A Series on False Prophets: Part 2 – By Jennifer Miller
Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? This is what one normally is asked as they are being sworn in during their testimony in our court system. It is vital that the truth be found because of the foundation it is built upon whether it be strong like a rock or weak, and most likely to crumble, as sand. The truth is known to set us free while lies on the other hand, can keep us imprisoned; thus, bound. Do you live seeking out the truth or do you find ways to avoid the truth and justify the deceit you created to meet your own personal agenda? Do you have a code of ethics or do you live by no code at all? As a Christian we must base our whole life on one source – Jesus. He is the truth and there is no middle ground. We know where our feet must be firmly planted.
In this next installment of my series on false prophets, I will introduce a measuring tool we can use to gauge how to determine what the truth is. It will help us measure whether the truth is based on sound doctrine or if it is being used as a clever smokescreen to draw innocent unassuming sheep in by false claims. In a deceptive world filled with clever cunning people, we as Christians, must strive to be diligent and discerning when we encounter false prophets. 1 John 4:1 reminds us to thoroughly test and see if the message we are receiving is from God or not.
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
Many false prophets will leave out certain facts or certain words to misrepresent the Bible or they will put a new spin on certain passages to add their own personal interpretation. When we do not dwell within the Word or follow a reading plan, we can be easily misled. We need to determine if the words these false prophets use are sound doctrine or not. So, let’s begin there.
What exactly is considered sound doctrine and why is it important? Paul in Titus 2:1 instructs us to speak sound doctrine and then he further elaborates in Titus 2:2-3 what that entails.
“But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.”
“That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things.”
These instructions are to teach the young men and women, how to act, to be alert, to be obedient and not blasphemous of God’s word. Titus 2:7-8 sets standards for the Christian to live by, instructs us as how we are to carry ourselves, and defines our character. We are to set examples for one another by doing good, show integrity, honesty and living simply and humbly. We live for God and not for the world and the temptations that come along with it. Philippians 4:9 and 3 John 1:11 both back this up as well by stating that we are to be examples for others to imitate good, which we do when we imitate the greatest example given to us, Jesus. We are told to imitate good and not evil.
“In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works, in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.”
“Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do. And the God of peace shall be with you.”
“Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God, but he that hath doeth evil hath not seen God.”
So, what is sound doctrine? It is teaching that agrees with the Bible and it is important because God directs us to teach it. Our faith centers around the specific message of Christ dying for our sins, buried and his being raised on the third day. This is the message we are to share and not change. Any change can crumble the basis of our faith. Our faith must be built upon Jesus, as we learn in Matthew 7:24-27.
“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. And everyone that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
The gospel is sacred, and we should not tamper with God’s word. Rather, we should defend sound doctrine and fight for it, for it has been entrusted to us to uphold in 2 Timothy 1:13. Faithfully following sound doctrine determines our choices and behaviors.
“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou has heard of me, in faith and love which is in Jesus Christ.”
Keep in mind that in order to identify the lie, we must know the truth. Sound doctrine leads to life and false doctrine leads to ruin. As Christians we are to crave the truth and thirst for pure spiritual milk to grow and mature. Sound doctrine grows us, defines us, teaches us, and encourages us to continue this walk with the Lord.
How do we recognize if the doctrine is sound or false? We must test it and see if it holds up. In the article The Five Tests of False Doctrine (Tim Challies, February 2017), we see that there is a five-prong test that will lead us to the truth. Let’s look at each test to see what is sound and what is not.
First is the Test of Origin. This originates with God if it is sound doctrine as we are taught in Titus 1:2 and Galatians 1:11-12. The Bible is God breathed scripture that was given to man.
“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”
“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
When the supposed claim originates with someone or something other than God it will not stand up but will perish along with the rest of the world as pointed out in Colossians 2:20-22. 1 Timothy 4:1 tells us that in latter times there will be those who veer from the path of the truth and promote the doctrines of the devil, and John 8:44 reminds us who the father of lies is that these false teachers follow.
“Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not, handled not; which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?”
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shalt depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”
“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar, and the father of it.”
Next, we must look at the Test of Authority. This is God’s revelation of himself to humanity and found in the Word. Therefore, we must ask the following questions: Does this doctrine appeal to the Bible for its authority? Or does it appeal to another scripture in another mind? Sound doctrine grounds it’s authority in the Bible as we learn in Acts 17:11 and 1 Thessalonians 2:13, but false doctrine grounds its authority outside of the Bible.
“There were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye receive the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.”
The third prong of this measuring tool is the Test of Consistency. This test looks for patterns of sameness and familiarity. Sound doctrine will be consistent with the whole scripture as Hebrews 13:9 and 1 Timothy 1:3 teach us. False doctrine is inconsistent with some parts of the scripture, not the whole scripture; thus, making it strange and unfamiliar as we are warned about in 1 Timothy 6:3.
“Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.”
“As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine.”
“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine to which is according to godliness.”
Keep in mind that it needs to be tied to key theological principles or analogy of faith. For example, scripture interprets scripture. We cannot contradict the mind of God, nor can we teach from one place of the Bible and then refute another place of the Bible. We cannot isolate verses to satisfy our stance or use ideas that cannot stand the scrutiny of the whole book. We must ask ourselves is this doctrine established or refuted by the entirety of scripture?
Our fourth prong is the Test of Spiritual Growth. This test will show either growth or lack thereof pending on if it is sound or not. When sound doctrine is taught and applied, then we will benefit from spiritual growth which key components are sincere faith, maturity, and knowledge as we see in 1 Timothy 4:6, 1 Timothy 6:11 and as Paul shows in 2 Timothy 1:5, we have an example of what sincere faith is.
“If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.”
“But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.”
“When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.”
However, if it is a false claim, this will lead to unhealthy spiritual weakness which is shown to be one’s immaturity and ignorance.
Our final test is the Test of Godly Living. This will stand if it is based on sound doctrine or it will fall when it is placed on false doctrine. Sound doctrine will give us value for godly living and teaches us how to live (of which our top priority is to live to please God). The truth never stands on its own, but always has implications in life. Godly living leads to doxology, worship, and purposeful living that unites our minds, hearts and hands to serve the Lord as pointed out in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and backed up again in Titus 3:8 and 2:11. False doctrine only leads to ungodly living.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
“This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.”
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.”
When we apply these tests to whatever the claim is, we can determine if it is proven sound, and if so, then we must accept and uphold it. However, if the claim is proven false, we must reject it, discard it, and move on. To conclude, in order to be sound, doctrine must pass all these tests mentioned above. When theology is missing bits and pieces or distorted, then the doctrine in question is not sound.
There is an adage that says if it sounds too good to be true, then most likely it is. Test the claim and see for yourself if it stands up or if it fails to do so. You have God’s Word to test it against – and nothing can stand if God is not in it. In my next installment I will identify the types of false teachers we are encountering in the world today and how dangerous they are. I will also present the Bible’s stance and compare it with the counter position of these false prophets. Until then, stay alert, have faith, and faithfully follow His Word. He will never lead you astray. God Bless!