Strange Doctrine Does NOT Necessarily Mean "Strange Fire"

Saturday, October 05, 2013

In a video recently produced and published by John MacArthur, he pleads with gospel-loving, bible-preaching, traditional Pentecostals to "pick a side" when it comes to the aberrations and heresies preached by television evangelists of the charismaniac stripe.  (That last bit is mine, and not his).

John is a friend, though we haven't talked in many years.  I worked for him for a year at Grace Community Church, and am a proud graduate of The Master's Seminary.  I am forever indebted to him and the seminary for equipping me with the skills I have in exegeting and expositing the Bible.  

However, there is one important thing I've learned when using those skills in studying the letters of 1 Corinthians and Colossians.  Regardless of the false doctrine, lawsuits, immorality, prostitution, greed, favoritism, abuse of the poor, cliques, divisions, and outright stupidity...Paul calls them saints, and commends them for the abundant outpouring of grace they experienced and exercised.  That's because we live by grace.  

Grace is mysterious and glorious, and yet somehow completely disagreeable to human nature.  It is that love which covers a multitude of sins.  It does not somehow lessen the extent to which God abhors sin.  It merely takes the blood of Jesus and applies it once-and-for-all to the sins of His people.  Then, in the name of Jesus, it abundantly pours out wisdom, blessing, gifting, love, and miracle without regard for a person's performance or even obedience. 

If and when His people err in sin...or in false doctrine...His hatred of these things is not somehow lessened.  But neither is His grace somehow lessened.  Problem is, we often live like it is.  It is at this point that we can often tend to read and preach a book like 1 Corinthians or Colossians, with all its problems and struggles with false doctrine, and somehow separate ourselves from it, acting and believing as if we are different.  In other words, the grace of God was abundant toward two churches who believed outrageously erroneous things.  But God's grace doesn't work that way to today.  In this world of thought, one must be doctrinally sound in order experience God's grace, which basically makes grace a reward for good doctrine and behavior.

The fact of the matter is that God's grace abounds...even in the midst of a group of saints who believe false doctrine and are theologically abberant.  This was too radical for me fifteen years ago.  Today, it is at home in my heart.  It definitely makes me squirm, especially when I see certain TV preachers who make my stomach hurt.  Such persons would have made Paul's stomach hurt.  They probably made Timothy's stomach hurt, which is why Paul may have told him to take some wine for his stomach!  

The Corinthians were flourishing in the charismatic, and even straying into the charismania.  They believed false doctrine about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which had a profound and terrible effect on people within the church. But they were still God's elect, loved by Christ, and called His Bride.  The Colossians were struggling with gnosticism, mysticism, legalism, and aceticism, all of which are abberant, false doctrines.  But look how Paul commends them in chapter 1 for their faith and ministry!  Look at the effect they had on other churches and the world around them!

This brings me to the main problem I have with my dear brother John's video.  Allowance for God's grace is not a tone I find there, unfortunately.  It merely focuses on the heresies and aberrations, and calls for a stand against it all.  But Paul stood against it...with the Corinthians.  One cannot read the last chapter of the 2 Corinthians without coming to that clear conclusion.

But he stood against false doctrine, heresy, and aberration while simultaneously loving those people and calling them a people of grace.  That's because God's Holy Spirit does not withhold His grace-gifts when His people sin or believe dumb doctrines.  That's because His gifts are based on grace, and not on performance.  

Somehow we still continue to think that a person's lifestyle or sin or false doctrine delegitimizes any claim they have with anything to do with Christ.  We continue to think that if a person is in sin or believes something erroneous that God is no longer with them.  We choose to judge, for example, a TV preacher who seems to have a ridiculously large church or a gift of healing and dismiss them because they hold an aberrant doctrine on a particularly important subject.  When I read 1 Corinthians and Colossians, I see something different.  I see a challenge to those who teach and believe garbage.  Then I see an embrace of those same people because they loved by Jesus Christ Himself.  Grace is amazing.

I'm a nobody in the kingdom.  I'm just a guy with a blog.  But the video to me seemed aberrant as it relates to grace in the kingdom.  Take a stand against false doctrine.  But be very, very, extremely careful about taking a stand against an individual.  I can't even begin to plumb the depths of the kind of grace that anoints a man or woman's life despite their error.  It's scandalous, from a human perspective.  It's outrageous.  It's preposterous!  Yet it's true.  And it's been true for me.  No doubt it's been true for you as well.

The truth of the matter is that God can and will use anybody and everybody He so chooses for His purposes.  And He accomplishes His will in the process.  This includes anybody and everybody who is a saint, yet struggles with sin or false doctrine.  As one who has believed many wrong things before, I'm thankful that His grace was amazingly abundant toward me.  And I find that in that grace now I am able to converse with and relate to all manner of people, including doctrinally unsound people.

Give the book of 1 Corinthians a fresh read in this light and see if God's grace is not somehow made more scandalous than ever.  Then see if it doesn't transform the way you think about and view other people with whom you disagree doctrinally.

About the Author: Rob is a follower of Jesus at Jubilee Church, where he works as an entrepreneur and operations contractor in Woodstock, GA. From there he envisions and pursues missional-shaped business for the kingdom. He and his wife Sherri have been married for 19 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, make disciples, and plant churches. This is the pursuit of his life, as well as the point of his blog.

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