For many years rather centuries, Bible students have tried identifying the forms of false teaching that are opposed by Paul in Colossians. The apostle Paul does not name the false teachers in his letter as he was concerned with teaching the correct truth. By observing some counterarguments of Paul, we can have an understanding of the heresy (Zuck, 2003). In a Biblical perspective, Paul exhorts Christian believers to look out for false prophets and a different gospel that is not accepted (2nd Corinthians 11:4). In this light, Heresy simply means doctrine, teaching, or practice that is far away from the truth. It refers to departures from the truth in the aspects of the Bible such as the works of Jesus Christ, the nature of God, and the Bible as the Word of God. It is important to realize that modern cults are labeled as such because they deny biblical doctrines or teachings; they disagree over such fundamental issues (The Church of God International, 2016). Therefore, the Colossian Heresy refers to false teachings that Paul, John, Peter, and other apostles combated during that time. Christianity during this period had a small band of true Christians who taught the Biblical or God's truth, and they were overshadowed by false prophets. Conversely, today in contemporary modern society, Christianity is heavily influenced by heresies and heretical teachings that are suited to the moral changes of the world. According to McKeever (2014), an example of modern day heresy includes Marcionism. The belief is that God of the Old Testament is inferior to the God of the New Testament. Unfortunately, heresy has become so prevalent in the modern society. One does not have to look far as misleading teachings are now common in books, television, and pulpits. The aim of this paper is to discuss the Colossian Heresy by identifying what was the Heresy and also address some modern day heresies. Furthermore, this article will also discuss ways to confront heresies or false teachings in modern society.
What Was the Heresy?
As explained in the introduction, biblical heresy is the denial of the beliefs held in the church that are founded on the Bible (Ford, 2015). Heresy is, therefore, an emotional and loaded term in our culture. A leading characteristic of the heresy or false teachings in Colossae was the devaluation of God. This can be seen in Pauls letter when he counter argues for the supremacy of God. Paul exhorts in Colossians 2: 9 the deity of Christ is unmistakable. The apostle clearly indicates that Jesus Christ is God, and he is above all. In his letter, Paul also expresses his concern and confidence in standing with the Word of God and not on to other Heresies. From this, we can ascertain that whatever the false prophets were saying, it is evident they were undermining the role of Jesus Christ in their teachings. Therefore, Paul did not tolerate this, and the letter was a straightforward defense of the position of God. In helping us to understand what the Colossian heresy was, Paul issued direct warnings against believers being deceived. The warnings were against mysticism, legalism, and asceticism. As explained, no one knows who the Colossian heresies were or who were troubling the Colossae believers since Paul does not name them in the letters (The Church of God International, 2016). The Christians who lived at Colossae coexisted with heresies who worshiped Egyptian, Roman, Anatolian, and Greek deities who were devoted to the worshiping of gods. While it is proven that the Colossian Heresy was a false religious teaching that Paul warned in his letter to the Colossians, it still illustrates the kind of modern world we live in. we live in a world of religious syncretism where every day on radio, television, and movies we hear false prophecies and teachings like the false teachings in Colossae (Whitehead, 2016).
Modern Day Heresies
In the early centuries of Christian histories, the most significant heresies that appeared that time included aberrations such as modalism and adoptionism. The modalistic monarchians believed in the full deity of God but denied the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit were personally distinct. On the other hand, Adoptionists believed that Jesus was a mere man who was the Son of God through adoption. Other famous ancient heresies include Arianism and Montanism. Conversely, modern day heresies do exist. According to the Church of God International Organization (2016), many forms of historical heresies have appeared in modern times. In recent years, scholars have been investigating a movement called Merkabah mysticism that is very similar to the Colossian Heresy. They believed to attain the spiritual vision of God; one had to fast rigorously for many days. The Colossian heresy evidently encouraged the fullness of God through mystical experiences. Today, Christians are still heavily influenced by divisions and heresies of the past. As (Whitehead, 2016; Pope, 2012) delineate, most evangelical ministries reveal a level of theological confusion. For example, in a survey done for Ligonier Ministries by LifeWay Research on 2014, 22% of the evangelicals believed that God the Father is more divine than Jesus. A further 9% were not sure while almost 15% said Jesus was the first creature to be created by God (Emmert, 2014). Another modern heresy is the Prosperity Gospel which is most common in our society today. It is the idea that all one needs to do to get rich or wealthy is to do good works. It is a form of Semi-Pelagianism where the idea is God wants you to become rich. Therefore, modern day heresies exist in contemporary society as a new package of the old heresies.
