A Disturbing form of Gnosticism Detected

I have detected a very disturbing trend the past couple of days on some Social media networks, Facebook and blogs.  The latest a trend being promoted in the form of an ambiguous question “Should we pray for False teachers” or “Are we to pray for  grievous wolves” . I just feel the need to share what I have learned from Scriptures  for whom are we to pray, as it seems this was also a problem prevalent in the church of Ephesus if we come to the understanding of the Apostle Paul’s writings in the 1 Timothy. It seems there were division caused by some Judiazers as they claimed that salvation was solely for law-keeping Jews or Gentile proselytes who kept the Mosaic ceremonies. ( Titus 3:10  As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, ) And a second a form of intellectual religious elitism, later called Gnosticism, was being taught at Ephesus .  Now the teachings subject on the Social media  group was on the Doctrines  of Election sadly it lead to the assumption we are not to pray for false teachers. Sadly it seems here in the group was also is a form of intellectual religious elitism  that is promoted by the group owner.

The Bible says nothing is new under the sun :

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.
(Ecclesiastes 1:9-10)

Less than 24 hours later an article appeared on my social media feeds from a blog with the heading Are We To Pray For Grievous Wolves?  Please read this article with prayer and discernment !

The arguments made  in the linked article ,  of not praying for the salvation, or change of heart of false teachers, supported by the OT verses used at the linked article is full of holes. (those verses is another topic for discussion.) How does the writer distinguish between a false teacher and a Muslim or Hindu teacher? Are we not to pray for the conversion of those who are in false religions? Why then would we send evangelists to the billions of lost people in countries where false religions are followed.

The linked article  says that nowhere do we have an instruction to pray for “wolves”, but can we find an instruction that says we are NOT to pray for “wolves”? When the Bible is silent on an issue are we to assume that it indicates  tactic approval or disapproval over an issue? One can take the chance to decide for ourselves what God wants us to do, and run the risk of being false teachers ourselves by doing so, or we can follow Jesus instruction to love and give all the Gospel truth. If it is rejected by the wolf, at least we have followed clear instruction and not our own interpretation of something on which the Bible is silent. Jeremiah does not provide clear instruction, in any way possible, for the Christian in this matter.

We read in the Bible that we are to pray for all People. That would  include our loved ones, friends and it goes wider, we are to pray for the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, False Teachers and those who follow false teachings. What makes a Muslim teacher different from a Rob Bell or T D Jakes ? Those same lost people  will be misled by the Rob Bell’s  and  could, and will, just as easily be misled by the Muslim cleric or the Hindu guru. Satan will use any false message he can to withhold the truth from people, whether it is an Eastern religion or the Emergent church, which ever the lost will believe more readily.

There is no grey area between the saved and the unsaved, you are either saved or you are not. Therefore, a false teacher is no more or less lost than a Muslim or a Buddhist teacher. Neither of them have Jesus or the Holy Spirit.

Lets have a look at what Scripture teaches us, I will also use the Bible commentary teachings of John MacArthur taken from his ‘First Timothy: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Macarthur New Testament Commentary Series)’

What are we to learn and understand from these verses ? we read….

1Timothy  2:1-8  First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,  (2)  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  (3)  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,  (4)  who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (5)  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,  (6)  who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.  (7)  For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.  (8)  I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;

Exerts taken from the MacArthur commentaries we read this:

What Christian does not pray for the salvation of friends. and loved ones who do not know the Lord? The issue in this passage, however, is broader than praying for those close to us. It calls us to prayer for the lost in general; on behalf of all men. It raises the issue of whether God answers such prayers, and what part they play in God’s salvation purpose.

The Bible, then, clearly expresses the appropriateness and propriety of praying for the lost. In addition to the examples noted above, evangelistic praying is the express teaching of 1 Timothy 2:1-8. These verses are polemical in nature; they confront a problem in the Ephesian church.

Since Paul here commands prayer for the lost, we conclude that such praying had slipped from the priority it should have been at Ephesus. There were two strands of false teaching prevalent there that would account for such neglect.

First, 1:7-11 shows there was a Judaizing element at Ephesus. The Judaizers were claiming that salvation was solely for law-keeping Jews or Gentile proselytes who kept the Mosaic ceremonies. The classic example of similar narrow mindedness is Jonah. His flight was not motivated by fear of the Ninevites; he fled because he did not want salvation blessings extended to the Gentiles (cf. Jonah 4:1-11). Such exclusivism would obviously severely restrict evangelistic praying.

 Second, a form of intellectual religious elitism, later called Gnosticism, was being taught at Ephesus. Its proponents argued that salvation was only for the elite, who were able to ascend to the high levels of mystical secret knowledge. They, too, would have no motive to pray for the lost.

A common theme in both those heretical teachings was the denial of the universality of the gospel. Paul counters that teaching by showing the need to pray for all men, since the scope of the gospel call is universal. The goal of the church, like Israel before it, is to reach the world with the saving truth of God.

