What is Doctrine? How can we distinguish good doctrine from bad? Ok, let’s keep it simple; good doctrine is doing that which God requires. False doctrine can be defined as the exact opposite; disobedience to God. That’s really all there is to it! Well, we know it’s not really all that simple. The above is the foundation, the root of how doctrine is defined. The question to ask is how to get to the point where we are in a position to know, teach and live by right doctrine? How can we be in a position to properly discern the true from the false?
It is with good reason that the Apostle Paul expressed concern regarding the different teachings that would come forth in the last days. (2Tim 4:3) It was a significant problem in his day and an even greater one for ours. The contending over right doctrine is nothing new; many of the writings of Paul were often written to correct erroneous teaching. There were at least five heresies that Paul countered when writing to the church in Colossae. The stakes are high seeing that we are living in the end times; it is imperative that we know, teach and uphold right doctrine. It is also important to understand that Doctrine points to a destination; there is an end game so we better get it right! Let’s go back to the beginning where it all began.
1) Lucifer’s Rebellion in Heaven
There was order and harmony in God’s creation until the time of Lucifer’s rebellion in heaven. He asserted his will against God seeking to usurp His power and position. (Isa 14:13-14) This is the origin of iniquity as stated in the Word of God. (Eze 28:15) It has been Satan’s mission to try and get man to subscribe to his doctrine of self-will and rebellion in defiance to the Laws of the living God. This event took place before the creation of man.
God created man after His image and in innocence. Man was free and untainted from the effects of Satan’s rebellion up until the time God established a clear cut Law to man. (Gen 2:16-17) The introduction of this Law now placed man into the position of having to choose to either obey or disobey His one Law. This represents a whole new dynamic seeing that man now has a choice. This is the establishment of God’s Doctrine to man. We can say that right doctrine is based on God’s Law and obedience to His Law(s). There is a destination for man in the keeping of God’s Law; the promise of life and blessing. There is a destination for man in following the doctrine of Satan; death and eternal separation from God.
2) Man’s rebellion upon earth
Satan is now provided an opportunity to tempt man as a result of God’s stated Law in the garden. He wastes no time going to work as seen in Gen 3:1. Notice the first words out of his mouth; it is a challenge to the very one commandment (Law) that God gave to Adam. This is the essence and root of false doctrine; it is choosing to violate the Laws of God. Satan’s first attempt was blatant and forceful allowing for Eve to easily thwart his initial advance. (There is an interesting comparison that can be made concerning Balaam in Num 22:12-19) The serpent did not give up; he found subtle and more seductive means in getting Eve to subscribe to his doctrine. It is here where we want to focus the balance of these series of messages. In my view the origins of much of the modern day heresies and false teachings can be traced back to Genesis 3. The manner in which Satan successfully tempted man has not changed; understanding these origins will help shed light on his tactics today. It should also help to give insight into many of the teachings that are threatening today’s church; the same doctrines of concern that Paul expressed in his 2nd letter to Timothy. (2 Tim 4:3) The following is the core verse that Satan uses in promoting his multi-faceted teachings:
“And the serpent said unto the woman, ye shall not surely die” (Gen 3:4)
Now compare the above verse with the commandment that God gave to Adam concerning the same tree.
“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17)
There it is; all true and false doctrine can be traced to these verses. God’s Law states clearly that disobedience to His law will result in death. Satan’s doctrine makes clear that one would not die if one were to eat the fruit of the tree. How does he do this, what is his method in getting Adam and Eve to violate God’s very specific Law? How is this method still being employed today; what are the modern day doctrines that reflect this moment?
Satan appealed to the soul and emotions of Eve. This is the first place where we see a distinction between the soul and spirit of man. The serpent sought to take away the sting and consequence of sin by essentially saying that a loving God would never condemn one to death. In modern day parlance it could sound like this “C’mon, a loving God would never do this to you, what kind of God would do such a thing? He sought to get Eve to deal with God’s Law through emotional means. The serpent then went on to redefine the forbidden tree as something that would make one wise as well as providing the means in becoming like God. (Gen 3:6) His doctrine had a strong appeal to the soul of Eve. Sadly the church continues to take a bite from this tree in adherence to the serpent’s doctrine. We will explore the varied teachings being promoted where this is currently taking place.
