A Little Leaven…
By Pete Garcia
A believer moves through three stages in life: salvation (a one-time event), sanctification (a life-long event), and glorification (a permanent event). Satan actively attacks all three of these areas to either prevent a person from hearing the truth to become saved or by perverting the truth to keep a believer’s growth in Christ stunted.
The best tactical strategy an adversary could ever have is to keep his enemy in a state of both confusion and disarray. We know that Satan (i.e., the adversary) has used this strategy of corruption generously over the course of human history. When he was not able to outright crush Israel or the Church, he chose a more subtle method. Corruption came in the form of idolatry, false religious practices, religiosity, pseudo, heretical, and apostate variations of the truth.
In reading the Old Testament (OT), we see that the Israelites struggled with these issues since the time of their deliverance during the Exodus. Likewise, the Church has had to deal with the following spiritual corruption over the past two thousand years via pseudo-Christian cults, heretical and apostate teachings, Judaizers, Eastern-Mysticism, Emergent movements, Seeker-Friendly, Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, Prosperity and Social Gospels and so forth. But most of these error-laden movements are fairly obvious to anyone who actually reads their Bibles. These primarily impact issues surrounding salvation.
What is not so obvious are the stealth movements within orthodox Christianity. These are movements within Christendom that target born-again Christians already, and then seek to thwart or stunt their understanding of salvation, sanctification, and glorification. Some of these traditions and teachings were simply products of the times in which they lived. These are they which seem correct at a glance, but upon further review fall apart when put in context of the entirety of Scripture.
These are ones that tend to introduce ideas and teachings either exploiting gray areas within Scripture or misconstrue doctrines by over/under-emphasizing certain areas. By gray, I mean those areas that on the surface do not clarify positions with extreme clarity. These are Calvinism, Replacement Theology, Covenant Theology, Hebrew Roots, Lordship Salvation, and the eschatological positions of Amillennialism, Post-Millennialism, Historic Pre-Millennialism, Mid-Tribulation, Pre-Wrath Rapture, Dominionism, and Post-Tribulation Rapture.
All stealth movements find their strength in either teaching half-measures or by introducing non-biblically sourced creeds, opinions, theories, and dogmas (reinforcing the errors) to uninformed students. Half-measures would be teachings that are correct on certain points, but either questionable or incorrect in many others. Covenant theology, for example, theorizes that God had a work covenant with Adam in the Garden pre-fall. Yet, the word covenant is never used until Genesis 6 when God pronounced one with Noah and his family…some 1650 years after the Garden. Thus, Covenant theology inserts this non-existent idea into Scripture (eisegesis) to support its claim of validity.
The theological terms, Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace, do not occur in Scripture. If they are to be sustained it must be wholly apart from Biblical authority. What is known as Covenant Theology builds its structure on these two covenants and is, at least, a recognition–though inadequate–of the truth that the creature has responsibility toward his Creator. Covenant Theology has Cocceius (1603-1669) as its chief exponent. “He taught that before the Fall, as much as after it, the relation between God and man was a covenant. The first was a Covenant of Works. For this was substituted, after the Fall, the Covenant of Grace…” Upon this human invention of two covenants, Reformed Theology has largely been constructed. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Volume IV (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948) p. 156
If one wanted to support a Hebrew Roots position for example, then one must extensively twist Paul’s teachings to attempt to force the Pauline Epistles to say what they clearly do not. Paul battled extensively with the Judaizers who were attempting to reintroduce the tenets of the Mosaic Law back into the Church. Galatians and Hebrews are books which speak extensively against adding the law back into faith. Yet, Hebrew Roots groups either dismiss Paul’s writings, or they twist his teachings.
If one wanted to promote Five-Point Calvinism, then one over-emphasizes predestination while simultaneously downplaying free will. Thus, overemphasizing predestination as a foregone conclusion quells the spirit of evangelism for many. Worse still, the unnecessary Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate has divided the church for centuries. All of the aforementioned views, either recognizable or stealth, focus only on the parts and not the sum of Scripture.
Satan has been particularly effective in twisting Christian eschatology over the past three millennia, so much so, that the Jews did not even recognize their Messiah when He was standing in their midst (Matt. 16:1-4). First and foremost, a good general (or leader) does not lay out His battles plans clearly so that the enemy can anticipate them. This is why Christ’s first coming was both explained, yet hidden within the passages of the Old Testament. We know in hindsight and with help by the Holy Spirit that Christ would:
- Be born of a virgin (Gen. 3:15; Isaiah 7:13-14)
- When He would come (Daniel 9:24-27)
- Be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
- Confound the wise (Psalm 78:2-4, Isaiah 6:9-10)
- Would be rejected by His people (Isaiah 53:3)
- Be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13)
- Become the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sins of the world (Isaiah 53:5-12)
- Be crucified (at least 500 years before crucifixion was invented) (Psalm 22)
- Be crucified with criminals (Isaiah 53:12)
- His bones would not be broken (Exodus 12:46; Psalm 34:20)
- His hands and feet would be pierced (Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10)
- Would rise again (Job 19:25-27; Psalm 16:10, 49:15)
But even with all this laid out in the Old Testament, neither Satan nor the Jewish and Roman authorities of Christ’s day could figure out what exactly had to transpire in order for Him to fulfill His role as the Messiah.
