Act 8:9-13 But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. (10) They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” (11) And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. (12) But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (13) Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.
If your Christian experience is like mine, if you were raised in church, then you know that we were generally taught to assume that everyone who claimed to be a Christian was to be accepted as such. In fact, we were taught that to question a person’s claim to Christ was a very judgmental, harsh, and arrogant sin on our part. I suppose this thing could be called a kind of “gaslighting” or “crazy-making” because in being taught all of this, we were taught not to trust our own senses/observations, but to suppress them and accept the party line. And all of this causes great damage. It opens a person up to all kinds of devilish attacks. It even leads to a questioning of God’s Word.
Simon believed. The Bible says so. But of Simon, Peter would say:
Act 8:20-23 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! (21) You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. (22) Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. (23) For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.”
According to what we were taught, Peter was speaking very cruelly and “un-christian” to poor Simon.
But in fact, Simon the “believer” was a fake. And the Bible shows us many, many more fakes – like Diotrephes, the Jezebel who was tolerated in Thyatira (Rev 2:20), almost the entire first generation of Israelites in the wilderness, Judas, Alexander the coppersmith…and on and on. Think of Jesus’ parable of the soils. Or Jude’s blasting words against the creeps who creep in among us. Or of the fact that the New Testament epistles address on almost every page the counterfeits, the false teachers, the grace abusers, the works righteousness group (see Galatians on that one). How in the world then can it be justified that a local church or Bible college or seminary teaches, overtly or covertly, that a pastor or saint in a church is to approach ministry with the underlying assumption that whoever claims to be a Christian must be accepted as a Christian? Don’t judge, you know.
THIS is a huge part of the reason why domestic abusers LOVE the local church. Why pedophiles and all other kinds of the devil’s agents see the local church as a garden full of delicious fruits to be plucked. It is why YOU who have been targeted by an abuser/narcissist/sociopath were hammered and rejected for daring to separate from such a wicked one. See it? Your abuser in so many cases was and is regarded as a child of God, as a real Christian, as a saint (holy one), in spite of habitual evil. In fact, the habitual evil was suppressed and denied and minimized by those abuse victims go to for help. It is why you were told to shut up about it and why some (many) of you were driven out of the church. You dared to say that “Jezebel” (include male versions under that woman’s name) was not born again!!
Theology DOES matter. Bible doctrine IS vital. And not just confessing it, but believing it and practicing it. Otherwise we are just this:
Mar 7:6-9 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; (7) in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ (8) You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” (9) And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!