Israel failed to be the faithful nation by which God could reach the world, and the responsibility has been passed to the church. (Romans 11: 1ff. explains that Israel’s failure is not the end. The Jews will again be restored to faithfulness and used as an evangel to the world.)

Paul writes out of concern that the exclusivity that caused Israel to fail in her mission not cripple the church. History shows that the church has, in fact, become content with itself and often neglectful of sinners.Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus to set the church there in order. After his introductory remarks in chapter 1, Paul outlined the specific duties Timothy needed to fulfill. First of all, the church must understand the importance of its evangelistic mission and the role of prayer in fulfilling it.

That Paul uses urge instead of “command” shows that he speaks from the passion of his heart. Then links this passage with 1:18. The first step in Timothy’s carrying out Paul’s charge to him was to deal with the anti-evangelistic exclusivism in the Ephesian assembly.

The central function of the church on earth is to reach the lost. Paul knew that the Ephesians would never do that as long as they maintained their selfish exclusivism. To carry out their mission in the world they must be made to understand the breadth of the gospel call. And the first feature in understanding that is to come to grips with evangelistic praying. To assist them to do that, Paul gives five elements of evangelistic prayer: its nature, scope, benefit, reasons, and attitude.

The seventeenth-century English Puritan Richard Baxter wrote,

Oh, if you have the hearts of Christians or of men in you, let them yearn towards your poor ignorant, ungodly neighbors. Alas, there is but a step betwixt them and death and hell; many hundred diseases are waiting ready to seize on them, and if they die unregenerate, they are lost forever. Have you hearts of rock, that cannot pity men in such a case as this? If you believe not the Word of God, and the danger of sinners, why are you Christians yourselves? If you do believe it, why do you not bestir yourself to the helping of others? (cited in I.D.E. Thomas, ed., A Puritan Golden Treasury [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1977], 92)

It is my  prayer the we not become like the Judiazers and want to from part of an intellectual religious elitism we call Gnostic’s and following false teachings called Gnosticism.  It is Christ who saves through faith, not our soteriological knowledge.

In His service

Elmarie

I do highly recommend you do read the complete First Timothy: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Macarthur New Testament Commentary Series)’ to gain a better understanding.

Another good read from John MacArthur is The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception

I also worked through a wonderful series by Phil Johnson called  A Survey of Heresies it gives  a wonderful outline that most of today’s heretical teachings are indeed nothing new. It’s important for Christians to have a grasp of heresies that the church has battled over the centuries, because they often return with new clothing, and the unprepared Christian is likely to fall into these old pits. Phil does an excellent job of looking at some of the major heresies that are revisiting the church today: Socinianism, Arianism, Pelagianism, Gnosticism, and Judaizing. This is an excellent 6 part series that will shore up some weak points in the church today.

The links below is audio links to the lectures done by Phil Johnson. You can listen or download the mp3 format.

The Socinians

The Pelagians

The Arians, #2

The Arians, #1

The Gnostics

The Judaizers

And lastly I was also given this link by a friend in better understanding Neo-Gnostic Calvinism, Essays on NeoGnostic Calvinism by Greg Fields

The next article to be placed will be a follow up of this about  Evangelistic prayer.

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3 thoughts on “A Disturbing form of Gnosticism Detected

  1. “There is no grey area between the saved and the unsaved, you are either saved or you are not. Therefore, a false teacher is no more or less lost than a Muslim or a Buddhist teacher. Neither of them have Jesus or the Holy Spirit.”

    I find it interesting you saying that a false teacher cannot be saved, or be filled with the Holy Spirit. If they are intentionally speaking untruth, then yes, they are rejecting Jesus, but if it is a misunderstanding that they haven’t prayed about or read about enough, surely they can still be a Christian, still be filled with the Holy Spirit? Some teachers I’ve heard, or friends I have, have views on various topics, mostly eschatology, that I would disagree with and say was untruth. However, the rest of their teaching is sound, and they are definitely Spirit-filled Christians. How are the two things irreconcilable?

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    • Edward B

      Thank you for your comment. The intent of the statement you refer to is not to indicate that false teachers, Buddhists or Muslims cannot be saved, as they most certainly can be saved by faith through grace in Jesus Christ, and when they are saved, they will unlikely continue to proclaim a false gospel.

      In simple terms, what the statement says is that all unbelievers, irrespective of what other belief they might hold, are unsaved due to their sin of unbelief. Those who do not have the Holy Spirit are unsaved.

      One cannot simply regard another who disagrees on certain aspects of non-essential doctrine as a false teacher, therefore what the statement refers to are those false teachers who willfully continue to proclaim another gospel which contains disagreements with the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Any specific understanding of eschatology, for instance, is not essential doctrine, is not essential to salvation and a different interpretation to that which we might have of the end times, does not make for a false teacher.

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