Saturday, October 31, 2009

Refuting Charges of Neo-Gnosticism - Part 1

I Corinthians 15:1
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

I Corinthians 15:2
By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

I Corinthians 15:3
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

I Corinthians 15:4
And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

The Gospel Outline

The passage above is one of the most common passages given to define the Gospel. However, when we look at it carefully, we see that this passage is not a strict definition of the Gospel, but rather, an outline/summary of it.

Why an outline, and not the actual definition?

When we consider the use of the phrase "according to the scriptures," we see that we must look beyond this passage alone to determine its true definition. We must consider all of the relevant biblical passages to come to a proper understanding of, and definition for, the Gospel. It only serves as a Gospel definition for those who already have a knowledge and understanding of the scriptural context that gives fulness and meaning to this passage.

Moreover, when we consider the passage carefully, we see that whatever the true Gospel is, it must address the following questions (and do so in a manner that is harmonious with the Scripture):

Who and what is meant by "Christ"in verse 3?

Why did Christ come to this Earth and why did he have to die?

Who are the "our" in "....our sins" in verse 3?

What is the significance of Christ's burial? - v4;

What does it mean that Christ rose again? - v4;

and what was accomplished by His death, burial, and resurrection?

Righteousness Revealed

Another way to determine whether I Corinthians 15:1-4 is the full Gospel message, or an outline or summary of it, is to apply this simple test:

Imagine saying to someone: "the Gospel is the good news that Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day;" and then imagine proceeding to ask them to explain to you, based on this one sentence, "what is the righteousness of God that is revealed in this Gospel" (Romans 1:16-17).

If they have never been exposed to Christianity or to the pseudo-Christian religions of christendom, they will probably look at you like a deer caught in headlights (not having any idea how to properly answer this question). They may say something to the effect that "God is a righteous God; He doesn't do anything wrong; God is good;" however, they will have no idea (from that one sentence) about the righteousness that The Lord Jesus Christ established for His people. They will not understand that Christ is the end of the law for them (i.e., law-keeping as a supposed means of being accepted before God), and that when His righteousness is imputed to them, all aspects of their salvation were guaranteed and sealed.

The Spirit of Compromise

Christians (as opposed to Arminians, Arians, Sacramentalists, those within the reformed community that embrace them, etc.) are often accused of making the Gospel "too complicated" or too "doctrinally inclusive."

They lodge the false charge that "unless someone has studied calvinism for some time (we say) they can't be saved." This is foolishness.

This has nothing to do with "studying Calvinism."

It has to do with the fact that our accusers want a "simpler" gospel (supposing the True to be too complicated); they want a watered-down gospel, one that has nothing to do with election, predestination, righteousness imputed, or perhaps any of the other vital precepts that make up the Doctrine of Christ. Although these doctrines are associated with Calvin's teachings, they stem not from Calvin, but from God as revealed in the Bible. These doctrines are all very much biblical, and they are intimately tied-into the Gospel and God's plan of salvation.

Now, there are many amongst these false accusers who claim to support the doctrines of free and sovereign grace. In "fairness" to them, many of them do indeed speak often and eloquently on such vital precepts as election, predestination, effectual atonement, sola scriptura, and other key doctrines (including righteousness imputed). However, they absolutely do not believe (in a spiritual, saving sense) the things that they say. They are not submitted to these Gospel truths because they willingly embrace not only those who deny these truths, but those who do so openly and teach others to do the same. By doing so, by openly embracing those who embrace heresy, they set these vital truths at naught before their congregations, and before all people. These compromisers make the precepts to appear as nothing more than interesting truths, enlightening truths, accurate and beneficial truths, but not truths that are essential components of the Gospel Truth. These false accusers simply do not see certain vital truths as being vital; they see them as optional (thinking that one can be saved though they are in clear rebellion against them).