However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1 Cor. 2:6-8
So knowing the overall picture, how do the aforementioned cults, pseudo-Christian and stealth movement’s maneuver through Scripture to draw away converts unto themselves? In part, they do so by ignoring the whole by favoring particular parts. This is akin to snake-handling churches exclusively focusing on passages like Mark 16:17-18 and Acts 28:2-5, or churches that teach baptismal regeneration who primarily focus on Acts 2:38 and Romans 6:3 regardless of context and excluding what the rest of the Bible has to say about salvation. They also teach half-truths or add in extra-biblical doctrines, creeds, and dogmas that detract from the truth through the lens of men’s opinions.
Some might posit why I included teachings like Calvinism or Amillennialism as stealth teachings and regard them in a negative light? Calvinism, like Roman Catholicism, has many devout believers under their umbrellas. It’s not the believers I am attacking, but the system by which they promulgate. It is unnecessary and unbiblical.
As the Apostle Paul succinctly stated, a little leaven leavens the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:6). Leaven, in context, is not the physical leaven which causes bread to rise, but false teachings that Jesus alluded to as the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt. 16:5-12). In regards to Christianity (post-death, burial, and resurrection), the aforementioned religions, sects, movements, and beliefs that either add to or take away from the simplicity of the Gospel, become in effect, no Gospel at all (Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Cor. 15:1-5).
So what did they teach? The Pharisees taught blind, external obedience to the Law of Moses, plus what they added in (i.e.…traditions of men) as fences around the Law. The Sadducees denied the existence of angels, the spirit, and resurrection. Relatively speaking, both of these views could be seen as extremes on a spectrum of what constitutes a biblical faith.
On one end of the spectrum, you had a view that promoted militant obedience to the Law, missing the intent of the Law for the letter of it.
On the other end, you had almost a complete dismissal of the supernatural nature of our faith.
Is the Law of no effect to the Christian? Yes and no. Were it not for the Law, we would not know we need a Savior. At the same time, if one IS a born-again Christian, then the law is of no effect, neither saving nor perfecting what Christ has already completed through the perfect gift of eternal life through His sacrifice at Calvary. Thus keeping the law (post-salvation) is much like paying on a house you have already paid off. So any religion or belief system that states you must do X, Y, Z in order to be saved, BEYOND placing your faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for Salvation, is NO Gospel at all. Don’t take my word for it, what does the Bible say?
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:9-10
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
Like the Sadducees of old, any religion that denies the supernatural nature of our faith, our Scripture, and our God, is a dead religion. It might be a moral one, and it might be beautiful in its observances and rituals, but it’s as dead as the dinosaurs. If one denies the resurrection, then one could never be a Christian as Paul astutely observes (1 Cor. 15:12-14). We see this denial of a supernatural faith particularly evident in regards to eschatology. One might view an eschatological view as irrelevant to one’s salvific state (to which I agree), but the wrong eschatological view can be very damaging to one’s sanctification and one’s discernment.
For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Acts 20:27-30
…Knowing this first that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20-21
…Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10
So why do I seemingly always harp on bad eschatology? Well, a false eschatology does one of three things to a believer: It promotes apathy (or lethargy), undue fear (fight or flight response), or false triumphalism (which ultimately leads to disillusionment). How can a Christian mature in the faith if one’s view of how things end is clearly wrong and/or misguided? As we are now at the end of this age, it is harder and harder for believers to hold on to the truth, when that truth is continually painted as subjective or unknowable.
Why does it matter what my “eschatological” position is, or whether I am a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 Point Calvinist? Who cares if the Church replaces Israel? So what that certain well-known evangelist promotes Lordship Salvation? People today will say “why make major issues out of minor ones?” Shouldn’t we as Augustine once stated, practice in essentials, unity, in doubtful matters, liberty?
You could hold to Augustine’s philosophy if you never wanted to mature in the faith, or as a body of mature believers effectively working toward the same ends…which of course is the Great Commission. Churches divide over interpretations, and these interpretations are almost always unnecessary deviations from what the Bible actually teaches.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18-20
My argument isn’t just about salvation, but sanctification. How do we grow IN Christ? What is the end state for the believer? Are we just to be content with milk and never move onto meat? Granted there are no perfect Biblical hermeneutics, theologies or theologians on this side of the veil (1 Cor. 13:12). That is not an excuse but a reality. But our imperfection and shortsightedness are not licensed to add or subtract from the totality of God’s word.
Furthermore, how (like the parable of the sower and the seed) do we expect those who received salvation to become fruit-bearing believers beyond salvation if they can’t grow deep roots? You grow them with solid, well-rounded, BIBLICAL teachings that do not hold back the whole counsel of God but teaches it in due measure as determined not by men, but by the Holy Spirit. Having a proper understanding of soteriology is as important for the believer as is a proper understanding of ecclesiology or eschatology. A little leaven in one doctrine soon comes to corrupt them all. All these doctrines (when properly understood) effectively balance and build upon each other to make a well-rounded, well-grounded, mature believer in Christ for the sole purpose of becoming who God intended us to become…
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ. Ephesians 4:11-15