There's a problem.
However, many deny that it is a problem, while many more are simply unaware. Much of the evangelical Church has, to one degree or another, believed a lie, a very dangerous lie. It is all-to-common for churches and Christians to want to focus far more on the deeds of the Christian life, than on its creeds. These churches and Christians understand it is far more exciting and popular to focus on a new experience with God instead of a deeper understanding of God. There is a growing disparity between our love for God and our love for His Word. While such an imbalance is likely an over-compensation for years of an opposite problem, lifeless fundamentalism, the fact is that fundamentalism is not a bad thing. It simply means we take God's Word literally and seriously, for to love God is to love His Word; there is no separating the two.
Nevertheless, most are not interested in this kind of commitment to the Truth, the kind that has the potential to disrupt unity. All that seems to matter, too often, is how we feel about our doctrine, that our doctrine lines up with our personal experiences, or if our doctrine works to produce practical results in our lives and ministries. And that is if doctrine matters at all.
But, doctrine does matter.
Doctrine matters, because God says it does. God says doctrine matters in the Bible. The Bible is serious about sound doctrine. If fact, in addition to many Old Testament references, 25 of the 27 New Testament books address false teaching. This is because, there always have been and always will be false teachers and false teaching that contradict and threaten the Truth of Scripture. The Bible is very protective, even defensive, of sound doctrine, as a matter of both salvation and source.
Doctrine, A Matter of Salvation.
No other message ("good news") is able to save. And there are many small but devastating changes that can be made to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ that would strip it of its Biblical accuracy and its subsequent power to save. For example: The nature of the Godhead and Christ's place as the "second person" of the trinity. Jesus Christ being both fully man and fully God is necessary in order to be our full propitiation, adequately atoning for sin. Doctrines such as original sin, Jesus' sinless life, His bodily resurrection, the Lordship of Jesus, and salvation by grace through faith are all intricately connected with many other important doctrines in the Bible. To remove one essential Christian belief inevitably calls many other truths into question as well. To lose any one of these elements reduces the Gospel to a different gospel. Our enemy knows this and this is precisely why spiritual warfare has always been a battle for the truth.
Doctrine, A Matter of Source.
A pattern of teaching will reveal its source, whether ultimately from God or from Satan. Some are innocent yet undiscerning, some are unknowingly dangerous, while others are charlatans who pervert and twist Christian truth to get rich and powerful by manipulation. The teaching pattern (and certainly, lifestyle) of professing Christian teachers and authors ought to conform with Scripture and even among other teachers of the Bible in all essential respects. When a pattern of teaching deviates, the teaching, and if necessary, the teacher is to be confronted and corrected, for it is not proceeding from the Spirit of Truth. We know, for example, that anyone who denies the of Jesus, His future return, or that He is the Christ is preaching a false gospel and is an anti-christ. Distinguishing an irresponsible brother from a heretic may be difficult because Satan and his servants disguise themselves as angels of light. Even if a false teacher is not wholly evil, any of his teachings that contradicts essential Christian truth, is ultimately a product of Satan's lies and deceptions. Guarding the truth is a matter of identifying the source of every message.
Consider the strong emphasis Scripture puts on the importance of sound doctrine... *scroll to the end when you get the point!
Genesis 3:1 – Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, HAS GOD SAID, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”
Proverbs 4:2 – For I give you SOUND TEACHING; Do not abandon my instruction.
Jeremiah 23:16 – Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak VISIONS OF THEIR OWN MINDS, NOT FROM THE MOUTH OF THE LORD.
Matthew 5:19 - Therefore whoever relaxes ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE COMMANDMENTS and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 7:15 – “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are RAVENOUS WOLVES.
Matthew 16:23 - But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, SATAN! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting YOUR MIND on the things of God, but on THE THINGS OF MAN."
Luke 1:4 – so that you may know the EXACT TRUTH about the things you have been taught.
Acts 2:42 – They were continually devoting themselves to THE APOSTLES' TEACHING and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Acts 17:11 - Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, EXAMINING THE SCRIPTURES DAILY TO SEE IF THESE THINGS WERE SO.
Acts 20:29 – I know that after my departure FIERCE WOLVES will come in among you, not sparing the flock…
Romans 16:17 – I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles CONTRARY TO THE DOCTRINE THAT YOU HAVE BEEN TAUGHT; avoid them.
2 Corinthians 11:3-4 –of devotionFor if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept A DIFFERENT GOSPELfrom the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
Galatians 1:6-9 – I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for A DIFFERENT GOSPEL; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want toDISTORT THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. Even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you A GOSPEL CONTRARY to what which we have preached to you [according to the Word], he is to be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you A GOSPEL CONTRARY to the one you received, let him be accursed.
Galatians 2:11-12 - But when Cephas came to Antioch, I OPPOSED HIM TO HIS FACE, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.
Philippians 1:9-11 - and this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in REAL KNOWLEDGE AND ALL DISCERNMENT, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ...
1 Timothy 1:3-7,10 – As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach ANY DIFFERENT DOCTRINE, nor to devote themselves to MYTHS and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is CONTRARY TO SOUND TEACHING.
