False Unity: The Devil's Trojan Horse
Written Monday, January 3, 2022
Pastor E. Keith Hassell
True unity among brethren brings a blessing from the LORD!
Psalm 133:1 (NKJV) “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is tor brethren to dwell together in unity!”
May the LORD establish such unity among true believers! May we embrace and pursue such unity for the sake of Christ and the brotherhood!
In the Aeneid by Virgil, the story is told of the Greek siege of the city of Troy. After ten unsuccessful years to penetrate the city, Odysseus of the Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse and hid a select group of soldiers inside, including Odysseus himself. Thereupon, the Greeks feigned to discontinue the siege and sail away. The Trojans then pulled the wooden horse into the city as a trophy of victory. That night the Greeks soldiers inside the horse exited and opened the city gates to the Greek soldiers who had sailed back under the cover of night. Once inside, they destroyed the city and ended the war.
Unfortunately, there is an artificial unity that threatens the church. It is a false unity that brings God’s disfavor and the enemy’s destruction. What is false unity? It is the devil’s counterfeit offer to the church. It is unity that undermines the truth and weakens the church. How do we define Christian “unity”? Do we pursue unity at any cost? Is unity always virtuous? Were not the builders of Babel unified? Tragically, their unity was a conspiracy against God, and He dismantled their unity with confusion and scattered them!
Is Christian unity based upon the love of the brethren? To some degree yes. John the apostle declares plainly that the evidence that we have passed from death to life is that we love the brethren.
1 John 3:14–15 (NKJV) “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
Are all who call themselves by the name of Christ Christian brethren? Who are brethren except those who are true disciples of Jesus Christ? Not all who call themselves “disciples” are. Not all who claim to believe do (John 6:64). Not all who address Christ as “Lord” are in the kingdom of God. (Matthew 7:21-23). Not all who call themselves “Christians” are truly Christians. Not all who claim identity in the Christian faith affirm from the heart the historic and biblical faith that was once and for all time passed down by Christ and the apostles (Jude 3). In our generation, the term “Christian” has come to mean nothing and to embrace everything. In the name of “unity”, people have laid aside historical orthodox distinctives that define the Christian faith to include anyone and anything in the name of “love”. True disciples of Jesus, however, are set apart from others by the Truth they embrace and will not deny. They are more concerned about whether a church or group holds to the historical beliefs that define true believers than about their style, methods, glamour, charisma, hype, and popularity. They are soberly aware that those who do not love the truth will be deceived by the devil’s lying signs, wonders, and words. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). They will not make that trade. They are more willing to be among a remnant of those who stand firm in the truth than among a multitude who embrace a lie.
Adrian Rogers said, “It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error. It is better to stand alone with the truth, than to be wrong with a multitude.”
Jesus did not water down the gospel to open the gates of the kingdom to those who would not repent of their sins, believe in Him and the gospel of the kingdom, and follow Him. Jesus’ purpose was not unity but division to save those who would repent, believe, and follow. John the Baptist described the ministry of Jesus in a sobering way:
Luke 3:16–17 (NKJV) “John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”
John the Baptist himself rejected false converts who wanted to enter the kingdom on their own terms:
Luke 3:7–9 (NKJV) “Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Therefore, Christ’s command presents the necessity to know and distinguish between true and false disciples and true and false converts and true and false Christians. (Mt 7:21-23) Who are within the “household of faith” and who are not? (Ga 6:10) It also demands that we love all true disciples and Christians regardless of our differences in non-salvific preferences, styles, methods, doctrines, and cultural and denominational distinctive.
False converts will eventually manifest their hypocrisy. The apostle John declared that the children of the devil—who are among us but not of us--are those who do not practice righteousness and who do not love the brethren. They are tares among the wheat. They are false brethren, by nature the children of the devil.
1 John 3:10–11 (NKJV) “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another,”
Cain and Abel were brothers, but Cain was of the wicked one. Cain was a false “brother”. Abel’s deeds were righteous, and Cain’s deeds were evil. Therefore, Cain’s anger and jealousy led him to murder his brother.
1 John 3:11–12 (NKJV) “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, 12 not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.”
