Revelation 2g (The Tares and Wheat)

SERMON TOPIC: Revelation 2g (The Tares & Wheat)

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 21 April 2024

Topic Groups: REVELATION, PROPHECY, PARABLES

Sermon synopsis: In Matthew 13 this 2nd church age corresponds to the Parable of The Wheat and the Tares.

In the first parable (the Sower) only good seed is sown but it falls on different types of ground which illustrate the different responses to the gospel.

In this second parable, a farmer sowed his field with wheat seeds. An enemy maliciously over-sowed the same field with a bad counterfeit seed, which looks similar to the real seed.


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REVELATION – chapter 2-3 (CONT)

While the Parable of the Sower is about the different responses to the gospel, in the context of the 7 kingdom parables, Jesus was also referring to the initial church age.

The Apostolic Church is a period when the Sower (Jesus) sowed the seed (the Word). Despite the different responses to the gospel, the good seed produced “a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown,” resulting in around 1 million Christians by 100 AD.

The letter to Ephesus is often seen as representing the apostolic era of the early church.

It was characterized by zeal and love for Christ. Jesus praises their hard work and perseverance in hardship (Rev 2:2-3).

They are praised for being doctrinally sound (2:2). They opposed the practices of the early Gnostic cult - the Nicolaitans (2:6).

Despite the praise, Jesus rebukes them for leaving their first love (2:4). It is a trap that we need to caution against - being very “down-the-line” doctrinally and yet drifting into a mediocre relationship with God.

This “Smyrna” era represents the persecuted church, reflecting the era of intense persecution and poverty faced by early Christians, especially under pagan Roman rule.

They were a poor and persecuted church - materially poor but spiritually rich.

Rev 2:9-10 (ESV) “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) … Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Some believe the “ten days” is a reference to ten periods of persecution in the reign of pagan Roman Emperors.

In Matthew 13 this 2nd church age corresponds to the Parable of The Wheat and the Tares.

In the first parable (the Sower) only good seed is sown but it falls on different types of ground which illustrate the different responses to the gospel.

In this second parable, a farmer sowed his field with wheat seeds. An enemy maliciously over-sowed the same field with a bad counterfeit seed, which looks similar to the real seed.

Tares may be bearded darnel, a weed similar to rye grass. Since both wheat and tares are in the grass family, they look similar shortly after germination. But as soon as the wheat begins to form grains, the difference becomes very obvious.

Known by the scientific name “lolium temulentum” the seed is not poisonous but it is often infected by a fungus which is very toxic. If eaten by humans or animals, it will cause dizziness, vomiting and sometimes even death.

As the seed in the first parable represents “the word of God” it must be consistently interpreted here. It produces “the sons of the kingdom.”

Thus the false seed is the opposite of God’s Word i.e. false doctrine or heresy which produces “the sons of the evil one.”

The servants wanted to pull the tares out because they sap nutrients and are vulnerable to parasites. But the farmer wisely forbade this.

The solution was to wait until harvest time and then separate them, storing the wheat and burning the tares.

Although the sower (Jesus) and his servants (angels) are aware of this counterfeit seed, this condition is permitted to continue until the end of the age (the harvest). Thus these church ages are not strictly consecutive, but overlapping.

Based on Jesus’ prophetic parable, this age (2nd to 3rd century) is characterized by the enemy (Satan) counter-sowing bad seed.

Tares are difficult to distinguish from genuine wheat (until harvest time), so the heresy is often subtle. However they are poisonous and can cause sickness or death.

THE CHURCH

In addition to continued and intensified persecution, where Satan tries to destroy the church, we now see a proliferation of heresy in this period.

While persecution poses danger from without the church, heresies pose a danger from within.

To counteract these heresies, we have the rise of the first Christian apologists, who defended the faith against (1) Judaism (2) Gnosticism and (3) Paganism:

Great Christian apologists of this era included:

Justin Martyr: First & Second Apology (defense against Paganism) & Dialogue with Trypho (Judaism).

Irenaeus of Lyon: ‘Against Heresies’ (Gnosticism).

Hippolytus of Rome: “Refutation of all Heresies” (Paganism and Gnosticism).

