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3 Characteristics of False Doctrine

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Here is the great evangelical disaster – the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth. There is only one word for this – accommodation: the evangelical church has accommodated to the world spirit of the age.… Truth carries with it confrontation. Truth demands confrontation: loving confrontation, but confrontation nevertheless. If our reflex action is always accommodation regardless of the centrality of the truth involved, there is something wrong. – Francis Schaeffer

Francis Schaeffer knew that having sound doctrine was not only crucial, but also difficult. We live in a time and place where the conveniences of accommodating falsehood far outweigh the inconveniences of holding to what the Bible teaches – in the short run, at least. The reality is that our doctrine has eternal implications. When Paul warns Timothy of false teachers, he explicitly ties sound doctrine to the gospel (1 Tim 1:10-11). This is because the gospel requires faith and repentance. If we distort Jesus, then the object of our faith is not the Savior, and if we distort his commands, then God-honoring repentance is impossible.

We should be wary of false doctrine for these three reasons:

1. False Doctrine is Subtle

There are two types of teachers in the world: true teachers who teach true things, and false teachers who teach false things. Both claim to tell the truth. Jesus said that despite their sheep-clothing cover-up, we’d know them by their fruit (Matt 7:15). Listen to these striking words from Jeremiah:

An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes? (Jer 5:30-31)

When our ears are tickled and our hearts are preyed on, do we reject it or do we “love to have it so”?

2. False Doctrine is Powerful

Good doctrine saves souls. Once again, we look to Paul’s admonition to Timothy:

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 Tim 4:16)

Bad doctrine is powerful too, but in an opposite way. That’s why condemning false teaching is not a matter of winning arguments or feeding egos, but clearly (and lovingly) warning people. Do we treat false doctrine like lethal poison?

Here’s why we ultimately should…

3. False Doctrine is Dangerous

Any doctrine that is contrary to the gospel is damning. If we buy into it we will spend eternity in hell. That’s a watery paraphrase of what Jesus told the Pharisees for promulgating a false doctrine of works:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. (Matt 23:15)

Does the prudence with which we guard ourselves against false doctrine reflect the eternally serious implications of straying into it?

The three warnings above are expanded on from Secret Church 7: Angels, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare.

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