By Elizabeth Prata
Does the Bible speak to which doctrines are necessary for belief and faith in Christ? Yes. iIn it we find what one must believe or be condemned, and it states what not to believe.
The primary essential doctrines of the faith one must stick to, According to Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, (scriptures supporting them are here) are–
1. Jesus is God in flesh, and Jesus is the proper object of faith. The Doctrine of the deity of Christ includes:
–There is only one God in all existence
–That Jesus is both God and man.
2. Salvation is by Grace alone
3. The resurrected Christ
4. The Gospel
They are called the primary essentials because the Bible declares them to be essential to the faith. Secondary essentials are necessary truths, but there is no self-declared penalty for their denial — yet they are still essential to the Christian faith. Those include:
–Jesus is the only way to heaven
–Mary’s virgin birth
An apostate very slowly starts to doubt the above. He or she begins to read and absorb other things that are contrary to those doctrines. Paul called false teachings gangrene because they slowly pollute the body and mind. (2 Timothy 2:17).
The Bible says that at the time of the end there will be a great falling away from the truth. Look to 2 Thessalonians for the prediction regarding the “falling away.” 2 Thess. 2:3-7 says,
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.
The lawlessness is sinfulness and the fact that Paul says it is already at work means that there have been apostates throughout the Church Age, even in Paul’s day. Demas fell away and went back to the world. (2 Timothy 4:10). The verse in 2 Timothy 2:17 speaks of Hymenaeus and Philetus who spread false teachings, two men who “wandered away from the truth” and became “more and more ungodly”. (2 Tim 2:16; 18).
Where does the prosperity gospel fall into this continuum? One comment I often receive when writing a discernment article about a prosperity preacher, or any other false teacher, is that they can’t really be falling/fallen away from the truth, “because they declare Jesus as Lord” or some other affirmation of one of the primary essentials of the faith.
Of course they affirm Christ. If they didn’t, they would be immediately identifiable as false. Yet, in discernment, A teacher’s doctrine and life must match up. What they teach in one place must be the same as they teach in another.
For example, 1 Corinthians 16:22 makes our love for Christ a fundamental issue: “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed.” A false teacher may say they love Jesus, but their life betrays the truth. If they twist scripture consistently and grossly, if they sin unrepentantly, if they continually violate standards for behavior listed elsewhere in the Bible, they do not live Christ. They might have been reproached several times by an elder of colleague, and rejected that rebuke. Any or all of these show that the person does not love Christ.
Anyway, be sure of what you believe and why. Examine yourself to be sure you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Drifting away is easy to do. (Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1)