2 Jun 2016

Confronting challenges of heresy in the church

Confronting challenges of heresy in the church

A church cannot be stronger than her doctrines. The early church knew this fact pretty well enough that they left nothing to chance. Their approach was clear: the trumpet must give a clear message, or else. In this study, we will examine the definitions of doctrine, heresy, and church. We will also highlight some of the approaches of the apostles in dealing with heresies in their time. Finally, we will examine the signs we must watch out for in order to identify a heretical teaching or movement.

You cannot claim to be a member of the RCCG without the belief in our fundamental doctrines. It is through teaching not preaching that we transmit doctrines. Hence every Sunday School teacher must be sound in the knowledge of God‟s Word and have good knowledge of teaching methodology.


It is a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions (Wikipedia). It is a body or system of teachings related to a particular subject. It is a particular principle, position, or policy taught and advocated. It has its origin from (Latin) doctrina, which means teachings or a body of teaching.

It could be translated learning. ( The Greek didache, which means teaching or that which is taught; to speak in a way of teaching, in distinction from other modes of public speaking. (

For the purpose of this study, we will define „doctrine‟ as a body of teachings or beliefs, fundamentally based on the Bible, and accepted as tenets of faith by a body of believers. It is taught and practiced by the generality of the people and deviations are, not just frowned at but disciplined. Membership of such a group is defined by adherence to this set of teachings.


It is an opinion or belief that runs contrary to established teachings, or customs. Its root, Greek „hairesis‟, means act of choosing. The heretic chooses to believe, or follow, a set of teachings different from what the group subscribed to. According to John W. Ritenbaugh, heresy is the translation of the Greek „hairesis‟- meaning literally “choice “ or “selection”- which has an interesting secular as well as biblical history. Until its biblical use, it has no evil connotation. Even in the Bible, it is mostly used to refer to a party or philosophy with which a person has chosen to identify or ally himself. Thus „hairesis‟ is frequently translated “sect”. In Acts, Luke applies it to the Sadducees (Acts 5:17) and the Pharisees (Acts 15:5; 26:5). Outsiders also used “hairesis” in Acts 24:5, 14 and Acts 28:22 to identify the Christian church.

However, when Paul and Peter‟s writing began circulating, „hairesis‟ meant a destructive element within the church that creates division through consciously formed opinions and ideas in disagreement with the orthodox teachings of the apostles. Paul condemns it in Galatians 5:20 as one of “the works of the flesh.” Sometimes it is translated “factions” or “party spirit,” but regardless of its translation, Paul says that people who practise such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God (verse 21)! (Forerunner, February 1995)


Campbell defines the church of the living God as a company of called out ones – called out of the world – those whom God has called unto Himself by the gospel of His grace and who have accepted the gospel and the Saviour it represents. We define the Church as comprising those who have been called out of the world, out of sin and isolation from God, and through the redemptive work of Christ have been gathered as a community. They have a common faith and share the blessings and responsibilities of serving the Lord.

There is no doubt that there are various definitions of the church. But we will stick to the last definition for our purpose since the basic concepts of separation from the world, redemption, faith, and the gospel are clearly represented.


The Church had to contend with heresies from the beginning and the apostles put it on the front burner.

  • Acts 15: 1-31 – The first Jerusalem Council had its first meeting to deal with a doctrinal matter, a decision was taken and communicated to the Gentile believers who were the target of Judisers.
  • Acts 15: 33-35 – Paul and Barnabas were teaching the believers ceaselessly.
  • Acts 15:36 – There were follow-up visit from time to time.
  • Acts 15:41 – The apostolic visits were solely to confirm or strengthen the church and ensure they are preserved from doctrinal errors.
  • 1Cor. 1:11-13; 2: 1-2; Gal 3:1-3 – The epistles were written to various local assemblies to correct heresies and arrest the trend early.
  • 1 Thess. 5: 2-8 – We are children of day and not of night, hence, let us keep the light of the true gospel shining.
  • 2 Thess. 2:2-12 – Heresy is a sure sign of the end time.
  • 1Tim. 1:3-7, 18 – Timothy was given specific charge when he was sent to Ephesus and this is to confront the heretical teachers. To Paul, dealing with heresies is a spiritual warfare.
  • 2 Tim. 2:2; 4:2-5 – Paul advocates intentional mentoring as a way of dealing with wrong teachings. This approach will embolden true teachers of the Word to counter the effect of heretical teachings.
  • Tit.1:9-11 – The assignment of Titus among the Cretans was to stop the mouth of the false teachers.
  • 2 Pet.2:12-19 – Peter compares these teachings to Balaam who loved the wages of unrighteousness.
  • 1 John 2:15-19 – John warns against worldliness, as a sign of heretical teachings. He also identified the spirit at work as that of the antichrist. This is why all kinds of churches are springing up today.
  • Jude 1:1-25 – Jude says heretical teachers are clouds without water, trees whose fruits have withered. This is because they’ve been plucked up by the root.


  1. It appeals to the flesh – 2 Tim 4:2; 2 Pet 3:3.
  2. It queries the authenticity of the Word of God.
  3. It is half-truth, just enough poison to damage and damn the soul eternally.
  4. It produces result (temporal gratification), but not on relying on the Holy Spirit.
  5. It could lead to a movement, but it will not produce true believers.
  6. Sometimes, it down plays on persecution and Christian suffering.
  7. It impoverishes the laity while the clergy lives big. – 1 Pet 5:2-3
  8. It feeds on the ignorance of the followers.
  9. It down plays end time warning – 2 Pet 3:3-4.
  10. Heresy is a neighbour to apostasy. This is why there are homosexuals and lesbians who call themselves believers today.


The best way to identify the fake is to know the original. The focus of the early church was the Word of God, the doctrines of Christ and not miracles, blessings, comfort but the Word. They studied, taught, fellowshipped, prayed, lived and died to ensure the decimation of the true doctrine of Christ. They risked everything for it. Nothing was compromised for the truth, 1 Tim 6:3-5; Rom 16: 17; Deut 13:1-10, 2John 10-11. Bankers are trained to identify fake currencies by being able to tell the original even in the dark. If you know the truth, not only will it set you free, you will be able to smell heresies afar off and help others to do the same.