Paul wrote the letter to the believers at Colossae to keep them on the right path of orthodox faith, and to refute what has been termed "the Colossian heresy." Which brings up a good question: What is heresy anyway?
In our current series on Colossians, we keep bumping into this, so it makes sense to give it a bit more of a definition. Heresy is defined as "belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine," with synonyms of dissension, nonconformity, and more. Orthodox is the opposite of heresy, meaning that it "conforms to what is generally or traditionally accepted as right and true; established and approved."
Of course, our world today likes to promote nonconformity, even dissension, along with suspicion and rejection of authority, orthodoxy, and all things truth with a big "T." As soon as we stop, think and dig down on such positions, though, we find that all our rejection of orthodox belief and practice in the name of individualism and freedom is actually destabilizing, producing conflicts and ultimately self-defeating.
So, how do you and I, theologically, recognize heresy from orthodox belief? As I've shared on Sundays in this series, the essential heresies of the New Testament all deal with the person of Jesus: Who is he? How does he relate to God the Father? And the Spirit? Was he just a man? Was he divine? Etc. And all these questions are important because flowing out of them are issues that affect our salvation.
Timothy Paul Jones is a former pastor who now serves as seminary professor and associate vice president at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the U.S. He's done us the favour of producing a short video outlining the early church heresies and how they relate to the four core beliefs about Jesus. CLICK HERE FOR THAT VIDEO.
Just like those trained to recognize counterfeit money (they're trained mostly in how to recognize the real, more so than just the hundreds of ways a bill might be faked), you and I can recognize what is counterfeit (heresy) about Jesus by recognizing four core beliefs about Jesus. Note this: All four must be true for a doctrine about Jesus to be true, as all are put forward and affirmed in Scripture:
- He was fully human.
- He was and is fully God.
- He is one person.
- And, He has two natures, both divine and human.
Dr. Jones will list the four major New Testament heresies by their names, but note this that he mentions, too: All the Christian cults and heresies of today (Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, etc.) are actually not "new" but repackagings of the same old heresies of the early church, too.
What do you and I take away from all this? Our own salvation is wrapped up in what we believe. What you believe is necessarily important, because it is directly associated with your eternal salvation! (Cf. Romans 10:5-13). So, be on your guard for your own heart and faith against heresy, as well as your friend's around you. You and your friend will be glad in this life and all the next that you did.