Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Mat 25:41-46)
When we think of heresy, we think of facts. When we think of the gospel, we think of doctrinal truth which is so vital to salvation in Christ, that if it is denied it is rightly called heresy. A person, for example, cannot deny the deity of Jesus Christ and still claim to believe the gospel. Facts and details are indeed important.
But notice carefully in the scripture above that these cursed people whom Christ will command to depart from Him on that Great Day to come, end in hell for denying Christ in a hands on, practical way. They gave Him no drink, no welcome, no clothing, no comforting visit. By their actions, or in this case, their lack of actions, they denied Christ and were damned. They were, shall we say, practicing heretics. They literally denied Christ’s very Person by denying His presence and His Body, the Church.
How many practical heretics fill our churches today?
When the victim of any or all kinds of abuse calls for help, you will always find plenty of practical heretics distancing themselves from the nastiness of abuse. They will expound, as we have heard it all so many times before, how the victim needs to patiently endure for Christ. They will minimize the abuse. They will make excuses for the abuser. They will…well, they will do and say just about anything in order to avoid entering into the burden and suffering of the victim. It is fine for the victim to suffer, you see. But victims need to just shut up, suck it up, quit whining, and be thankful. If they won’t, then they just need to go away. This is practical heresy. It is heresy in practice. It is damnable heresy that will result, by our Lord’s own words of warning, in being cast out into eternal fire prepared for such from eternity past. Recite the Apostles’ Creed all they want, it will do them no good. A person can deny the gospel with their actions, or lack of actions, just as much as with the words of their mouth.
Have you ever given thought to this question: “What is the gospel?”? Most professing Christians think that the gospel is a basic set of facts about who Jesus Christ is, about what He has done for us on the cross, about His resurrection, about faith alone that saves, and so on. But if you will study this word “gospel,” in Scripture, you will find that the gospel is much more than this. For example:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Tit 2:11-15)
Clearly by “the grace of God” that has appeared, bringing salvation, Paul means the gospel. He means Christ. And an integral part of that gospel is that it trains all who are in Christ to “renounce ungodliness.” We are to be people zealous for good works. That is what James meant when he wrote so much about “faith without works” being a dead faith. Practical orthodoxy. Practical heresy.
And Jesus had a whole bunch to say (as did the Apostles) about how the gospel commands us to help the oppressed. Therefore, one of the chief good works we are to be zealous for is helping victims. Victims of wicked, oppressive power. And yet, if you have ever been such a victim and have called upon your church or other fellow Christians to help you, what did you so often find? The Good Samaritan, or the priest and Levite? Practical heresy, you see. It won’t go well with such on the Day Jesus comes for His own:
You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; (Mat 15:7-8)