Posted by: | April 14, 2009

Today’s Apostasy: Inventing Doctrine

(NOTE:  This is a continuation of the Wolves in Wool Series.  This post assumes the prerequisite reading of earlier posts)

Concerning today’s massive population of false teachers, scripture also offers several texts which warn us of the propensity of these teachers to teach outside of the Word of God.  While these texts do not speak specifically about a latter day apostasy, they do speak volumes concerning the very nature of false teachers; namely, where their doctrines come from and why they are to be avoided.

Peter, in speaking about the sufficiency and trustworthiness of the scriptures notes,

2 Peter 1:16-18 (NIV)
16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

Peter first asserts the nature of his own testimony concerning the Lord Jesus.  He was an eyewitness of his majesty.  Peter, being an apostle of the Lord Christ, being with him on a daily basis during his earthly ministry, wrote what he saw with his own eyes concerning the work and ministry of Christ.  He then establishes the framework for the admonition he will momentarily speak against false teachers as he notes, “we did not follow cleverly invented stories.”  Indeed, Peter speaks what he saw in person, while in the presence of Christ.  His testimony is further validated by James and John who were with him. 

The event Peter speaks of is the transfiguration of Christ, found in Matthew 17 and Luke 9.  On this particular day, these men had a supernatural experience, witnessing the transfiguration of Christ before their very eyes, and hearing the very words of God confirming that “this is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  Indeed, such an experience could easily be taken on its own merit to have been a revelation from the Lord.  Yet, Peter does not relegate the validity of his testimony to his experience alone.  Personal observation, followed by the affirmation of other witnesses was the test of his testimony.

He further notes,

2 Peter 1:19-21 (NIV)
19 And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Peter states two important facts concerning his experience.  First, he notes that “we have the word of the prophets made more certain.”  This is the third characteristic of Peter’s testimony.  Peter’s experience was validated by scripture.  The prophets had noted the coming of the Messiah.  Peter’s mountaintop encounter served to affirm what he had already known from the prophets.  Secondly, he notes that “no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.  For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man….”  Peter understood that his experience, validated by scripture, was legitimate precisely because of that fact.

Peter’s testimony concerning the mount of transfiguration is the backdrop for the doctrine which he next proclaims.  Peter understood that there are men in all ages who would not accept the scriptures as the foundation of their experience and their doctrines.  They would feel it necessary to embellish scripture, or to completely make up their own postulates concerning the truths of the faith.  He continues his discourse,

2 Peter 2:1-3 (NIV)
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them–bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

Peter articulates a warning to his readers that false prophets will exist among them.  He stipulates the nature of their work very simply, “these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.”  Unlike Peter’s own testimony, which was validated by scripture and eyewitnesses, the false teachers he warns of are those who simply “make up” their “stories.”  They will not have scripture as the basis of their doctrines.  They will not have eyewitnesses who will validate their exceptional claims.  Such was Peter’s verification of that which he professed as truth.

From the time of the apostolic age, the burden of proof has greatly strengthened.  The book of Revelation, written in roughly 90 AD, contains this warning to those who would presume to add or take away from God’s revelation in that book:

Revelation 22:18-19 (NIV)
18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

The warning of this text was certainly regarding this particular book of Revelation.  It does reaffirm, however, God’s attitude toward all of his written word.  That God had given his word to reliable, tested prophets was no accident.  He fully intended it to be protected and preserved, with the full warning of severe judgments to those who changed it.  Peter himself affirms the same principles concerning doctrine.  He notes that those who “exploit you with stories they have made up” will experience “condemnation [which] has long been hanging over them.”  Such warnings permeate scripture.  It is not to be added to, changed, or taken away from.  While Jesus’ warning through John in Revelation may be relegated to the handling of that particular book, the scriptures as a whole repeat that warning to anyone who would dare twist them for alternative consumption.  The Lord makes a similar warning to Israel concerning the Law of Moses:

Deuteronomy 4:2-4 (NIV)
2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you. 3 You saw with your own eyes what the Lord did at Baal Peor. The Lord your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, 4 but all of you who held fast to the Lord your God are still alive today.

Likewise, in this warning, God noted a severe penalty for the addition to or subtraction from his given Word.  Indeed, scripture thoroughly affirms John’s testimony of punishment to those who change God’s word to be a condition applicable to the entirety of the Word.  Paul notes of the “false apostles” in 2 Corinthians 11, “their end will be what their actions deserve.”  He further notes in Galatians (a text which will be observed in the next post) that those who preach “another gospel” are to be “eternally condemned.”  He writes in 2 Timothy 3 that they are “men of depraved minds” who “as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.”  And Peter continues his discourse concerning false teachers, noting,

2 Peter 2:21 (NIV)
21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.

The prohibition against adding to or taking away from the Word of God pervades scripture.   Thus, the very teachers which exploit the church with “stories they made up” are without excuse.  They “have known the way of righteousness,” but have abandoned it for their own purposes. 

This, once again, is the very definition of apostasy.  Such is our very day.

Concerning the invention of doctrine, there is perhaps no group in history which have been as prolific at the occupation as the modern day Word of Faith movement.  (For a more thorough investigation of this group, read this whole series.)  These men not only teach doctrines which are without prophetic reference or eyewitness verification, they do so openly and without excuse.  Even in light of the completed canon of scripture these teachers find reasons to regularly make additions to God’s word via their self-proclaimed “revelation knowledge.”  Joyce Meyer unashamedly admits,

“The Bible can’t even find any way to explain this. Not really. That’s why you’ve got to get it by revelation. There are no words to explain what I’m telling you. I’ve got to just trust God that He’s putting it into your spirit like He put it into mine.”
Joyce Meyer (What Happened from the Cross to The Throne? audio


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