paul was afraid of different heresies than the disciples

I have written before about the separate ministries of Paul versus the rest of the apostles. One such minor issue which illustrates their different gospels is what heresies each group condemns. Both groups, that of Paul and that of the twelve, spoke volumes about what kind of heresies and false teachers were infiltrating the church, but Paul seems to identify groups entirely different than the apostles. And the apostles seem to ignore the groups that Paul worries about.

Here is a sampling of the apostles:

Jud 1:4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice the “lasciviousness”. Jude was speaking about people coming into the church and promoting a sinful lifestyle.

2Pe 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
2Pe 3:17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.

Peter points to people using Paul to twist his words “unto their own destruction” “with the error of the wicked”. He seems to be talking about sinful behavior.

1Jn 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
1Jn 4:2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:

John identifies those that do not recognize Jesus as having come in the flesh. This is somewhat paralleled in 1 Corinthians 15 when Paul addresses those who do not believe Jesus rose from the dead.

2Jn 1:9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.

Here John writes against “transgressions”. Earlier in the same chapter John talks about “walking in the commandments”. This seems also to be about sin.

Rev 2:14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.
Rev 2:15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Rev 2:16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.

Here John condemns two groups of heretics in the church of Pergamos. The first group follows Balak, which has individuals eat things sacrificed to idols (food) and commit sexual immorality. As a shocking side note: these are the exact two issues that Paul tells people are not critical in 1Co 6:13. He explicitly was mentioning food sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality. Paul taught the exact opposite of Rev 2:14.

The second group identified in Revelation 2 is a group called the Nicolaitans. This is a very enigmatic group and should probably best be understood by Irenaeus’ explanation in his book Against Heresies:

3. The Nicolaitanes 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. The character of these men is very plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, [when they are represented] as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practise (sic) adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. Wherefore the Word has also spoken of them thus: But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.

With this sampling, it was clear that the apostles were afraid of those who taught people to sin. John was furthermore concerned with people who denied Christ came in the flesh and with people who ate food sacrificed to idols (a symbolic ordinance). Whether the other apostles included symbolic law in their “works” and “sin” proclamations is ambiguous.

Paul’s concerns were very different:

Gal 1:8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
Gal 1:9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

Paul’s main fear was that people who come and preach a different doctrine or gospel. We do not find him worrying about people coming into the church to convert people to a sinful life. Although Paul does say to cast out sinners from the church 1Co 5:1, Paul says it is for their own good such that “his spirit may be saved” (1Co 5:5). Paul seems more concerned about the sinner than other people converting to sin.

Gal 2:4 And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage),

The theme of Galatians is consistent: people are converting Paul’s converts to a works salvation. Paul equates the “law” to bondage, a theme also not found in the 12 disciples.

2Co 11:13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ…
2Co 11:15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works…
2Co 11:22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I.

In 2 Corinthians, we see a repeat of the Galatians and Acts 15 incident which concerns those telling Paul’s apostles to convert to works (like circumcision). This is not about people converting to sin.

Act 20:29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.
Act 20:30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

This text is ambiguous whether the “perverse things” are “perverse as in sin” or “perverse” as in “false”, then word mentioned in Galatians 2:4. I think we are safe to assume it references the same teachings Paul addresses elsewhere.

2Th 3:6 But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.
2Th 3:7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you;
2Th 3:8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you,

The context of this verse is talking more about freeloaders than heretics. Paul warns against freeloaders.

Rom 16:17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.
Rom 16:18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.

In Romans, although Paul again is concerned about “doctrine”, this might have more to do with 2 Thessalonians than Galatians. Paul references people’s bellies. People were using the gospel to get rich. In Philippians, Paul seems not to mind the harmless self-seekers:

Php 1:15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill:
Php 1:16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains;
Php 1:17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.
Php 1:18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.

Paul’s fears about heresies were centered around people preaching another gospel and people who were self-focused. The apostles feared sin and lawlessness. There does not to be much overlap in their respective fears. This is just a minor illustration of the different ministries of Paul and that of the apostles.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Bible, Dispensationalism, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to paul was afraid of different heresies than the disciples

  1. Pingback: didache – the teachings of the twelve | reality is not optional

  2. Tom Torbeyns says:

    So would you say here that Paul thought of the other apostles (John, Mark,…) as deceitful workers, transforming themselves into workers of righteousness? :-/

    • Paul was primarily protective of his own converts. The understanding with the leadership was that he would go to the Gentiles and them the Jews. The followers of James and John had different ideas. They proselytized Paul’s converts, and Paul condemns them in no kind terms.

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