All Israel Shall Be Saved - Part VII
Although this series set out to deal with the distorted historical interpretations of “Israel” in the Bible, I do not want to ignore the many other false teachings that were not only introduced erroneously, but later embraced, and thereafter idolized by many in the church.
For instance, I am often asked how the veneration (worship) of Mary became so popular in the Roman Catholic Church. When you read through the writings of the early church fathers up to AD 250, you won’t get even a hint of Mary worship. The Roman Catholics like to point to an anonymous manuscript that is dated to about AD 250 that mentions praying to Mary and it calls her “Mother of God.” So it’s possible, even likely, that veneration of Mary began that early. I will add that Roman Catholics also like to lean on a chapter in Irenaeus’ book, Against Heresies (book 5, ch. 19, c. AD 185) that talks about “recapitulation.” It talks about how Jesus undid through obedience what Adam caused through disobedience. It also says that Mary, obeying while a virgin, undid the disobedience of Eve who disobeyed while a virgin.
It’s interesting, but it’s hardly an endorsement of praying to, venerating, or making images and statues of Mary.
False teachings and misinterpretation of Scriptures during the early church years would later become rules and regulations that first legitimized the errors. Eventually, some made the erroneous false teachings their foundational doctrine.
Oftentimes their rules became so stringent and enforced by religious authorities who gained political power that individuals were tortured and executed for not adhering to the finest detail.
In the case of the Roman Catholic Church—it held both religious and political power. It then used its power and influence to control the masses. The majority of the reformers who rose up out of the Roman Catholic Church were not trying to destroy the Roman Catholic system but sought to expose its corruption and moral debauchery. The likes of Savonarola, Luther, and Calvin, to name a few, were trying to “reform” the church and not intentionally trying to destroy it. They were seen as enemies and heretics by the Roman Catholic Church. Savonarola was executed while Luther was excommunicated at the Diet of Worms. Prince Frederick seized Luther and brought him to hide at Wartburg Castle. Otherwise, Luther would have found the same fate as Savonarola.
Modern Day False Teachings
Today there are many movements that embrace aspects of the false teachings from the early church era. These modern-day leaders claim to have received divine revelation by God, or an angel, or a dream to validate their claims. Some of the old erroneous false teachings that have similarities to modern movements include:
Similarities In Errors
- Jehovah’s Witnesses, known as the Watchtower Society, are a re-creation of Arianism. Arius of Alexandria Egypt and his followers denied the true divinity of Jesus Christ taking various specific forms, but all agreed that Jesus Christ was created by the Father, that He had a beginning in time, and that the title, “Son of God,” was a courtesy one.
- Sabellianism is the belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three characterizations of one God, rather than three distinct “persons” in one God. The modern-day Pentecostal Oneness teaching adopted this erroneous view and made this error the seedbed of its doctrinal teachings.
- The Ebionites were a Jewish sect that insisted on the necessity of following Jewish law which they interpreted in light of Jesus’ expounding on the law. They regarded Jesus as Messiah but not as divine. Today, the Hebraic Messianic movement embraces either all of this concept, or at least the portion that requires its members to embrace the rites of the old Jewish law. The celebration of the Jewish festivals and holidays are kept with adherents understanding of Jesus keeping the law and so should they, like Jesus.
- There were many forms of Gnosticism during the time of the early church. Aspects of these heresies have been embraced by the Word of Faith movement. The Word of Faith movement—co-joined with metaphysics and philosophy—made it a cocktail of unbiblical nonsense.
These and many other erroneous teachings have several questions in common:
Many Christians do not realize that these types of questions were asked throughout the church age. Synods and councils debated the nature of Christ. To the Gnostics, all matter was evil, therefore Jesus Christ could not have taken on human flesh. The church tried to counter the errors with creeds. To a limited extent, it became a means, but in the end, the creeds were quoted and memorized more than the Word of God.
- Who is Jesus Christ?
- Is He God?
- Is He man?
- Is He one characterization of God?
The Cross was not the centrality of the false teachings. Either the Cross was ignored or misunderstood. The role and responsibility of the believer, adherent, was identified by obedience to the rules and beliefs of the false teachings. Works would become more important than faith. As more error was introduced to the church, the idea of making disciples of Christ was deemphasized. Instead of making disciples of Christ, false teachers sought to make converts to their false teachings.
Solomon said that there is nothing new under the sun. Satan has done a good job of using his same old lies to afflict humanity, especially the church. He knows that as a roaring lion, he can be easily spotted. He comes as a wolf in sheep’s clothing but can be de-cloaked by faithful believers. However, as an angel of light, he is not so easily detected. Satan knows the Cross was the place of his defeat. He cannot change that fact. What he tries to use is distraction and division to set the church in a wrong direction. He will use error mixed with truth to distort the purity of the gospel message. He will raise up another object of faith to render the church powerless. All error and false teaching is leaven and eventually corrupts the whole lump. To the Calvinist, it is the debate over the five points. To the Word of Faith movement, it is the idea we are little gods who can speak like God and create with our words. To the Hebraic movement, it is the keeping of the Old Testament laws.
It does not matter to Satan what is chosen so long as it’s not the Cross. For those of us who believe, it is the Cross. It is the means of all the good things that God has for us. Jesus Christ, the God-man, is the source. The Holy Spirit works through our faith in the finished work of the Cross to give us all that Jesus has for us. The Message of the Cross is the apostolic message to the church in this age. Go back to the Cross. The Cross is the foundational doctrine upon which all other doctrine is built.