POPULAR FALSE TEACHINGS CHRISTIAN MUST AVOID
The Church has constantly been admonished to dull the sharp edges of false doctrine, to drop the hard truths in the face of religious and cultural pressure. Transferring a vibrant faith to the next generation is always a challenge, particularly the government, the courts, public schools, the media, and the national zeitgeist, which demands that we flow with the raging river of cultural opinion.
Listed below are five out of the many doctrinal temptations that the Church faces.
FALSE TEACHING 1: THE GOSPEL OF PERMISSIVE GRACE
Most people have been rescued from sterile, joyless, and performance-based Christianity when they found out that we aren’t only saved by Grace, but are still refreshed and embraced by Grace daily. They have been liberated from a life of rules without relationship and outward compliance and joyful obedience. Once known, Grace is truly good, not just for the great sinners, but also for the poor saints. Today we are seeing a perversion of Grace in what we might term the Grace Movement: teachers and preachers who offer Grace to people in advance, even before they are persuaded they need it.
Today, several preachers say that God loves us unconditionally and that God loves us just as we are. Unconditional love is described as the unconditional acceptance of one’s lifestyle.
God doesn’t love all of us in the same way. God loves His people, those who are in Christ unconditionally, even as He loves His Son (John 17:20-23). Yet this does not mean that God is always satisfied with our conduct, nor does it mean that God does not punish us for our waywardness. Although God is kindly disposed to all and loves the world, “it is a fearful situation to fall into God’s hands.” And again, “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29).
FALSE TEACHING 2: THE GOSPEL OF SOCIAL JUSTICE
In the early twentieth century, several churches left off preaching the cross of Christ and substituted it with “doing good to their fellow people.” They justified their position with verses from the Old Testament, such as “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17) and related texts in the New Testament, where Jesus taught us that when we visit His followers in prison, we visit Him. Social concerns replaced the finished work of Jesus, who died and rose again to save sinners, and the Gospel of God, saving us from sin, was almost completely neglected. In reaction, fundamentalists dismissed the universal Gospel and, for the most part, limited themselves to the urgent need for individual salvation, neglecting the social implications of the Gospel.
History repeats itself today, but with a different twist. Several millennia’s feeling as if they did not match the appeal of evangelicalism with conservative politics, has chosen to dedicate themselves to social justice. Unfortunately, many of them have abandoned the ideology of moral repentance and opted for what they see as a more practical religion, helping the poor and the needy.
We are ordered to live radically like Jesus, to be committed to the needs of others, body, soul, and spirit. But we must work with a redemptive mindset, constantly looking for opportunities to build bridges that will guide them to eternal life. We need a gospel-driven social work that serves people because they are in need and we want them to believe in God. When compassion motivates us to help ease suffering in this present world, how much more should compassion encourage us to share the good news to prevent them from suffering in the world to come?
FALSE TEACHING 3: THE GOSPEL OF NEW AGE SPIRITUALITY
Most of the younger evangelicals do not feel at home in the Church. They move to groups where they can be actively involved in fair collaboration, caring for the poor and ongoing relationships. Predictable organized worship services that follow a script frequently lack the vitality that most of them are looking for. They are a generation seeking and reluctant to be told what to believe but committed to discovering a faith that is right for them.
Despite many admirable attributes, this generation is open to seeking spiritual experiences independently of Bible doctrine. Therefore, to be more relevant, New Age theology is commonly embraced in our society and is frequently taught alongside biblical teaching in our evangelical churches and seminaries. In several instances, the textbooks used contain New Age teachings focused on God’s mystical experiences rather than the Scriptures.
These books, and others like them, are common because they portray God as more available, more easily understood, without much need for particular doctrines of the Bible. Nevertheless, we must tell our people that the only sure knowledge we have of God is in the Bible and must be accepted. We might learn some things about God as we experience the world, but only in the Scriptures can we have a trustworthy guide to lead us to meet God and salvation. Often we do not know God at all but, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
FALSE TEACHING 4: THE GOSPEL OF SEXUAL PREFERENCE
Is the Evangelical Church willing to follow biblical teachings about church discipline? Many will say no. Some pastors said that they encourage people to become members wherever they are on their spiritual journey. Unmarried couples, who live together, homosexual couples with children, etc., are permitted to become members despite the opposition of the Church to these lifestyles. Yet the Church has decided that members should join to develop in their faith rather than say, “Membership is not for you.” In short, some churches are hesitant to lift the standard of church membership beyond vague generalities.
