Catching Up

by Greg Tidwell

Jay has, rightly, called me to task in a private note for my lack of diligence in posting. I hope to make amends with a few thoughts.

Legalistic Checklists and Loving Relationships

I cherish my relationship with my wife. To honor and to love her, I have devised a weekly checklist of what she has a right to expect of me and what I will bring to our marriage. I have posted this list on our refrigerator door. Once all these required items are crossed off, she has no other claim on me and my time for the week. After all, not everything is a “divorce issue.”

Obviously, I am not serious about reducing my love for my wife to a checklist. This template, however, is often in evidence in our scholastic attempts to distinguish how much error it takes to condemn a soul to hell.

The imperative for us to love God, however, is comprehensive:

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.

(Matthew 22:35-38, ESV)

We cannot embrace a lax view of doctrinal error, any more than we can take a lax view of moral error. Paul in Romans 6:1ff clearly shows the difference between grace and permissiveness. I would, however, like to address this line of thought more fully in a subsequent post. For the moment, let us return to the question of doctrinal errors leading to spiritual destruction.

Sincerity Does Not Change Error into Truth

Consider the warning presented in 2 Peter 2:1ff. This passage speaks of “false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies.” The text continues, “They will exploit you with false words,” and, “they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.” The passage ends with this dire warning:

They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

The great danger of these false teachers is their deception. No Christian listening to a false teacher is likely to say, “Well, I know this is error, but I am going to believe it anyway.” When we believe error, it is because we are deceived into thinking it is the truth.

Notice the tone of urgency in Peter’s warning; those who are deceived by false teaching are in danger of being destroyed by the error they have mistakenly embraced. “For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them;” (Proverbs 1:32, ESV)

The Bible does not provide a checklist telling us the point a person has so turned away from God’s truth that they are spiritually destroyed. However, Scripture indicates that religious error can lead to eternal destruction.

Explore posts in the same categories: Apostasy

38 Comments on “Catching Up”

  1. Mark Says:

    Romans 14 :23 “everything that is not from faith is sin.”

    If only we could believe it. Faith unifies doctrinal disparities.

  2. Randy Says:

    “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.”

    -I think most will agree with this doctrine as damnable. When one turns from the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ , he has turned from saving grace – doctrine. But, this is a far cry from damning one to hell over the many other issues we divide over. And, keep in mind, we often still fellowship with each other on some of the minor issues. The breaking point seems to be instrumental music is worship, baptism teachings, and frequency of the Lords Supper. When Peter stated “knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”….was he including instrumental music is worship, baptism teachings, and frequency of the Lords Supper? Or, was he referring to the “way of righteousness” meaning they turned from a belief in the risen Jesus Christ?

  3. K. Rex Butts Says:


    I like the illustration you provide regarding the fictional checklist of things you must do to love your wife. You are right in pointing out the falacy of anyone trying to reduce the love for their spouse to a check-list. However, the same is true for God. In my experience some have reduced God’s love to whether or not his children are able to check off a list of expectations. My wife’s love for me is not limited by the extent of my imperfections (which are many:-)) but is based on a covenant promise. My understanding of scripture is that God’s love is the same…based on a covenantal relationship. For certain, there are errors we can make which break that covenant but God’s covenant promise to us is not remitted because error from time to time, many times more often than we should, and sometimes continue in this error because we do not understand that X or Y is actually an error. So the question continues to be, when and under what circumstances does our error(s) break our covenant relationship with God in a way that potentially has damming consequences?

    Thanks for your contribution.

    Your brother in Christ,


  4. Notice the context of 2 Peter is the fate of the false teacher, not the one who follows him. and the adjectives that Peter uses in describing the type of person who is “better off never knowing” is one of total depravity, the like I have never seen in a fellow Christian who is trying to serve God with all heart, soul, mind, and strength. It’s a bit of a stretch to apply the fate of the false teacher to the fate of the misled, who God will protect and save through relationship (see John 10).

    Also in John 10, we learn of the intent of Jesus when it comes to salvation:
    “25Jesus answered, ‘I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30I and the Father are one.’ ”

    Who of you as a Father would let harm come to your children? Will you stand by as you watch your 2 year old run into a busy street? No! You preserve and protect, just like our heavenly Father does.

    As for the Proverbs 1:32 quote, it is out of context here. A “simple” or “foolish” person is one never take heed of God’s word at all (the opposite being “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Ps 111:10). It does not apply to the subject at hand.

