How can you know if what you are being taught is “sound doctrine”?
In the closing of his second letter, Peter pours his heart out to the recipients of that letter, warning them to stand firm against the tides of evil and wickedness that shall befall those in the last days.
Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.
First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago me of righteousness.
So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this,by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. [Some manuscripts “be burned up”].
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming [Or “as you wait eagerly for the day of God to come”]. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the ho be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
2 Peter 3:1 through 2 Peter 3:18 (NIV)
Today, Peter’s words of warning and encouragement are all the more imperative to those of us that seek to deny ourselves and take up our cross on a daily basis. For there are many teachings that are supposedly scripturally sound, yet in all truth, it is scripture that has been twisted and distorted “so as to fool even the elect.”
In the Old Testament we find God’s displeasure with priests that had forsaken God’s truth and turned it into a means of self-gain. In the New Testament we are warned time and again about “wolves in sheep’s clothing” that would seek to entice the weak-minded and immature in Christ.
When Paul was in Miletus, he sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them:
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [bishops]. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
Acts 20:28 through Acts 20:32 (NIV)
Four times in the New Testament (Revised Standard Version) is the admonishment, “Do not be deceived!” (see 1 Cor. 6:9, 15:33, Gal. 6:7 and James 1:16).
In 2nd Corinthians 11, Paul says;
But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if some one comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough.
2 Corinthians 11:3 through 2 Corinthians 11:4 (RSV)
And again in his second letter to Timothy he says;
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people. For among them are those who make their way into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and swayed by various impulses, who will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth. As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith; but they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired 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.
2 Timothy 3:1 through 2 Timothy 3:17 (RSV)
But even if none of that persuades you that you might have been or are being deceived, consider this, when Jesus was fasting for forty days in the wilderness, at the end of the forty days – when Satan knew Jesus was at his weakest – he came to him and tried to deceive him using scripture (see Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13). Satan took scripture out of context and twisted it and distorted it in an effort to trick Jesus. If Satan did that to Jesus, what makes you — a follower of Jesus – any different that he should not try the same trick on you?
Be aware, dear brethren in Christ, that not everything taught from the pulpit is “sound doctrine.” Just because scripture is used to defend a doctrine, doesn’t mean it is sound doctrine.
Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?
Isaiah 2:22 (NIV)
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Acts 17:11 (NIV)
Test everything. Hold on to the good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 (NIV)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”
John 14:1 (NIV)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
Proverbs 3:5 through Proverbs 3:7 (RSV)