Genuine Christian “brothers” are those who practice righteousness and love those who practice righteousness. Righteousness is determined by the God of righteousness and His word of righteousness. Not all who say “Lord, Lord” belong to the Lord. There are many who “profess” but few who “possess”.
Matthew 7:21 (NKJV) “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”
Truth is the winnowing fan that exposes and separates the wheat from the chaff. When truth is declared, the false will be separated from the true.
1 John 2:18–19 (NKJV) “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”
Many self-proclaimed disciples gathered to Jesus and affirmed their allegiance. However, Jesus knew that not all who gathered around Him believed. Their true nature was revealed when He waved the winnowing fan of truth.
John 6:53–66 (NKJV) “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.’ 59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. 60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’ 61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, ‘Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, ‘Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.’ 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”
Jesus was committed to speaking the truth rather than seeking unity. Those who loved Christ loved the truth that He declared. Those who loved Christ and embraced the truth remained in true unity with Him.
Only those who come to Jesus in complete faith will surrender to and obey Him. Only those who surrender and obey are counted as His disciples.
Luke 14:27 (NKJV) “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
Some confuse “relationship” and “fellowship”. The degree of our fellowship in Christ is determined by the degree to which we walk together in the light of God’s truth.
1 John 1:7 (NKJV) “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
We are to love all men as Christ loves all men and seeks to reach all men. However, love is not the measure of fellowship. Truth is. Some insist that unconditional love demands unconditional fellowship. The Parable of the Prodigal Son reveals otherwise. The father’s relationship with his son and his love for his son remained intact. However, the son’s sinful and selfish choices severed their fellowship. Only the son’s repentance and the father’s forgiveness restored the fellowship. The same is true among the saints. It is possible to have a common relationship in Christ with other believers while being unable to maintain fellowship with them if sin and false doctrine are present, embraced, and promoted.
Is withdrawing fellowship from a brother or even a group of believers ever appropriate in the eyes of God? Yes, it is an appropriate and responsible thing to withdraw fellowship from a brother or group of believers due to blatant and unrepentant sin, severe doctrinal error, preaching of a different gospel, proclaiming another Jesus, the promotion of spiritual activities that are not grounded in Scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and compromise with the world. It is not only appropriate but necessary. Separation in fellowship in such cases is not unloving. On the contrary, it is a loyal response toward God and a loving response toward the sinner. It is a loving response because its intent is to cause the sinner, the straying, and the deceived to consider his ways so that he or she might repent and be rescued from the error of their ways. It is also a loving response to protect the flock from the destructive influence of the sinner’s evil leaven.
1 Corinthians 5:6–8 (NKJV) “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
1 Corinthians 5:11–13 (NKJV) “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. 12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”
Loving parents take seriously their responsibility to watch over and protect their children. They take seriously the responsibility to separate their children from bad influences and to intervene against predators. Children may complain that their parents are unloving, judgmental, and controlling. Yet, a parent endures these immature accusations knowing that the preservation of their children is more important than their child’s current mistaken perception. They know that their children do not see or understand the nature and danger lurking around them. In time they will. In the same way, pastors are charged with the same responsibility toward the flock of God. The apostle Paul felt the same regarding the church and the responsibility of pastors and elders who shepherd local churches.
Acts 20:28–31 (NKJV) “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. 31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”
Faithful pastors take seriously this responsibility to watch and guard the flock of God.
Sadly, a poisonous weed has been planted in the modern church. This weed originated in the culture. It is the devil’s distortion of “love”. This distorted idea of love has been used in our fallen culture to justify and embrace any and every perversion. Anything is acceptable if it fits under the umbrella of “love”. They even imagine that because “love” is employed, God Himself approves of the sin! The culture has made love the supreme standard of determining what is right and wrong. Unfortunately, many modern Christians have been discipled more by the culture rather than by the word of God. Thus, they have made love the supreme standard for unity among believers. Only the God of Scripture can set that standard. Love is of God for God is love. How is it that fallen human beings are qualified to define “love” apart from God who is love? How can they know the attributes of God’s love apart from the revelation of His truth revealed in Scripture? Those who do not know God fabricate and peddle a “love” that is inconsistent with the attributes of God. God’s love is revealed in Scripture and personified in Christ. God’s love cannot be separated from His truth.