    But this speaks again to the direction of these conversations – always the fearful, the dangerous, the warning. We will always interpret these passages based on who we believe God to be. Rather than ask, “What condemns?” we should be focused on “Who is God? What is His character?” then imitating those characteristics by the power of the Spirit.

    Try riding a bicycle by focusing on not falling down, and see if you win any races!


  5. Alan Scott Says:

    I really like John’s explanation of how we can know w are saved from 1 John. John said that he has written these things in this letter, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

    John says we have confidence before God of our salvation:

    1. There is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ (4:15; 5:1, 5, 13)
    2. We keep His word and commands (2:3-5; 3:24; 5:2)
    3. We walk after the example of Jesus (2:6)
    4. We love the Father and His will, rather than the world (2:15-17)
    5. We habitually practice righteousness rather than sin (2:29; 3:8-10)
    6. We love the brethren (2:9-11; 3:14, 15, 18, 19; 4:8, 11, 12, 16, 20; 5:1)
    7. We are conscious of the dwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (3:24; 4:13; 5:10)

    I think we can sum up these in two points:
    1. Live the fruits of the Spirit – love one another to the point of laying down our lives for one another; and do what pleases God – do what is right.
    2. Profess in Jesus Christ as the Savior – anyone who does not acknowledge that Jesus Christ came in the flesh and also in God’s one and only Son in whom we have faith of atonement of our sins does not have God, is the anti-Christ, and is not a Christian.

    This does sound a lot like the two greatest commandments Jesus taught: “Love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as your self – on this hang all the Law and the prophets.”

    We can measure all who call themselves Christians by these two standards – their lifestyle and the stance on the divinity of Christ – according to 1st John.

  6. clyde s. Says:

    Greg–thanks for bringing attention to this passage. It characterizes the false teachers and false teaching that plagued part of the early church as driven by exploitation and sensuality. So, they are deceptive liars and their teaching leads to enslavement to God-dishonoring, moral error.

    I think there is more to explore here. There is a clear difference between an off-base Apollos, for example (who can be taught the word more accurately, Acts 18:24-26) and false teachers who are consumed with money, sex, and power (a la 2 Pet. 2).

    Thanks for posting. I look forward to following some of the dialogue you brothers put on the table.

  7. How does religious error lead to eternal destruction? By eroding one’s faith in Christ’s saving power.

    The Christian doesn’t lose salvation when he or she sins, but a life of rebellion against the Lord is toxic to one’s faith. Sooner or later, that faith will fail.

    Once faith is gone, one reverts back to his or her former state.

    So, when does one “fall from grace”? (Galatians 5:4) When one no longer authentically believes in the saving power of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. (If you don’t believe you’re saved, you aren’t)

    Salvation is received by faith in Christ’s work… “un-salvation” results from unbelief. And that unbelief in a Christian’s life comes primarily by the eroding power of sin and spiritual (rather than strictly doctrinal) error.

    That’s why the Letter to the Hebrews comments on it this way: (Such a person has) “trampled the Son of God under foot… treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace…” (10:29 NIV).

    (Thanks for publishing such an important conversation on grace and doctrine.)

  8. Wayne McDaniel Says:

    Greg, 2 Peter 2 describes those teaching immorality.
    Setting others at nought because they use instruments
    in worship is a comfortable occupation. If we want to debate doctrines, why don’t we raise the stakes to more quickly seperate pride from humility?

    For example, do we choose God, or did God choose us? One results in thanking God we are not as the rest of men, the other in confession of our sins – 1 Jn.1:8-9.
    There are several scriptures that teach God chose us: Ps.65:4, Jer.1:4-5, John 15:16, 2 Thes.2:13.

  9. Matt Clifton Says:


    I don’t know why Jay is urging you to “catch up.” He hasn’t even posted his first post in the discussion, has he? 😉

    Come on, Jay, you’re late!

    Good post, Greg. I am glad you pointed out that sincerity does not change error into truth. You make a good point, as well, about false teaching being a lot about deception.

    One of our problems today, of course, is knowing who is being deceptive, and who is being sincere. That’s a tough order, huh?

    Keep up the good work,


  10. Unfortunately this debate like most others I have read or watched is about “us against them.” We point out the points of those with which we agree and ignore the points that we oppose. In order for this to be worthwhile we must be willing to open our minds rather than cheerlead those with whom we agree.