Tertullian of Carthage: ‘Apologeticum’ (Paganism) and ‘An Answer to the Jews’ (Judaism). He also wrote defenses against Gnosticism (‘The Prescription against Heretics’, ‘Against Marcion’, ‘Against the Valentinians’).

Tertullian makes this exact connection between the numerous 2nd and 3rd century heresies and the tares.

Let me … discuss the priority of truth, and the comparative lateness of falsehood, deriving support for my argument even from that parable which puts in the first place the sowing by the Lord of the good seed of the wheat, but introduces at a later stage the adulteration of the crop by its enemy the devil with the useless weed of the wild oats.

For herein is figuratively described the difference of doctrines, since in other passages also the word of God is likened unto seed. From the actual order, therefore, it becomes clear, that that which was first delivered is of the Lord and is true, whilst that is strange and false which was afterwards introduced. (The Prescription against Heretics)

HERESY

LEGALISM: We are saved and enter God’s covenant by our good works and meticulous keeping of God’s Law.

TRUTH

ORTHODOXY: We are saved by grace through faith but we remain in the covenant by following the Law of Christ.

HERESY

ANTINOMIANISM: We are saved and enter God’s covenant by grace through faith so our future actions do not matter as we are not bound by moral laws.

Heresies may contain elements of truth but are distorted or exaggerated. Many false doctrines or belief systems often originate from a misinterpretation or exaggeration of certain truths.

HERESY

LEGALISM: Ebionites adhered to a form of Jewish Christianity, maintaining observance of Jewish laws and traditions while also accepting Jesus as the Messiah. Irenaeus says of Ebionism – “They use the Gospel according to Matthew only, and repudiate the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the law.” Tertullian writes, “Paul… Writing also to the Galatians, he inveighs against such men as observed and defend circumcision and the (Mosaic) law. Thus runs Hebion’s heresy.” (The Prescription against Heretics)

TRUTH

ORTHODOXY

HERESY

ANTINOMIANISM: This Gnostic error goes to the other extreme of Legalism, with the emphasis on Grace only, without God’s righteous judgment. Marcion wanted to remove Christianity’s Jewish roots and so did not include the OT in his canon. In contrast to the Ebionites, he only accepted 10 epistles by Paul and the Gospel of Luke - all of which he also had to ‘edit’ to remove any positive references to Judaism or the OT.

The heresies of this period included both extremes.

All of the Gnostic heresies also contained element of truths. Hence the analogy to tares is apt, as truth and heresy intermingled pose a greater deceptive threat than a blatant lie.

The Gnostics derived their convoluted beliefs by ‘borrowing’ from everything including:

Christianity

Judaism (particularly its mystical branch known as Kabbala)

Greek philosophy & paganism

As their beliefs were varied, we will examine common errors in Gnosticism.

GNOSTICISM

GREEK PHILO-SOPHY

KABBALA

CHRIST-IANITY

The Apostles' Creed is one of the earliest statements of Christian belief. * It is a concise summary of Christian faith, outlining key beliefs such as the Trinity, the virgin birth, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the second coming of Jesus.

It served as a baptismal confession and was used as a statement of faith in early Christian communities. It seems to be a refutation of Gnosticism and Anti–Trinitarian heresies, emphasizing the truths that they denied. This can be seen in almost every phrase.

* It is also called the “Old Roman Creed” because it is thought to have originated in the 2nd century AD church of Rome.

The exact wording of the creed has varied over time and in different regions, but its core elements have remained consistent.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth

And in Christ Jesus, His only Son, our Lord

Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary

Who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and was buried

And on the third day rose from the dead

Who ascended into heaven

And sits on the right hand of the Father

From where he comes to judge the living and the dead

And in the Holy Spirit

The holy church, The remission of sins

The resurrection of the flesh, The life everlasting.

Some Gnostics like Marcion denied that the Creator God in the OT was the same as the Father referred to by Jesus.

They believed that the material world was evil and thus they identified the Creator God (the Demiurge) as an evil god, distinct from the highest, unknowable Supreme God.

Cerinthus cited the demiurge as creating the material world but his demiurge was holy.

