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The Ancient Poisons: Discernment Heresies of the New Testament

Image: Scott Rodgerson

There is a critical issue here. Certainly the Satanic Kingdom can work miracles. Witchcraft, occultism, idolatry and sorcery are serious sins, and when identified they must be denounced. Certain acts of sorcery and occultism make the spiritual activities of lesser spirits look like part of the work of the Holy Spirit, as in spiritualism. In this sense, spiritualism is a sin of discernment. It is a serious sin that must be confessed and can be forgiven. That is, someone who has been in the occult can understand his or her failed discernment, and repent and receive God’s forgiveness.

However, the opposite, claiming that the works of the Holy Spirit are really the product of demonic activity, calling something sorcery when it is in fact from God, is more than a serious sin; it is unforgivable. This alone should make the accusation of sorcery for an unknown or unusual spiritual phenomenon something that a Christian makes reluctantly and only after study and prayers for discernment. Judgment of any healing or exorcism as demonic especially warrants caution.[9]


Phariseeism in the New Testament Church

The Pharisees continued to be a problem in the Jewish-Christian church of Jerusalem. In Acts, those Christians who had been Pharisees objected to Paul’s practice of excusing Gentile converts from circumcision and freeing them from the ritual laws of Judaism (15:5ff). Although they were overruled, we see this attitude reappear when Paul had to confront Peter who was trying to please the “men from James” (that is, the Jewish/Christians from Jerusalem) by refusing to eat with Gentile Christians (Gal. 2:11-14). They had difficulty in seeing that the Holy Spirit was moving in ways they had not anticipated.

A careful reading of the Corinthian letters and the letter to the Galatians reveals that some of the Christians in those communities spontaneously drifted into a form of doctrinal nitpicking which Paul had to reprove forcefully. Apparently the Pharisee-influenced Corinthian Christians were judging each other on the basis of factional theological viewpoints or proto-Talmud. Paul reprimands the Corinthians for this and counters with the assertion that Christians are free from all such man-inspired judgments but must remain attentive to Scripture (“what is written”).

Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time…that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other (1 Cor. 4: 5-6).

The very next item on Paul’s agenda is the assertion that a young man who was sleeping with his stepmother be excommunicated (1 Cor. 5:1). This seems like a contradiction, but it reaffirms Jesus’ basic insight that the moral law of the Bible (Torah) has eternal validity, but human commentaries are not and cannot be a basis of judgment.


Sadduceeism: The heresy of “religion light”[10]

The Gospel accounts of the Sadducees give us a few details about them, especially in comparison to the Pharisees. They are identified with the Temple priesthood and administration, and were the high priest during all of Jesus’ ministry period (Acts:5:17). They did not believe in either the resurrection of the dead nor in the existence of angels, and contended with the Pharisees over these issues (Mt 22:23 & Acts 23:8). Their failed discernment was of a materialistic slant. For them, there was very little to the spiritual world. In Matthew 22:29, Jesus rebuked the Sadducees saying: “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”

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Category: Church History, Winter 2018

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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