An Italian envoy floated into a Stockholm port on an official visit and, observing a stately, ornate building at water’s edge, assumed they had found the palace whereupon they announced their arrival with a 21-gun salute. One can only imagine the embarrassment when the visitors were informed that they were docked in front of what was actually an old folks’ home whose occupants were scared half out of their wits by this over the top greeting the Italians had incorrectly issued!
Well, nothing like pulling all the stops out! We have a tendency at times to do that; whether it’s a hobby, a habit or a tenaciously held pet conviction that we’ve taken a stand on and declared to all, “Here I stand, I can do no less!”
New Testament Christianity is a life characterized by balance, at least, it ought to be. Paul, writing his epistle to Titus, in chapter two gives specific instructions to older men, older women and younger men and women as to how they could live a “sober” life which was at any stage in life, balanced. Too often, though, adherents of the “faith once delivered to the saints” grab hold of a truth, and blowing it all out of proportion by isolating it, elevating it and emphasizing it to the neglect of all other truth, become heretical in their disproportionate application of a tenaciously held conviction.
For instance, God has promised to provide our needs “according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19). The health and wealth prosperity gospel adherents have blown that verse and many others out of proportion and out of context to preach that God intends all believers to be perpetually healthy and wealthy. That is heresy.
Or, in another vein, most of my readers will identify as “dispensationalists,” that is, as students of Scripture who have concluded that God has dealt with people of faith through the ages past, present and (He will yet) future on the basis of differing responsibilities and varying levels of accountability depending on the truth revealed to people living at different times under different levels of unfolded revelation given. Case in point, “the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17) New Testament believers do not live under the law (Mosaic) but under grace and therefore, we are free to eat differently, dress differently and we are not obligated to bring the animal sacrifices, etc. that those who were living in the old dispensation were commanded to bring. So, in our day, there are those who take the teachings of dispensationalism and expand them to what has become known as “ultra-dispensationalism.” These folks hold that the Great Commission given in Matt. 28:18-20 and baptism by immersion and other views commonly taught by sound Bible teachers do not apply to the church today. They hold tenaciously to these aberrations of doctrine to the point that they are heretics; not heretics in the sense of denying the Bible but heretics in that they have misapplied truth or disproportionately held to a truth to the extent that their views are heretical.
We sometimes aim our guns and come out with a “big 21-gun” salute at the wrong place and wrong time, even in a doctrinal sense!
Here is a test you can give yourself: (1) Do you emphasize one doctrine disproportionately to the neglect of the whole counsel of God? (2) Do you have a “pet doctrine” that you constantly contend with others about, making it a test of fellowship? (3) Is your spirit right with others with whom you disagree on matters over which good men differ as to interpretation and application; (4) Do you conclude that God cannot bless or use others who have taken a stance that differs with your position on certain doctrinal issues?
Stephen Olford observed that a truth pushed can become an emphasis; pushed further it can become an extreme and pushed to the max it can become an error. Heresy is not a belief that would necessarily involve denying the Word of God; it can be a Biblical teaching/truth blown out of proportion to the extent that it is a divisive test of faith or fellowship that it never should have become.
“Believe as I believe, no more, no less.
That I am right, and no one else confess;
Feel as I feel, think as I think;
Eat what I eat and drink what I drink;
Look as I look, do always as I do;
And, then, and only then, I’ll fellowship with you.”
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God…rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)
“Let not your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:16,17)