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Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S., defines the work of the flesh known as “heresy” and explains how to avoid falling for these false teachings.
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are . . . heresies (Galatians 5:20)
Today’s big question: are you following heresies?
Before you answer this question, allow me to explain how the term is being defined for this devotional. The word translated as “heresies” is derived from the Greek term haireseis, which refers to divisions or factions within a group. A heretic is someone who adheres to beliefs contrary to what has been commonly accepted by that group. In Scripture, it refers to someone who introduces or follows doctrines contrary to the teachings of Christ and His apostles (2 Peter 2:1).
Does this mean there is no room for differences within Christianity? Even Paul recognized that there will be disputes among Christians (2 Timothy 2:23), and the early church showed us how to handle these disagreements (Acts 15). We are called to be of one mind (Philippians 1:27), but we are sinful people with limited understanding. So while we are united in the gospel of Christ, sincere, Bible-believing Christians may reach different conclusions on other matters.
So, at what point do disagreements move into the realm of heresy? We may not be able to give a definitive answer on every debated doctrine, but we can look at principles in Scripture for guidance. Paul stated that heresies were a work of the flesh. I believe this point is crucial in discerning between true and false teaching. If one’s view is derived from a desire to please mankind rather than trying to faithfully interpret the Word of God, then that belief would be a work of the flesh.
Elsewhere Paul wrote, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Paul told the Colossian saints to make sure they did not follow teachings of men that were rooted in worldly thinking. Similarly, John wrote about people who believed in Jesus, but were afraid to confess Him because “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42–43).
The problem in each of these cases is one’s focus. Do you desire to follow human ideas, which may include your own? If so, you are committing a work of the flesh because you are exalting someone other than God. This is heresy, and it causes division in the church.
As Christians, we must be willing to humble ourselves and allow God’s Word to determine our beliefs. Instead of using man’s fallible and ever-changing ideas to reinterpret Scripture, we need to base our beliefs on the Bible. At times, we will disagree with other Christians, but if we allow Scripture to be the authority then we will be united, even if we don’t agree on every detail.
Today’s big idea: humbly approach God’s Word and ground your beliefs on the Bible.
What to pray: ask God for humility so you do not bring destructive heresy into the church.