The same is true regarding the love of the truth and the love of the brethren. They are both important. Loving the truth and loving the brethren who love the truth are inseparable. Yet, at times, sin and error bring brethren into conflict. In such cases, does our love for the brethren demand that we lay aside our love of the truth to maintain unity? The questions then arise, “Unity in what?” Is unity the great cause for which Christ came and died? No, He came to bear witness of the truth and so gather a people who will hear His voice of truth.
John 18:37 (NKJV) “Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’”
Christian unity is based upon a common commitment to the faith passed down to us by Christ and His apostles. It is not our commitment to this common faith that threatens Christian unity. It is a diversion from this common faith that threatens Christian unity. Christian disunity today is the direct result of men of God failing to preach the true gospel that produces true converts. It is the failure of the church to make disciples of these converts, teaching them the tenets of their faith. The introduction of a false or watered-down gospel has set the church up for the problem of disunity. Enough with those who blame those who hold to the faith once delivered to the saints as being divisive! Is it not those who stray from the faith who are the source of Christian disunity and division? Is it not they who divide us and demand that we embrace their error and love them as brethren? The cure for disunity is not to retreat from doctrine. The cure is to preach and teach it faithfully until we obtain the unity of the faith.
The early church was committed to maintaining the purity of the faith. When error arose, they were quick to change course and address it. Consider the words of Jude:
Jude 3–4 (NKJV) “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Is it not a failure to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered for the saints” that threatens the unity of Christ’s church? Is it not tolerance of sin and error that is the real enemy of Christian unity? Why do those who justify sin, error, and selfish agendas cry out for unity that they themselves undermine? Why should the faithful be bullied into submission by the condemnation of ungodly men and imposters? Why should the faithful give any credence to their accusations of being unloving and divisive? Why do they demand that the faithful seek unity on their terms? Why is it when their error is challenged by the faithful and an offer is made to be unified with the truth, that these imposters reject the offer and then organize their own “unity” movements that oppose the other? They herald the virtue of “love” while they rail against those who refuse to join them.
It is faithful preaching and discipleship in the truth of the gospel that will cultivate a genuine love for the truth. It is a common love for the truth that will unify those who love the truth. This is the definition of true Christian community, a community where the love of the brethren is cultivated around a common love for the truth. It is this love for Christ and for the truth that will bring about the oneness that Christ desires among His disciples. This is the secret of the unity experienced in the first church.
Acts 2:41–47 (NKJV) “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
It is the truth of God’s word that sanctifies us as Christ’s disciples.
John 17:17 (NKJV) “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”
Only after Jesus prayed this, did He pray that those who are sanctified by the truth may be one.
John 17:18–21 (NKJV) “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. 20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
Jesus did not pray that they might be unified. He prayed that those who believe in Him through their word (apostles’ doctrine, the tenets of the faith) might be “one”. Unity apart from truth does not bring oneness. However, the oneness for which Jesus prayed guarantees unity among the brethren.
A.W. Tozer said it this way: “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.” --A.W. Tozer [quoted by R. Kent Ryles in Worship by the Book, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 151; Cited from A.W. Tozer's Pursuit of God, 97]
Apart from truth, Christian community is non-existent. Christian community begins with a common faith in Christ through a faithful declaration of the truth of the gospel. Christian community is perfected in an environment where speaking the truth in love is cultivated and maintained.
Ephesians 4:14–15 (NKJV) “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—”
To compromise our love of the truth to feign a love of the brethren is to betray both. Apart from a common love for and commitment to the truth, the hand of Christian brotherhood cannot be extended.
2 John 7–11 (NKJV) “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. 9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”
John, the apostle of love, wrote this warning to the church. It was believed that the apostle John wrote this warning particularly regarding the false teacher Cerinthus who went about the churches teaching a heretical gnostic doctrine of Jesus Christ. In his Ecclesiastical History, early church historian Eusebius records an incident passed down by Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John:
“And Irenaeus has set forth in Book 1 of his work Against Heresies some of the more unspeakable errors of the man, and in Book 3 he has committed a story to writing which deserves to be remembered, telling how, according to a tradition of Polycarp, John the Apostle once entered a bathhouse to wash, and when he learned that Cerinthus was within leapt out of the place and fled out of the door, for he could not endure to be even under the same roof with him, and he urged those with him to do the same, saying: ‘Let us flee, lest the bathhouse cave in, for Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.’” [Eusebius of Caesarea. (1953). Ecclesiastical History, Books 1–5 (R. J. Deferrari, Ed. & Trans.; Vol. 19, p. 186). The Catholic University of America Press.]
