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018 Kernels of Wheat – An Unhappy Heresy

Show Notes by Jim Kerwin for Kernels of Wheat Podcast
Episode 018 – An Unhappy Heresy

Review of Last Week — Loving the World = Spiritual Adultery

Street-Corner Heretic

If only all the heretics were this easy to spot!

Historical setting of 1 John and 1 John 2:18-29

  • Response to heresy? What is heresy?
    • A belief or teaching that denies an accepted fundamental truth of the Christian faith, usually falling into certain categories:
      • Beliefs about God, e.g.,
        • The Holy Spirit is not a person, but an “it” or an “influence”;
        • The Persons of the Godhead are not co-equal and co-eternal;
        • There are many gods;
        • Human beings can become god.
      • Beliefs about salvation – basically that something else (works, for example) must be added to the work of Christ to gain heaven.
      • Beliefs about Christ – usually the major category.
    • Can’t study early church history without studying theology, and vice versa.
      • When you open your door to cultists, you are facing age-old heresies:
        • Jesus as less than God, a “little ‘g’” god
        • Polytheism – there are many gods (and you can become one of them).
    • Heresies challenging the Church
      • What is true?
      • Was Jesus really God?
      • Was Jesus really Man, really human?
      • Are Jesus and Christ one person?
    • 1 John may, in part, be a response to a particular heresy—Gnosticism.


  • Gnosticism didn’t have a unified, clearcut, “neat” package of beliefs. Mutated different ways, outside of and inside of Christianity.
  • Meanings and import:
    • Know = gnoskein, from the word…
    • Knowledge = gnosis
    • Special “knowledge” liberated the “spiritual essence” of Gnostics.
  • Beliefs:
    • All matter was evil. The supreme, unknowable Being never meant for there to be “stuff.”
    • “Divine sparks” eventually became human beings.
    • Demiurge, an evil being, created things, because he was evil. They equated the Demiurge with the Creator God of the Genesis.
      • Tried to keep these “divine sparks” (parts of the unknowable Being) bound in flesh, in physical matter.
      • This stands the Genesis 3 story on its head. Who is it who tries to give the poor, bound beings special knowledge. “The Demiurge knows that when you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…”
      • This made Satan something of a hero.
    • The material universe was, at best, an illusion.
  • Gnostic “Gospels” – old, heretical gnostic texts, written several hundred years after Jesus died
    • Gnostic texts dug up in the 20th century
    • Prior to that, most of what we knew of heretical (i.e., “Christian”) Gnosticism came from quote made by Christian apologists in their refutations.
    • The modern “spin”— the early Church surpressed these texts.
  • The Gnostic problem—the Incarnation of Jesus.
    • If matter is evil, and flesh even more so, then (in Gnostic thinking) Jesus couldn’t have come “in the flesh.”
    • Ditto the physical resurrection. The “true God” (the Father of Jesus, not the Creator God of the Old Testament) wouldn’t bring back someone “in the flesh.”
    • Two views, either of which allowed Gnostics to go on believing Gnosticism:
      • A spirit being, the “Christ,” inhabited Jesus of Nazareth, but the two were completely different entities.
      • Docetism from Greek dokein = to seem (dokeo, I seem). Jesus only seemed, only appeared to come in the flesh, eat, drink, suffer, die, and be raised from the dead. (Sort of like “a hologram with substance.”)
    • The inspiration for much of New Age theology.
  • This could be the reason for John’s strong statements in…
    • 1 John 2:22-23—”Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.”
    • 1 John 4:2-3—“ By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.”

A benefit of heresy—

  • It forces us to ask “What do we believe? And how do we know?”
  • It forces us back to Scripture.
  • It forces us back to Church history, to discover the lessons the Church learned.

Some hints about what’s coming up in the next few weeks:

  • Nobody in the New Testament ever asked to be anointed, despite how many pray that way nowadays. We’ll find out why that is, and why we pray that way out of a serious misconception.
  • The word antichrist never appears in the Book of Revelation–not even once!  It’s important for us to understand why that is so, why the term only appears in 1 John (and 2 John), and how that fact will give us great understanding in this Epistle of First John.

Next Week: Anointing


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More teaching by Jim Kerwin and others can be found on the Finest of the Wheat website.

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