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The Dividing Line of Doctrine

How and Where to Make Divisions...

Sometimes, I get asked “Why do you get so up at arms about other religions?” or, “Why do you pick on other religions so much?” I think the following will help you see where I’m coming from, before I spill the beans on such. 

We have difficulty sometimes in discovering where to make divisions when considering where to spend our money, and who to support, where to make purchases, and where not to do such. We also often have difficulty on how to know if a church or a congregation is a place where someone can actually become saved. Like, how can we know that a Mormon is likely not saved but we can know that a regular church attender at a gospel sound church is likely saved? What is it that would make my church attendance at a specific body no longer appropriate?

Both answers to these questions deal with doctrine. If a company is pushing false doctrine using their influence and power to push a heretical doctrine or teaching, this is often when the red flags fly. “Non-essentials” aside for now, the question is where do we draw the line. I think that the Bible calls us to make certain divisions, which we will also get to in a moment.

Similarly, when a religious organization has doctrines that are heretical, then a person who claims to be a part of that organization and follows the doctrines therein, then if those doctrines are false according to scripture and Christian doctrine, then it can rightly be argued that such a person is not saved. 

If the doctrines within an organization are false, and a person is under that organization and believes the things they teach, then there is a major problem. 

Consider Matthew 7:15-23, which says, 

 

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

 

This passage should be quite sobering. Whatever a church teaches must come under one of two things… that which is essential or non-essential. Essential to salvation or non-essential to salvation.


Why should we beware of false prophets? What is Jesus saying in this passage? What does a false prophet teach? A false gospel! Jesus is implying this is the text above. “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing…” what they teach sounds very attractive. But inwardly they are like snarling wolves. He says that you will recognizing them by their fruits. The question is, are we examining their fruit closely enough? 

I think this all boils down to doctrine. If we have a false prophet teaching a false doctrine or a false gospel, what does this amount to? Remember what Jesus says… “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

A false prophet bringing a false doctrine or false teaching will result (according to Jesus) in a false salvation. “I never knew you; depart from me…” This is why doctrine is so important. Doctrine and teaching is the dividing line. This is just another reason we cannot just read the Bible superficially. We need to be textual archaeologists and excavate the text. We should always seek to know what it means. 

If you are in an organization that teaches a false doctrine, and adhere to those doctrines, then you have a false salvation. Think of it like this: False prophets + False gospel = False salvation. When it comes to false prophets and teachers, the Bible is acutely aware of it based on how often it tells us to stand firm and be on our guard. 

What is a false gospel? Anything that is different than what we see in the Bible. This would be every other religion apart from Christianity. What is the Law of Non-contradiction? Something cannot be both true and false at the same time and in the same sense. Keep Galatians 1:6-8 in mind and take notice my emphasis…

 

 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”

 

If you thought you were in the clear because you are not a false prophet, but are just a simpleton under the false prophet, Jesus says to you as well, “I never knew you; depart from me…” It is not just the false prophet, but it is also those who were under the false prophet. A false gospel is anything that contradicts the gospel that we find in the Bible. It seems that “works” is the one dividing line that is most blatant and most clear that is contrary from one gospel to the next, though there is no other gospel. Which is what Galatians is about. Galatians is an apologetic against a false gospel of works. Paul is speaking chronologically, in that the Galatians have already grabbed on to the true gospel (Galatians 1:6), but he is astonished that they are so quickly turning from it. He is astonished that they are trying to add works to their salvation. 

Again, Paul says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7).

John says, “The Law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” We are set free! This is why Paul is losing his mind here… He says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel…” 

What manner of “contrary” is Paul talking about in Galatians? I would say that it is the dividing line is between works and grace. The reason for this is because Galatians is all about circumcision, respectively. The issue in Galatians 1:6-9 is that the Galatians have been suckered into believing by the Judaizers that circumcision is a requirement for salvation. But Paul corrects them. He was acutely aware of true salvation that sets a person free. 

He knew that our salvation produces works, and that our works do not produce our salvation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away and behold, all things have become like new.” Completely new! So new that the way you see yourself as well as other people will completely change. Not only do we not have to earn our salvation, but we couldn’t if we tried. The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, and as sinners we are unable to lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We need the life-saving grace of Jesus.

 
The Dividing Line Between Works-based Salvation and Grace-based Salvation is Doctrine 

Jehovah’ Witnesses, for instance, teach that Jesus is Michael the archangel. They teach that the nature of Jesus is not deity, that He is not God in the flesh. The question here should be, is such a Jesus sufficient for salvation? 2 Corinthians 11:4 teaches that there are “other Jesus’s” and people put up with them readily enough. But it seems that a Jesus that is not divine is an insufficient savior. Should we put up with such a teaching about Jesus? Certainly not! Jehovah’s Witnesses teach a false nature about of Jesus, a false doctrine. Their Jesus is fundamentally different that the Biblical Jesus and is insufficient for salvation. He is insufficient because He is not God, so how could He forgive anyone’s sin? If they say that He is not really a human being, then how could He be the perfect sacrifice? The answer is that The Jehovah’s Witness Jesus is a false Jesus, and anyone who believes in such a Jesus will find themselves in the same boat as those to whom Jesus says, “Depart from me; I never knew you…”

Sometimes I get asked “Why do you get so up at arms about other religions?” The reason is because they amount to a false salvation. This means that there will be people who will not be in heaven, as sad as that is, because they did not have true faith, they didn’t have the one, true Jesus “take away their sin” (see John 1:29).

 


Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus




© Nace Howell, 2023

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