“If we are just imagining that we are in Christ and our fruits contradict us, we deceive ourselves above all.”
(originally posted by John Henderson)
What makes a heresy a heresy and differences in doctrinal understandings not heresy? The simple answer is that heresy ignores or distorts Scripture intentionally to deceive. Doctrinal differences are based on an honest understanding of the Scriptures on a matter without intentionally violating the Scriptures. The intention is always to appeal to the Scriptures and never to intentionally deceive.
The great debates or controversies of the church have always been opposing views of attempting to properly understand and explain the Scriptures. The Armenian-Calvinist debates were of that nature. Lesser issues such as modes of baptism are of that nature. The three major millennial views concerning Christ’s return are of that nature. They rely on scriptura sola as they believe it is understood and explain from that position. Truth as found alone in Christ is the cornerstone. This, and not deception, is their design.
Heresy invariable departs from the Scriptures and demeans Christ. It either denies The Scriptures outright, or attempts to weaken them by saying they are corrupted in some way. It will also use them in distorted manners to make its own point. Once the Scriptures are invalidated, they feel free to “reimagine” anything that suits their carnal notions. This leads to all sorts of imaginations (fantasies) as to the divinity and person of Jesus, the person and work of the Holy Spirit and the many vain imaginations about God the Father, Heaven, Hell, sin, salvation, etc. Deception replaces truth as the shifting sands of error.
Sometimes the counterfeits are so close to resembling the genuine that the only way to distinguish them is by their fruits. Jesus makes that plain:
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:15-23).
It does not matter that they give the most moving testimony of knowing Christ. It does not matter that they do many wonderful works in His name. It does not matter that they preach like Peter and pray like Paul (outwardly). It is all external with nothing inside. If He does not know them, they are producing evil fruit even by doing good things.
It comes to this—there is a final judgment whereby no deception will have a place:
“And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20: 11-15).
The one who has been made righteous by the Blood of Christ, through repentance and faith in Him alone, may blunder like someone trying to play piano while wearing gloves and still be righteous. God knows the heart and He looks at the heart of all of us throughout this life and judges us accordingly at the end. Those mentioned in the Matthew passage were making their argument on the externals and Christ responded according to the internals. They led their lives on the outside of grace and ended up there.
This is a serious warning for all of us. We can never presume upon Christ to overlook the absence of redeeming faith because we are being such good boys and girls.
“Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee” Deuteronomy 4:23).
“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
If we are just imagining that we are in Christ and our fruits contradict us, we deceive ourselves above all. God is not involved in make-belief. He looks for one thing: the fruit that comes from having a heart filled with His grace—and the Bible is clear as to what that means.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
“…take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?” (Malachi 2:16b-17).