Heresies don’t just spring up out of nowhere. Behind every heresy there’s a heretic, a divisive person who pushes some point until it divides the church. The heretic is a faction-maker, or party-former. While some heretics actually preach untruth, most begin by over-emphasizing some small piece of the truth to the detriment of the whole of it. The confusion and imbalance they create with their “half-truth” is far more divisive in local gatherings than the problems and divisions that have occurred because of actual false teaching.
In Scripture, the words “heretic” and “sect” are derived from the same Greek root which means “to take sides” or “to divide.”
In his letter to Titus, Paul tells us what to do about heresy when we find it rearing its ugly head among us: “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Ti. 3:10-11 NIV). In other words, go to the source of the problem – the heretic himself – and warn him, twice if necessary. If he doesn’t listen – but instead persists in his divisive path, still seeking to gather followers after his cause – refuse to listen to him, because his version of the truth has actually become a perversion. He has condemned himself.
In 1 Corinthians 11:19 Paul suggests that there is a positive side to confronting heresy: “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.” If you are in the difficult process of dealing with a heretic and his or her heresy, take heart. It is God’s way of waking us up to the truth, forcing us to identify deviations from the truth, helping us clean house, and regrouping us to strengthen what remains (Rev. 3:2-3).
By Larry Ondrejack
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org