Galatians 4:12–20; 2 Peter 1:16–2:3; 1 John 4:1–6 (read online ⧉)
While yesterday’s devotional was about the doctrine (and reality) of the Trinity, this isn’t the only issues that face Christians as they try to discern True teaching versus false. While many divisions in the church have been over interpretation and living out of certain pieces of the Christian life, most (over time) have been discovered to not be heretical. While there are heretical tendencies in some denominations, by-and-large there are core beliefs that we hold in common.
While the Trinity certainly is a crucial one, it is a doctrinal one, meaning that for most people it is not part of the rubber-meets-the-road of their daily life. It is usually the daily life parts that will affect a person’s Christian walk more than other things.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul is addressing the constant battle going on with people trying to bring into force the Law of the Jews. This is not a fight against teaching and helpful traditions, but the thought that only proper execution of the Law will result in salvation. In other words, the free and grace-filled gift of Jesus‘ death and resurrection was null-and-void. Paul didn’t want the Galatians to fall into that trap.
Except they did. It was so bad that the Galatians who used to honor (or “bless”) Paul now—according to Paul—viewed Paul as an enemy. What a change! A man they honored was now an adversary in their hearts.
Peter knew that this was an issue, and not just with the Galatians. He warned the church that there have always been and will continue to be false teachers. Amazingly and similarly to Paul’s concerns, one of the concerns is that Christians would begin to deny Jesus Christ. As Peter continues, I’m sure many of us have seen things that would seem to fall within his list.
This leads us to John, who urges us to test the spirits. First and foremost, we have God (the Father), Jesus, and the Holy Spirit [all 3 being the Trinity]. Then Jesus died for all on the cross and was resurrected, to free us from sin (including the Law). There is also the spirit of love and unity. Truly, when we are confronted with someone whose path is in opposition to these (and a few others excluded for simplicity and brevity), we are indeed able to discern where the false teachers are.
We are blessed that those that went before us went through the pain and division of false teachers, for we can learn from them. As the church begins to head (very slowly) toward a form of reunification, there will continue to be people that will seek to divide the church further and try to keep it separated. Jesus calls us to be one.
God, you gifted us the Holy Spirit, so that we would not be led astray. Lord, help us to trust your Word over our desires, that we might finish strong to the end. Amen.
1) Why is unity hard? What is your responsibility in maintain and seeking unity?
2) Why is unity significant in regard to false teachers and prophets?
3) Have you ever met or dealt with people whose teachings divided the Body over either false doctrine or teachings that are not essential for salvation?