  11. Matt Clifton Says:

    “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” — Pogo

  12. I’m coming late to the discussion but I am intrigued.

    I am concerned that like so many of these discussions it appears we spend more time discussing what exactly would be wrong or right so that we can determine how far we can go to please our own desires in our service to God. Perhaps we should be concerned about what the best sacrifice of our life could be (Romans 12:1–2) rather than what the most convenient one for me could be. But then again we come to sincerity 🙂

    Also, I am just wondering why the discussion on exactly what is false doctrine. If the supposed point of discussion for this blog is that Grace covers our faults, then all sides should agree on what false teaching actually is. The real question is which false teaching is covered by grace and which isn’t.

  13. Matt Clifton Says:

    Hi Terry,


    The real question is which false teaching is covered by grace and which isn’t.

    Which do you think are, or are not?



  14. Jay Guin Says:


    Momma always taught me that the host goes last. :grin:(And I just suggested to Greg and Phil that they let the readers know what their schedule would be. As we said at the outset, we’re all busy and may at times be slow responding.)

    I’ll be kicking in a thought or two soon, but I plan to take enough time to prayerfully consider what’s been said.

  15. I’ll answer that with a question.

    If Noah was saved by grace (Genesis 6:8), then which one of God’s commands could he have broken and the ark still delivered him and his family?

  16. Wayne McDaniel Says:

    Why didn’t Jesus or John or Paul ask anything like,

    ” The real question is which false teaching is covered by grace and which isn’t.” ?

    That is the kind of question the Pharisees would ask.

    How long since, “God me merciful to me, the sinner.”?

  17. Paul’s question in Romans 6:15 isn’t that different: “Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?” It’s quite parallel to “Are to teach false doctrine because we are not under law but under grace?”

  18. salguod Says:

    It seems to me that a fair amount of this debate is talking past one another.

    The conservative side says doctrine is important and wrong doctrine can be fatal.

    The liberals say, yes but not every doctrine is vital.

    The fact is, both are right. There are certain doctrines that all but the most liberal would agree are essential (Jesus rose from the dead) and some that all but he most conservative would agree are not vital (not eating certain foods). But the vast majority of each agree on both points.

    Part of finding unity here is acknowledging that we are not only all on the same page, but we’re in the same paragraph or even sentence. Some of us can see more things that we are willing to allow grace on than others, but I think we all give grace on some matters of doctrine and we all see things that we are unwilling to bend on.

  19. For me, II Peter 1:5-11 is key.

    “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

    I guess I’m simply not sure asking how much doctrinal error or which doctrinal errors God’s grace will cover are the right questions.

    The question that helps me is how can I grow today?

    The Bible says if I’m growing in faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love, then I’ll be saved. Obviously, if I’m growing in these things then God’s saving grace extends to me no matter where I am. If I’m not growing in these things, God’s saving grace does not extend to me.

    The fact is I may have more of the doctrines correct than you, but if I have quit growing, God’s saving grace doesn’t extend to me. Rather, I’ve become ineffective, my election unsure, my vision shortsighted, my entrance into the eternal kingdom closed. On the other hand, if you take this to mean you do not have to grow in knowledge, faith, virtue, etc. then the same point will apply to you.

    To sum up, do we have to be right on everything, a certain percentage of things, or a set part of things to be saved by the grace of God? No. But if we take that to mean we don’t have to grow in knowledge, then we won’t be saved by God’s grace either.

    Sorry for being so wordy.

  20. Wayne McDaniel Says:

    Terry, Paul’s qr. is distinctly different because the only correct answer is evident. The qr. you raised
    invites a laundry list over which we may argue forevermore. We will do well to remember Jesus’ words in John 10 that Brad Stanford quoted for us earlier. In Rom.4 Paul quotes, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not reckon sin.”

    Our flesh is always inclined to look for the errors of others, while forgetting
    to confess our sins. All of us might ask ourselves what we have recently confessed? Confession nurtures humility that is heard in our voices, and seen in our faces.

  21. My statement encourages more arguments than first arguing over what is “false doctrine” and then arguing over whether or not grace covers which ones?

    I wasn’t inviting a laundry list. It appears from what I read that one was already in the process of being made. My statement was to try avoid the debate over which teachings were false and to get to the discussion about grace.

  22. Wayne McDaniel Says:

    Terry, I am sorry that I misunderstood your intent.

