The Rise of the Ancient Principalty of Gnosticism
Recap Knowledge lies at the heart of the struggle between the two kingdoms, because knowledge is where the adversary mounted his original attack on humanity. True North versus Magnet north. True North is Jesus. Magnetic North is our culture. For centuries they ran parallel. In the 1970s Christendom died a death (it had been dying for decades before this). Since it died we have been living in a post Christian society. Christendom was the name given to the predominate culture of the West since the 4th Century, Much like the Brunhes–Matuyama, geomagnetic reversal, which takes place when the magnetic north and magnetic south flip, our post Christian culture has done a 180 degree flip. Within our Post Christian world massive deconstructionism is happening. Centuries long held values and customs are being shredded. Our world is in self deconstruct.
The Church has not been immune to the effects of this seismic shift. So much is being redefined and reconstituted. Some of this deconstructionism has been good.
- A restpration of women in leadership.
- The reconstitution of who is a leader is with the priesthood of all beleivers
- The arrising of worship of the heart
Some of the deconstructionism is scary:
- There has been an abandonment of the authority of the Bible.
- Peoiple are rejecting all forms of authority
- Church membership has been devalued
If the track you had been running on for your ethica bearings were Christendom and not the Bible, guess which direction you are now heading in.
In this new post Christian world a dangerous ancient principality has been able to arise again and is peddling a heresy that nearly destroyed the Early Church.
Gnosticism in the early Church
Gnosticism was perhaps the greatest battle the first church faced. Gnosticism was seeping into the Church from the culture around them. It was so subtle. Gnosticism is deadly. Those under the spell of gnosticism will find that its poison is deadly.
Gnostics, at face value, sounded a lot like Christians. In fact they were attracted to the spirituality of Christianity. Gnostics viewed Christianity, as holding “special knowledge” (the Greek word for “knowledge” is gnosis, hence Gnosticism) of how to access heaven, which is why gnostics were so attracted to the Church.
- They loved the idea of salvation and saw it as the way to escape corruption and get to heaven
- They loved the “revelatory” gifts from God. Spiritual mystery and revelation was their speciality. The word “Gnostic” comes from the Greek word for knowledge.
- They loved spiritual gifts because of this.
- They loved the Manifest Presence of God (They would have fitted right in to a Church like ours. In fact they loved the Early Church because of the Holy Spirit).
Gnosticism embraces the belief that that the spirit is good and the flesh and material world is evil.
John wrote the whole letter of 1 John, to combat the danger of gnosticism on the faith community he was the overseer of.
Gnostics Denied humanity of Jesus: The gnostics in John’s day were teaching that the human body, which is matter, was evil or irrelevant. Christ’s divinity was embraced by the gnostics but they rejected His humanity: (1) Some said that Christ only seemed to have a body and others said that the divine Christ joined the man Jesus at baptism and left him before he died.
John in his letter, combats gnostic teaching head on, not viewing it as an alternative Christian theology, but as a deadly heresy needing to be exposed and quenched.
1 We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us
1 John 1:1-2
Notice how many times John inferences the enfleshed humanity of Christ in these opening verses of his letter, “we have heard”, “seen”, “looked at” and “touched.”
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God…
1 John 4:1-3
Denied sin: The gnostics goal was to escape this evil world. They placed such emphasis on their spiritual life to the point to which they claimed what they did in the flesh didn’t matter. Gnostics denied the need for Christs forgiveness, and claimed, “I am all right as I am.”
John writes to the Church to combat this lie.
5 This is the message [of God’s promised revelation] which we have heard from Him and now announce to you, that God is Light [He is holy, His message is truthful, He is perfect in righteousness], and in Him there is no darkness at all [no sin, no wickedness, no imperfection]. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness [of sin], we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we [really] walk in the Light [that is, live each and every day in conformity with the precepts of God], as He Himself is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another [He with us, and we with Him], and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin [by erasing the stain of sin, keeping us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations]. 8 If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude ourselves and the truth is not in us. [His word does not live in our hearts.] 9 If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just [true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with His will and purpose]. 10 If we say that we have not sinned [refusing to admit acts of sin], we make Him [out to be] a liar [by contradicting Him] and His word is not in us.
