T. PIERCE BROWN
Because there are so many persons connected with the church of the Lord today who are not concerned about false doctrines that are being taught, we need to continue to focus on the issue. Paul said, “”The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but having itching ears will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts” (2 Tim. 4:3). It is shocking, and abhorrent that some who claim to be preachers of the gospel even go so far as to say that doctrine is not important, only the gospel is important, and the gospel is not doctrine.
I am opposed to the teaching of anything contrary to what the New Testament teaches. However, I make a distinction that not everyone makes. There are those who apparently accuse any one of teaching false doctrine who has a different concept of the meaning of a passage than they do. For example, one brother thinks that 1 Thessalonians5:22teaches that we should shun everything that seems to be evil. Another knows that it means to abstain from everything that actually is evil. One of them is wrong. They both may be wrong, but the one who is wrong and teaching what is wrong is teaching “false doctrine.” There are many such examples where devout and scholarly Christian brethren have differed on various things, whether it is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, or whether the Holy Spirit personally dwells in a Christian. One of them is wrong, and thus, if he teaches what is wrong, he teaches what may be called “false doctrine.” Each of us who has today a deeper concept of what the Bible teaches than we did years ago, teaches differently than he did before he learned better. If today he teaches what is right, he was teaching what may be called “false doctrine” before. So, my conclusion is: There are wrong concepts about the exact meaning of some passages that can be classified as “false doctrine.” They are not in the same category as “false doctrine” that will prevent a man from being saved, or cause him to be lost. That means that all doctrines are important, but not all are equally important, just as all parts of our body are important, but not all are vitally important. When a person or group fails to recognize this distinction, and cause division and strife just because a person does not have their concept of some particular passage, they are wrong.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:10, “Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” Some brethren claim that the passage means that we must all agree on everything. Of course, in practice, that means that everyone must agree with them on everything, or they will cause division and strife.
I am not sure what they do with the passage in 1 Corinthians 8:4ff, “Concerning therefore the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that no idol is anything in the world, and that there is no God but one.” He goes on to say that one may eat the meat offered to idols without sinning, but not everyone has that knowledge. The person who does not have that knowledge and believes that it is a sin to eat anything offered to idols will be believing false doctrine. Paul does not say he will be lost for believing that false doctrine. There is room for misunderstanding about many things as long as one does not bind where God does not bind, and when the thing that is false or wrong does not corrupt the life or worship of the one teaching or believing it. In Romans 14:3-4, Paul discusses the same principle and says clearly, “Let not him that eateth set at nought him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgeth the servant of another? to his own lord he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be made to stand; for the Lord hath power to make him stand.”
One way we can tell how to react toward the belief and teaching of a doctrine that is not exactly what the Bible actually teaches (which makes it what some would call “false doctrine”) is to ask, “Suppose a person believes and practices that, will it make his life corrupt, or cause him or others to be lost, or corrupt the corporate worship?” Some liberal brethren classify all disagreements in the same category, saying, “Since there have been disagreements over one container for the fruit of the vine, wearing of hats, instrumental music, Bible classes or Sunday school, premillennialism, and dozens of other questions, forget all doctrinal differences and let us have unity in diversity.” Examine any of those doctrines as we have suggested. If a woman believes it is wrong not to wear a hat, and she wears one to every service, does that make her a moral reprobate or corrupt the worship? Suppose a person thinks Sunday is a holy day, which takes the place of the Sabbath, and no work must be done on that day, even feeding the livestock or cooking a meal. Does that corrupt his life or destroy the foundation of salvation, or corrupt the worship?
Can a person not easily see that whatever wrong conclusion one may have about those questions will not cause him to be lost? However, if he teaches premillenial doctrine, he must deny that God told the truth through the prophets, and thus destroys the very foundation of the church. If one introduces mechanical instruments of music into the worship, he corrupts the worship of the corporate body and makes it vain worship, for he is teaching for doctrine a commandment of men that causes the whole church to be involved in vain worship. A person who thinks it is a sin for someone to drink the fruit of the vine from a different container than he has does not corrupt the worship nor practice immoral living by drinking out of one container. I only drink out of one, and my wife at my side only drinks out of one, although it is a different one. If there were a person sitting beside us who thought we sinned by not drinking out of the same one, we have not corrupted his worship just because we did not drink from the same one he did. If either of us divides the church because we try to force our conclusion on the other, we sin. Our sin is not because we believe something wrong about the doctrine unless the practice of that doctrine is subversive to the gospel plan of salvation, or morally wrong.