Others like Carpoerates and Basilides maintained that the world was created by angels.

Let’s stick to the New Testament (as the Old Testament was supposedly evil).

God is the Creator:

Heb 11:3 (NIV) By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Acts 18:24 (NIV) “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth …”

The Creator God is good:

Rev 4:11 (NIV) “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

The NT God is the same as the OT God. In fact, the NT explicitly stresses that Jesus was the Creator.

John 1:3 (NIV) Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Col 1:16 (ESV) For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

In this period several Anti–Trinitarian heresies arose. As the tares remain until the harvest so these heresies are still present today.

Monarchianism developed in the 2nd to 3rd century. It emphasized the unity and sovereignty of God, rejecting the idea of a Trinity consisting of three distinct persons within the Godhead.

Dynamic Monarchianism (Adoptionism) emphasized the humanity of Christ and posited that he was born as a regular human being but was later "adopted" by God at his baptism or another significant event in his life. This adoption elevated Jesus to a divine status, but not necessarily equating him with God.

Modalism (Noetus, Praxeas and Sabellius) holds that God is a single person who, throughout history, has revealed himself in three consecutive modes, the Father in OT times, the Son at the incarnation, the Holy Spirit after Jesus’ ascension. (Present day Oneness Pentecostals).

Tertullian wrote:

I must everywhere hold only one substance, in three coherent and inseparable [persons] (Against Praxeas 3. 607).

For the very church itself–properly and principally–the Spirit Himself, in whom is the Trinity [trinitas], of the One Divinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (4:99).

But while Tertullian is credited for coining the word ‘trinity’ to explain God’s ‘three-in-one’ nature, the concept itself had been discussed by early Christians before his time.

Ignatius of Antioch (c. 107-110): “For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived in the womb by Mary…” (Letter to the Ephesians 18:2)

Aristides (140): “[Christians] … acknowledge God, the creator and maker of all things, in the only-begotten Son and in the Holy Spirit” (Apology 16)

Justin Martyr (150): “The Father of the universe has a Son, who also being the first begotten Word of God, is even God.” (First Apology, ch 63)

Tatian the Syrian (c. 165-175): “We are not playing the fool, you Greeks, nor do we talk nonsense, when we report that God was born in the form of a man.” (Address to the Greeks)

Irenaeus (c. 180): “Nevertheless, what cannot be said of anyone else who ever lived, that He is Himself in His own right God and Lord and Eternal King and Only-begotten and Incarnate Word, proclaimed as such by all the Prophets and by the Apostles and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth. The Scriptures would not have borne witness to these things concerning Him, if, like everyone else, He were mere man.” (Against Heresies 3, 19, 1)

Hippolytus (200): “For Christ is the God above all…” (Refutation of all Heresies, Book X, Ch. 30)

Cyprian (253): "One who denies that Christ is God cannot become his temple [of the Holy Spirit]…“ (Letters 73:12)

Melito of Sardis (c. 177): “The activities of Christ after His Baptism, and especially His miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the Deity hidden in His flesh. Being God and likewise perfect man, He gave positive indications of His two natures: of His Deity, by the miracles during the three years following after His Baptism; of His humanity, in the thirty years which came before His Baptism, during which, by reason of His condition according to the flesh, he concealed the signs of His Deity, although He was the true God existing before the ages.” (Fragment in Anastasius of Sinai)

Novatian (235): “For Scripture as much announces Christ as also God, as it announces God Himself as man. It has as much described Jesus Christ to be man, as moreover it has also described Christ the Lord to be God.” (A Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity, Ch. XI)

Arianism: At the end of this period (early 4th century) Arius, a Christian presbyter in Alexandria, Egypt, taught that the Son was created (not eternal) and inferior to the Father. (Modern Jehovah’s Witnesses and Unitarians subscribe to a form of Arianism.)

Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, was a staunch defender of the Nicene Creed, which affirmed the full divinity of Jesus Christ. He played a crucial role in articulating and defending orthodox Christian doctrine against the Arian heresy.