1 Timothy 1:18-20 – This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the PROPHECIES PREVIOUSLY MADE about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
1 Timothy 3:1-7 - As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may CHARGE CERTAIN PERSONS NOT TO TEACH ANY DIFFERENT DOCTRINE, nor to devote themselves to MYTHS and endlessGENEALOGIES, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.
1 Timothy 4:1-16 – Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by DEVOTING THEMSELVES TO DECEITFUL SPIRITS and TEACHINGS OF DEMONS, through the insincerity of LIARS WHOSE CONSCIENCES ARE SEARED, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the TEACHING. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
1 Timothy 6:3 – 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,
1 Timothy 6:20-21 – O Timothy, guard THE DEPOSIT entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from THE FAITH.
2 Timothy 1:13 – Follow the pattern of THE SOUND WORDS that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:15 - Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, RIGHTLY HANDLING the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:24-26 - And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, ABLE TO TEACH, patiently enduring evil, CORRECTING his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
2 Timothy 4:3-4,6,14 – 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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the SOUND DOCTRINE which you have been following...ALEXANDER THE COPPERSMITH did me much hard; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.
Titus 1:6-9 – An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He 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 2:1,7,10 – But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn THE DOCTRINE OF GOD our Savior in every respect.
Hebrews 5:14 – But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment training by constant practice to DISTINGUISH GOOD FROM EVIL.
Hebrews 13:8-9 – Do not be carried away by VARIED AND STRANGE TEACHINGS”
2 Peter 2:1-2 – But FALSE PROPHETS also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring inDESTRUCTIVE HERESIES, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.
1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many FALSE PROPHETS have gone out into the world.
2 John 1:9-11 – Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in THE TEACHING, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring THIS TEACHING, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.
3 John 1:9-10 – I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, DOES NOT ACKNOWLEDGE OUR AUTHORITY. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.
Jude 3-4 – Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to CONTEND FOR THE FAITH that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Revelation 2:2 – “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have TESTED THOSE WHO CALL THEMSELVES APOSTLES AND ARE NOT, AND FOUND THEM TO BE FALSE.
Revelation 2:15-16 – So also you have some who hold THE TEACHING OF THE NICOLAITANS. Therefore, repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.
Revelation 22:18-19 – I warn everyone who hears the words of THE PROPHECY OF THIS BOOK: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of THIS PROPHECY, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
What Does This Mean?
Scripture's emphasis on sound doctrine means that it is imperative that everything we believe about everything the Bible teaches agrees with the Bible, and that every behavior of ours that is addressed in the Bible must agree with everything the Bible teaches about that behavior. Yes, we are saved by grace and justified by faith in Christ's works, but the Christian life is one of radical obedience in response to all Christ has done for us. We are now free to live according to His Word free from the fear of condemnation.
But there are things that prevent many Christians from a deep commitment and radical adherence to biblical truth, namely good intentions and the concept of cheap grace.
This is the friendlier of the two detractors, because good intentions are, well...good. It at least means we are sincere and that's gotta' count for something. Right? Despite what many want to believe, it is possible to worship the right God wrongly - in a way He does not accept. It is also possible to study the right subject and yet be completely mislead to the point that you think you know God, but you truly do not. In both cases, neither intention nor sincerity excuse us. It is a dangerous thing to depend solely on our"heart being right before the Lord." Even our intentions and our conscience must be informed by the objective words of God in the Bible. While some are sadly mistaken about their status as Christians, there are many true followers of Christ who have become content know only what they need to know in order to have the justification experience. They brush their lack of holiness and serious study of Scripture under the rug of their positive feelings toward God without considering seriously the practical implications of the lordship of Jesus. They do not understand that while there is no condemnation in Christ and while His yoke is in deed easy, we are now free as his bond-slaves to be holy by living according to His commands. We are not to trust in our good intentions or allow them to create an artificial contentment with growth in God and His Word. Let's look intently into His Word in order to best please God.
This is the sneaky and deceitful detractor from the conviction that Doctrine Matters. Despite how many live, grace is anything but cheap. Sadly, many will claim Christ with their words and through certain public behaviors, but never have a real encounter with God's grace in repentance that leads to works. The wide-spread acceptance of cheap grace and easy-believe-ism among the church has made it incredibly difficult for separate the professing and the truly possessing. True saving faith will produce fruit (good works) and this ought to be a warning for many are far too comfortable to not take knowing and obeying God seriously. While our salvation (by grace through faith) is a gift, we should respond in obedience by offering our entire life. Scripture makes it clear to us that we are not our own, but are bond-slaves of God, bought with the high price of Christ's own blood. Therefore, we desire to do everything (not just what we need to get by or the things we understand) precisely (not just generally or the way we prefer) how He commands in His Word. We are not free to sin, to bask lazily in our freedom in Christ, or to adhere loosely to His commands as though they are divine suggestions. Since, Christ has paid our debt for sin in full, the only response is obedience. This costly grace is worth giving our lives to worship and know God accurately according to how He has revealed Himself in Scripture.
Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew 5:19
The Bible has the authority to inform our beliefs and instruct our behaviors.