ask, "What are they better than us?" How will they harden their hearts more and more against the truth, and bless themselves in their wickedness? From which, possibly, the example of the Christians might have reclaimed them, had they continued unblamable in their behavior. Such is the complicated mischief which persons separating from a Christian Church or society do, not only to themselves, but to that whole society, and the whole world in general.
7. But perhaps such persons will say, "We did not do this willingly; we were constrained to separate from that society, because we could not continue therein with a clear conscience; we could not continue without sin. I was not allowed to continue therein with breaking a commandment of God." If this was the case, you could not be blamed for separating from that society. Suppose, for instance, you were a member of the Church of Rome, and you could not remain therein without committing idolatry; without worshipping of idols, whether images, or saints and angels; then it would be your bounded duty to leave that community, totally to separate from it. Suppose you could not remain in the Church of England without doing something which the word of God forbids, or omitting something which the word of God positively commands; if this were the case, (but blessed be God it is not) you ought to separate from the Church of England. I will make the case my own: I am now, and have been from my youth, a member and a Minister of the Church of England: And I have no desire, no design to separate from it, till my soul separates from my body. Yet if I was not permitted to remain therein without omitting what God requires me to do, it would then become meet and right, and my bounden duty, to separate from it without delay. To be more particular: I know God has committed to me a dispensation of the gospel; yea, and my own salvation depends upon preaching it: "Woe is me if I preach not the gospel." If then I could not remain in the Church without omitting this, without desisting from preaching the gospel I should be under a necessity of separating from it, or losing my own soul. In like manner, if I could not continue united to any smaller society, Church, or body of Christians, without committing sin, without lying and hypocrisy, without preaching to others doctrines which I did not myself believe, I should be under an absolute necessity of separating from that society. And in all these cases the sin of separation, with all the evils consequent upon it, would not lie upon it, would not lie upon me, but upon those who constrained me to make that separation, by requiring of me such terms of communion as I could not in conscience comply with. But, setting aside this case, suppose the Church or society to which I am now united does not require me to do anything which the Scripture forbids, or to omit anything which the Scripture enjoins, it is then my indispensable duty to continue therein. And if I separate from it without any such necessity, I am just chargeable (whether I foresaw them or not) with all the evils consequent upon that separation.
8. I have spoke the more explicitly upon this head, because it is so little understood; because so may of those who profess much religion, nay, and really enjoy a measure of it, have not the least conception of this matter, neither imagine such a separation to be any sin at all. They leave a Christian society with as much unconcern as they go out of one room into another. They give occasion to all this complicated mischief and wipe their mouth, and say they have done no evil! Whereas they are justly chargeable, before God and man, both with an action that is evil in itself, and with all the evil consequences which may be expected to follow, to themselves, to their brethren, and to the world.
9. I entreat you, therefore, my brethren, all that fear God, and have a desire to please them, all that wish to have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward man, think not so slightly of this matter, but consider it calmly. Do not rashly tear asunder the sacred ties which unite you to any Christian society. This indeed is not of so much consequence to you who are only a nominal Christian. For you are not now vitally united to any of the members of Christ. Though you are called a Christian, you are not really a member of any Christian Church. But if you are a living member, if you live the life that is hid with Christ in God, then take care how you tend the body of Christ by separating from your brethren. It is a thing evil in itself. It is a sore evil in its consequences. O have pity upon yourself! Have pity on your brethren. Have pity even upon the world of the ungodly! Do not lay more stumbling-blocks in the way of these for whom Christ died.
  1. But if you are afraid, and that not without reason, of schism, improperly so called, how much more afraid will you be, if your conscience is tender, of schism in the proper scriptural sense! O beware, I will not say of forming, but of countenancing or abetting any parties in a Christian society! Never encourage, much less cause, either by word or action, any division therein. In the nature of things, "there must be heresies," divisions, "among you;" but keep thyself pure. Leave off contention before it be meddled with: Shun the very beginning of strife. Meddle not with them that are given to dispute, with them that love contention. I never knew that remark to fail: "He that loves to dispute, does not love God." Follow peace with all men, without which you cannot effectually follow holiness. Not only "seek peace," but "ensue it:" If it seem to flee from you, pursue it nevertheless. "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."
  2. Happy is he that attains the character of a peace-maker in the Church of God. Why should not you labor after this? Be not content, not to stir up strife; but do all that in you lies, to prevent or quench the very first spark of it. Indeed it is far easier to prevent the flame from breaking out, than to quench it afterwards. However, be not afraid to attempt even this: The God of peace is on your side. He will give you acceptable words, and will send them to the heart of the hearers. Noli diffidere: Noli discedere, says a pious man: Fac quod in te est; et Deus aderit bonce tuce voluntuti: "Do not distrust Him that has all power, that has the hearts of all men in his hand. Do what in thee lies, and Good will be present, and bring thy good desires to good effect." Never be weary of well-doing. In due time thou shalt reap if thou faint not.
SN: There is a difference between an individual Christian holding a theological view that is different from other Christians, and an individual Christian who holds a theological view different from other Christians, and is seeking to create a division based on his/her view.
CF: Scriptural heresy seems to refer to sects. Not necessarily 'false doctrine' as it's come to mean. [Jim Storts: We do know that false doctrine is dangerously close to the forming of schisms.]
My read on some of that was the Jewdaizers(sp?) who thought Jewish Christians needed to still conform to the OT law, or some that did not believe that Jesus was the son of God, etc., not some of the details we discuss on our forums.
RW: Outstanding sermon, I hadn't read that one before. I agree in section 1 paragraph 1 the point that schism is separation IN a church not separation FROM a church. Heresy/schism meaning sects/parties within a church community makes infinitely more sense than defining heresy/schism as un-orthodox theology.
AW: Another point to consider here about Schism/heresy/division-There are different types of divisions/Schisms that can happen.
1) Division "within" a church/congregation (I Cor 3:3; I Cor 1:10; Rom 16:17).
2) Division "from" a church-One could cause others to leave-excommunicate-cast them out of the church (3rd John 9-11).
3) Divide yourself away from the local church/congregation, party spirit mentality.
4) Divide from other churches yourself because they do not agree with you (Acts 5:36-39).
5) Churches divide from each other; disfellowship each other, censure each other.
6) More wrong when they divide and unchurch each other.
7) Divide away from each other differences of views, or leaders.
8)Heresy-false doctrine-promoted by heretics-cause others to swerve from the faith and end up ship wrecked of the faith (2 Tim 2:16-18).
9) Man made headquarters all must submit too.
10) Servants of men subjects of popish men who seek to usurp the headship of Christ.
There is a difference between separation and division. Someone may be led in a different direction then others, that is not division, like Paul and Barnabas on missionary exploits and their decision with John mark. But to be self willed, insubordinate, self seeking, and any who do not serve your idea, you divide from, that is a contrary spirit. Shalom



