The early Church faced a problem that would not come into full bloom until the second and third centuries. By the end of the writings of the New Testament, people were developing a system of belief called Gnosticism. While there are numerous variations of the idea, there are two primary concepts that compose this body of teaching.
The first concept is that knowledge is king. What is really important is what you know. The goal of faith is to increase your knowledge and change your thinking. Sin is not seen as a problem with the things you do; instead, it is a lack of knowledge.
The other idea is that the physical is unimportant. This can range from the things you do with your physical body are insignificant to your faith to your body being evil and needing to be mastered.
Jesus becomes a figure who comes from God to lead his people to enlightenment as a form of salvation. He did not come to change our world physically but to merely create a spiritual kingdom that exists only in the hearts of people who know about him.
(I admit I am not an expert on the teachings of Gnosticism. There are numerous articles on the internet that can help you get a better understanding of this belief system and the struggles with the early Church.)
I am growing more and more convinced that a form of Gnosticism is on the rise again. Do any of the points I stated sound vaguely familiar to you? Do they reflect anything you have heard or read lately?
One work of evil is to create a separation between the body and the mind of the believer. It works like this: It doesn’t matter if you go to Church to worship, serve, and fellowship. All that matters are that you claim to have a relationship with Jesus in your heart. It doesn’t matter what you do on Saturday when you are with your friends at that party. All that matters are that you have a personal relationship with Jesus as your Savior. It doesn’t matter what you look at on the internet if you know Jesus. It doesn’t matter that there is nothing in your life that looks like Jesus if once upon a time you made a confession, said a prayer, and were baptized. It doesn’t matter that the people I love have no evidence of following Jesus in their life. All that matters are that they know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Do you hear the deception? We slowly separate action from knowledge. Gnosticism is born.
It is a cheap and easy form of grace that lacks responsibility for our actions. That is why the early Church pushed back against its concepts. What you truly believe will be expressed in your actions. People should be able to watch your life and see your relationship with Jesus. Your body and soul are to be in harmony with the teaching of Jesus.
To know Jesus is not enough; we are required to live for him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.