Category: Doctrine


False%20Doctrine-001  Doctrine is “a set of ideas or beliefs that are taught or believed to be true.” Biblical doctrine refers to teachings that align with the revealed Word of God, the Bible. False doctrine is any idea that adds to, takes away from, contradicts, or nullifies the doctrine given in God’s Word. For example, any teaching about Jesus that denies His virgin birth is a false doctrine, because it contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture (Matthew 1:18).

As early as the first century AD, false doctrine was already infiltrating the church, and many of the letters in the New Testament were written to address those errors (Galatians 1:6–9; Colossians 2:20–23; Titus 1:10–11). Paul exhorted his protégé Timothy to guard against those who were peddling heresies and confusing the flock: “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing” (1 Timothy 6:3–4).

As followers of Christ, we have no excuse for remaining ignorant of theology because we have the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) available to us—the Bible is complete. As we “study to show ourselves approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15), we are less likely to be taken in by smooth talkers and false prophets. When we know God’s Word, “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14).

It is important to point out the difference between false doctrine and denominational disagreements. Different congregational groups see secondary issues in Scripture differently. These differences are not always due to false doctrine on anyone’s part. Church policies, governmental decisions, style of worship, etc., are all open for discussion, since they are not directly addressed in Scripture. Even those issues that are addressed in Scripture are often debated by equally sincere disciples of Christ. Differences in interpretation or practice do not necessarily qualify as false doctrine, nor should they divide the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10).

False doctrine is that which opposes some fundamental truth or that which is necessary for salvation. The following are some examples of false doctrine:

• The erasing of hell. The Bible describes hell as a real place of eternal torment, the destination for every unregenerate soul (Revelation 20:15; 2 Thessalonians 1:8). A denial of hell directly contradicts Jesus’ own words (Matthew 10:28; 25:46) and is therefore a false doctrine.

• The idea that there are “many paths to God.” This philosophy has become popular recently under the guise of tolerance. This false doctrine claims that, since God is love, He will accept any religious effort as long as the practitioner is sincere. Such relativism flies in the face of the entire Bible and effectively eliminates any need for the Son of God to take on flesh and be crucified for us (Jeremiah 12:17; John 3:15–18). It also contradicts Jesus’ direct words that He is the only way to God (John 14:6).

• Any teaching that redefines the person of Jesus Christ. Doctrine that denies the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, His sinless nature, His actual death, or His physical resurrection is false doctrine. A group’s errant Christology readily identifies it as a sect or cult that may claim to be Christian but is actually teaching false doctrine. Even many mainline denominations have begun the rapid slide into apostasy by declaring that they no longer hold to a literal interpretation of Scripture or the deity of Christ. First John 4:1–3 makes it clear that a denial of biblical Christology is “anti-Christ.” Jesus described false teachers within the church as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15).

• Teaching that adds human religious works to Christ’s finished work on the cross as necessary ingredients for salvation. This teaching may pay lip service to salvation by faith alone but insists that a religious ritual (such as water baptism) is salvific. Some groups even legislate hairstyles, clothing options, and food consumption. Romans 11:6 warns against attempts to mix grace with works. Ephesians 2:8–9 says we are saved by the grace of God, through faith, and nothing we do can add to or take away from it. Galatians 1:6–9 pronounces a curse on anyone who changes the good news of salvation by grace.

• The teaching that presents grace as a license to sin. Sometimes called “easy-believism,” this false doctrine implies that all one must do for right standing with God is to believe the facts about Jesus, pray a prayer at some point, and then resume control of one’s life with the assurance of heaven at the end. Paul dealt with this thinking in Romans 6. In Matthew 7:21–23, Jesus warned those who adopt this doctrine that they did not know Him at all. Second Corinthians 5:17 states that those who are “in Christ” become “new creatures.” That transformation, in response to a believer’s faith in Christ, changes the outward behaviors. To know and love Christ is to obey Him (Luke 6:46).

Satan has been confusing and perverting the Word of God since the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1–4; Matthew 4:6). False teachers, the servants of Satan, try to appear as “servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:15), but they will be known by their fruits (Matthew 7:16). A charlatan promoting false doctrine will show signs of pride, greed, and rebellion (see Jude 1:11) and will often promote or engage in sexual immorality (2 Peter 2:14; Revelation 2:20).

We are wise to recognize how vulnerable we are to heresy and make it our habit to do as the Bereans did in Acts 17:11: “they . . . examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” When we make it our goal to follow the lead of the first church, we will go far in avoiding the pitfalls of false doctrine. Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Such devotion will protect us and ensure that we are on the path Jesus set for us.

Advertisements

What is doctrine?