There is another explanation of why churches are unwilling to enforce church discipline: they fear the power to be shamed, hated, and targeted. They want to avoid being accused of hate rather than love.
To all the pastors who fear that a loving yet strong stand against same-sex marriages will mark their Church as a hate group, and therefore harm the Gospel, put yourself in the shoes of the Apostle Paul: read Romans 1:18–32, and remember that he was writing to the Church in a society full of all kinds of sexual immoralities. And he wrote candidly about God’s view of homosexual relationships, recognizing that his letter would be read publicly to the congregation. He realized that the truth hurts, but it also heals (1 Corinthians 6:9–11).
FALSE TEACHING 5: THE GOSPEL OF INTERFAITH DIALOGUE
Our society has chosen to submit to Islam, and the Church is under pressure to follow suit. I am not opposed to the people who engage Muslims in discussions about the disparity between the two religions outside the pulpit setting. I have had these conversations. Becoming friends with Muslims is a right bestowed upon us by the Lord. I am opposed to debating, seeking to show who is right, and voicing a word of condemnation. We should not try to win an argument but win the trust and show respect and care. There are testimonies from Muslims who have converted to Christianity, and all these stories have the same theme: unexpected love and caring from Christians.
However, in the pretext of tolerance, and love, some may even suggest evangelism; Muslims are welcomed to the churches to present a different revised version of Islam. Interfaith discussion in the Church offers Muslim leaders an undisputed platform to speak publicly. It encourages them to offer a version of Islam that does not exist in Muslim countries. Nor is it focused on the history of Islam or its foundational writings.
If a church wants to know what Islam believes, why not invite a convert from Islam to Church and share his/her story? These testimonies are instructive and helpful in understanding life in Muslim countries without the influence of Western values. We have a lot to learn, and there are a lot of people who can teach us.
As a way of evangelism, there are many ways to reach out to Muslims with God’s love and the word of the Gospel. Christians and Muslims should communicate with each other in their homes, schools, communities, and workplaces. Jesus asks us to reach across the chasm and to represent Him anywhere we can find ourselves. This is the time for us to remember the words of Jesus to His disciples: ” Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16).
Fortunately, we can count on the Good Shepherd to be with us every step of the way.
AVOIDING FALSE TEACHERS
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” (Romans 16:17)
Paul has just finished his heartfelt greetings to the Christians in Rome, and in this passage, he starts to warn of false teachers. The warning lasts for several verses and appears to come almost out of nowhere. The Apostle describes the true Gospel, which alone is the defense against error, but does not explicitly address false teachers until the end of the chapter.
Paul’s sudden turn to the matter of false teachers is not at all unexpected. We know from his other letters, such as the Galatians, that the Apostle often had to combat the preachers of error who had penetrated the churches to which he had written. Since the capital of the empire was Rome, it was inevitable that these teachers would make their way to that important metropolis, and Paul did not want the Christians there to be caught off guard. As to why Paul doesn’t discuss the danger of false teachers until he’s almost done writing his letter, some critics say that maybe it’s because they weren’t in the city yet, so the problem wasn’t immediately pressing. Others believe that Paul may have heard of false teachers in Rome just after he began writing, so he places the warning at the end because that’s where he was in the writing process.
The Apostle’s admonition is the same as that given to the Ephesian elders, namely, to be vigilant of false teachers who could enter the flock (Rom. 16:17; Acts 20:29-31). Paul warns that these false teachers will try to divide the Church and bring in place obstacles that are contrary to the true doctrine. The false teachers have a serious error in mind, as the word obstacle in Greek connotes a spiritual dilemma that will lead to damnation if it is embedded in a person’s life. The Apostle wants his audience to be vigilant of those who would divide professing Christians who embrace true apostolic faith and watch out for those who teach soul-damaging doctrine.
False teaching was not a problem limited to the early Church; it is something that exists in today’s world. We must be careful not to be divided over nonessential matters, but we should have harmony with other professing believers only as long as they stand for the Gospel (Rom. 14:1-15 Gal. 1:8-9). It is also an impious and sacrificial attempt to preach against all who agree with the truth of Christ: but it is shameful sophistry to defend a union of lies and impious doctrines, and prevent harmony and unity i the Church.
Regardless of how the Bible warns against false teachings, no church or religion is free from false teachers. If church leaders do not watch over the doctrine of their ministers and congregations fail to watch for error, it is just a matter of time before falsehood is ingrained and grows unchecked like cancer. Leaders and laypeople have to ensure that their churches remain united in the truth of the Gospel.