The controversy surrounding Arianism led to the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, where the Nicene Creed was formulated, affirming the divinity of Jesus and denouncing Arian beliefs as heretical. It expanded the Apostles’ Creed, especially with regards to the deity of Jesus.

I believe … in one Lord Jesus Christ,

the only-begotten Son of God,

Begotten of his Father before all worlds,

God of God, Light of Light,

Very God of very God,

Begotten, not made,

Being of one substance with the Father;

By whom all things were made; Who for us men and for our salvation Came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man; And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, And ascended into heaven, And sits on the right hand of the Father; And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.

Although there were many flavours of Gnosticism, some Gnostics denied that Christ became flesh. They didn’t believe God had taken a human body (because the material world and flesh is evil).

Other Gnostics affirmed that there wasn’t a man Jesus at all, but only the appearance of a man, through which wise teachings were given.

Some Gnostics distinguished between Christ, whom they acknowledged was divine, and the man Jesus, who was an instrument through whom the Christ spoke. Apparently the Spirit only descended upon Jesus at his baptism, and then left him before the crucifixion, allowing the Spirit only a brief association with matter (which was, of course, evil).

HERESY

DOCETISM: Jesus is 100% God and not man.

TRUTH

ORTHODOXY: Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. Two natures in one person.

HERESY

ADOPTIONISM: Jesus is 100% man and not God.

THE NATURE OF CHRIST

HERESY

DOCETISM (from the Greek dokein, meaning “to seem”): It is the Gnostic belief that Jesus’ physical body was an illusion, i.e. he only seemed to have a physical body, but in reality he was a pure spirit. Gnostics believed that matter was evil, and hence God would not take on a material body.

TRUTH

ORTHODOXY

HERESY

ADOPTIONISM: First seen in the 2nd century. Paul of Samosata spoke of Jesus as, “a man adopted by God as his special human son.” Theodotus of Byzantium taught that Jesus was a non-divine man, and though later “adopted” by God upon baptism (he became the Christ), was not himself God until after his resurrection. Neither men are considered to be Gnostics.

The heresies of this period included both extremes.

Jesus did not become the Son of God or the Christ at his baptism (Adoptionism).

The voice of God the Father only confirmed Jesus’ position as Son of God; it did not make him the Son.

In the creed, orthodox Christians affirmed that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (thus refuting that the Spirit had nothing to do with Jesus until his baptism), that he was born (i.e. he had a real physical body, not just ‘an appearance’) of a virgin (implying that he was special from the beginning of his life, not just since his baptism).

The Bible teaches that Christ became flesh.

John 1:14 (NIV) The Word [Logos] became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

1 John 4:2 (NIV) This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.

2 John 7 (NIV) Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.

Jesus was Christ and Lord from birth:

Even before birth, while he was still in Mary’s womb, Elizabeth says, “But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43, NKJV)

Luke 2:10-11 (NKJV) Then the angel said to them, “… For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”

Luke 2:25-26 (NKJV) Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon… It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. (Christ)

Here the creed emphasizes that he was really dead. He was nailed to a cross and died. He had a real body, a corpse, that was placed in a tomb.

Docetism denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus. As Jesus’ physical body was an illusion, so was his crucifixion i.e. Jesus only seemed to die, but in reality he was a pure spirit, and hence could not physically die.

E.g. Basilides denied the resurrection of the body, and believed that Simon of Cyrene was crucified in place of Christ who had returned to His Father unharmed.

Later on, Islam would incorporate this 2nd century Gnostic heresy by asserting that Jesus’ crucifixion was an illusion. (Quran 4:157)

Contrary to Gnostic belief, Jesus ‘rose from the dead’. Jesus told his enemies that his body would be raised.

John 2:19-22 (NIV) Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said.

The church had no place in Gnostic theology. Each man had to find God on his own. The most important doctrines were reserved for a select few.

The church is God’s vehicle for revealing his wisdom.

Eph 3:10-11 (NIV) His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In Gnosticism, one could only be ‘saved’ by possessing some secret knowledge or ‘gnosis’. Other people were irrelevant, except those precious few who understood the deep secrets.

The Gospel is for the entire human race, not just for the clever.