Are you familiar with the expression “once saved always saved”? It is a doctrine where man seeks to rationalize the attitude and responses of God through human terms. The Word of God begins to take a back seat to a new kind of religion; a man based theology that presents God through the lenses of secular humanism; a theology that relegates God’s Law and His Word to the category of being redefined which eventually leads to irrelevancy. The result is a series of doctrines that contain elements of truth that become interspersed with subtle pieces of leaven. A customized, ready-made theology that coincides with the culture of the world is now introduced to the body of Christ with dangerous ramifications. The real concern is its subtlety and attraction along the lines of Satan’s temptation to man in Genesis 3. The Word of God, if applied properly produces the needed distinction between the soul and spirit of a man.
“For the Word of God is quick, and powerful , and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb 4:12)
Jesus was very clear concerning the level of deception that will be seen at the end of the age.
Mat 24:11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
Mat_24:24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
What will be the areas of deception that will ensnare the people of God? It all comes down to the functioning of the soul and spirit of a man. This was the approach that the serpent utilized in his approach to Eve in the garden; this tactic is still employed today. It seeks to view our walk with God through the lens of soul, emotion and feelings. It seeks to rationalize the absolute tenets of God’s Law through the filtered mind-set of the human spirit. There are times when the compassion and love of the soul are deemed appropriate in one’s response to a situation. There are other times when the Spirt man, fed and strengthened by the Word of God, needs to come into the ascendancy. This is what David was able to do while in distress at Ziklag.
1Sa 30:6 And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.
How was David able to prevail through this extreme trial? David and his men had just lost everything including their possessions and family. The men were even thinking of stoning him. It was the spirit man in David, fed and strengthened by His intimacy with God that enabled him to stand strong against his soul and emotions. God was preparing David for kingship. “Bless the Lord O my soul”
There is an alarming trend today where the Word of God is seen as divisive, irrelevant and offensive. It gets in the way of the soulish expression of love and compassion. It is characterized by over-emphasizing love and compassion at the expense of Truth. Here is a verse that should warrant our attention:
Psa 25:10 All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
There must be a balance of mercy and truth in our walk with God. As ministers we must rely upon the Holy Spirit in knowing how to navigate this challenging landscape. It is the Word of God that helps to make this proper distinction between soul and spirit. (Heb 4:12) So far, we have sought to define Doctrine by narrowing it down to two streams; God’s doctrine and the doctrine of the evil one. (Gen 2:16-17, Gen 3:1-6) Jesus established His doctrine by making clear that it was not His but the doctrine of the one who sent him. (John 7:16) The Apostle Paul’s doctrine was expressed by the way he lived his life which was visible for all to see. (2 Tim 3:10)
We can be clear on doctrine to the extent we know God through his Word and Law. The Lord established boundaries and it is expected of us to keep and live within them. Satan attempts to get man to violate God’s boundaries or laws in much the same way he did. (Isa 14:13-14) The world and culture violates God’s Doctrine in a blatant manner which is only to be expected. Many do not even believe in God. This message is not directed to the world but to the church. How does Satan succeed in deceiving the church? How does he succeed in being able to even deceive the elect of God; those who should know better? (Mat 24:24) It is here where we place the majority of our focus. It is subtle, it is dangerous and it is deadly. The best means of shining light on this subject will be to address some of the teachings that are found in mainline churches of our day.
In part 2 of this series on Doctrine we will look into some of the teachings that are being taught and promoted. All Doctrines originate from either one of two sources; God or the evil one. There is a mixture in many of the teachings however we will be begin to see a streamlining from the confusion of many of these Doctrines into one of the two streams. The pursuit of Right Doctrine will help us keep us the straight and narrow path. (Mat 7:13-14)
Right doctrine helps prepare the people of God to become the bride of the glorious bridegroom. The Apostle Paul was greatly concerned regarding the drifting away from sound doctrine as he came towards the end of his life. This should be one of our primary concerns as we approach the end of the church age. Stay tuned!