“Guard the truth which has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.” 2 Timothy. 1:14
“The Holy Ghost revealed much of precious truth and holy precept by the apostles, and to His teaching we would give earnest heed; but when men cite the authority of fathers, and councils, and bishops, we give place for subjection, no, not for an hour. They may quote Irenaeus or Cyprian, Augustine or Chrysostom; they may remind us of the dogmas of Luther or Calvin; they may find authority in Simeon, Wesley, or Gill—we will listen to the opinions of these great men with the respect which they deserve as men, but having done so, we deny that we have anything to do with these men as authorities in the church of God, for there nothing has any authority, but “Thus saith the Lord of hosts.” ” Charles Spurgeon
Recently, in a study on Ephesians, the topic of God’s “game plan” came up. To put it in context, it was within a discussion on the Full Armor of God in Ephesians 6. There was unanimous agreement that God’s Word was His game plan. The full Armor of God was the full application of His Word in our lives. God’s Word is God’s revelation to us to guard against the schemes of the devil, “that adversary the devil that prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” How does he devour us but by leading us away from the full truth of God’s Word. Charles Spurgeon wrote: “You have only to turn to the Word of God, itself, to find what a divine ordinance it is, and to see how the Lord makes that to be the main means of the salvation of men. Keep on with it, my brothers. This is the gun that will win the battle, though many have tried to silence it. They have had all sorts of new inventions and contrivances, but when all their inventions shall have had their day, and proved futile, depend upon it, the proclaiming of Jesus Christ’s name, gospel, and work among mankind will be found to be effectual when all things else have failed!”
The discussion then turned to whether or not Satan has a “game plan”? It was my contribution that Satan’s game plan was simply to counter God’s Word. God’s Word “is the gun that will win the battle.” It is the Full Armor of God. From the very beginning Satan has tried to counter God’s Word. In Jeremiah 23:16 it is written “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.” The warning is that these prophets do not speak words from the mouth of God. Peter warned of Satan’s plan in 2 Peter 2:1-3: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
Let’s go back to 50 AD. This is a period of Church history when the Apostles are bringing God’s Word to the Nations. It is a period of the rapid spread of the Gospel. It is only approximately fifteen years after the death and resurrection of our Lord. The early Church was predominantly Jewish, however the Gospel was reaching deep into the Gentile world. Some Jewish Christians, however, were teaching that Gentiles had to observe the Mosaic Law and Jewish customs in order to be saved. Since this teaching clearly contradicted the fact that salvation was by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Acts 15:11), the apostles and church leaders held the first Christian council and gathered in Jerusalem to settle the issue. At this Council Peter spoke of his ministry with the Gentiles, as recorded in Acts chapter 10. Peter focused on the fact that the Holy Spirit was given to uncircumcised Gentiles in precisely the same manner the Holy Spirit was given to the apostles and Jewish believers on the day of Pentecost. This led Peter to the conclusion that there should be no “placing a yoke on the neck of the [Gentile] disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” (Acts 15:10). It is very clear that the Gospel message and God’s Word was under attack by false prophets and it is clear in my mind that Satan was working hard to derail the Gospel message very early. It is also clear to me that the Holy Spirit working through the Apostles corrected the direction of the Church. There are, however, still groups teaching that Christians must obey the Old Testament Law. There are still Churches that are preaching a Gospel of works rather then faith, a false gospel.
We next do not have to go far into Church history or the New Testament to see the problems in the Corinthian Church that Paul needed to address in two separate letters, First Corinthians was written in approximately 53-54 AD and the second letter in 55 AD. Once again, early in Church history we see the Church not conforming to the Gospel message. If the Corinthian Church had lived the Gospel message as they were given it the dissension and disunity would have been addressed by the foundational truths that Paul had laid. They did not. This Church was so dysfunctional that Clement of Rome wrote three letters to the Corinthians before the end of the first century that echoed the same issues and gave the same exhortations that Paul addressed to them.
Out of the Seven Churches of Revelation only Philadelphia stayed steadfast in faith, kept God’s word, and endured patiently. This all before the first century had come to an end. I will briefly give a history of the heresies that infiltrated the Church from the earliest of times. It is interesting how many of these heresies consistently remanifest themselves throughout the history of the Church. Note that many of these heresies deny the full deity of Christ and all deny the the plain teaching of the Scriptures.
