Deadly Doctrine

by Tim Challies

I have asked Tim Challies about sharing his blog from February 2017. I have found it very profound and needed in today’s “touchy/feely” “say-whatever-you-want” society. His article is too long for one of our SR articles so I have done my best to condense it. For the full blog go to https://www.challies.com/articles/test-every-doctrine-test-every-teacher/ — Rob Appel

T.D. Jakes says that God eternally exists in three manifestations, not three persons. Greg Boyd says God knows some aspects of the future, but that other future events are outside of His knowledge. Creflo Dollar says because we are created in the image of God, we are little gods. Mormonism says God revealed new scripture to Joseph Smith that supersedes the Bible. This world is a murky madness of true and false. For every doctrine we know to be true, there seems to be a hundred pretenders.

No wonder, then, that John tells us to “test the spirits” and Paul says, “test everything” (1 John 4:1). It is our sacred responsibility to examine every doctrine to determine if it is true or false. But how can we distinguish sound doctrine from false? How can we distinguish teachers of truth from teachers of error? Here are some tests that are useful for testing any doctrine.

Test 1: The Test of Origin

Sound doctrine originates with God; false doctrine originates with someone or something created by God. Just as true doctrine is marked by its divine origin, false doctrine is marked by its worldly origin. Paul warned the Colossian church to avoid

doctrine that is “according to human precepts and teachings” and told Timothy that some would “depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (Colossians 2:22, 1 Timothy 4:1).

The test: Does this doctrine originate with God or has it been fabricated by someone or something else?

Test 2: The Test of Authority

Sound doctrine grounds its authority within the Bible; false doctrine grounds its authority outside the Bible. The Bible is God’s inerrant, infallible, sufficient, complete, and authoritative revelation of himself to humanity. Doctrines that originate in the mind of God are recorded in the Word of God. There is a clear and necessary correlation between origin and authority, between God and His Word.

The test: Does this doctrine appeal to the Bible for its authority? Or does it appeal to another scripture or another mind?

But a concern remains, because two teachers may both claim the authority of the Bible while teaching very different things. How can we know whose interpretation is correct? This is where we turn to the third test.

Test 3: The Test of Consistency

Sound doctrine is consistent with the whole of Scripture; false doctrine is inconsistent with some parts of Scripture. There is a sameness or familiarity to true doctrine and a strangeness or unfamiliarity to false doctrine. The man who wrote the letter to the Hebrews warned his congregation about “diverse and strange teachings,” while Paul warned Timothy about accepting “different doctrine” (Hebrews 13:9; 1 Timothy 1:3, 6:3). Both meant to emphasize that doctrine must always be compared to the established, accepted body of truth.

The test: Is this doctrine established or refuted by the entirety of Scripture?

Once we have tested doctrine and found it to be true, according to these three criteria, we can also see its soundness by its effects on us and those around us. That requires two more tests.

Test 4: The Test of Spiritual Growth

Sound doctrine is beneficial for spiritual health; false doctrine leads to spiritual weakness. After instructing Timothy, Paul told him, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained [“nourished”] in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed” (1 Timothy 4:6). Sound doctrine makes spiritually healthy, mature, knowledgeable Christians. False doctrine makes spiritually unhealthy, immature, ignorant Christians who may be no Christians at all.

Test 5: The Test of Godly Living

Sound doctrine has value for godly living; false doctrine leads to ungodly living. Truth never stands on its own, but always has implications in life. Doctrine is always meant to lead to doxology, worship, and purposeful living. “All Scripture is breathed out by God,” says Paul, “and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work”

(2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Conclusion

True doctrine (content) originates with God (origin), is grounded in the Bible (authority), and agrees with the whole of Scripture (consistency). Because such doctrine is sound

(quality), it is healthy (benefit), and profitable (value) for us,

and we are responsible for holding it (responsibility).

False doctrine (content) originates with man (origin), is not grounded in the Bible (authority), and contradicts portions of Scripture (consistency). Because such doctrine is unsound (quality), it is unhealthy (benefit) and unprofitable (value) for us, and we are responsible for rejecting it (responsibility).

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