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Summer 2009: Ministry of Heresies
Publish date: Sep 2, 2009
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We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28 NIV).
What do all things do? They work together. As we view them they seem to be working at cross purposes, but all things are working together. They are working together for good not for everybody, but for those who love the Lord. We have been given the power of choice. It rests with each one of us whether everything that is working together is working together for our personal good or not. We must never lose sight of the eventual triumph of God’s purpose, the eventual carrying out of His plan. We must never forget those forces that seem to bring defeat are, nevertheless, being used by God.
Notice how Paul spoke of this: “For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth” (2 Corinthians 13:8). Isn’t that wonderful? Even the devil can’t do anything against the truth. He is trying all the time, and here in this world, he seems to be having his way. Let us look behind the scenes. God is working out His will.
In the great crisis that is ahead of the Church, which it is even now entering, we shall need the wisdom as well as the courage that comes from reminding ourselves of these promises, appreciating their full import.
“Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain” (Psalm 76:10). God uses even the wrath of man to praise Him. We shouldn’t get any credit for that, but God should get a great deal of credit for using even the plans of His enemies and the wrath of the Dragon to work out His will. Any wrath that doesn’t praise Him, He restrains.
This is no credit to Satan or his devils, and it is no credit to human beings that are used by Him. They must all suffer for their rebellion against God and for the specious theories that they have advocated. They are just as guilty as though they had succeeded in subverting the truth of God and unseating God from His throne, but they cannot succeed.
Concerning the security of His children, Jesus said, “no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:29). We can be glad of that.
I’ve been led to study this subject as I have contemplated this inspiring statement from the messenger of the Lord in an article in the Signs of the Times, January 6, 1898:
It is thought by some to be a misfortune when erroneous theories are advanced, but the Lord has said, “All things work together for good for them that love God”. The contention among the Corinthians made it necessary for Paul to write his wonderful epistles to them. If the Gentiles [of Galatia] had not backslidden from the faith, Paul would not have written, “I marvel at ye are so soon removed from Him that called you out of the grace of Christ unto another gospel, which is not another.” It was a misapplication of the Scriptures, to prove falsehood and error true. If the Thessalonians had not misinterpreted the instructions they received, they would not have entertained the belief that the Lord was immediately to be revealed in the clouds of heaven, thus making it necessary for Paul to present the truth as it is in Jesus, leaving on record the truth important for all time. And so opposition against light and truth call from Christ a clearer definition of the truth. Every time that error advanced, it will work for good to those who sincerely love God; for when the truth is shadowed by error, those whom the Lord had made His sentinels will make the truth sharper and clearer. They will search the scriptures for evidence of their faith. The advancement of error is the call for God’s servants to arouse, and place the truth in bold relief.
So I want to study with you why God allows erroneous theories to come to His Church either for without or from within, for the Scriptures state clearly that both happen. Paul said, “grievous wolves” shall “enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).
Why does God allow His Church to be rent and torn with schisms, factions, contentions, discussions over this and that? Why is the unity of the Church threatened at times by these things? We can see already from the texts we have read that God must have a purpose, or He wouldn’t allow these lies.
Let us look at three great purposes accomplished though the ministry of heresies, three objectives that God has in mind in allowing erroneous theories of various kinds to find their way to you and me. God could stop them. Why does He let them come? As we study the ministry of heresies, we shall find at least three answers.
The first is to sift out the false-hearted.
“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that the antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1 John 2:18-19). The false-hearted went out. Why? It might be made manifest. That is, clearly revealed, they were not of us.
Notice this wonderful statement on heresies by the servant of the Lord in Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 707: “God will arouse His people, if other means fail, heresies will come in among them, which will sift them, separating the chaff form the wheat.”
What do heresies do? They sift the Church! What happens to the chaff? It is separated from the wheat. Never forget, as the winds blow, whether they be winds of heresy or the winds of persecution, it’s the chaff that goes out; the wheat remains.