Ebionites – from the earliest of Church history: A Jewish sect that insisted on the necessity of following Jewish law and rites, which they interpreted in light of Jesus’ expounding of the Law. They regarded Jesus as the Messiah but not as divine.
Adoptionism – circa 190 AD: Belief that Jesus was born as a mere (non-divine) man, was supremely virtuous and that he was adopted later as “Son of God” by the descent of the Spirit on him.
Sabellianism – late first early second century: Belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three characterizations of one God, rather than three distinct “persons” in one God.
Marcionism – An Early Christian dualist belief system. Marcion affirmed Jesus Christ as the savior sent by God and Paul as his chief apostle, but he rejected the Hebrew Bible and the Hebrew God. Marcionists believed that the wrathful Hebrew God was a separate and lower entity than the all-forgiving God of the New Testament. This belief was in some ways similar to Gnostic Christian theology, but in other ways different.
Montanism – the New Prophecy beginning in the late second century: It was a prophetic movement that called for a reliance on the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit and a more conservative personal ethic. Parallels have been drawn between Montanism and modern-day movements such as Pentecostalism, the charismatic movement, and the New Apostolic Reformation.
Docetism – as early as the first century: Rejected by the First Council of Nicaea in 325: Belief that Jesus’ physical body was an illusion, as was his crucifixion; that is, Jesus only seemed to have a physical body and to physically die, but in reality he was incorporeal, a pure spirit, and hence could not physically die.
Arianism – late third century: Denial of the true divinity of Jesus Christ taking various specific forms, but all agreed that Jesus Christ was created by the Father, that he had a beginning in time, and that the title “Son of God” was a courtesy one.
Pelagianism – late third, early fourth century: Belief that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without Divine aid.
The early Church fought and condemned these heresies and many more, however soon strayed themselves from the truths of the Scriptures. Prayers for the dead, veneration of angels and dead saints, worship of Mary as co-redeemer, worship of the cross, images and relics, the sale of indulgences, transubstantiation, confession of sin to the priest, the doctrine of purgatory, the apocryphal books, papal infallibility and many other doctrines that are contrary to the teaching of God’s Word became “orthodox”.
In 1199, Pope Innocent III wrote concerning “heretics” who had translated the Bible into French and dared to discuss it among themselves. To them, Innocent applied Jesus’ words: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, neither throw your pearls before swine.” (Matthew 7:6) What was his reasoning in this matter? “That no simple and unlearned man presumes to concern himself with the sublimity of sacred Scripture, or to preach it to others.” Those who resisted the pope’s order were often delivered to inquisitors who had them tortured into making confessions. Those who refused to recant were burned alive.
During the long battle fought over possession of the Bible and the reading of it, Pope Innocent’s letter was often appealed to for support in forbidding use of the Bible and its translation into other languages. Soon after his decree, the burning of Bibles in the vernacular began, as did the burning of some of their owners. In the centuries that followed, the bishops and rulers of Catholic Europe used all possible means to ensure that the ban imposed by Pope Innocent III was observed.
The Catholic hierarchy certainly knew that many of its teachings were based, not on the Bible, but on church tradition. Doubtless, this is one of the reasons for their reluctance to allow their faithful to have access to the Bible. By reading it, people would become aware of the incompatibility between their church doctrine and Scripture.
It is very clear what Satan’s plan is: Attack, attack, attack. Attack the Word of God. Lead the faithful astray. Divert the Church away from teaching the whole Word of God and have it focus on a lie. We see it today with the Jehovah Witnesses, the Mormons, the Prosperity Gospel, the Charismatic Movement and many others heresies that focus attention away from true Gospel message. We see it in many of the Reformed Churches that were once used by God to correct the man made traditions of the Catholic Church. We see these churches leaving their first love and pursuing a different gospel. We see it in these so-called “mainline” Churches this very day. To these lukewarm churches that resemble the Laodicean Church of Revelation God has promised to “spit you out of my mouth”. These churches that are neither hot or cold are those that claim to know God but live as though He doesn’t exist. These churches need to repent and return to the Gospel message or else God has promised them that He “will come and remove your lampstand from its place.”
So what is Satan’s plan that we need to arm ourselves against. If you haven’t caught on please reread the above once again. What is God’s plan – it is His Inspired Word and as Spurgeon taught “This is the gun that will win the battle.” Take heart because though many have tried to silence it the Word of God is everlasting and enduring. Take heart because like the Philadelphia church if our churches preach the unadulterated Word of God the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.