STAND ON THE ROCK
Before Saul became Paul, he was a false teacher who persecuted those who belonged to Jesus Christ. Saul persecuted followers of Jesus Christ because they preached the Gospel, which threatened his own self-righteousness, manmade religion, pride, power, and position. Saul’s pursuit to persecute Christians came to an end when he was given a new name by the sacrificial grace of Jesus Christ. By the person and power of the Holy Spirit, Paul’s spiritual eyes were opened to Truth, which allowed for Paul to confidently preach the Gospel: warning and admonishing against false doctrines, teachers, and religions. Paul wrote letters to Timothy, Titus, Rome, Corinth, and Asia: drawing clear distinctions between true and false teachers; even naming specific persons to steer clear from and the motivations behind their false teachings:
“A time will come when people will not listen to accurate teachings. Instead, they will follow their own desires and surround themselves with teachers who tell them what they want to hear. People will refuse to listen to the truth and turn to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teachings that accord with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing.” 1 Timothy 6:3-10
“You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among who are Phygelus and Hermogenes.” 2 Timothy 1:15
“But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.” 2 Timothy 2:16-18
“For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.” Titus 1:10-11
“And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do other scriptures.” 2 Peter 3:15-16
“These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15
“Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hinderances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.” Romans 16:17-18
Satan and his servants are masters at distorting God’s word: leading people to believe true is false and false is true. Many false teachers subtly distort (little by little) God’s Word and character. A little leaven will eventually leaven the whole lump of dough (see Galatians 5:7-9). When a false teacher sows a false seed, he or she reaps bad fruit. In other words, false teachers produce false converts. Jesus preached a sermon that urged His listeners to discern between good and bad fruit:
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Matthew 7:15-23
God’s Word paints a clear picture for His followers to admonish false teachings, teachers, and converts (see Titus 1:10-11; 2 Timothy 4:1-5), flee from the temptation of adhering to false doctrines (see 1 Timothy 6:7-11; Galatians 5:7-10), and expose falsehoods within the church (see 1 Corinthians 5:2; 9-13; John 7:24; Galatians 2:4). This must be pursued with humility, grace, and love: prayerfully hoping for the Gospel to earnestly penetrate hearts and minds. The Holy Spirit transforms His people into the image of Jesus by implanting within them a fervor to put on Jesus Christ in Spirit and Truth. This will make for difficult conversations within the church and division among the world. When born-again believers unapologetically cling to the Gospel, an expectation of persecution, division, and suffering from the world should be embraced with unwavering joy (see Romans 5:1-5). False religions, teachers, and converts hate Jesus Christ and His finished work. How much more will those who unapologetically love and follow Jesus be hated by the world (see John 15:18-19)?
Before labeling religions, teachers, and converts as true or false, there must be a foundational lens that can be objectively gazed through to see what is clearly true and false. In other words, man’s opinion on Scripture isn’t the objective standard, God’s Word is: scripture interpreting scripture (with the Holy Spirit leading the way) is the foundational, objective lens that illuminates Truth in the midst of falsehoods. God’s word is very clear as to Who saves, how one is saved, why one needs to be saved, where those who deny Jesus are headed, if there is life after death, the character of God, who Jesus is, Who the Holy Spirit is, what sin is, etc. That which is unequivocal in Scripture is Primary doctrine. That which is NOT so clear is Secondary.
Primary vs Secondary
What is the difference between Primary doctrine and Secondary stances? All true brothers and sisters in Christ wholeheartedly agree with Primary doctrine, which is bedrock to the Christian faith. False doctrines derive from false teachers who distort Primary doctrine: compromising foundational Truth for sordid gain (i.e. money, fame, approval, power, comfort, self-righteousness, etc). False teachers who veer from Primary doctrine use a plethora of arguments for their veering, such as: “God is love, everyone is going to Heaven” or “Hell isn’t real.” or “Who am I to judge?” or “Jesus wasn’t fully God.” or “You can make yourself right before God through spiritual rituals.” or “All roads lead to Heaven.” or “Jesus is coming back in 6 days.” or “You’re saved when you finally speak in tongues.” or “If you just have enough faith then God will heal you.” or “Jesus is one of many ways to the Father.” or “Man marrying man is God’s design because God just wants people to find love.” or “God’s word isn’t fully reliable, but buy my book that discloses God’s mysteries.” or “God met me in a dream and told me that he will heal you if you give all your money to my ministry.” And the nonsense continues. Below is Primary doctrine that all true brothers and sisters in Christ rejoice in:
Salvation by grace alone: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (see Ephesians 2:3; Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 1 John 1:16-17; Romans 3:23-24, 6:14)
Salvation is a gift from God. Jesus Christ sacrificially purchased salvation by his sinless life, willing death on a tree, and resurrection from the grave. False teachers, doctrines, and religions teach that you have to work for your “salvation”. If you have to work for grace, then grace is no longer a gift from God: nullifying the very purpose of Christ Jesus. God’s grace is more powerful than any sin. All are welcome to repent, turn from their unrighteousness, and be reborn by God’s grace.
