It is our sacred responsibility to examine every doctrine to determine if it is true or false. But how can we distinguish sound doctrine from false? How can we distinguish teachers of truth from teachers of error? Today I have a new video blog for you, and one that deals with this pressing topic: I offer five tests that can be applied to any doctrine. I hope you find it helpful! Here it is for both YouTube and Facebook.
Wherever you find true doctrine you’ll soon find a challenge by false doctrine. The question is: how can you tell the two apart? Today we’re looking at the 5 tests of false doctrine.
In this video we are considering the 5 tests of true and false doctrine. These are 5 tests we can apply to any doctrine at all to know whether it’s genuine or whether it’s fraudulent.
The first test is the test of origin. Sound doctrine originates with God. False doctrines originates from someone or something created by God. So when Paul wrote to the church in Galatia he said: “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12, ESV). Even Jesus himself insisted, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me” (John 7:16, ESV). Both Paul and Jesus insisted that what they taught had its origin with God himself.
On the other hand, false doctrine always originates outside of God, outside of the mind of God. When Paul wrote to the Colossian church he told them that they needed to avoid doctrine that’s according to human precepts and teaching. When he wrote to Timothy he warned “some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1, ESV). Sound doctrine comes from the mind of God. False doctrine comes from the mind of some being who was created by God. So, here’s your test: Does this doctrine originate with God or has this doctrine been fabricated by someone or something else? Good question, but a question still remains: How can we know the origin of a doctrine?
That takes us to test number two, which is the test of authority. Sound doctrine grounds its authority within the Bible. False doctrine grounds its authority outside the Bible. We believe as Christians that the Bible is God’s inerrant, infallible, complete, authoritative revelation of himself to humanity. Any doctrine that originates in the mind of God is recorded in the Word of God. The Bible has ultimate authority because of its ultimate origin. The church in Berea was commended in the book of Acts. Why? Because “They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11b, ESV). They heard the apostles teach, then they went to the Bible as their ultimate source of authority to compare what the apostles said with the Word of God. So here’s your test: Does this doctrine appeal to the Word of God as its authority or does it appeal to another scripture or another mind for its authority? It’s a good test, but even here our concern remains. Two teachers may both claim their doctrine originates with God, and they may both claim that it holds the authority of the Bible, and yet they might teach very different things. How then can we know whose interpretation is the correct one?
Well, this is where we need that third test. Test number three: the test of consistency. Sound doctrine is consistent with the whole of Scripture. False doctrine is inconsistent with at least some parts of Scripture. See, there’s a sameness, a familiarity to true doctrine, and there’s a strangeness, or an unfamiliarity to false doctrine. The author of the letter to the Hebrews, when he wrote to his congregation he warned them about diverse and strange teachings. Paul wrote to Timothy and he warned him about accepting different doctrine. Both of them are to say that different doctrine must always be compared to the established, accepted body of truth. Which means that those who know what is true, they’re the ones who are best able to identify what is false.
We say that Scripture interprets Scripture. And that makes sense! The Bible is the revelation of God’s perfect mind, so it won’t be, it can’t be contradictory or inconsistent. If something contradicts the rest of the Bible it’s false. If something complements the rest of the Bible it’s true. So here’s test number three: Is this doctrine established or is it refuted by the entirety of Scripture? Now we’ve got two more tests we need to consider. These ones are related to what the doctrine does in us, what the doctrine does for us.
Test number four is the test of spiritual growth. Sound doctrine leads to spiritual growth. False doctrine leads to spiritual weakness. Paul wrote to Timothy and said, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained [or being nourished] in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed” (1 Timothy 4:6, ESV). See, Paul is saying that the Bible nourished Timothy. It had made him spiritually strong and had given him spiritual health. So here’s your test: Does this doctrine lead to spiritually healthy, spiritually mature, spiritually knowledgeable Christians or does it lead to spiritually unhealthy, spiritually immature, spiritually ignorant Christians who really may be no Christians at all?
Then we come to test number five, the test of godly living. Sound doctrine leads to godly living. False doctrine leads to ungodly living. Truth never stands on its own, does it? Truth always has implications in our lives. Doctrine is always meant to lead to worship. Doctrine is always meant to lead us to ways that express love to God and love to our fellow man. God says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (1 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV). God doesn’t mean for us just to know the facts of the Bible, though that is very good. We’re also to mediate on the Bible and to apply it to our lives. The Bible is meant to go from our heads to our hearts, then to work itself out through our hands. We don’t just know doctrine as Christians, we live our doctrine. Test number 5: Does this doctrine lead us to live in a way that pleases God or does it lead us to live in a way that dishonors God?
Let’s put all of these tests together now. Sound doctrine originates with God, is recorded in the Word of God, is consistent with the entire revelation of God and leads to both spiritual health and godly living. False doctrine originates with men or with demons, is foreign to the Word of God, is inconsistent with the entire revelation of God and it leads to spiritual weakness and it leads to ungodly living. For doctrine to be true it must past each one of these five tests. If it fails one of them, it fails it all.
My Christian friend here’s your responsibility: Accept and hold fast to what is true. Deny and reject what is false. I hope you found this video helpful. If you did, why don’t you just hit the Like button. Perhaps you’d like to subscribe so you can receive more of them. I’ll see you again soon.