The word translated “doctrine” means “instruction, especially as it applies to lifestyle application.” In other words, doctrine is teaching imparted by an authoritative source. In the Bible, the word always refers to spiritually related fields of study. The Bible says of itself that it is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). We are to be careful about what we believe and present as truth. First Timothy 4:16 says, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

Biblical doctrine helps us understand the will of God for our lives. Biblical doctrine teaches us the nature and the character of God (Psalm 90:2; 97:2; John 4:24), the path of salvation through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9; Romans 10:9–10), instruction for the church (1 Corinthians 14:26; Titus 2:1–10), and God’s standard of holiness for our lives (1 Peter 1:14–17; 1 Corinthians 6:18–20). When we accept the Bible as God’s Word to us (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20–21), we have a solid foundation for our doctrine. There can be disagreement within the body of Christ over secondary points of doctrine, such as eschatology, church organization, or the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But truly biblical doctrine is that which incorporates the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) and draws conclusions based on that which seems most closely aligned with the character of our unchanging God (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 13:8).

However, the Bible is not always the foundation upon which people or churches build their doctrinal statements. Our sinful natures do not easily submit to God’s decrees, so we often pick and choose the parts of the Bible we are comfortable with and discard the rest. Or we replace what God says with a man-made doctrine or tradition. This is nothing new. Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:7, ESV; cf. Isaiah 29:13). False doctrine was rampant in New Testament times, and the Scriptures tell us it will continue (Matthew 7:15; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1). Second Timothy 4:3 says, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

The Bible gives stern warning to those who would teach false or incomplete doctrine simply because it is more compatible with man’s ideas. First Timothy 6:3–4 says, “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing.” The apostle Paul wrote harsh words about perverting the gospel with false doctrine: “Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!”(Galatians 1:7–9).

Doctrine is the worldview by which we govern our lives. If our doctrine is based soundly upon Scripture, we can know we are walking in the path God designed for us. However, if we do not study the Word of God for ourselves (2 Timothy 2:15), we are led more easily into error. Although there are a variety of minor issues upon which Christians disagree, true doctrine is clearer than many imply. Second Peter 1:20 says that “no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” There is a right interpretation of everything God says, and it is our job to discern that meaning, not create an interpretation to suit our tastes. God wants us to know His heart and has given us His Word upon which we can build godly lives (see Matthew 7:24). The more we study true doctrine, the more we understand God and ourselves.

Paul charges Titus, “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Such a mandate makes it obvious that sound doctrine is important. But why is it important? Does it really make a difference what we believe?

Sound doctrine is important because our faith is based on a specific message. The overall teaching of the church contains many elements, but the primary message is explicitly defined: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures [and] . . . he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This is the unambiguous good news, and it is “of first importance.” Change that message, and the basis of faith shifts from Christ to something else. Our eternal destiny depends upon hearing “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Ephesians 1:3; see also 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

Sound doctrine is important because the gospel is a sacred trust, and we dare not tamper with God’s communication to the world. Our duty is to deliver the message, not to change it. Jude conveys an urgency in guarding the trust: “I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 1:3; see also Philippians 1:27). To “contend” carries the idea of strenuously fighting for something, to give it everything you’ve got. The Bible includes a warning neither to add to nor subtract from God’s Word (Revelation 22:18-19). Rather than alter the apostles’ doctrine, we receive what has been passed down to us and keep it “as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13).

Sound doctrine is important because what we believe affects what we do. Behavior is an extension of theology, and there is a direct correlation between what we think and how we act. For example, two people stand on top of a bridge; one believes he can fly, and the other believes he cannot fly. Their next actions will be quite dissimilar. In the same way, a man who believes that there is no such thing as right and wrong will naturally behave differently from a man who believes in well-defined moral standards. In one of the Bible’s lists of sins, things like rebellion, murder, lying, and slave trading are mentioned. The list concludes with “whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:9-10). In other words, true teaching promotes righteousness; sin flourishes where “the sound doctrine” is opposed.

Sound doctrine is important because we must ascertain truth in a world of falsehood. “Many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). There are tares among the wheat and wolves among the flock (Matthew 13:25; Acts 20:29). The best way to distinguish truth from falsehood is to know what the truth is.

Sound doctrine is important because the end of sound doctrine is life. “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). Conversely, the end of unsound doctrine is destruction. “Certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 1:4). Changing God’s message of grace is a “godless” thing to do, and the condemnation for such a deed is severe. Preaching another gospel (“which is really no gospel at all”) carries an anathema: “let him be eternally condemned!” (see Galatians 1:6-9).

Sound doctrine is important because it encourages believers. A love of God’s Word brings “great peace” (Psalm 119:165), and those “who proclaim peace . . . who proclaim salvation” are truly “beautiful” (Isaiah 52:7). A pastor “must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9).

The word of wisdom is “Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set” (Proverbs 22:28, NKJV). If we can apply this to sound doctrine, the lesson is that we must preserve it intact. May we never stray from “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).