Safeguards Against False Teaching
From Grace & Truth November 1995
- All Scripture Inspired by God
- The Deity and Manhood of Christ
- The Death and Resurrection of Christ
- The Future Coming of the Lord
- Error But Not Deliberate Falsehood
Every error in some way depreciates the glory of the Lord Jesus
Paul wrote to Timothy, "You have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life ..." (2 Tim.3: 10 NKJV). Notice, he spoke first of doctrine, then of manner of life. Our life can be right only if the teaching we accept is right. Like Timothy, we must discern the true teaching of the Word, for it will have effect on every aspect of our lives.
The Lord Jesus spoke of the devil as "a liar and the father of it" (Jn.8:44). This enemy of our souls seeks every opportunity to corrupt the truth, and many are deceived by his plausible falsehoods. But God has provided safeguards by which we may be preserved from his snares. Even the youngest true believer in the Lord Jesus has the Spirit of God (1 John 2:18‑21), and if his heart is subject to the Lord, he will be guided rightly in the knowledge of God's Word. We do not need to know all the subtle forms that wicked doctrine assumes, but we do need to know the revealed truth of God's Word.
Let us therefore consider a few of the vital teachings of Scripture with the understanding that anything contrary to them is falsehood.
Paul declares in 2 Timothy 3:16 that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable." Other Scriptures solemnly warn against those who would dare to either add to or take from its words (Dt.4:2; Prov.30:6; Rev.22:18‑19). The Lord Jesus, the Son of God, said, "The Scripture cannot be broken" (Jn.10:35). As given in the original languages, the Word of God is absolute perfection, and reliable translations are sufficiently accurate to assure us that we have the clear Word of God as our basis of all teaching. We must thoroughly refuse the teaching of those who deny the truth of God's Word, those who detract from it, or those who insist on adding to it.
This truth is beautifully declared in Colossians 2:9: "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." He is "God ... manifested in flesh" (I Tim.3:16 J.N.D.). John describes Him as "the true God and eternal life" (1 John 5:20), and many other Scriptures confirm this. Many things He did and said on earth can be explained only by the fact that He is God. For instance, He walked on the sea (Mt. 14:25); by His word He immediately calmed a great storm on the sea (Mk.4:39); He knew and answered people's thoughts (Lk.5:21‑24).
On the other hand, many things in His life can be explained only by the fact that He is true Man: His being weary through travelling (Jn.4:6); His pleading prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, with an angel strengthening Him physically (Lk.22:41‑44); His being "in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb.4:15). Thus He is true Man. But being born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit (Lk.1: 35), He is Man totally without sin: He "committed no sin" (I Pet.2:22); He "knew no sin" (2 Cor.5:21); and "in Him there is no sin" (I Jn.3:5). The sinful nature was not in Him as it is in us. Therefore it was an impossibility for Him to sin, as He Himself says in John 5:19: "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do." It was impossible for Him to do anything independently of the Father. Therefore, since the Father cannot sin, the Son cannot sin. Any teaching contrary to this is falsehood, giving a false impression of the perfection of the Manhood of Christ.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote, "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures ... He was buried, and ... He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor.15:3‑4). This is a matter of crucial importance, for it is the only basis of blessing for mankind. Peter is no less emphatic in declaring that, "Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit" (1 Pet.3:18).
On the basis of this perfect work of the Lord Jesus, every true believer is saved and accepted "in Christ." The value of His sacrifice is put to the account of the believer. Thus Paul writes, "by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph.2:8‑9). Some people think that works must be added to grace and faith in order for one to be saved, but God says, "not of works." We must give the Lord Jesus credit for accomplishing a perfect salvation by His own work. If we add anything of self to it, we only spoil it.
God has rewarded the Lord Jesus for His perfect work by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His own right hand. Therefore, "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom. 10:9). False teachers among the Galatians wanted to add works of law to this perfect salvation, but God rebuked them sharply through the apostle Paul. Why? Because teaching of this kind is an insult to the Lord Jesus whose sacrifice alone can save.
The truth concerning the resurrection of believers is closely linked with the Lord's resurrection. Just as Christ was raised bodily from the grave and taken up to heaven in that same body (Lk. 24:36‑40, 50‑51; Jn.20:19‑20) so it will happen to those who trust Him as Saviour. When He comes, those who have died in Christ will rise first, then all living believers will be caught up together with them to meet Him in the air (1 Thess. 4:14‑17). At that time "He will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body" (Phil.3:20‑21). Our bodies will be altered to be like His own body of glory. These verses are clear and decisive. Therefore to deny the literal resurrection of believers is false teaching. Such teaching may take different forms, as in 2 Timothy 2:17‑18, but it is to be refused as false and dangerous.
What about the fate of unbelievers? Again, Scripture is decisive in this matter. The Lord Jesus said, "Cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Mt.25:30). On another occasion He spoke of hell as a place where "the fire ... shall never be quenched ‑ where their worm does not die" (Mk.9:43‑44). In a coming day He will say to some, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels
And these will go away into everlasting punishment" (Mt.25:41,46). Revelation 20:10 describes hell as a place where there is torment day and night forever and ever. Though we should not wish this torment on our worst enemy, yet we do not decide it. God does! And we can only bow to what He says. One who refuses this has a faulty view both of the love and the holiness of God.
Up to now we have considered false teaching. This must be refused as poisonous. Yet we must carefully distinguish it from mistaken views of Scripture. A believer may take impressions from the Word of God which he later realizes need correction. We need to apply Philippians 3:15 in such cases: "If in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you." We must not require absolute conformity in teaching but leave room for the Holy Spirit to teach each individual. For example, Romans 14 speaks of abstaining from certain meats and of observing certain days. A person with a weak conscience may be mistaken as to what God requires in these things but that is no reason to refuse fellowship with him. Also, there are many views on prophecy. Grace will enable us to help each other in these areas. However, a "divisive man" who pushes wrong views on others must be rejected after a second admonition (Tim.3: 10).
Every error in some way depreciates the glory of the Lord Jesus, the One who is the centre of all truth and wisdom. Let us give Him the place of supreme exaltation and honour in whatever is taught. Let us also care for the needs of God's people, encouraging one another to find a true understanding of God's Word.