Thus, such accusers (who account for a large, and growing, number of those who identify as Reformed, Calvinistic, Predestinarian) want a gospel that allows them to embrace nearly anyone as "Christian." You see it's so much easier, so much more comfortable, palatable, and "loving," to take on an ecumenical mindset, even if it means compromising the Gospel. It is so much less painful to the flesh to avoid the reviling, persecutions, and tribulations that arise out of making accurate and needful judgments based upon what the Bible declares. Believers, think about how many more friends you would have; how many more church members; how many more council/association affiliations and "guest speaker" requests you would have if you (and your church) would simply abstain from clearly defining the Gospel and distinguishing it from all counterfeits. You could gain the world, and lose your own soul (thus evidencing that you were never true believers). However, God's people find such notions repugnant; choosing Christ (by God's grace) and the tribulations associated with following after Him, rather than selling-out to the wicked of this world.

These false accusers compromise in various degrees. Some will speak out against the ills of Popery (Romanism), but will openly embrace Arminians. Some will speak boldly about the truths embodied in the acronym "TULIP" but will argue that God saved them and allowed them to remain "Jehovah Witnesses" and Pentecostals for months or years on end. These compromisers come in many different (spiritual) shapes and sizes; however, one thing is always true, they will embrace the heretic of their choosing if it suits there ungodly purposes.

The Charge of Neo-Gnosticism

Since these false accusers believe that they are saved, they must distinguish themselves from those who are truly saved. They most often do so by employing inaccurate arguments, outright lies, and corrupt appeals to human logic and emotion. One tactic in their arsenal is to accuse Christians of being Neo-Gnostic in doctrine. If such an accuser can mislead others, and convince them that those who preach the True gospel are really just making "deep doctrinal knowledge" a requirement (and/or a prerequisite, or precondition) for salvation, they can deflect the fault from themselves and make it appear that the error lies elsewhere.

The Gnostics of old misused the scriptures, and "spiritualized" it in ways that not only were not in harmony with the entirety of the Bible, but utterly undermined it. They brought in many pagan (mystery cult) beliefs and practices and rejected many of the core beliefs of Christianity (the virgin birth, the deity and/or humanity of Christ, the Trinity, etc.). As a result, heresy after heresy arose from those who claimed they had this "higher knowledge (gnosis)" of Scripture. They believed that only those initiated and immersed in their ways could truly understand the Bible. Such thinking by no means describes the true believer; and when the Neo-Gnostic charge is lobbied against God's people, it only serves to reveal the depths of wickedness, ignorance, and spiritual blindness of those making the accusation.

You see, true believers do not make doctrinal knowledge a prerequisite for initiating, maintaining, "improving upon," or sealing their salvation. Christ is the Author and Finisher of our Salvation; He that began a good work in us is faithful to complete it until the end. The Holy Spirit is our Seal and Earnest. The elect are maintained due to the divine, free, and sovereign will of the Father, as it was made possible solely by the Finished work of Christ, and made effectual in the elect sinner's life by the Holy Spirit. Our man-mustered, knowledge, faith, understanding, repentance, etc, has no bearing on getting a man saved or keeping him saved.

However, there are things that accompany salvation; a belief in the true Gospel is one of those things. When God regenerates and converts a person, He does teach them. We read that when the Spirit comes, and works that work in a person, He reproves them of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. He leads them into all truth pertaining to the essentials of the Gospel and the knowledge of God. God does not save a person, and then allow them to proclaim a false Gospel for days, weeks, months, or years. He doesn't save them so that they can still the glory from God for a season, and give that glory to man, or man's fallen will. God saves His people for His Name and Glory's sake, and He sends them out to be ambassadors of the Truth (not of lies, half-truths, and other falsehoods).

We read that Paul was "not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." (Romans 1:16-17)

These compromisers are ashamed of, and in rebllion against, the Gospel. Though they may speak great, swelling words, they are ultimately ignorant (in a spiritual sense) of that righteousness revealed in the Gospel; especially as it relates to the value and necessity of it.

By Curt Wildy

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