1 John 1:5-10 (AMP)
Gnostics Goal was to Escape this world: The gnostics were about escaping this world and getting to heaven. They preached that there is something better for you outside of this world. (Sounds a lot like Christians doesn’t it?).
John, and in fact all the Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke, tell a very Jewish story of a God who is reclaiming this world, because it is good and it is God’s lovely creation, and more than this that humanity was wonderful piece of this Creation. And so you, made in my image are to be reborn to discover redemption.
Whereas other religions teach the individual to shed his physicality and ascend to the heavens, [Judaeo-Christianity] strives to reveal God’s glorious presence in the midst of our shared physical world. Whereas other religions beckon man to leave the earth behind and ascend to the heavens, [Judaeo-Christianity] enjoins man to create heaven on earth…
[Judaeo-Christianity] is radically different. It is a religion of this world, a religion of life. It absolutely rejects both the belief that God occupies the heavens and shuns the earth and the counterpart disdain for physical existence. On the contrary, Isaiah declares, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3). It is in this world that God is to be found, and it is in this world that man must live a Godly life. Holiness must pervade his every action, for no realm of existence is outside God’s dominion…
The objective of man from a [Judaeo-Christianity] perspective is to draw close to God, not by ascending to the heavens, but by causing God to dwell here on earth. Far from rejecting physical existence, [Judaeo-Christianity] views all of creation as having a potential for holiness. There is a Godly way to eat and drink, a Godly way to think and speak, and a Godly way to have sex…
If all that exists in the physical world has potential for holiness, then the charge of man is to reveal that latent holiness through his actions. Every action in accordance with God’s law serves to sanctify the world, to make it a place fit for God’s presence. (Shmuley Boteach. Judaism for Everyone)
Gnosticism at the Fall
I believe that gnosticism was actually there at the Fall. What was the name of the tree that Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat?
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:15-17
Gnosticism comes from the Greek word for “Knowledge.” It wasn’t that knowledge is wrong. Knowledge that departs from the God is wrong. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they embraced a knowing apart from God.
Who was it that spun them the lie at the Fall? The serpent. The Devil. The Apostle John connects gnosticism with the devil himself. Let’s take another look at the passage we looked at earlier from 1 John 4, but this time let’s read the whole of verse 3.
3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
1 John 4:3
According to John, Gnosticism is the Antichrist sprit are linked. What was the consequence of eating from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil? Death!
The full flower of gnosticism is the death, which is why the Apostles combatted it so vehemently. The Spirit of Gnosticism brings death. In fact the principality and power behind gnosticism is death.
Gnosticism and Sexual Perversion
One of the reasons that John viewed gnosticism as so dangerous was because, paradoxically it led to licentiousness (promiscuousness). When you devalue your body, how you treat it doesn’t matter. Gnosticism and sexual perversion went hand in hand. Gnosticism worked against the Biblical view of the holiness and sanctity of the material world, which God had made and affirmed at each point of creation as “Good.” (see Genesis 1).
Even in its fallen state the earth retained a hallowedness. Since “matter” was not important to the gnostic, whatever was done in the body did not the violate God’s law (1John 3:4) and was of no moral consequence.
John instructs the Church what was done by a person did matter. To deny this was self deception.
Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.
1 John 3:4
The theologian Voegelin wrote that:
“All gnostic movements are involved in the project of abolishing the constitution of being, with its origin in divine, transcendent being…”
We need to ask ourselves, “Is there any abolishing of the constitution of being going on today?”
I want to propose to you that both the homosexual and transgender movements are reconstituting humanity, and human relationships.
A lesbian advocate Paula Ettelbrick proclaimed that:
“Transforming the very fabric of society… [and] radically reordering society’s view of reality” is the goal of the homosexual movement.”
This reordering of society’s view of reality has been behind the campaign for homosexual marriage.
Heterosexual marriage fulfils the divine commission on humanity to procreate and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28).
Homosexual marriage cannot achieve nor fulfill this purpose. By embracing this view the very nature of marriage has been deconstructed by the homosexual movement and reconstructed in accordance with their purposes, which is to define one’s self by one’s feelings or thoughts.