Confronting Heresies Today
The Colossian Heresy was a destructive element within the church as Paul the Apostle identified. It created division through disagreements with the orthodox teachings and, therefore, it should be condemned and confronted. From a biblical perspective, the early Church condemned heresies such as the Jerusalem meeting that dealt with doctrine matters (Acts 15: 1-31). In 1st Corinthians 1: 11-13, the epistles were written to different local assemblies to arrest the trend and correct heresies. Also, in Jude 1: 1-25, Jude explains how heretical teachings bare no truth in their opposition to the orthodox teachings (RCCG Sunday School UK, 2011). So how does a modern Christian properly confront Heresy in the Church today? The first thing to do is to be slow to speak. We now have avenues such as Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and other different ways we can address people who believe in false teachings. However, we must be constructive in our thoughts and learn to speak wisely. Slowly explain what heresy is and what the false teachings are. The early church confronted heresy through biblical doctrines with the creed. That said, we should confront it with love as the Bible is a representation of God's love. Just as the early church faced the Apollos through an understanding of faith, this also calls for discernment. There are recorded instances in the Bible where Jesus was straight forward, a characteristic Paul emulates in his letters, and confronted religious leaders on their false teachings. Whenever he confronted them, he used love to make them understand. Therefore, confronting heresy in modern society requires an understanding of the Bible teachings and doctrine such as being constructive in our thoughts as we address what heresies are (Holcomb, 2015). In this light, we should be patient with them, be slow to speak, love them like Jesus did, and teach them biblical perspectives on the notion of heresies.
The Colossian Heresy is proven as a brand of religious practice in the early church that is also present today. The letter to the Colossians by Paul is relevant to believers as it condemns the false teachings at that time. This paper has discussed the Colossian Heresy and affirmed the presence of modern day heresies in our society today and also addressed how we as believers should confront heresies.
Emmert, K. (2014). New Poll Finds Evangelicals Favorite Heresies. ChristianityToday.com. Retrieved 10 March 2016, from http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/october-web-only/new-poll-finds-evangelicals-favorite-heresies.html
Ford, L. (2015). Seven Biblical Mysteries Unveiled!: (Revisiting Theology You Thought Was Settled)! (p. 244). WestBow Press.
Holcomb, J. (2015). Why You Shouldnt Call That False Teaching a Heresy. ChristianityToday.com. Retrieved 10 March 2016, from http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/october/truth-about-heresy.html?share=%20UCBSIGzXHqq%20ssVRz7wuu/Vxw5NEduR
McKeever, J. (2016). 7 Heresies inside the Church. charismanews.com. Retrieved 10 March 2016, from http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/43027-7-heresies-inside-the-church
Pope, C. (2012). How Modern Heresies Have isolated and Left Us Unfulfilled - Community in Mission. Community in Mission. Retrieved 10 March 2016, from http://blog.adw.org/2012/05/how-modern-heresies-have-isolated-and-left-us-unfulfilled/
RCCG Sunday School UK,. (2016). Confronting challenges of heresy in the church. Rccgsundayschool.org. Retrieved 10 March 2016, from http://www.rccgsundayschool.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4:confronting-challenges-of-heresy&catid=25:articles&Itemid=44
The Church of God International,. (2016). Heresies: Ancient and Modern. http://cgi.org/. Retrieved 10 March 2016, from http://cgi.org/heresies-ancient-and-modern/
Whitehead, K. (2016). Library: They Just Won't Go Away: Ancient Heresies in Post-Modern Dress. Catholicculture.org. Retrieved 10 March 2016, from https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=7012
Zuck, R. (2003). Teaching as Paul taught (2nd ed., p. 164). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.
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