October 3 I Saturday
“[Such teachings] forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.” —1 Timothy 4:3
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he warned the young pastor of the false teachings that had infiltrated the culture of Ephesus. People were taking parts of Greek philosophy and incorporating it into their own understanding of Scripture. Among such philosophy and mysticism was Gnosticism.
Basically, the idea of Gnosticism is that one acquires a secret knowledge, gnosis. That secret knowledge teaches that the material world is evil and the hidden spiritual realm is good. The teaching tells us that we must liberate ourselves from material attachments, embrace an aesthetic lifestyle and avoid attachment to the material world as we pursue divine things.
Gnostic teachings do not result in greater dependence upon Christ, but greater dependence upon self as we pursued this aesthetic lifestyle. The focus of gnostic redemption is not on Jesus but ultimately upon the individual’s self-understanding and levels of spiritual attainment. In its simplest form, gnostic teaching says that what Jesus did for us on the cross is not enough. If the material realm is evil, then Christ Himself could not have been God among us, because if He came in a physical body, He is material, and material is evil.
Gnosticism sets the basic premise of the large religions in our world: if we obey these rites of passages, embrace an aesthetic lifestyle and recognize that the spiritual realm is to be appreciated, we can please god. Fundamentally, at the core of all these teachings and world religions is a focus on ourselves. A belief that “by my religious good behaviour I will earn favour with God,” is the exact opposite of the teaching of Jesus Christ. We cannot earn our way to God. It is not about our special knowledge or liberating ourselves from the material world. Christ has set us free from that approach.
What may have begun as an aesthetic pious idea with the appearance of godliness and righteousness will lead us far astray. At the fundamental, we ought to remember, Jesus plus any amount of self-effort or religiosity attached to earn favour with God means we have completely missed the mark. Have we, or someone we know, fallen into the trap of Gnosticism by trying to obtain redemption on their own? Paul says, “If you point these things out to the brothers and
sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed” (1 Timothy 4:6). May we never forget that Christ plus anything equals nothing.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, help me to remember that no amount of self-effort or religiosity can earn Your favour. Thank You for freely offering Your gift of salvation to me. Praise You!