Justified by faith alone: “And to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” Romans 4:5 (see Romans 3:28, 5:1; Galatians 2:16, 3:6, 24; Ephesians 1:13; Genesis 15:16; Philippians 3:9)
Some false teachers will argue against “faith alone” by highlighting James 2:24. James was arguing that sincere faith in Christ will actively produce good works that give God the glory. The bedrock of the Christian faith is trusting in Jesus’ finished work for salvation. It’s from Jesus’ finished work that born-again believers are motivated, compelled, and transformed to do good works. In other words, born-again believers are working from (not for) Jesus’ love. Isaiah made it very clear that our good works apart from God are like fifthly rags (see Isaiah 64:6).
Jesus Christ alone: “I am the truth, the life, and the way.” John 14:6 (see Colossians 2: 6-23; 1 Timothy 2:5; John 16: 13-15; Hebrews 1:1-4)
Only one name (Jesus Christ) can reconcile man to God (see Acts 4:12). Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father, the only way to rebirth, the only way to truth, the only way to fruitful wisdom, the only way to the new heavens and earth. False teachers will deny Jesus’ deity or add to His finished work. Jesus plus anything ruins everything.
Scripture alone: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16 (see John 17:7; Hebrews 4:12; Luke 24:44, 27; 2 Peter 1: 3-4, 20)
God’s Word is filled with sobering clarity, endless hope, and awe-struck mystery. Because God cannot lie, every word in God’s Word is true (see Psalm 119:160; Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 6:17-18). False teachers take God’s Word out of context to fit their manmade context. They cannot correctly interpret Scripture because they cannot hear God’s voice (see John 8:43-45). Instead, they have created their own counterfeit spirits to promote their manmade agendas. There isn’t hundreds of holy spirits at war with one another: one fighting for Baptists, one fighting for Pentecostals, one fighting for Jehovah Witness, one fighting for Mormons, one fighting for Roman Catholics, etc. Instead there is only one Holy Spirit of God who seeks the lost and helps born-again believers interpret, believe, heed and preach Scripture (see 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 4:4-6).
God’s glory alone: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and unfathomable are His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” 1 Corinthians 11:33-36 (see Ephesians 1:4-6,11-12; Isaiah 2:12-17; Colossians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 10:31)
God does not save man because man is awesome. God saves man because God is awesome. Paul rebuked the crowds who tried worshipping him after the Holy Spirit used him to strengthen a man’s lame feet. Paul argued that God must be glorified, not him (see Acts 14:8-17). False teachers promote a man-centered gospel that focuses on man’s gifts: placing themselves in the glory seat. The totality of the Bible points to God and His glory alone.
Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ: “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name this man stands here before you in good health.” Acts 4:9-10 (see Mark 8:31, 16:5-7; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Matthew 27:65-66, 28; Luke 24:6-7; Romans 8:34; Philippians 2:5-8)
Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, lived sinlessly, willingly died on a tree, physically laid lifeless in a tomb, and then resurrected from death - conquering satan, sin, death, and demons for all those who are in Christ Jesus. False teachers minimize or deny any part of Jesus’ virgin birth, perfect life, willing death, burial, or resurrection. If Jesus ceased to be fully God at any point then he was never God to begin with. If Jesus didn’t absorb God’s wrath, then Christians do not have His imputed righteousness. If Jesus didn’t resurrect from the grave, then Christians are hopeless and should be pitied the most (see 1 Corinthians 15:16-19).
