I wish I could have met the apostle Paul. Reading his letters gives the impression that Paul was a very passionate person, the kind of guy who was all in or all out. But if you wanted to see Paul really worked up, mess with doctrine. Christians often think of doctrine as boring or unnecessary. It’s something their pastor harps on because it’s his living, but makes little difference in daily life. Paul couldn’t disagree more. Few things got this passionate apostle more worked up than when people perverted doctrine.
I can almost see Paul dictating furiously, face red with anger as he states “I wish that those who unsettle would emasculate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12) when heretics tried to add circumcision to salvation. Writing to a church he had never visited, Paul told the Romans to watch out for “those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them” (Romans 16:17). Paul regularly lambasts false teachers, as in 1 Timothy 6:3-5: “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”
Why the anger? Why the strong language? Because twisting doctrine is an assault on all that Paul, and we, hold dear. Here are 4 ways heresy attacks what every Christian should cherish:
I’m a seminary student.
That means I enjoy a good theological debate. I like to nitpick and expose theological error.
However, I think I have come to enjoy it a little too much. Refuting false teaching can quickly change from a Biblical imperative to an unhealthy obsession. Guarding the truth and exposing error is both necessary and commanded, but should it really be something we crave? Here are three indicators that you have crossed the line from Biblical nit-picking to sinful nit-picking.
I once saw a picture on twitter that had a bar graph showing several unlabeled categories of differing heights. The label at the bottom read “Sin in our eyes.” Beneath was a picture of that chart as if you were looking down on it and couldn’t tell how high or how low each category. The label read “Sin from God’s perspective.” It was creative. It was thought provoking. It was encouraging. It was wrong.
Perhaps you have heard a well-intentioned believer say, “All sin is the same in God’s eyes.” Perhaps you have been brought up believing that. Perhaps you believe that now. But as with every spiritual sounding mantra that isn’t actually a verse, we must ask if it lines up with what Scripture teaches. A careful study of the Bible will show us that, contrary to what many believe, not all sin is the same in God’s eyes. And rather than being a discouragement, the truth ends up being more helpful, encouraging, and fair than we might at first realize.
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