Friday, 25 December 2020


As believers, we may have doctrinal differences which divide—one party may view the doctrinal view of another faction as false. But if the error bears little or no eternal consequences, they are not critical.  

Examples of non-essential doctrinal issues which do not jeopardise the eternal destiny of believers include the following: How worship should be conducted, how church ought to be governed, whether the ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’ is an essential experience for every believer after conversion.     

We can argue till our faces turn blue as we cross swords in a game of spiritual fencing. But is it really necessary to contend over issues that are not central, core doctrines?  

On the other hand, there are crucial doctrines that must be upheld without any compromise. Doctrinal errors in such cases must be viewed seriously as they may lead believers down the path of eternal damnation. The apostles view them as destructive heresies because core doctrines have been undermined.

  • “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (2 Peter 2:1-2).
  • “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).

Dangerous heresies include those that turn the grace of our God into licentiousness whereas God’s grace is meant to cause us to renounce sin and lead godly lives:

  • "For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" (Jude 1:4).
  • “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).

What are the characteristics of these dangerous false teachers? Surreptitious in their ways, they slither their way into the church like serpents (Jude 4). They are likened to wolves in sheep’s clothing, not sparing the flock (Matthew 7:15, Acts 20:29). The danger to the church, then, is not from external forces but implosion from within. Thus many believers—unable to discern that the pulpit message is erroneous—will be deceived.


Some false teachers deny the Master who bought them, saying that Jesus set aside his divinity and performed miracles as a man empowered by the Holy Spirit. This false Christology is highly dangerous for it deifies man and denigrates Christ.

Some may not deny Jesus openly but they undermine or contradict the teachings of Jesus. They declare as good what God calls bad and vice versa. For example, hyper-grace has a low view of obedience, saying that it nullifies God’s grace.

Hyper-grace teachers treat sin lightly, teaching that believers merely need to rest in the imputed righteousness of Christ; God will see them as pure. It asserts that the Holy Spirit does not convict believers of sin, God does not point out their faults.

Dangerous heresies are often presented as a mixture of truth and error (half-truth). One truth (like grace or mercy) is overemphasised while another equally significant truth (like justice or holiness) is downplayed.

By selecting soothing and attractive verses, hyper-grace builds a false doctrine of God’s unconditional favour towards believers and the blessings of health and wealth that itching ears love to hear. However, it downplays counterbalancing truths such as God’s justice, judgment, the need for persevering faith and the need to overcome in areas such as sin, deception and persecution.

Theologian A. W. Tozer warns: "Heresy is not so much rejecting as selecting.” If we select portions of scripture that our “itching ears” want to hear, we are distorting the truth. We cannot solely highlight the agreeable parts and downplay the harsh truth in scripture.

Now we can see why different heresies are NOT equally destructive.

For “non-essential” issues such as mode of baptism or the necessity of baptism of the Holy Spirit, we need not dig in and make a tough stand on what we think is true. If we become rigid and parochial about minor issues, we can become guilty of schism, which is undesirable (1 Corinthians 3:3-4).

However, we need to earnestly contend against destructive heresies that threaten core doctrines and lead believers down the path of eternal destruction. 


Apollos’ teaching: incorrect but not destructive heresy

Although he was a fervent teacher, Apollos did not have the full revelation of truth and had to be corrected by the two humble believers.

Apollos, a Jew, was a learned man, well-instructed in scriptures. He fervently preached in the synagogue. However his message was incomplete. He knew only the baptism of John—nothing about Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection or the power of the Holy Spirit that fell on believers at Pentecost. When tentmakers Priscilla and Aquila heard him preach, “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:24-28).

The couple could have humiliated him publicly and marked him as a false teacher. But they did not adopt such an immature approach. They quietly corrected him and the outcome was pleasing to God and pleasant for all three of them.

Some may deem Apollos’ teaching as false in view of its incompleteness. But it was a sincere, unintentional error on his part. He was not an instrument of Satan, had no hidden agenda to deceive other believers for any earthly gain or fame, unlike many of the false teachers today. More importantly, his teaching did not lead others down the path of eternal damnation.



When red flags go up at popular beaches, it means there are dangerous undercurrents that endanger lives. Stay out of harm’s way. Similarly, in the spiritual realm, we need to raise red flags whenever there are dangerous false teachings so that impressionable believers will not be entrapped.


When do we maintain unity and when do we make a tough stand for truth?


Why is preserving sound doctrine so important? Sometimes we think that maturity means we must always be tolerant—even to the extent of condoning false teaching.


A prominent megachurch pastor made a bold statement in his book: “The bottom line is that the Holy Spirit never convicts you of your sins. He NEVER comes to point out your faults. I challenge you to find a scripture in the Bible that tells you that the Holy Spirit has come to convict you of your sins. You won’t find any.”


Some think that I enjoy taking up the task of ‘heresy hunting’. I do it with a heavy heart. Realising that so many believers have been deceived by a different Christ, a different gospel and a different spirit, it has to be done.


A person’s Christology, what he thinks concerning Christ’s identity and work, reveals whether his faith is genuine or not—and more.

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