1 Cor1:20-24 (NIV) Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1 Tim 6:20-21 (NIV) Turn away from … the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge (gnosis), which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.

The Gnostics considered that what men needed was not forgiveness, but enlightenment. Ignorance, not sin, was the problem. The notion of forgiveness was alien to them. The human soul is a ‘spark of divinity’ imprisoned in the sphere of matter, and Christ was sent to earth to give men the secret knowledge needed to rescue them from the material prison back into the sphere of divinity.

Gnostics often denied the resurrection of our bodies (because the material world and matter was evil).

The chief goal of Gnostics was to become free forever from the shackles of the body, and to return to the heavenly realm as pure spirit. In line with Greek philosophy, they rejected any idea of the resurrection of the body.

Tertullian writes, “Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, sets his mark on certain who denied and doubted the resurrection. This opinion was the especial property of the Sadducees. A part of it, however, is maintained by Marcion and Apelles and Valentinus, and all other impugners of the resurrection.” (The Prescription against Heretics)

Paul defends the resurrection of the body.

1 Cor 15:42 (NIV) So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable.

HERESY

HEDONISM: the pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence

TRUTH

ORTHODOXY: Temperance, moderation, the avoidance of excess or extremes.

HERESY

ASCETICISM: abstinence from worldly pleasures

ASCETICISM & HEDONISM

Because the flesh was ‘unimportant’ Gnostics often went to another two extremes:

Tertullian referring to Paul states, “Such also as ‘forbid to marry’ (1 Tim 4:3) he reproaches in his instructions to Timothy. Now, this is the teaching of Marcion and his follower Apelles.” (The Prescription against Heretics)

Because Marcion rejected any idea of bodily resurrection, he preached against procreation, against the production of more bodies in which spirit would continue to be entrapped. His followers, even married ones, had to forego sexual relations. Tertullian said that Marcionites forbade baptism to anyone who was not virgin, unmarried, widowed, or divorced. *

* Tertullian wrote that the heretic’s homeland, Pontus, was a barbarous land where people shamelessly copulated in the open and men practiced cannibalism, but “the most barbarous and melancholy thing about Pontus is that Marcion was born there.”

This is epitomized in the modern saying, “if it feels good, do it.”

Irenaeus wrote that the Nicolaitans “are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles. They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence.”

Followers of Carpoerates advocated the practice of immorality as a means of union with God.

The Cainites believed that indulgence in sin was the key to salvation because since the body is evil, one must defile it through immoral activity.

Jude cautions us against this, “For certain men whose condemnation was written about a long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality…” (Jude 4)

Moderation is encouraged, emphasizing neither excessive self-denial nor indulgence. The idea is to find a balance where one can enjoy the good things in life without being enslaved by them.

This balance aligns with the virtue of temperance, which involves self-control and moderation in all aspects of life, including physical pleasures and material possessions.

Scriptural references emphasize the importance of self-control and discernment in one's actions and desires.

1 Cor 6:12 "I have the right to do anything," you say—but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything"—but I will not be mastered by anything.

Gal 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is … self-control.

Forbidding people to marry is a demonic doctrine.

1 Tim 4:1,3 (NIV) …some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons… They forbid people to marry…

Marriage and enjoyment of food are created by God and meant for our enjoyment.

1 Tim 4:3-4 (NIV) They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving…

But the Christian balance between asceticism and hedonism involves living a life of moderation, enjoying God's gifts while recognizing their proper place and not allowing them to overshadow spiritual priorities or lead to sinful behaviour.

Phil 3:19 (ESV) … their god is their belly…

In his treatise "On Fasting", Tertullian discusses the importance of moderation in both eating and drinking, arguing against excessive indulgence in food while maintaining sobriety in drink:

It is not consistent with truth that a man should sacrifice half of his stomach only to God - that he should be sober in drinking, but intemperate in eating. Your belly is your God, your liver is your temple, your paunch is your altar, the cook is your priest.

Because the Gnostics saw the OT God as an evil god, the villains of the OT were often their heroes. For example:.

The Ophites worshipped the serpent of Genesis as the giver of knowledge. (Remember it was the serpent who convinced mankind to eat of the tree of knowledge (of good and evil).