Jim Storts: Thanks to all who have contributed to this discussion. I have copied your comments to a Word document so that I may carefully study this subject. False accusations of heresy are just as destructive to the people as the actual work of a heretic. I have purposed in my heart that I may never be guilty of either sin.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Essays on Africa

The web site links provided in this post below are like chapters in a book. They are sequentially related and should be read beginning with Part One through Part Seven and then the final essay titled “Africa the Third Time.”

It was at the Lakeland, Florida minister's meeting in the year 2004 that I shared these thoughts with the church of God ministers who met at the Lakeland campgrounds each year. Since my presentation to the ministry included the concept of a great revival of Christianity prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ; my position was labeled a “Babylonian message.” I was admonished to not preach this message anywhere or at any time. I accepted that council with the exception that I would take my liberty to share these thoughts with other ministers and with the congregation over which I was the pastor in Knoxville, Tennessee. I agreed to not teach this message from the pulpits of other congregations. Certain individuals took advantage of this difference of belief between myself and other ministers, then added a few of their own false accusations and all of this evolved into the move of the congregation asking for my resignation from being pastor of the congregation in Knoxville.

I have shared these thoughts with many ministers, including many in Africa. I have never heard the first effort to disprove my thesis by the means of scriptural opposition. Thirteen years ago, the ministry told me that the next significant event in the future of the church is the imminent return of Jesus Christ. They held the position that there would not be any great revival of Christianity before the end of the world. I was told that if I did not believe Jesus could return that very day, then I was a Babylonian preacher. I held that Jesus would not return until all the prophecies of the Bible were fulfilled. One minister told me that he knew that all the prophecies of the Bible had already been fulfilled. I could not accept that position. Therefore, in their opinion, I am a Babylonian preacher and not qualified to minister in any of their meetings. Their rejection and condemnation of me resulted in many factions and divisions which continue to hurt the universal body of Christ.