  23. Todd Deaver Says:

    I don’t plan to jump into the comments often, but I have to take exception to the suggestion that this discussion of apostasy is misguided because the question of how much error (which errors) God’s grace will cover is the wrong question. It has been hinted that the very question smacks of a pharisaical quest to locate the cliff’s edge so that we can get as close to it as possible, rather than trying to stay as far from it as we can. This is simply untrue. No one on either side is trying to accommodate more sin. We are, on the contrary, wrestling with the challenge of identifying a line that the Bible itself certainly draws. If Greg and Phil are right, Jay and I include too many in the circle of God’s fellowship. If Jay and I are right, Greg and Phil exclude too many. But we are all attempting to honor God by drawing the boundaries in the right place, to the best of our ability. If, according to the Bible, the cliff has an “edge,” it is scriptural and proper to ascertain its location.

  24. Hopefully most of us agree that there is such a thing as truth in opposition to error. It is clear that there is such a thing as sound doctrine and such a thing as strange doctrine. We are bound by God to distinguish true and false doctrine. The Scripture requires us to test all things, and to hold fast to that which is good; and to test teachers by their doctrine (1 Thess. 5:21; 1 John 4:1). This can be done. We can know the truth. The doctrine of the Pharisees and the doctrine of the Sadducees never did agree with the doctrines of Christ. The doctrine of the Nicolaitans subverted the doctrines of the Apostles. Light and darkness are not more opposite than truth and error. Nutritious food and deadly poison may look alike, but they can be, and they must be, distinguished.

    It’s interesting, we’ve all heard the saying: “Everyone has an opinion…” Interestingly, the word “heresy” in the Bible comes from the Greek word hairesis. Here is what VINE’S COMPLETE EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT WORDS (Page 303) states concerning the word “hairesis” ……”a choosing, choice”; (from haireomai, “to choose”) then, “that which is chosen,” and hence, “an opinion,” especially a self-willed opinion, which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and the formation of sects…

    It is becoming more and more alarming and distrubing how many of the doctrines circulating in today’s churches are merely opinions, not based upon the Word of God. In John 5:39 Jesus commanded His disciples to… SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES!!! It is dangerous to form one’s opinions apart from the Bible. People who express teachings not taught in the Scriptures need to be lovingly and patiently confronted and taught correctly, like Apollos. That goes for me, you and everyone!

    Many of us more “conservative” minded brethren are greatly concenred that much of the false doctrine being promoted will destroy the unity in the church. (it’s already factured in many ways). Now, while those who teach false doctrine talk of uniformity – you give up the truth and we will have unity – and accuse those who stand for truth as the ones who cause disunity. There can be no unity, except it be in the truth. (1 Corinthians 1:10-13; Eph. 4:4-7)False doctrine “puffs up”. It gives the appearance of something which is not there. It is deceptive and always detracts from Jesus and the truth

    I like what Iain Murray, author and Westminster Chapel professor, once said: “The old saying must never be forgotten, “He is the schismatic who causes the schism Divisions and separations are most objectionable in religion. They weaken the cause of true Christianity. But before we blame people for them, we must be careful that we lay the blame where it is deserved. False doctrine and heresy are even worse than schism. If people separate themselves from teaching which is positively false and unscriptural, they ought to be praised rather than reproved. In such cases separation is a virtue and not a sin”

    The intent of God, in teaching us the truth, is that we might know, love, and embrace it, and be saved by it. (John 8:31-32)

    I pray for much good to come out of this discussion and conversion.

    Sincerely in love for Christ and the truth,
    Robert Prater

  25. salguod Says:


    I like what you’ve said. Finding the cliff’s edge certainly has value. But, if I may, I’d like to suggest that the reason for doing so isn’t to determine who is on the top and who may have already fallen over (referring to your include/exclude comment). Jesus told us there would be weeds among the wheat, so even those who exclude too many end up including some who God does not. In fact, Jesus said it wasn’t our business to make such determination, it was God’s.

    So, rather than seeking to find the cliff to determine who’s with us, drawing lines of fellowship, we should simply seek to find the cliff’s edge to avoid ourselves falling over and to prevent those around us from doing so.

    I suspect you may already agree with this, but I know that I too easily fall into that trap of trying to find the boundary for making judgments about others rather than to find my own way.

  26. Richard May Says:

    All error is fatal – doctrinal and moral. So Jesus died. Every sin is so serious that it cost Jesus his life. He died for my errors so that I don’t have to. He died for the errors of my fellow Christians so that they don’t have to.

    Jesus didn’t die to redeem issues. He died to redeem people – and he succeeded. I believe we do ask the wrong question. “What are the salvation issues?” is going to be impossible to answer. The question is “Who are the saved people” and according to Romans 6-8 the saved people are baptized believers who have their minds set on the things of the Spirit. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1).