Obviously, John did pursue or encourage love and unity with Cerinthus!
The pursuit of unity divorced from truth is a conspiracy against the truth. Such efforts will suffer the same fate as Babel. Such builders will be scattered and confused.
The pursuit of love divorced from truth is also a conspiracy against the truth and a distortion of the love of God. It is a violation of true worship which is in spirit and truth. (John 4:23-24) A professed love for Christ divorced from the Truth of Christ is a betrayal of the love of Christ. The “kiss” of love for Christ without a love for the truth of Christ is both hypocrisy and a betrayal of Christ. Those who identify themselves with the Truth only to betray the Truth will suffer the same fate as Judas. Those who exchange the friendship of Christ for the friendship of this world make themselves enemies of God. (James 4:4) Those who profess the name of Christ apart from allegiance to the truth He proclaimed profane the very name they profess.
Truth is perfectly expressed in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and in His teachings as found in the New Testament. Truth has not changed. The terminology of truth must never be redefined to accommodate error. Redefining Christian terminology is a practice of cults and false religions. Truth twisted and “redefined” is a lie. A lie mixed with truth is still a lie. Those who proclaim “another Jesus”, or come in a “different spirit”, or who proclaim a “different gospel” are liars and deceivers.
2 Corinthians 11:3–4 (NKJV) “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!”
Those who love the truth love others who love the truth. Those who love the truth and love those who love the truth may be identified as Christian brethren. Those who hate the truth hate those who love the truth. Those who do not love the truth or those who love the truth are “false brethren”.
Galatians 2:4–5 (NKJV) “And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), 5 to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.”
True brotherhood in Christ is characterized by a common love for Christ and the truth of Christ and a common love among true brethren. Such is the hallmark of true Christian community.
John 8:31–32 (NKJV) “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’”
John 13:34–35 (NKJV) “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 17:20–21 (NKJV) “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
Unity and love apart from truth is a Trojan Horse. Such deceptive efforts opens the church to many fallacious and cancerous teachings and experiences that threaten the spiritual life and health of believers and ultimately the very existence of the church.
Preservation from Satan’s deception can only be overcome by an absolute love for the truth.
2 Thessalonians 2:9–12 (NKJV) “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
In conclusion, don’t entertain a Trojan Horse. Christian unity is not a goal achieved by man but the result of believers becoming one through sanctification in the truth. May the Lord grant us true unity through oneness in Christ.
During the “Downgrade Controversy” in the Baptist Union in 1887, from which he chose to separate himself, Charles H. Spurgeon made the following points:
“Believers in Christ's atonement are now in declared union with those who make light of it; believers in Holy Scripture are in confederacy with those who deny plenary inspiration; those who hold evangelical doctrine are in open alliance with those who call the fall a fable, who deny the personality of the Holy Ghost, who call justification by faith immoral, and hold that there is another probation after death...It is our solemn conviction that there should be no pretence or fellowship. Fellowship with known and vital error is participation in sin.” (C. H. Spurgeon)
“For Christians to be linked in association with ministers who do not preach the gospel of Christ is to incur guilt.”
“A Union which can continue irrespective of whether its member churches belong to a common faith is not fulfilling any scriptural function.”
“The preservation of a denominational association when it is powerless to discipline heretics cannot be justified on the grounds of the preservation of 'Christian unity'.”
“It is error which breaks the unity of churches, and to remain in a denominational alignment which condones error is to support schism.”
“Separation from such as connive at fundamental error, or withhold the 'Bread of Life' from perishing souls, is not schism, but only what truth, and conscience, and God require of all who would be found faithful.”
“What have you and I to do with maintaining our influence and position at the expense of truth? It is never right to do a little wrong to obtain the greatest good...Your duty is to do the right: consequences are with God.”
- STATE OF THE CHURCH ADDRESS SUNDAY, JANUARY 30TH AT 6PM
- D NOW youth discipleship weekend January 28th and 29th. Please see Paula and Brendan Harper for details on this event.