Monotheism and the Holy Trinity: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20 (see Isaiah 9:6; Colossians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Colossians 1:15-17; 1 Peter 1:1-2)
God is three distinct individuals - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - in one true God. God refers to Himself as “us” and “we” throughout His Word. False teachers and religions deny or distort the triune nature of God to fit their manmade religion (they even revise the Bible to fit their interpretations). The Father loves His son Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ submitted himself to the Father’s will, and the Holy Spirit convicts and comforts this world while making much of Jesus’ sacrificial grace and the Father’s love. God the Father, God the son, and God the Holy Spirit are three distinct individuals who are all fully God, in unison, as One.
Any teaching contrary to Primary doctrine is false and will lead many astray. By the grace of God, one who is born-again can rejoice in the promise and person of Jesus Christ alone. Many Secondary stances have divided brothers and sisters in Christ. Christians and denominations make a major mistake when they misplace Secondary stances as Primary doctrine. For instance, a church or person may have a deep conviction that the ESV Bible is the most reliable and accurate among all versions. This deep conviction becomes heresy when making a law that states, “Whoever does not read the ESV is NOT Christian”. This would be misplacing Secondary stances into Primary doctrine, which produces false doctrine and man-made religion. On the flip side, one may say ALL versions of the Bible are correct - along with the book of Mormon, Koran, New World Translation, etc. This is heresy as well because some versions of the “Bible” (and other books that claim to be another revelation of God’s Word) compromise Primary doctrine. In Christ, brothers and sisters can and will disagree about Secondary stances, but disagreements on Secondary stances should never take precedence over the foundation born-again believers share in Primary doctrine. Once again, these disagreements should never completely divide true brothers and sisters in Christ - if Primary doctrine isn’t compromised. But division is inevitable and necessary when Primary doctrine is compromised.
Spirit and Truth
Some false teachers will say, “who cares about believing, knowing, and loving right doctrine. We just need to love people.” The problem with that is: there is no “love” apart from Jesus. We can’t love the way Jesus loves unless we: (1) accept that Jesus loved us first in accordance with scripture (see 1 John 4:19); (2) love God in return by worshipping Him in Spirit and Truth (see John 4:24). Moreover, if one believes wholeheartedly that Scripture is unequivocal on a specific Secondary stance, he or she should not automatically chalk up one who holds an antithetical view on a Secondary stance as a false convert or teacher, especially when that teacher or convert clings firmly to Primary doctrine. Additionally, be careful not to label people into camps so quickly, but instead reflect on how long it took you to come to your Secondary stances through prayer, study, personal experiences, and worship. Not every brother and sister in Christ is a weathered believer who has strong convictions on Secondary stances. Some Christians are just beginning to work out their salvation. Born-again believers who are discipling “younger” believers must extend grace, point to Scripture interpreting Scripture, and ask sound questions that will spark them into a deeper desire to know, love, and obey Jesus in Spirit and Truth.
Believing correctly is essential because it produces authentic worship, sober thinking, and pure convictions. Feelings alone will never produce right relationship with God. Born-again believers know God’s love for them is deep, wide, and eternal because His Word says so. If feelings alone were the catalyst for understanding God, man wouldn’t know his left from his right, let alone God’s character. For instance, if you believe God’s Word is not clear on how the love for money can deceive you: your worship, thinking, and convictions will be distorted. Your bank account will illuminate your true love(s). Of course, someone can preach correct theology and give money to the poor but meanwhile live a deceitful life. This is why Jesus encouraged us to not only discern between true and false teachers and doctrine but also acknowledge the fruit teachers and converts are producing in their own personal lives. Americans have access to thousands of theological books, sermons, podcasts, and blogs. Those in Christ must be on guard: a false gospel is no Gospel. Just because a pastor is plastered on magazines, has a huge instagram following, and is in the ears of millions of podcasters does not mean he or she is communicating and living Truth. Born-again believers must first be engrained in God’s word: discerning between what is counterfeit and true. And most importantly, Christians must value and have a deeply personal relationship with Jesus so that they can stand on The Rock in the midst of trails, temptations, failures, suffering, and persecution.
God did not give us His Word so we can study the right answers and score an “A” on His final exam. God gave us His Word so that we will be authentically transformed into the image of Jesus Christ through a personal and corporate relationship with Him. God’s Word is active and alive: piercing through the innermost parts of the Christian’s fabric. When we allow the Holy Spirit to work out our salvation, we find that the Primary doctrine of the Christian Faith is bedrock: filled with joyful hope, unwavering security, and authentic identity, for eternity, as the children of God.
by Logan Heine
January 18, 2018
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