The outworking of the gnostic spirit is not a matter of what Gnostics do not know, but of what they refuse to acknowledge. As one paediatrician who has been left astounded by Transgenderism has commented:
“Our bodies declare our sex. Biological sex is not assigned. Sex is determined by conception by our DNA, stamped into every cell of our bodies. Human sexuality is binary. You either have a normal Y chromosome, and develop into a male, or you don’t, and you will develop into a female. There are at least 6,500 genetic differences between men and women. Hormones and surgery cannot change this. An identity is not biological, it is psychological. It has to do with thinking and feeling. Thoughts and feelings are not biologically hardwired. Our thinking and feeling may be factually right or factually wrong.
If I walk into my doctor’s office today and say, “Hi, I’m Margaret Thatcher,” my physician will say I am delusional and give me an anti-psychotic. Yet, if instead, I walked in and said, “I’m a man,” he would say, “Congratulations, you’re transgender.” If I were to say, “Doc, I am suicidal because I’m an amputee trapped in a normal body, please cut off my leg,” I will be diagnosed with body identity integrity disorder. But if I walk into that doctor’s office and say, “I am a man, sign me up for a double mastectomy,” my physician will. See, if you want to cut off a leg or an arm you’re mentally ill, but if you want to cut off healthy breasts or a penis, you’re transgender. No one is born transgender. If gender identity were hardwired in the brain before birth, identical twins would have the same gender identity 100 percent of the time. But they don’t.”
Dr Michelle Cretella (President of the American College of Pediatricians)
NT Wright wrote a couple of years ago about this very thing:
“… the confusion about gender identity is a modern and now internet-fuelled, form of the ancient philosophy of Gnosticism. The Gnostic, one who “knows”, has discovered the secret of “who I really am”, behind the deceptive outward appearance…
This involves denying the goodness, or even the ultimate reality, of the natural world. Nature, however, tends to strike back, with the likely victims in this case being vulnerable and impressionable youngsters who, as confused adults, will pay the price for their elders’ fashionable fantasies.”
The Rt Rev Prof Tom Wright
Do you remember how I said that gnosticism, the antichrist, and the spirit of death are all connected?
The ultimate outworking of gnosticism is the self implosion of humanity. The Apostle Paul highlights that one of the bottom rungs of the consequences of humanity’s rejection of God and His Laws is homosexuality.
20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. … 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. …
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
Paul traces homosexuality back to the rejection of God. It is presented as being so destructive because it replaces God with ourselves. This is why gnosticism’s roots can be traced back to original sin. Composer Igor Stravinsky wrote that “the old original sin was one of knowledge, the new original sin is one of non-acknowledgment.”
4 … You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
What can we say to people wrestling with their genders or sexuality? My message today is not to bring shame or to beat up on individuals who are struggling with homosexuality or transgenderism or are questions about their biological sex. It is to expose that gnosticism is running rife in our midst and to present a Biblical worldview on humanity.
It might help you to know that once upon a time I wanted to be a girl. I have a personal transgender story of my own. I can remember aged six years old fantasying what it would have been like if I was a girl. I thought if I was born again I hoped to be born a girl in the royal family. I was deeply confused by these thoughts as to where these thoughts and feelings came from. I told no one and kept them locked away inside. It lead to a deep sense of shame that even after I had moved past these thoughts remained me for many years. When I finally shared this with some trusted friends they never judged me or shamed me. Instead they suggested, if I was open, that we take these feelings before God together to ask Him about them.
When I asked God for revelation on why I had had these thoughts and feelings, God showed me that when I was 5 1/2 my sister was born. Up until the time she was born I was the apple of my parents eye. But when she came along suddenly my baby sister was the one getting attention. They dressed her up in these beautiful dresses, and cooed over her. They called her their “princess.” My six year self, reasoned that if I too was a girl I would get the same kind of love and attention I saw her getting. Before God I was able to receive understanding as to what was going on, forgiveness for my jealousy, and freedom for the shame I felt.
Other Sermons In This Series
September 24, 2019
October 21, 2019
November 12, 2019