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What the Bible says about Deviating from Doctrine
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Psalm 11:3

The doctrines are our foundation. It is what we believe that produces the faith. If the doctrines are destroyed, what can the righteous do?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 3): Ephesians 4 (A)

1 Timothy 6:20

In Paul's letters to Timothy, he urges the young evangelist in the strongest of terms to stand firm and to hold fast to the doctrine that the apostle had given to him (I Timothy 6:20). Paul needs to warn him because, by about AD 65, the church is already sliding away from the truth that Jesus Christ had entrusted to the apostles.

Why is doctrine so important to God? Why does He not want his people to deviate from what He spoke in His Word? The answer is basic and simple: Deviation from orthodoxy will not produce the right fruit in fulfilling His purpose.

God makes allowances, of course, for minor variations. Not everyone will have the same level of obedience or understanding. Not everyone is equally wise or educated. However, His people will have a strong belief in the doctrines most important and central to His purpose. If these central doctrines are missing, then the deviations that are present will endanger the purpose He is working out.

Perhaps the analogy of following a recipe in the baking of a cake will suffice to show the principles involved in keeping doctrine pure. If in baking a cake, a baker left out certain ingredients, or if he added others that the recipe did not call for, or if he used the right ingredients but in the wrong proportions, it is entirely possible with any of these combinations not even to end up with a cake! Obviously, to produce a perfect cake, one must use the right ingredients in the right proportions.

Though this is certainly an ideal, God wants His people to aim for it because of His purpose. One may never hit such a high target, but that does not relieve one of the burden of striving to develop the right proportion of the right ingredients in every part of life. Ephesians 4:13 says, ". . . till we all come . . . to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."

The called of God have a tremendously high purpose and hope: to be gods! The Bible unequivocally states that we are to be like Him, that is, like Jesus Christ (I John 3:2). It follows that the ingredients that produce that potential be as close to perfect as possible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!

2 Timothy 2:16-18

The metaphor changes from cutting a road (verse 15) to shooting an arrow at a target. The word of truth, the gospel, is the target. If you shoot an arrow at a target, one of three things will happen: 1) the arrow will hit the bull's-eye; 2) it will go slightly off, left or right, top or bottom, still hitting somewhere within the target area; or 3) it will miss the target completely.

Some Bibles translate verse 18 as "who have swerved" (Revised Standard Version), "wandered away" (New International Version), or "erred" (King James Version) from the truth. None of these translations are complete in capturing the metaphor. When you shoot an arrow, it goes straight, but not necessarily straight at the target! If you watch someone else shoot an arrow, where are your eyes pointing? Do they not follow the arrow to the target? That is the point. The arrow is the teaching that the teacher gives, and no matter how straight he gives it, if he is not aiming directly at the bull's-eye and hitting it, his students eyes will not be on the right goal!

The weight of responsibility is heavy on the minister. Not only is he to give instruction that is plain and clear, he is also to give instruction that is right on target so people do not get distracted by false doctrine. A minister can be perfectly sincere, but if he points his teaching toward the wrong goal, he will miss the target. Fortunately, our God is faithful and makes every effort to turn us toward the right goal.

These metaphors and illustrations show how important doctrine and having the right gospel are. Doctrine forms belief; belief determines action and character. Minimizing the future aspects of the gospel alters our vision of where we are going with our lives. The future aspects of the gospel cannot be demoted in priority to second or third place without seriously compromising our Christian lives since it removes the right goal and deflects people away from the Kingdom of God. When people are deflected from the right goal, the teaching of the gospel changes, and God's creative process begins to wind down and may even stop entirely.

God is concerned about doctrine because it determines what a person is now and will be in the future. As one lives it, it becomes more ingrained in his life and will eventually become indelibly stamped on his character. Then God has a choice, either to give him immortality, or consign him to the Lake of Fire. Regardless of how straight we pursue our objectives in life, if we are aimed at the wrong goal, we cannot produce the kind of life—the character—that God wants in His Kingdom. Correct doctrine is eternally vital!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!

Revelation 22:18-19

Though these words were written specifically about the book of Revelation, the principle is significant in light of today's church. Christ's concern at the very end is that His people do not deviate from what is written in the book. To remain in His safety, a Christian must be submissive to Him, worshiping Him in every aspect of life, continuing to develop in Christian freedom, not enveloped by an attitude that may prove to be spiritually fatal.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 




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