Today, I want to share about something that I learned a few weeks ago - what the word heresy really means. I was blown away.
To set the stage, here is a little humorous video to get us started:
Emo Phillips and Faith
In the New Testament, the Greek word is hairesis. It occurs nine times in the New Testament. I was always under the impression that it means false teacher. Not so, grasshopper! Here is the definition from my trusty Blue Letter Bible app.
Outline of biblical usage:
- Act of taking, capture: e.g. storming a city
- choosing, choice
- that which is chosen
- a body of men following their own tenets (sect or party) [can you say denomination?]
- dissensions arising from diversity of opinions and aims
A choice, i.e. (specially) a party or (abstractly) disunion: - heresy (which is the Greek word itself), sect.
In the New King James version, the word is translated as sect in Acts 5:17 (Sadducees), Acts 15:5 (Pharisees), Acts 24:5 (Nazarenes - ahem, that's us), Acts 24:14 (followers of the Way, double ahem), Acts 26:5 (Pharisees again), Acts 28:22 (us again). I encourage you to read through these scriptures so you can get a feel for how exactly the word is used.
In 1 Corinthians 11:19, the NKJV uses the phrase factions among you.
In Galatians 5:20, the word is used among a whole list of undesirable traits, such as idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, wrath, etc.
Finally, the word is used in 2 Peter 2:1. This is the context with which we are probably most familiar because in this passage it mentions false teachers:
But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
But if we study the word, both by definition and all other contexts in which it appears, we can see that heresy does not mean false teacher at all, but one who divides and causes disunity.
It seems that you can have either correct or incorrect theology and still be a heretic, if you use the information to stir up division, disunity, and dissention (or perhaps create a new denomination?).
And who of us has perfect understanding of biblical truth? I would humbly say none of us. The Bible is so filled with jewels and gems of truth and wisdom, it takes a whole lifetime of reading and studying to really dig below the surface. And we will never find them all in one lifetime. Isn't that awesome of the Lord, to continue to bless us with jewels of truth all our lives?
Perhaps this is why one of the most fervent prayers of Yeshua, in John 17, was that His followers be one, just as He and His Father are One. Also, 1 John 4 speaks of the love we are to have for our brothers (and sisters) in the faith. Nowhere does it say only love them if their doctrine is spot on.
Psalm 133 gives us a vivid picture on what God thinks of unity:
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron,
Running down on the edge of his garments.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
Descending upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing—
|Snow-capped Mount Hermon in Israel|
Let us not forget the two greatest commandments. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.