Life often takes sudden turns and unexpected twists along the journey.  One of the harsh relities of this fallen world is that best friends are not always best friends for life.  It may never happen in your lifetime, but in the event that you find yourself in that unfortunate position—how will your friendship change when your friend embraces a heresy?  Heresy changes everything—not just your Facebook relationship.

Is Your Friend a True Heretic?

In our day where the term heresy is used with such casual attitudes and people such as Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, and John Calvin are all classified as heretics, it would be wise to investigate whether or not your friend is a true heretic.  A heretic is someone who teaches a false gospel.  This person may never have been a professing Christian and simply engages people with a false gospel in order to do violence against God’s church.  On another note, a heretic could be a former professing Christian who apostatized from the faith and is now teaching, preaching, or proselytizing for an unorthodox religion.

In short, don’t call someone a heretic unless that person is a genuine heretic—to the letter of the definition.  Words matter and so does the character and reputation of a person under the theological microscope.  It’s amazing how a few words of classification can leave lasting damage on the reputation of an individual, so approach such conversations with care.

Heresy Divides and So Does Jesus

If your friend is a true heretic, it’s essential to remember that your friend is the one who embraced a false gospel—not you.  Therefore, the actions by your friend will definitely have an impact on your friendship.  The nature of your friendship will be forever changed.  The intimacy of your friendship will be severed.  This is a necessary division that is inevitably caused by the heretical position of your friend, and it may be up to you to pull back and sever the longtime intimacy that you both enjoyed in the past.

Secondly, Jesus said that he came to divide (see Luke 12:49-53).  Although Jesus is the Prince of peace (Is. 9:6; John 14:27; Phil. 4:7), and his ministry is that of making propitiation and peace between God and sinners (1 John 2:1-2), he also has a ministry of division.  Through Jesus, light is separated from darkness.  Believers are called out of darkness into the marvelous light of Christ (1 Pet. 2:9).  Therefore, Jesus divides even the closest of relationships including parents and children, and so you can expect that friend will be divided from friend as a result of Jesus Christ.

What Does the Bible Say?

Paul makes it abundantly clear that heretics are to be treated differently than intimate friends.  To the church at Rome, Paul writes, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive” (Rom. 16:17-18).  In simple terms, the point of division is the true gospel of Christ and Christians are to avoid heretics who spend their time confusing people with their false gospel.  This means your heretical friend should not enjoy the same place at your supper table as was the common pattern in the past.  You and your family must be guarded from the deceitful schemes of heresy.

To the church at Corinth, the man who was having sexual relations with his step-mother was to be put out of the church and turned over to Satan.  Furthermore, Paul instructs the church to not associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolator, reviler, drunkard, or swindler.  Paul goes on to instruct the church saying, “not even to eat with such a one” (1 Cor. 5:11).  The point is clear, it is necessary at times to end friendships with people who are guilty of vile sin and who have swerved from the faith.

Why is this division necessary?  Consider the following reasons:

  1. To divide over the gospel is to make a statement about the necessity of the true gospel.
  2. To divide over the gospel is to make it clear who’s in and who’s out.
  3. To divide over the gospel is necessary to protect the hearts and minds of children and others who may be weak in the faith—or as Paul puts it—naive.
  4. To divide over the gospel is a form of defending the faith once delivered to the saints.
  5. Friendship with a heretic in hopes of winning that person to the truth is a dangerous game—one we’re not given the freedom of playing.
  6. Division is always condemned in the church until it’s in relation to false teachers and heretics.  God demands that we divide ourselves from those who contradict the true gospel.

Consider the danger of heretics and their lying tongues that often speak just enough truth to entice the hearts and minds of those who simply lack the maturity necessary to detecti the trap.  Be cautious and guard yourself from following them off the cliff of heresy into the eternal wrath of God.  William Gurnall once penned the following sobering warning, “None sink so far into hell as those that come nearest heaven, because they fall from the greatest height.” [1]


  1. William Gurnall, A Puritan Golden Treasury, compiled by I.D.E. Thomas, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2000), 20.

 

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