It is possible that the Apostle Paul would not be very surprised to see what the Church of God is currently experiencing. In his day, Paul had to contend with elements within the Church bringing in the influence of some of their past history and experiences with them. Many Greeks who came into the Church brought elements of Gnosticism with them. “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
Similarly, many coming from a background of Judaism brought with them into the Church elements of the belief that faithful observance of the letter of the law would earn righteousness. “You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,’ as it is written” (Romans 2:23-24). It seems that Paul was called upon to constantly put out spiritual spot-fires.
Repentance and the resulting conversion doesn’t completely wipe the mind of all previously accumulated knowledge. Repentance identifies knowledge that does not fit with the truth of God. Conversion is a way of life of eradication of wrong knowledge and replacing it with God’s truth. In this process, the mind is transformed.
However, we battle to do this on two important fronts. Firstly, we still have a mind that is partially open to the prince of the power of the air. Satan can play around with the deceitful aspects of our human nature. Certainly, that should be a diminishing aspect, but nonetheless, there is room for Satan to manipulate an unwary mind.
Secondly, Satan appears as an angel of light, and it takes a great deal of effort on our part to filter out the satanic garbage that he feeds to the world.
Is this process significantly different now than in Paul’s day – or any other period of time since the Church began? The whole process of being called out of the world and coming into a relationship with God in the body of Christ means that intellectual errors can filter into the Church. Some false teachers do it deliberately. “… By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words …” (2 Peter 2:1-3). But it can happen when a member allows him or herself to “come to a deeper understanding” of scripture. The twist is that we are to grow in deeper understanding but not by adding to or taking away from God’s revealed truth.
Our minds need a clarity of the plain, simple truth revealed by God’s word. “… but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ …” (2 Peter 3:18). The filter for this process is repentance.
An individual who has experienced real and deep repentance has come to see the mind for what it is. We repent of what we are, not just what we do. We come to know that our minds cannot be trusted. The Apostle Paul certainly understood that proclivity. “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance. But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath (judgment) and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:4-5).
We are seeing within many “christian” churches movement toward progressivism – the adjustment of biblical truth to accommodate cultural “isms.” Ethics are seen as progressive, and as we move through time, we are becoming more ethically enlightened. This has always been a factor that God’s Church has had to fight against. If we don’t stand against it then we may well contribute to intellectual errors creeping into the Church.
The example of Job’s repentance is written for us in considering our own repentance. Note the position Job finally came to in regard to his personal relationship with God. ”I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.” This is the point when Job really got it. “Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6).
This mind does not trust in itself and will constantly question its thought processes by matching thoughts against scripture and the will of God.
Let us put on the whole armor of God so that we can stand against the wiles of the devil and protect God’s Church from intellectual progressivism. “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:21).