NOT AS INNOCENT AS YOU THINK
Several people have said, “Why the fuss about doctrinal correctness?”
Such people argue that there is no need to worry about doctrinal details, what is important is love. So far as we love our neighbours, the details of what we believe do not make much difference.
Is this really the position of the Bible?
While it is true that we ought to love our neighbours as Christ loves us, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that it is also very important that we pay good attention to the details of what we believe.
“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the DOCTRINE; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1Tim 4:16)
“As I besought you to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that you might charge some that they teach no other doctrine.” (1Tim 1:3)
Why is this so? It is because doctrine drives practice. What we believe mostly determines what we do. In other words, our belief system is the engine that drives our lives. We can’t love our neighbours as Christ loves us if our belief is faulty.
For example, the true Gospel places a high premium on giving to the poor and the needy. As far as Jesus is concerned, whoever gives to the poor gives to Him (Mat 25:31-40). In fact, He says categorically that He would reject some people on the last day for their insensitivity to the poor and needy.
“41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” (Mat 25:41-46)
The Apostles of Christ took the words of Jesus very seriously. The few occasions they raised funds as documented in the New Testament scriptures were basically because of the poor and the needy.
However, the prosperity gospel places a higher premium on paying tithe and sowing seeds to the institutionalized church or “the anointed” above giving to the poor. Some of the prosperity teachers actually teach that giving to “the anointed” or “an anointed ministry” is sowing to the Spirit while giving to the poor is sowing to the flesh. In other words, giving to “the anointed” or “an anointed ministry” is highly profitable while giving to the poor is of no value.
A keen observer cannot but agree that this teaching is primarily responsible for the skewed pattern of giving in the Prosperity/Pentecostal circle today whereby church members strive to give substantial portions of their income to “the anointed man” and his ministry while they turn blind eyes to their suffering neighbours whom they could have easily helped.
Another reason why it is important to pay a keen attention to doctrines is because doctrinal errors that are left unchallenged have a way of spreading far and wide in the Church like the way a small quantity of yeast does in a lump of flour. Just like the way a good doctrine spreads across the body of Christ, an errorness doctrine left to continue without adequate countermeasures would sooner or later become mainstream.
“Another parable spoke he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” (Mat 13:33)
“Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” (Mat 26:6)
For example, a crop of preachers started the prosperity gospel in the US about 70 years ago. Today, the theology has become a global phenomenon that is a serious threat to the Gospel message. Another example in this regard is the the fall-down-and-die theology. One man in one corner of Lagos repackaged the concept of praying against enemies that was previously restricted to the indigenous Nigerian “Aladura” group some years ago. Today, this theology that majors in “killing” both human and demonic enemies in prayer has spread like a wildlife across various denominations in Nigeria and is now becoming a pan-african phenomenon. This is in spite of the fact the Lord Jesus and His Apostles expressly commanded that we should love our human enemies.
Not only do the unchallenged error spread, it also creates room for several errors to spring up since the peddlers know that whatever error they concort will meet little or no resistance. Again, we see examples of this in the Pentecostal circle how one error after another sprang up and spread because many of those who know the truth were not willing to speak against the errors being peddled around by their contemporaries.
In order to underscore the importance of doctrinal correctness, the Apostle Paul in particular devoted substantial portions of his epistles to the churches to doctrinal instructions. In fact, a recurring pattern in most of his epistles to the churches was a lager initial portion that was committed to doctrinal instructions and a smallar second portion that was devoted to moral instructions.
From the foregoing, we can see why the Apostles of Christ and the early Church saw doctrinal correctness as a matter of life and death.
They wouldn’t allow anyone to peddle an error around them, no matter how innocent it looks, without adequate challenge.
Those who were sincerely wrong like in the case of Apollos who preached the baptism of John were corrected in love. They were not left to themselves out of feigned courtesy.
However, unrepentant peddlers of error were treated with appropriate measures ranging from sharp reprimand to isolation and excommunication from the community of the believers. For them, the way to love error peddlers was to rebuke and expose them.
“10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; 11Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” (Titus 3:10-11)
“19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: 20 Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” (1Tim 1:19-20)
“10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed. 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (2John 1:10-11)
So, we see that doctrinal error is not as innocent as we may have wrongly assumed.
We would be wise to realise that all the Apostles of Christ except one, the Apostle Paul and many other early Christian leaders defended the truth of the Gospel with their very lives. They poured out their lives as a libation in order to pass on the Gospel to us undiluted.
Are we sure our generation will be able to transmit an unadulterated Gospel to the next generation?