As the OT is supposedly bad, let’s see what the NT says about the serpent:

2 Cor 11:3 (NIV) … Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning…

Rev 12:9 (NIV) … that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.

Sounds to me to be pretty consistent with what was said of the serpent in the OT.

The Cainites, as the term implies, venerated Cain, as well as Esau, Korah, and the Sodomites.

Again, let’s examine NT passages on these characters:

Jude 11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain…

1 John 3:12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.

Jude 11 Woe to them! … they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.

Heb 12:16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.

2 Pet 2:6 … if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly…

The worship of angels is a heresy that has gained some popularity again today, where people pray to angels rather than God.

Tertullian writes, “The doctrine, however, of Simon’s * sorcery, which inculcated the worship of angels, was itself actually reckoned amongst idolatries and condemned by the Apostle Peter in Simon’s own person.” **

Tertullian again references Paul, “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize.” ** (Col 2:18)

* Irenaeus said that Simon Magus, who was mentioned in the Book of Acts, was the progenitor of all the later Gnostic sects. Menander of Antioch was a disciple of Simon, active in the late 1st century. ** The Prescription against Heretics

John records the rebuke he himself had received from an angel:

… I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, ‘Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!’ (Rev 22:9)

And when the fallen angel Satan had tempted Jesus saying, “All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me”, Jesus had replied, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” (Matt 4:9-10)

According to Gnostic thought, there is a hierarchy of gods. The greatest of these is good and loving, but unknowable, being completely detached from the world.

Responding to the allegation, not only from Gnostics, that the supreme God is not involved or interested in human affairs, Tertullian states, “Still let us not, as the Gentiles do, flatter ourselves with thinking that God is merely a Creator, not likewise a Downlooker on His own creatures.” (De Cultu Feminarum)

In fact, the Bible teaches us that, far from being detached from his creation, our Creator loved us so much, he personally provided a plan of redemption for us.

John 3:16 (ESV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Rom 8:38-39 (NASB) For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

AUTHOR: Gavin Paynter

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Many Gnostics (especially Valentinius) taught that from this one original god emanated ‘aeons’, who were lesser beings. The aeons often came in male/female pairs and among these pairs were Sophia (‘wisdom’ in Greek) and Christ. Sophia ‘sinned’ by seeking to know the unknowable god, and as a consequence of her sin the Demiurge came into being. The Demiurge is thus an even lower being and is the actual creator of the world.

Tertullian quoting Paul says, “When again he mentions ‘endless genealogies,’ one also recognises Valentinus…” (The Prescription against Heretics Ch. 33)

Let, however, any man approach the subject from a knowledge of the faith which he has otherwise learned, as soon as he finds so many names of Aeons, so many marriages, so many offsprings… of a dispersed and mutilated Deity, will that man hesitate at once to pronounce that these are “the fables and endless genealogies” which the inspired apostle by anticipation condemned, whilst these seeds of heresy were even then shooting forth? (Against the Valentinians Ch. 3)

Essentially, Gnostics taught that the supreme God was pure energy, that he emitted pure thought, life, love, light, knowledge and existed in a sphere of this abstract energy. This was called ‘the Pleroma’, the Greek word for ‘fullness’. Remember also that the Gnostics saw ‘Sophia’ as a separate being and ‘gnosis’ as the means of salvation.

In Colossians 2 Paul wrecks most of Gnostic ‘theology’ and they certainly shouldn’t draw on him as support for their garbled beliefs:

Christ has all wisdom and knowledge in him,

Col 2:2 … so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom (sophia) and knowledge (gnosis).

Philosophy and human tradition are not the basis for truth.

Col 2:4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments … 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

Double blow: (1) All the fullness (‘pleroma’) is in Christ and (2) the fullness exists in bodily form (flesh):

Col 2:9 (NIV) For in Christ all the fullness (pleroma) of the Deity (theotes) lives in bodily form

Christ is not some demi-god way down the food chain. Besides having the fullness of the Godhead, he is “the head over every power and authority”.

Col 2:10 (NIV) and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.



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