When I was visiting Florida, a friend took me to a packing shed where oranges were being sorted according to size. The oranges were on a chute. As they passed over a certain place there were little holes, and the tiniest oranges dropped though them. As the oranges went along, there were holes a little larger, and the little larger oranges fell though them, and so on. Just because we may not be fooled by one heresy, we must be careful not to pat ourselves on the back. In my imagination, I have looked at those oranges going along, and I heard a medium-sized orange say, “Well, we are not going to fall though; we’ve already been though that test and this one and we didn’t fall though. We are going right though to the end.” However, they hadn’t gone the whole length of the sieve yet.
Some of the heresies the devil brings into the church are so crude and bungling that I am amazed they fool anybody. The devil is not finished with the work of placing heresies among God’s people, and God is not finished allowing him to do it. Some far more subtle, more seductive, more difficult to discern and detect then we have yet seen are doubtless on the planning boards of the devil’s corporation. He is studying our minds and characters, and if there is anything false-hearted, there he will design something that will sift out the chaff. Our only safeguard is to be sure we are anchored in Jesus and His truth, and that we love God and His Church more then we love our own opinions.
There is a second purpose of the ministry of heresies. I trust that God will use this to bless some heart who may feel secure, who may even be secure as far as theology is concerned. We get it from the story of Jehu, one of the kings of Israel.
Let us get a picture of Jehu from the sacred record: “the driving is like the driving of Jehu, the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously” (2 Kings 9:20). Jehu was a driver, and he has descendents today. He was furious against the apostasy and heresy of Ahab and rightly so, but there was something that he lacked. He lacked love.
Jehu was full of zeal. Watch him in action:
when he was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him: and he saluted him, and said to him, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? And Jehonadab answered, It is. If it be, give me thine hand. And he gave him his hand; and he took him up to him into the chariot. And he said, Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord. So they made him ride in his chariot. And when He came to Samaria, he slew all that remained unto Ahab in Samaria, till he destroyed him, according to the saying of the Lord, which he spake to Elijah (2 Kings 10:15-17).
I am calling attention to this because I read something in the book Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 333:
All who are longing for some engagement that will represent Jehu riding furiously will have opportunity enough to distinguish themselves.
So Jehu’s chariot still rides, and like Jehu of old, some today will stop the chariot just long enough to say, “Is your heart right as my heart is? If it is, get in and ride with me; we’re going to go places and destroy Baal worship in Israel. Let me show you my zeal for the Lord.”
Notice this inspired comment, an Ellen G. White statement in The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 1038:
Men are slow to learn the lesson that the spirit manifested by Jehu will never bind hearts together. It is not safe for us to bind our interests with a Jehu religion, for this will result in bringing sadness of heart on God’s true worshipers. God has not given any of His servants the work of punishing those who will not heed His warnings and reproofs. When the Holy Spirit is abiding in the heart, it will lead the human agent to see his own defects of character, to pity the weakness of others, to forgive as he wishes to be forgiven.
Part of the ministry of heresies is to give an opportunity for Jehus to manifest themselves. Just because some in the Church militantly defend the faith, get out their swords, and ride the chariot zealously, is no evidence that they will be with God’s people at the finish.
Note the warning in Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 400:
As trials thicken around us, both separation and unity will be seen in our ranks. Some who are now ready to take up weapons of warfare will in times of real peril make it manifest that they have not built upon the solid rock; they will yield to temptation. Those who have had great light and precious privileges, but have not improved them will, under one pretext or another, go out from us.
There is more than one way to go out. We can get out the way Ahab got out, or we can get out the way Jehu got out. God keeps us from either path of peril. But, remember, God was using them all.
Finally, there is a third ministry of heresies. Oh, I wish every one of us might be among those for whom it accomplishes this third purpose, that is, to lead us to study the Word of God. Concerning those in Berea, the Scriptures say, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11).
In Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5 p. 707, we are told:
There are many in the church who take it for granted that they understand what they believe; but, until controversy arises, they do not know their own weakness.``The fact that there is no controversy or agitation among God`s professed people should not be regarded as conclusive evidence that they are holding fast to sound doctrine. There is reason to fear that they may not be clearly discriminating between truth and error. When no new questions are started by investigation of the Scriptures, when no difference of opinion arises which will set men to searching the Bible for themselves to make sure that they have the truth, there will be many now, as in ancient times, who will hold to tradition and worship they know now what.
One of the reasons that God allows erroneous theories of various kinds to come in is to lead us to go to the Word of God and to study for ourselves what God has said. If heresies accomplish that, has not some good been accomplished?
We need more than a superficial knowledge of the Bible. Satan is adept at quoting Scripture. In the wilderness his first temptation was met by Jesus from the Word. Satan said, “I can do that too.” So in the second temptation, he quoted from the Scriptures. Merely, because a man quotes Scripture, does not mean he teaches truth. Just because he gets out leaflets and photocopied material liberally sprinkled with quotations from the Spirit of Prophecy doesn’t prove that he is an angel of light.
This may be the most important thing: what we need to study most of all are the original sources—the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. Notice this statement in Testimonies for the Church vol. 8 p. 298:
Perilous times are before us… The enemy is on our track. We must be wide awake, on our guard against him…. WE must follow the directions given through the spirit of prophecy. We must love and obey the truth for this time. This will save us from accepting strong delusions. God has spoken to us through His Word. He has spoken to us through the testimonies to the church and through the books that have helped to make plain our present duty and the position that we should not occupy…
I beseech those who are labouring for God not to accept the spurious for the genuine. Let not human reason be placed where divine, sanctifying truth should be… Let not erroneous theories receive countenance from the people who ought to be standing firm on the platform of eternal truth.
Throughout the history of this movement, there have been good men, educated men, and experienced men who have lost their way and fallen on the dark mountains of unbelief. The enemy succeeded in leading them away from the truth, even while they thought they were pursuing truth with all their heart.
We need God. We need the help of our brethren. We need the Holy Spirit. We need to dig deep into the written Word and the inspired commentary of the Spirit of Prophecy. Testimonies for the Church vol. 5, p. 273 says this: “Our people need to understand the oracles of God; they need to have a systematic knowledge of the principles of revealed truth, which will fit them for what is coming upon the earth and prevent them from being carried about by every wind of doctrine.”
God allows these false teachings and heresies to get us to study the original sources and to acquire a systematic knowledge of the principles of truth. We need to see how the different principles fit together, to weave a tapestry of truth into our minds, to build a solid temple of truth, and to wear every piece of the heavenly armour. We need all of these elements to wage the battle in which we are now engaged.
Several years ago, the United States government conducted a school in various parts of the country to teach bank cashiers and others how to detect counterfeit money. The instruction lasted for fourteen weeks. How many pieces of counterfeit money did they examine? Not one! The government instructor knew that what they needed was a thorough knowledge of the genuine. Then they could detect the counterfeit.
If we are going to be saved from the many erroneous theories floating around, we need to study the original sources and fill our minds with the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. We will never find our safety in the false theories. The better we know the genuine, the more surely will we detect the counterfeit when we meet it.
May God solemnize our hearts. May we not be wise in our own conceits and so sure of our own opinions or those of others that we fail to get on our knees as little children and say, “Dear Lord, there is much I don’t know. I want to know you and your way. Oh, keep me from the delusions of the enemy.” We shall need to pray that prayer again and again. We shall need to intercede with God, for we are entering into the time foretold in Testimonies for the Church vol. 5 p. 80: “Every wind of doctrine will be blowing.”
If we would not have the Scriptures clouded to our understanding, so that the plainest truths shall not be comprehended, we must have the simplicity and faith of a little child, ready to learn, and beseeching the aid of the Holy Spirit (Testimonies for the Church vol. 5 p. 703).
The original audio version of this sermon, from which this article has been transcribed and edited, is available, along with many other sermons, for free download at www.wdfrazeesermons.com.
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