Monday, May 14, 2007

Matt 24 Watch, 19: On Marcion, the Barmen principles and the new Metropolitan Community "Churches" in Jamaica

In the 140's, Marcion of Sinope arrived in Rome, presented a lavish gift to the church there, and then sought to re-establish the Christian faith on a new foundation, in effect an "edited" version of the New Testament based on the asserted principle that only Paul truly understood the Gospel. In particular, Marcion -- drawing on Gnostic thought -- sought to wedge apart the God revealed int he Old Testament from the God of the New Testament, and tried to dismiss the former as an inferior, hateful deity to be shunned by the enlightened.

As Tertullian reports, on realising that deceptive heresy was being promoted, the leaders of the church in Rome returned the gift of money, and stood firm against the attempt to wedge apart Old and New Testaments, and to set a distorted version of one Apostle against the others. All of this fits in all too well with Paul's and Peter's warnings to the churches in their care.

First, Paul, to the Elders of the church in Ephesus, 57 AD:
AC 20:17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: "You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears . . . 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus . . . .

Ac 20:26 . . . I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
And, Peter, in his second epistle to the churches, about 65 AD:
2PE 1:16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

2PE 1:19 And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2PE 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up . . . .

2 Pet 3:11 . . . You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming . . . . 2PE 3:14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

2PE 3:17 Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
Sadly, over many centuries, these grim warnings have been all too tellingly on target.

So, again and again over the years, the faithful leaders of the Faith have had to take costly, painful public stances against errors and distortions. Among these, an outstanding case in point is the Declaration of Barmen, in 1934, when the Nazis had set up a new order for the churches in Germany on coming to power, the so-called German Christians. In properly repudiating the heresies connected with the underlying destructive idolatry of political messianism, the declarants of Barmen courageously wrote, inter alia:
8.04 Try the spirits whether they are of God! Prove also the words of the Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church to see whether they agree with Holy Scripture and with the Confessions of the Fathers. If you find that we are speaking contrary to Scripture, then do not listen to us! But if you find that we are taking our stand upon Scripture, then let no fear or temptation keep you from treading with us the path of faith and obedience to the Word of God, in order that God's people be of one mind upon earth and that we in faith experience what he himself has said: "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." Therefore, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." . . . .

Article 1. The inviolable foundation of the German Evangelical Church is the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is attested for us in Holy Scripture . . . The full powers that the Church needs for its mission are hereby determined and limited . . . . 8.10 - 1. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." (John 14.6). "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. . . . I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved." (John 10:1, 9.)

8.11 Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.

8.12 We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God's revelation . . . . 8.15 We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords--areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.

8.16 - 3. "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body [is] joined and knit together." (Eph. 4:15,16.)

8.17 The Christian Church is the congregation of the brethren in which Jesus Christ acts presently as the Lord in Word and sacrament through the Holy Spirit. As the Church of pardoned sinners, it has to testify in the midst of a sinful world, with its faith as with its obedience, with its message as with its order, that it is solely his property, and that it lives and wants to live solely from his comfort and from his direction in the expectation of his appearance.

8.18 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political convictions . . .

In short, it has ever been a challenge in the church, to stand up for the truth of the gospel in love, against the tides of opinion and agendas of the day. And, however modestly and lovingly such a line is drawn, that will always be offensive and angering to at least some of those who find themselves on the wrong side of it. So, while in our day in the region, thankfully we do not currently face the sort of raging and violent deceptions as Nazism posed, it is no surprise that we, too will find ourselves having to make a costly stance for the truth in love, personally and even publicly.

The recent rise of the Metropolitan Community Churches in Jamaica, so-called, is a case in point.

For, as an alert reader in Jamaica has warned based on current newspaper reports, here we see yet another heresy in our midst, one which rejects the basic principles of Christian morality, in the name of the sadly false, unbiblical -- and indeed unscientific -- concept that "God made me gay [or, the like]." Thusly, an alien and deceptive concept is imposed on the scriptures, subverting the gospel, leading the gullible away form costly obedience to the God who calls us to the truth in love, spiritual power and purity, and walling off areas of our lives from the Lordship of Jesus.

For, the scriptures are plain on proper order for sexuality, and the implications of distorting or perverting that order:
1] Jesus, on the proper, Creation-anchored marital order for sexuality:
MT 19:4 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator `made them male and female,' 5 and said, `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh' ? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
2] Paul, on the implications of refusing thanks to God and rejecting his truth:
RO 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

RO 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another . . . . RO 1:26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

RO 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death [i.e are under the power of separation form God by their sin, which is spiritual death, and if continued ends in eternal death, the second death], they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
3] Again, Paul (on a note of hope):
1CO 6:9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
4] And, Peter:
1 Pet 4:3 . . . you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do--living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. . . . . 1PE 4:7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
So, let us now walk by the truth in love, refusing to yield to sinful deceptions, but at the same time reaching out to those who are caught int he devil's trap with the only true hope of deliverance, the Gospel of him who is able to lift us up out of the miry clay, put our feet on the right and sound way, and keep us from falling.

So, let us pray for and lovingly and courageously reach out a helping hand to those who are caught up in a horrible morass of sins and perversions beyond their ability to save themselves. END

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