Monday, January 7, 2019

An Old Heresy Revisited (Marcionism)

Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran” (Acts 7:2).

We are living in a time in which there is an explosion of technical studies and new information about the Old Testament. Sadly, however, we are also living in a time of amazing ignorance of the Old Testament on the part of church-goers. Some church observers believe the church is afflicted with “Neo-Marcionism.”

Marcion was one of the first heretics of the Christian church. He and his followers rejected the Old Testament and excised portions of the New Testament which seemed, to them, to be overly influenced by the Old Testament. For instance, they rejected all the Gospels except Luke, yet they cut out large portions of Luke as well. Marcion tried to eliminate all references to the Old Testament God, who he said was an evil God of wrath, while Jesus was a God of love.

While nobody today goes to this extreme, we very often find that people think the Old Testament focuses on God’s justice and wrath, while the New Testament focuses on God’s love, thus superseding the Old Testament. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If there is any place where the justice, severity, and wrath of God are revealed, it is in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. It was Jesus who pronounced repeated woes on the scribes and Pharisees, who threatened and predicted wrath upon Jerusalem, and who revealed the reality of the eternal torments of hell, something not directly mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament. Just in terms of statistical occurrences, Jesus talked more about hell than about heaven.

And if there is any place in the Scriptures where we meet a God who is consistently loving, longsuffering, patient, and merciful, it is in the Old Testament. In spite of their sin, God delivered the people from Egypt. When they repeatedly rebelled against Him, God chastised them, but never cast them off. Israel’s deliverance from sin and bondage was in each instance accomplished by God. He pursued them in His love, in spite of their rebellion.

There are undoubtedly portions of Scripture that each of us would prefer had never been included in the Bible. Often these are the “hard sayings” of Jesus that highlight our moral failures. Reconsider your attitude about one of these troubling passages today, asking God to change you, rather than change His Word.