I continue to stand by the interpretation of Scripture which present the following portrait of end time events. Please read these postings prayerfully and seek that wisdom and understanding which can only come through divine revelation. May the Holy Spirit lead you and bless you.










REPENTANCE

The foundation for fellowship must begin with repentance.

Hebrews 6:1-3
1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
3 And this will we do, if God permit.

In Matthew 3:2 John the Baptist preached saying “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

In Matthew 4:17 the Bible tells us “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

In Acts 2:38, we read, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Repentance is more than a decision.
It is a deliberate and meaningful act which comes forth from godly sorrow.
It is the expression and commitment of a broken and contrite heart.
True repentance is the response of a sinner to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
Except God calls and draws your heart to Him, you can not humbly repent.
Repentance is based on godly sorrow and a commitment to turn from all sin to serve and obey the Lord Jesus Christ.

Merriam-Webster defines the repentance of man as: the act of turning from sin with sorrow, regret and contrition

Man’s repentance must consist of both confessing and forsaking all sin. Confession alone is not repentance. Sad to say, most religious people who attend church every Sunday, Sunday night and the weekly services, have not truly repented of all their sins. They admit that they are still sinners, saved by grace. A person who is a sinner will not have godly sorrow; except the Holy Spirit lead his heart into a sincere remorse for his past and present sinful conduct.

Isaiah 55:6-7
6 Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Under the Old Testament and the New Testament God has always required people to turn to Him and forsake their wicked ways and unrighteous thoughts. We must not yield to Satan and his many temptations. God will give us grace to say no to temptation, if we will repent and turn to Him with godly sorrow.

Luke 13:1-5
1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?
3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?
5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Some people think that their sins are not so bad that God would require them to forsake their sinful ways. They hope that God is so loving and compassionate that He will accept them into heaven even though they have lived their life without repenting and forsaking all their sins.

Psalms 51:17
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

True repentance which is acceptable with God must have the characteristics of a broken spirit and a contrite heart. Do you know what that really means?

A broken spirit means that your heart is emotionally broken. You experience sincere regret, remorse, sadness and shame for your past sinful conduct. The experience of repentance is more than just making a decision on your knees. A dry-eyed trip to the altar with no tears of godly sorrow is highly suspect of being a decision of the mind only and not a decision from the heart.

It seems that the days when men and women, boys and girls experienced real Holy Ghost conviction while listening to real anointed preaching by the real Holy Ghost, have almost disappeared into history. Rare is the church service that ends with people at the altar weeping over the burden of guilt for the sins they have committed.

Matthew 3:1-2
1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
2 And saying, Repent ye for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
And in Matthew 3:8
Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

Our gospel message still begins with a call to repentance.
So, what are the “fruits meet for repentance?” They are that which the Holy Scriptures have taught us: godly sorrow and a broken and contrite heart.

2 Corinthians 7:1
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Repentance is the work of a sinner. Pardon and justification is the work of God. In both repentance and justification, it is the grace of God making salvation possible.

2 Corinthians 7:10-11
10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

There is a sorrow of the carnal man; the sorrow of the flesh and pride. Many people have sorrow because of being exposed as an evil and sinful person. Their sorrow does not merit the forgiveness of God. He sees the heart and knows that they do not have true godly sorrow for their sinful transgressions. Although they may confess their sins; they are not forgiven or justified, because they have not truly repented, turned away from and forsaken all their sins.

Jeremiah 2:26, “As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel ashamed.”

To REPENT only when caught is not acceptable.

Hosea 14:1-2
1 O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.
2 Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.

Have you gone to the Lord with the words: “Take away all my iniquity.”?

Matthew 7:22-23
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Is that the report Jesus will give you at the Great Judgment?

Joel 2:12-15
12 Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
14 Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the Lord your God?
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly:

Repenting and turning to God sounds like serious business. It is serious business. God is serious and you must be serious. This is not a casual experience. It involves a definite wholeheartedness. It includes fasting, weeping and mourning.

Sometimes people do not easily get loose from the bondage of their habits and addictions. If you can't get loose the first time you go to the altar, you should go home and do some fasting and mourning and praying.

So what must a sinner do? REPENT!!! If you don't, God will hide Himself from you.