    Unity springs from our common forgiveness. I hope this discussion will show that we endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

  27. K. Rex Butts Says:


    I keep finding you:-). What is your definition of “sound doctrine”? What did the word “sound doctrine” mean in Paul’s day? That phrase could easily be translated as “healthy teaching.(2 Tim 4.3)” I struggle to see where Paul had in mind an entire list of issues relating to church polity. Considering the fact that in the context Paul instructs Timothy flee the evilness of his youth in exchange for godly living (2.22) and the description of ungodliness that Paul offers in 3.1-4, it seems that Paul had more in mind how we LIVE out the gospel of Jesus when he refered to “sound doctrine/healthy teaching.”

    I say that because I know through first hand experience some who called themselves Christians and always scolded the straw-man named “progressive” as they hid behind the moniker of sound doctrine. Yet they tolerated racism and blatent mistreatment of the poor. It seems like the definition of sound doctrine in the CoC has often strayed very far from its original intent.

    Of course, considering what Paul writes in 2 Tim 2.23, maybe we all are guilty of not following sound-doctrine to some extent.

    Your brother in Christ,


  28. Titus chapter two defines “Sound Doctrine.” Today, we make the definition much broader than the definition given by Paul to Titus. Which definition shall we use. Will we let Scripture define the term or will we define it by how we use the word today? According to the definition given Titus, “Sound Doctrine” is that which promotes a lifestyle following in the steps of Jesus. Perhaps, if we would let Scriptural use of terms be the usage we follow, we might be able to agree to so much more. Just a thought…..

  29. What is the purpose of locating the edge of the cliff? Is it to determine who we can stand next to and call brother? Or is it to determine how close to the edge I can get?

    Just so all know where I stand, I’m not fond of heights so I’m not close enough that I can look down!

  30. GATidwell Says:

    I don’t feel the four men engaged in this discussion have any ill will towards one another. We do, however, have quite different perspectives on some issues we all believe to be important. If it were not for these differences, why would we be posting these thoughts?

  31. I appreciate the point, Richard. We all sin; we all have doctrinal error running in our veins. We all need Jesus. It is about connection to or relationship with God through Jesus who has redeemed us from all condemnation. This is the grace that saves through faith and because of which we gratefully serve our God and yearn to mirror him in every word, thought and deed…and in every doctrine.

  32. GATidwell,
    Nor do I feel the four men engaged in this discussion have any ill will towards one another. It is the rest of us who choose to participate by stating our thoughts who choose sides based on our pre-conceived beliefs. I only wish we could open our minds and hearts during this effort.

  33. […] are a few realizations I have come to as a result of reading the comments on […]

  34. Royce Says:

    Perhaps the best way to go forward would be for the blogmaster to cut off responses until the 4 men have had a chance to completely state their views and conclude their discussion. Then let the fur fly!

    So far I can’t see that any progress has been made. Todd’s observations stated in his book are true and these comments prove it.


  35. Charles McLean Says:

    I confess to some disappointment so far. Greg took far too many words to simply restate the question at hand.

    Perhaps we could ask each side to share a couple of doctrinal errors they think are, in and of themselves, “non-fatal”?

  36. Randy Says:

    “Perhaps we could ask each side to share a couple of doctrinal errors they think are, in and of themselves, “non-fatal”?

    -I agree. This would give some direction and understanding where each Author stands. Could you guys, in the future share some doctrinal errors that you consider non-fatal?


  37. Levi Nueva Says:

    In this world of relativism how can we distinguish between doctrinal errors to truth when all of us will not honestly lay down our reasons but will die to defend what we believe is true to our conviction. We are all agreed that the Bible is without error (just on the premise of Biblical Christians) and yet we contend to passages of scriptures which does not fit us. Who will be and what will be the basis of our so called ‘biblical truth’ and ‘error’ when we cannot find somebody whom all of us will respect and accept his ‘standard’of defining truth and error? How can we end this doctrinal dispute when in fact the Lord blatantly said to LOVE ONE ANOTHER? Can doctrine save ua? Did Jesus came and said I come to bring a doctrine to save you? Is not salvation in the person and work of our Lord? Why mudslinging, and the bickering. Why not accept each other as brothers in the Lord. Thank you.

  38. Daniel Says:

    Hypocrisy is in the fact that anyone who denies the necessity of obedience, will say one must believe and do something to be saved.

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