What is heresy?And is it important to identify it?
Heresy is often defined as any departure from Christian orthodoxy, from a misuse of scripture taken from the context that changes its meaning and application. It is a teaching, doctrine or practice that goes beyond the apostles’ teachings, (what is written) or introduces something totally new or contrary to the Scripture.
It is also a term that people refuse to use today to identify false teaching and teachers.
Biblical heresy is often a denial of one or more of the core beliefs held by the Church that are found in the Bible. Such as the Triunity of God, the deity of Christ or salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. There is also heresy that is not biblically based, introducing other religious spiritual teachings to add to what the Scripture says.
Today’s heresies are introduced into the Church mostly through new “revelation” or “prophesy,” which are often the most dangerous source of all. It should be obvious that a divisive teaching or practice from inside the Church is more destructive to our genuine faith than one from the outside and should not be allowed to continue to be spoken from the pulpit.
Heresy can also be an overemphasis of a neglected truth (majoring on minor points of doctrine), or a truth emphasized to an extreme where it no longer can be recognized as Biblical. To not be orthodox in ones teaching means one is teaching heresy. If one knowingly opposes orthodoxy it makes them a heretic. Paul instructs us to “Reject a divisive (heretic) man after the first and second admonition” (Titus 3:10). The Greek word for divisive is hairetikos, it means a schismatic: someone that is a promoter or follower of a false doctrine, or is intentionally dividing the church for their particular teaching.
Heresy is easily seen by groups or individuals that reject core Christian doctrines and often separate themselves from the Church that hold to them. But those who promote false teachings do not always leave the church to start their own but stay inside to convince others and make disciples after themselves. In Galatians 5 Paul mentions among the many works of the flesh, mentioning heresies, and telling us those who practice them will not inherit the kingdom of God.
When a teaching or practice affects the core doctrines or goes beyond what is written we should not keep silent. If one stays silent with a known heresy being taught that makes them a compromiser and complicit to it. But many do not want to speak out and “make waves.” A true shepherd’s first concern is to protect the sheep - then he can minister to the individual who needs the correction.
We have all heard the statement “eat the meat and spit out
the bones,” but only the mature believer can discern good from evil. What parent
would feed a little child a fish with bones and expect it to know what to do.
This is not a good answer for the newborn, weak or immature in faith. Young
lambs, like a young child, do not understand the differences, and will be
destroyed if not protected. This is why we are to identify certain people
who are expounding these heresies, we prevent the lambs from immediate harm.
If we are to keep unity we are to contend for “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).