In the days of the apostles, gnosticism, old-fashioned, flourished. At root it was a view that you needed some higher knowledge (from God, of course) to reach the high dizzy heights of the Gnostic Christian..
Poor ordinary Christians, like you and I, languish in the low plains of spiritual ignorance; if only we knew what they knew!
The root of Old fashioned Gnosticism
The root of old fashioned Gnosticism was, of course, devilish pride. I know something you don't, I'm up here, buddy, and you are down there; poor languishing saint! It really is as simple as that. A Gnostic is someone who is filled with pride, pride in what they know (or think they know). But of course, one has to hide pride, for we all know pride is a devilish thing. So a Gnostic is normally an expert in false humlity - and that's how they take in many Christians.
Of course Gnosticism hasn't gone away. It turns up in every church at some point or other. Folk either come in from the outside (the most common source) or arise within the church, who know far far more than that local church knows about:
- how to worship in song
- how to bring up children
- how to organise church life
- how to evangelise
- how to read the signs of the times
- what translation is best
- etc., etc.
Of course they don't actually have a clue about these matters in reality, they just think they do.
The results of Gnostic influence
Gnostics always divide a church. They normally first attack the leaders, and if there is a pastor, they attack him first. Of course, very cleverly, they realise that attacking the shepherd openly is not a wise strategy, so the opposition is subtle. Eventually, when they discover that the leaders won't buy into their gnostic myths they leave, normally in a trail of division and stumbling, including the stumbling of those who are naive and young, of course to the Gnostic's great spiritual judgement (Matthew 18:6).
How to avoid their influence
How can a church avoid the pernicious impact of the Gnostics?
All believers note this, one of the surest marks of a Gnostic is a critical spirit towards their local church. This arises out of their proud hearts. Should they leave the church they will carry the same spirit into the next fellowship too, until eventually they find themselves worshipping in a "church" of one, or one family. Another mark of a Gnostic is that they think (falsely) that God has revealed things to them in a special way. It may not be through visions, it may be through their own study of the Bible which they are convinced somehow advances them far beyond the dozens of hours which their poor leaders/pastors undertake each week.
If you are a young believer, be on your guard against anyone who speaks against the teaching you have received from your church leaders - you can be sure that such false teachers are pursuing a Gnostic agenda:
"I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them, for such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.." (Romans 16:17-18)
If you are an older believer, don't allow the Gnostics to judge what you do and don't allow them to tie your life down with their foolish man-made regulations and laws:
"Therefore, do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration o a Sabbath day.. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions...."
The high-faluten teaching, says Paul is actually, nothing more than "idle notions", that's quite a balloon popper, right?
All believers realise that, far from being closer to Jesus, a Gnostic actually has no relationship with Jesus - he is frankly self-deluded! Paul goes on...
"... He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow." (Colossians 2:16-19)
All believers realise, that if the Gnostics leave you, they do so because they were never actually with you in the first place. This is of course not at all surprising because if they are no longer connected to Jesus, they can't be connected to his body, the church.
"They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." (1 John 2:19)
This last truth is a great comfort. We would be saddened if dear and real brothers and sisters left us, but we are assured by no less than the Apostle John, the Apostle of love, if Gnostics leave, they show by their leaving that actually they were never with you.
A present danger
In the Internet age where it is all too easy to confuse knowledge with wisdom, outcrops of Gnosticism should not surprise us. Let's be on our guard and press on, knowing that His Kingdom cannot fail, in spite of all Satan's attacks.