HUNTING" A DUTY
by J.J. Andrew
published by Robert Roberts
IFC August 1886
"All heresy-hunting is of diabolos", says the flesh. "Try the spirits whether they are of God", writes the Spirit; and the reason given is "because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 Jno. iv. 1). The "false prophets" were teachers of heresy, but professed to teach that which was true. There was a difficulty in identifying them, and therefore all teachers of divine things were to be tried to ascertain whose teaching was genuine and whose adulterated. The object of the test was that the heresy-teachers might be repudiated.
The spirit in Peter writing of Israel says, "But there were false prophets also among the people even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them" (II Peter ii. 1). How were such false prophets to be treated? Moses says, they "shall be put to death"Deut.xiii.5).
Even a "brother","son","daughter", or "friend", who attempted to introduce idolatry was not to be spared (v. 6 to 11). The object was that Israel might be purged of evil.
Communities were to be dealt with on the same principle as individuals. If it were reported that any one city had commenced to "serve other gods"(v. 12, 13) "then", said Moses, "shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you, thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly and all that is therein" (v 14, 15).
The comparison drawn in Peter's epistle between false teachers in fleshly Israel and spiritual Israel is evidence that this Mosaic enactment contains a lesson for us. The use of the sword or anything destructive is out of the question; a practical protest by refusing to fellowship is the full extent of permitted action. The command to "enquire" is not at variance with New Testament injunction; it is in harmony with it. When, therefore, it is reported that any brother or ecclesia is following false doctrine, it is not only permitted, but it is obligatory on other brethren and ecclesias, to "enquire and make search, and ask diligently", to see whether it be true and the thing certain. If it is, the responsibility of their position leaves no option but that of repudiating complicity with the evil.
It is on this principle that ecclesial action has been taken on the Inspiration question.
It was reported that false teaching existed in Spiritual Israel concerning the authorship of divine writings, and on "enquiring, making search, and asking diligently", many have found "the thing certain". Some, it will be said, have inquired without finding its existence; but it is necessary to remember that there are many different ways of inquiring, and that none are so blind as those who do not wish to see. The evidence of its existence is indisputable, and there are no excuses to justify its being ignored.
The repudiation of responsibility for the false teaching of those at a distance shows a defective appreciation of the unity which should exist between all the members of the one body. "The members should have the same care one for another, and whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it" (1 Cor. xii. 25, 26).
Heresy searching among national Israel was not of diabolos, but of God;
therefore heresy searching among Spiritual Israel, can have no other origin. And what is its result? It tends to preserve the purity of revealed truth. If a heresy test were of diabolos, it would be difficult to justify the repudiation of heresy; and thus the One Body would gradually become so defiled that pure doctrine would wholly disappear.
July 1886 p.317.
The above article was re-printed
and fully endorsed in
'The Christadelphian', July 1945.
Link to 'Words from Sounder Days'
for more details.