Isaiah 1:15-20
15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

Come now, and let us reason together.
Have you repented with godly sorrow and a broken and contrite heart?
This message is still the same message we have for people today.
Except you repent, you will perish.
If you die in your sins, you can not go to heaven and be in the presence of Jesus Christ and God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Listen to the Holy Spirit now and do the works of repentance if you still have sin in your life.




Thursday, August 10, 2017

THE FOUNDATION FOR FELLOWSHIP

Christian fellowship is the most wonderful relationship possible for any and all people. There is no organization, club, fraternity, sorority, or religious sect which can compare with the Christian family. We are brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. The church is our mother and God is our father. We have been united together by a new birth whereby we are adopted into the loving family of God.

The new birth is the experience of being born again by faith in our Savior Jesus Christ. We are united by faith, by His blood and by His Word. There is no power greater than the power of God's love in salvation. We are the only ones who can break that fellowship. We make the decision to unite by obedience and we make the decision to separate by disobedience.

John 17:20-23
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

This fellowship and unity of the Christian family has never been equaled by any group of like-minded people in all the history of mankind. We must recognize the beauty and value of our fellowship in Christ and never let anything or anyone separate us from each other. We need each other to have the fullness of joy which God has ordained for His children.

Matthew 19:16-19
16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.


Having a loving attitude, a heart full of compassion and tenderness, meekness and patience will enable you to work with other people and enjoy this Christian fellowship. This life style has been imitated by other religions, but never duplicated. No other religion has ever been able to produce this heavenly fellowship.

There are some requirements which must be met to produce this Christian fellowship.

John 8:41-45
41 Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.
42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.
43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.

You choose your father and your father then chooses your life. In order for us to have Christian fellowship, we must have the same Father. If God is your Father, then you will keep the commandments of Jesus Christ. You and I will live by the same family rules. God has the same rules for all His children. He does not teach His children contrary rules and doctrine.

Amos 3:3
Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

God is speaking to the children of Israel by the prophet Amos. In this passage of scripture, God is chastising the children of Israel for their rebellion and disobedience. He is telling them that they can not have fellowship with God because the people of Israel rejected the counsel of God and would not keep His commandments. If we don't believe God and obey God, we can not have fellowship with God or His people.

1 Corinthians 3:1-4
1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

Carnal people need to get sanctified and have that carnality purged or else it will always lead to envy, strife and division. Carnal people will not be able to consistently produce unity. A justified person will enjoy the unity of the body of Christ until his carnality causes him to prefer one brother over another which leads to envy, strife and division.

1 John 1:1-3
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

John is confirming his conviction that He has seen and heard the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was John's desire to show this truth to others. Fellowship with John was built upon fellowship with Jesus Christ. If someone does not have fellowship with Jesus Christ, I can not have fellowship with them or they with me. Ye must be born again to have fellowship with the family of God. Many people are claiming to be born again but they can not have fellowship with people who are living holy. If someone is holy and you can not have fellowship with them, you must not be holy.

1 John 1:4-7
4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

Fellowship with Christ must be established first before people can have fellowship with each other. The church of God is an exclusive family. Many people want to make it an inclusive family. Many people think we ought to just accept everyone who claims to be a Christian even though they continue to commit sin and teach other people to reject the requirement of holiness.

There is no fellowship without holiness. You may have a religious organization without holiness; but, you can not have fellowship with Jesus Christ and His people without holiness.

No doctrine (except repentance, regeneration and remission of sin) is the initial test of fellowship. Doctrine is important and absolutely necessary. But fellowship begins with being born again. Justification puts us into the family of God and makes us holy, free from sin. Upon this foundation of holiness we can build fellowship. We can not build fellowship upon a sinful life.

For you to reject fellowship with me is a rejection of my testimony of salvation. By denying fellowship with me, you are making the charge that I am a sinner. The body of Christ can not be divided.

Ephesians 4:1-6
1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

First things must be first. There is a critical requirement that certain things must come first and be observed first. Before there can be a unity of the faith (i.e doctrine and instruction), there must first be a unity of the Spirit (i.e. the fruit of the Spirit:") 
Galatians 5:22-25
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Following this laying of the foundation of the fruit of the Spirit in justification, we continue to Paul's conclusion:

Ephesians 4:11-16
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

This is the fellowship of the Christian family.
It should be enjoyed by all who have been regenerated, born again, justified.
It is the rightful privilege of every newborn child of God.
Woe be to the person who claims to be a Christian and denies fellowship to an innocent and holy child of God.