Recently the word “heretic” has come up between myself and a fellow believing blogger. The word is a biblical word. It is a harsh word with a tainted history, because of its past use by the Catholic Church. Men were burned at the stake with the pronouncement of this one word. They were asked to recant, and if they did not; then to the stake with you. So what does the Bible say concerning this word?
Titus 3:10 A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; 11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. (KJV)
Paul never says burn him at the stake, but instead have nothing to do with him. Before we look at how we respond to heresy today let’s view these verses As stated in the amplified Bible:
After a first and second warning reject a divisive man [who promotes heresy and causes dissension—ban him from your fellowship and have nothing more to do with him], well aware that such a person is twisted and is sinning; he is convicted and self-condemned [and is gratified by causing confusion among believers]. Titus 3:10-11 AMP
So, looking at this one, who the King James refers to as a heretic, we find that causing confusion is at the heart of his motivation. He himself sins and for whatever reason he is convicted of his sin but continues in it.
The discussion that this brother and I were having was really over repentance beyond our salvation or being saved. But this term heretic seems to engender one who has either never repented, or if he has he finds himself entangled again in sin and knows it, but is unwilling to give it up. This is the way that Paul uses this word in his instruction about the one who is argumentative over the teachings not of any church, but of the truth contained in scripture.
So, what does Paul’s use of this word heretic tell us, and how are we to use it? If scripture is being violated in the truth area, we are to first point that out to the person or persons; and we are to do that twice; and then have nothing more to do with the person, or group of people. Now that is a very difficult and possibly hurtful thing to do, and this hurtfulness is behind the reason that we accept without question more than just one truth within the body today. We in other words are unwilling to commit to one truth, because we don’t want to follow this instruction of Paul’s.
But why is this the case? Is it because we don’t have a definite belief on the topic? Is it because we may seem arrogant? Is it because to take a stand on truth means separating oneself from error, and from the people who promote it, and thus we take the easy broad road and say we believe this way but we can’t be certain that it is the truth. But along these lines listen to James:
James 5:19 My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone turns him back, 20 he should know that the one who turns a sinner back from his wandering path will save that person’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (NET)
In other words there is truth brothers, and you can stray from it, and if you know that and see another brother doing it; then you the watchman and guardian of the truth are to turn them back. In other words they either repent or not. Now really it’s the Holy Spirit who is that guardian, but you have been taught truth by Him, and you are His voice in the matter. James assumes in this verse that you know the truth. The Holy Spirit in fact does know that you know the truth or not. Which is it? He taught it to you, if you are listening, but with some of you he sent a prophet to you to correct your understanding, because you were not listening to Him. And He having inspired the words that Paul spoke to Titus, has given you perhaps more than two warnings concerning your herecy on the subject, and consider when He writes you off; then there is no further repentance available to you.
This is just how serious the word of God can be my brothers. This is why Paul speaks of fear in his warnings to us.
Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling.
Romans 11:20 Granted! They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but fear! (NET)
O Timothy, guard and keep safe the deposit [of godly truth] entrusted to you, turn away from worldly and godless chatter [with its profane, empty words], and the contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge”— which some have professed and by doing so have erred (missed the mark) and strayed from the faith. Grace be with you. 1 Timothy 6:20-21 AMP
For this reason [that is, because of God’s final revelation in His Son Jesus and because of Jesus’ superiority to the angels] we must pay much closer attention than ever to the things that we have heard, so that we do not [in any way] drift away from truth. For if the message given through angels [the Law given to Moses] was authentic and unalterable, and every violation and disobedient act received an appropriate penalty, how will we escape [the penalty] if we ignore such a great salvation [the gospel, the new covenant]? For it was spoken at first by the Lord, and it was confirmed to us and proved authentic by those who personally heard [Him speak], [and besides this evidence] God also testifying with them [confirming the message of salvation], both by signs and wonders and by various miracles [carried out by Jesus and the apostles] and by [granting to believers the] gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.
Hebrews 2:1-4 AMP
We more than most other generations over the last 2 millennium are without excuse for mishandling doctrine, because we have this word in multiple forms and translations. We have study tools unheard of in other generations. We have the ability to study this word from every perspective. And we have the Holy Spirit who confirms His teachings in His Word. Don’t neglect the gift or the giver of this period of grace.