The Humble and Lowly Do Not Participate in Heresies and Envy
"Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not mind high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Do not be wise in your own conceits." Romans 12:16
"This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary to one another: so that you cannot do the things that you have in mind. But if you are led of the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, contention, jealousies, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envy, murder, drunkenness, reveling, and things like this: of which I tell you now, as I have told you in time past, that they who exercise and practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that belong to the "anointed one" (Christ) have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not glory without reason, challenging one another, envying one another." Galatians 5:16-26
Heresies and envy. Well where do I start? Heresy is a word that unfortunately is thrown around often in the "professing Christian Community." You might say it is freely spoken even against the urgings and warnings of James in 1:19. I'd be lying if I said I've never thrown out this word or been called this. But what really is a heretic? What was Paul referring too? Maybe we can hone in on it. Envy is the brother of Jealousy. He is very similar, but different as well. Envy is a rotten fruit that destroys many relationships and does not belong in the body of Christ.
The Humble and Lowly Aren't Heretics
What is heresy? You may know the word well, but I bet there are quite a few who don't know its meaning. Webster says the following:
Heresy - A fundamental error in religion, or an error of opinion respecting some fundamental doctrine of religion. But in countries where there is an established church, an opinion is deemed heresy when it differs from that of the church. The Scriptures being the standard of faith, any opinion that is repugnant to its doctrines, is heresy; but as men differ in the interpretation of Scripture, an opinion deemed heretical by one body of Christians, may be deemed orthodox by another. In Scripture and primitive usage, heresy meant merely sect, party, or the doctrines of a sect, as we now use denomination or persuasion, implying no reproach.
There you have it. But what did Paul mean? Let's look at the Greek.
Heresy - αἵρεσις: act of taking, capture: e.g. storming a city. A body of men following their own tenets (sect or party).
So most likely Paul was referring to those who were breaking off from the Apostolic teachings and forming their own sects. Sometimes like the Corinthian church, they were "storming the city" so to speak and inciting mutiny on God's Church. Probably one of the most glaring problems we have today in modern Christianity is sectarianism and divisiveness. The solution won't be easy. I could go into a long description of Church History and get into detail. This isn't the place for it right now. However, the early church from the time of the Apostles to a short time after the Edict of Milan (legalization of Christianity) in 313 A.D. held in better unity and to the Apostles doctrine. There were sects and heresies such as the Gnostics, but they didn't last long and they passed away after some time. When Constantine legalized Christianity, a mutant was born. The world and the church were merged together to eventually raise up a beast never intended by the Apostles. There were small and obscure communities of Christians in Africa and Europe that seemed to retain the Apostolic traditions through the Middle Ages up to the Reformation. When the Reformation came, many of those communities joined with the effort because the RCC and Orthodox sects had grown to a massive proportion with a lot of worldly power. Crusades were being fought not just in the Middle East, but in the European Valleys of Piedmont and other places. I would say that Heresy is anything that runs contrary to the Apostolic faith, which was passed down to the Early Fathers and maintained by the faithful throughout history. Anything that deviates from that test is heresy. So what does that mean for us today? Good question. I think the Apostles were narrow on some things and broad on others. I think the Scriptures are plain on that. I would beware of some theologians who try to unnecessarily narrow the scope, but also of New Agers who try to broaden it. Find a Church that strives to follow the faith of the Apostles and is tolerant of differing views concerning the more difficult doctrines. That would be my first test before considering anything else. One example I can think of concerning differences on views in the church is that one of my pastors believes in the permanence view of marriage, but the other has a little wider view. That is because the teachings on remarriage are foggy. Personally I encourage folks to err on the side of caution, so I think that the permanence view is more Biblical and the Early Fathers seemed to agree. That being said, God used many Old Testament saints who made a mess in that area. Therefore, I am not going to part ways with a brother over that issue because it is a hard one that is scant of information. Most of the time when the Apostles referred to "sound doctrine," they were talking about charity and helping the poor and downcast. They also focused on the resurrection and the Kingdom of God. Things like the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, the virgin birth, and your character (lined up with Scripture) is probably more central than some other things. This is a hard thing. I'm sure if you and I sat down and discussed our views on some things, we would disagree. The Apostles never really advocated excommunication or separation over ideas as much as they did over behavior. Of course, I realize that behavior is many times the result of a bad idea. Unity and cohesion is important to the health of the local assembly. Also submission to your church authorities is important. God set overseers to watch us and care for our souls. Churches have Elders for this task. Deacons are there to serve the body with physical needs, and the Elders are overseers of our souls. They reserve the right to criticize and guide us into the right way. That being said, "all" believers are meant to hold each other accountable, but always in the context of the collective body and God's written testimony. That is why churches need to have multiple elders who are accountable to other elders. Elders are those who have met the requirements of 1 Timothy 3 and are examples to the greater body. Beware of a man or men who break off and start their own movement. That being said, measure their efforts with the council of Scripture and prayer. Something like that should never be done hastily or without an internal effort for reformation first if it is a serious doctrinal issue. Unity is probably something we haven't done well, and I'm hoping with the growing hostility toward Christianity, true believers will unify and lay down their petty differences. The humble and lowly are slow to speak, slow to anger, and willing to submit to God's authority, which includes the Eldership along with Scripture. Most folks that are sectarian are prideful. Humble men and women lean toward honor, patience, and virtue. Where you see the fruits of the Spirit, God is there and I would avoid the sectarian, no matter how convincing his or her arguments seem to be.
The Humble and Lowly Do Not Envy
EN'VY, verb transitive [Latin invideo, in and video, to see against, that is, to look with enmity.]
1. To feel uneasiness, mortification or discontent, at the sight of superior excellence, reputation or happiness enjoyed by another; to repine at another's prosperity; to fret or grieve one's self at the real or supposed superiority of another, and to hate him on that account.
noun Pain, uneasiness, mortification or discontent excited by the sight of another's superiority or success, accompanied with some degree of hatred or malignity, and often or usually with a desire or an effort to depreciate the person, and with pleasure in seeing him depressed. envy springs from pride, ambition or love, mortified that another has obtained what one has a strong desire to possess.
While jealousy is usually the temptation of the rich, the poor tend toward envy. Humble men and women live in contentment and peace. They are happy for others who have experienced greater blessings and therefore do not envy them. Humble men and women "seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33).