Gnosticism In the Church

Gnosticism is a strange sounding word with an important history. Its root meaning is “knowledge,” but behind this lies a unBiblical belief system. Gnostic Christians in early church history were a sect that adopted popular religious ideas and mixed them with Christianity. They considered matter to be evil and the spiritual to be good. Salvation then was deliverance from the physical body into the spiritual state. This lead to two wildly different practices. Either the Gnostics lived rigorously moral and physically deprived lives, or they abandoned themselves to immorality and excessive living.

Today the Gnostics are a mostly dead ancient religion, but their legacy sadly lives on. Where? In many of our churches and pulpits. In the sermons we hear and the lifestyles “Christians” live. It can be found throughout the church in the West, this idea that life here doesn’t really matter so much, what matters is saving people off the sinking Titanic. This physical world is not our home, I’m just passing through. It’s all going to burn anyway. All we can hope to do is try to save a few souls out of this dying world. Sound familiar? I could have been quoting from a dozen popular sermons in that last paragraph. And we don’t realize how Gnostic such ideas really are.

So ingrained is this subtle gnosticism in today’s church that believers are surprised when I tell them that heaven isn’t our home. When we die and go to heaven we will be in an in-between state. A temporary state. The end result is for us to be resurrected with glorified physical bodies and dwell in a renewed heaven and earth. Creation is good! You are not a spirit having a human experience. You are a bodily creature. Death (the divorce of the soul from the body) is unnatural! It is an enemy that will one day be defeated.

These truths are important. Because when we begin to think and believe like Gnostics we start acting like them as well. I’ve seen both extremes. I’ve seen people justify lives of excessive sin and immorality because “their soul is saved.” The actions of the body must reflect the changes of the heart (I am not advocating sinless perfectionism though). Holiness in body flows from a changed inner person. Both go hand in hand.

On the other side, I have seen people fall into legalism because of a wrong view of creation. Drunkenness does not come from an evil power behind alcohol. Scripture says it is come from our sinful nature within. Dancing, games, movies, and recreation in general are not evil. Can you make an idol of them? Yes. Can you go into a realm of sinfully over-indulging in them? Certainly. But these things are not worldly. Self-denial has to do with putting to death our sinful practices and dealing with our selfishness.

In the end, our work is not finished here. Yes, we look to eternity. But our present life is not something to be escaped from. Raising families, working jobs, glorifying Christ in our day to day lives, these are eternal matters. Salvation is about being delivered from sin, the devil, and our selfish nature, so that we can serve Christ in freedom and love here and now. And after that? We will reign and rule with Christ in glory! What starts now is just the beginning.

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