Yesterday, I wrote about the dangers of false doctrine. But, today I want you to take heart when you hear error.
Some of you will be deeply disturbed by any suggestion that you should be encouraged when you hear error. Some of you might say, “Justin, you have spent a great deal of your career preaching against error.” That’s true—I have; error is so widespread in today’s religious world that I’ve had no choice but to spend a large part of my ministry combatting damnable heresies. Others of you will say, “Justin, you promised to help us overcome error today, not be encouraged by it.” That’s partly true, but I must say the first step in overcoming error is to be encouraged by it. Let me explain.
How on earth could we ever be encouraged by heresy? Error, you see, has always been a part of the Lord’s church, and every time—yes, every single time—truth has triumphed over error.
The Docetics taught that Jesus had not really come in the flesh, but that he only appeared to be in the flesh. John even appears to discuss this doctrine: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2). Doceticism is largely a forgotten doctrine taught only in courses on historical theology.
Cerinthus taught that Jesus was born a mere man and that the Christ came upon him at his baptism, guided him during his ministry, and left him at the crucifixion. According to tradition, the Apostle John was in a bathhouse with some of his disciples when Cerinthus entered. John told his disciples, “Let’s leave before the roof falls in.”
While Jesus mentions the Nicolaitans in his addresses to the seven churches of Asia Minor, their teaching has been so utterly rejected that we in the modern era cannot be absolutely certain of what they taught. It seems that they taught one could eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality (Revelation 2:14), but we cannot be certain and we have no idea what else they may have taught.
Take heart. Jesus has “overcome the world” (John 16:33). Yes, false doctrine is a serious matter—it will, after all, cause men to be lost. Yet, truth will always overcome falsehood.