Many years ago, when learning about Gnosticism while at Bible college, I wondered what the big deal was with it in our day – how is it relevant?
Much of the New Testament after Acts deals with keeping the church out of two ditches – legalism (the Law) and Gnosticism (special knowledge)
Legalism was trying to add the Law on top of grace. Acts 15 reveals one of the pivotal challenges that the early church went through to deal with this problem. We are saved by what Christ did (justified by faith), not by our works.
Gnosticism on the other side of the road was the adding of “special knowledge” on top of grace. It is defined as “an early heresy based on knowledge instead of faith” (NKJV dictionary)
And “knowledge” is not necessarily truth!
When I was at Bible college, it was the late 70s and 80s. Cults and secret societies were very fringe, so it wasn’t really an issue? Yet so much of the New Testament deals with warning the church about both legalism and Gnosticism.
Then came the World Wide Web and all the social media platforms. Now the relevance is clear – no wonder Paul spent so much time dealing with the gnostics.
Colossians 2:8 reads:
“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the traditions of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”
I am not saying that all knowledge is bad or that we should live like a hermit in a cave, but we, as followers of Christ, must first be grounded in Him and His Word. When we abide in Him (John 15:1-11) any lie from either ditch should set off alarms in our spirit, even if our mind does not fully understand why.
It’s true that there are many wonderful ministries and bloggers using a variety of platforms, reaching millions with the Good News. But we need to be aware that social media is like an old spaghetti western – it’s full of the good, the bad, and the ugly!
I have seen people who had served Jesus and been in fellowship with His church spend more and more time in “cyber-land,” looking to all the voices “out there.” They end up going down rabbit holes until everything seems upside-down and light is dark and dark is light.
I decided to write this article because we seem to be in a time when there are increasing numbers of people who are intent on trying to give everyone the goods on what’s ‘really going on’ according to their source. Often the fruit of this seems to be contempt towards anyone who challenges them.
There is such an addictive draw to finding out the secret truth behind the news of the day. It’s too easy to get side-tracked and forget who our ‘Source’ is and get caught up in the temptation of ‘special knowledge, the secret insider information that most people don’t know.
The result, aside from promoting fear, can be pride in knowing the ‘real story’, as well as anger towards not only the government, corporations, the church, and whatever person or group is the focus, but also with anyone who doesn’t agree with them. The division and strife that is the fruit of this are evident.
I Corinthians 8:11 (NKJV) says, “Now concerning things offered to idols: we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.”
The knowledge that produces being puffed up (proud, haughty) is not going to build up the body of Christ. Love edifies!
What is the fruit of our time online? If it helps us to edify the body in love, that’s good fruit! If we find we are feeling superior to others because of what we ‘know’, it is a warning signal of the dangerous ditch of Gnosticism.