Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Gnosticism: Where Are You on the Pentecostal Ladder?

In the Second Century, a heresy arose known as Gnosticism. That isn't my topic here. Rather, I want to concentrate on one element from that page: "The Gnostics supposedly had knowledge of God that was exclusive. They considered themselves superior to the average Christian." In other words, the Gnostics had a hierarchical view of the Christian community. One had to move up the ranks to gain more knowledge, knowledge that was withheld from the lower echelons. We see this in our day in the secret doctrines taught in Mormon temple rituals and the degree system of the Freemasons.

But it's too easy to point out the cultic and gnostic elements in organizations as aberrant as the Mormons and the Freemasons. I would point my finger just as surely at the Pentecostal branch of modern evangelicalism.

The Scriptures tell us that every believer receives the Holy Spirit; He comes to the believer as part of what happens to him at conversion. We see that in the words of the Apostle John: "This He said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39). John tells his readers that a change would come at Pentecost (Acts 2), in which the ascended Christ would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit (John 15:26), who, from that point, would be present in every true believer. The Apostle Paul, writing to an audience converted after Pentecost, tells them: "In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit" (I Corinthians 12:13). He tells these Christians that they had all, past tense and inclusive of the whole church, received the Holy Spirit. That reception was not reserved to an extra-spiritual group within the church. Nor is He offered as something future, for which spiritual people were to strive. He had come to each one, a done deal!

Notice how contrary that is to the program of Pentecostals, who claim that people first come to know Jesus, and then work to receive the Holy Spirit in a later experience. Only those who have done so are believed to be living a Christian life. That is, they have created a hierarchy, just as the Gnostics did, of those who merely know Jesus, and the higher class that have also received the Holy Spirit.

That is a false doctrine, and wrongly imposes guilt on those who believe that they have failed to achieve that next level, contrary both to the words of Jesus cited by John and to Paul.

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