By Kevin Campbell
Most Christians recognize that false doctrine is to be identified, refuted, and opposed (1 Tim. 1: 19-20; 6:20-21; 2 Tim. 2:15-18). While I believe the Bible gives several reasons for doing just that, sometimes Christians only focus on one reason, namely that false doctrine is, as indicated, false. Certainly this is a good, scriptural reason for opposing false teaching and, if for no other reason, false teachers should be opposed on those grounds.
The Bible indicates that preachers and elders (as well as any who teach the word) are to “hold fast the form of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13), to speak the things “which become sound doctrine” (Tit. 2:1), and to be able by “sound doctrine both to exhort and convince the gainsayers” (Tit. 1:9). The teacher of the word of God is not to go beyond the doctrine of Christ (2 Jn. 9-11) but is to speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11). The Scriptures, which equip us for every good work and make us complete as Christians, are to be the standard by which our teaching is judged (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
There is however, another reason for opposing false doctrine. It is somewhat related to the reasons listed above but is itself distinct. We find this reason given in 2 Timothy 2:15-19, where Paul identified Hymanaeus and Philetus as teachers of a false doctrine, namely that the resurrection has already occurred. While this was a false teaching, the real damage is noted in the last part of verse 18, where Paul says that this teaching had resulted in the overthrow of the faith of some Christians. Apparently, those who were misled and had believed this doctrine were so dismayed by the implications of it (that they would not attain to the resurrection since it had already passed) that their faith was destroyed. This, I believe, is one of the greatest dangers of false doctrine. Not only is it false and incorrect, but it results in false conclusions which can and will result in a loss of faith, a feeling of security in a sinful state, or lead to sinful action itself. Let’s notice several examples of this:
1. Impossibility of Apostasy. Also known as “once saved, always saved,” this doctrine asserts that once a person is saved, he can never become lost again. The person who accepts this will then be deceived into thinking that he doesn’t need to repent of his sins and confess them to God in order to be forgiven (Acts 8:22; 1 Jn. 1:9). He may also take the doctrine to its logical end by deciding to “live life in the fast lane” since he is going to go to heaven anyway. The Bible continually warns about the possibility of falling away from the Lord and even offers several examples of those who did (Heb. 3:12-4:1; 6:4-6; 2 Pet. 2:20-22; Gal. 5:4; Col. 1:22-23).
2. Individual Predestination. This belief, formulated by John Calvin, is that God alone decides who is saved and who is lost and that he does so unconditionally. In other words, you have no choice as to whether you will go to heaven or hell. God alone will decide. I recently talked with a woman who has been having trouble with this doctrine. The results of it were clearly seen in that she is very depressed and had come to the conclusion that God was against her and did not want her to be saved. The person who accepts this view will be led to believe that he is already saved by God and hence does not need to do anything or he will believe that God does not want him to be saved and will therefore not do anything to accept God’s grace. The truth is, God desires the salvation of every person and will save all who come to Jesus as the Savior and obey him and his word (1 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:9; Heb. 5:8-9).
3. Premillennialism. The idea that Jesus will return to earth and set up an earthly kingdom for 1,000 years has been a hot item since the Middle East crisis. This doctrine however, shifts the emphasis from the death of Jesus Christ and his purpose to save mankind from sin, to a physical, earthly kingdom and peace on earth. This is precisely why the Jews crucified the Lord the first time he came. They were expecting an earthly kingdom, but when he came proclaiming a spiritual kingdom and salvation from sin, they rejected him, charged him falsely, and had him crucified. This doctrine will divert a Christian’s energy and hopes from life eternal to a temporal, earthly hope. Paul affirms in Ephesians 3:1-11 that God’s eternal purpose was not to establish an earthly kingdom of 1,000 years duration, but was to redeem man from sin through Jesus Christ and his death, reconciling the world to himself through the cross in the one body or church (Eph. 2:16; 1:22-23).
4. Salvation by Faith Only. Those who proclaim that all you need to do to be saved from sin is to “ask Jesus into your heart as your personal Savior and he will forgive you” are deceiving many people into thinking that they are already saved. First of all, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to just “ask Jesus into your heart as your personal Savior” in order to be forgiven. When people heard the gospel message of salvation in Jesus Christ’s blood and believed it, they were told to repent of their sins and be baptized in the name of Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Mk. 16:16). Many are therefore led to believe that they are saved when they are not and will go no further in study to find out what they should do to be saved.
There are many other examples but I think those listed prove the point. False doctrine diverts people’s attention way from the Lord and his word and causes them have opes that are not realistic or else causes them to act in a way contrary to God’s will. For this reason, and others, false doctrine is to be opposed and the truth defended in the hopes at a soul might be saved. Let all who teach the word of God be sure that they teach the truth and are ready to avoid e “oppositions of science falsely so called” (1 Tim. 6:20).