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An Example

June 7, 2012

Over the past year I have attempted to express the essential nature of doctrine to our fellowship with other Christians. If significant doctrinal differences exist, especially and particularly on doctrines that impact the gospel, then fellowship must be severely limited or non-existent. Last week a group within the Southern Baptist Convention produced a document that serves as a great example of the importance of doctrine.

A group of Southern Baptist leaders (including Jerry Vines and Paige Patterson), issued “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”. The statement was issued as a response to the increase of Calvinistic doctrine within the SBC. I agree with many points in the statement, and most of my points of disagreement I classify as non-separation issues. However, one point stands out as a major denial of basic salvation truths:

Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man

We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.

We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.

Genesis 3:15-24; 6:5; Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 6:5, 7:15-16;53:6; Jeremiah 17:5,9, 31:29-30; Ezekiel 18:19-20; Romans 1:18-32; 3:9-18, 5:12, 6:23; 7:9; Matthew 7:21-23; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 6:9-10;15:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27-28; Revelation 20:11-15

Even within that single article, much of what is being affirmed and denied is right and true. However, one line changes everything. “We deny that Adam’s sin . . . rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.” What they deny is plain Biblical truth. 1 Corinthians 15:22 speaks to our condemnation prior to personal commitment of sin. So does Psalm 51:5. Most plain on this point and most clearly showing its importance to the gospel is Romans 5:12-19. One man’s sufficient death for the sin of men is directly connected to all men being declared guilty because of the sin of one man.

This is a serious error that directly impacts ones understanding and proclamation of the gospel message. This statement should serve as an example of the seemingly small differences that are in reality very large differences. Out of the nearly 1,500 words in the document, only 15 are the source of major doctrinal concern. That is just 1% of the document, but that 1% makes a massive difference- the difference between truth and heresy.

Let me share a couple application points to take away from this. First, become a student of the Word. Dig into Scriptures to find out what it teaches about doctrine. Use resources, like systematic theologies, to help you understand, but dig into the Word. Become a student so that you will be able to accurately communicate truth and recognize error. Let your discerned be strengthened through diligent mental exercise. Second, dig into the ministries of those you are reading or listening to. Don’t accept the surface presentation. Find out what they really believe and practice, what their ministry philosophy and goals are and with whom they are associated. Third, seek wise Godly counsel. Ask your pastor about a group, author or preacher. Seek counsel from someone who has a commitment to the Word of God, who has put time into learning doctrine and who cares enough about you to speak the truth. Lastly, don’t get mad at your pastor when he warns you away from a preacher or ministry. Assume he knows more about them than you do and is genuinely concerned about your spiritual well being. Ask him to explain the problems he sees. Listen to him. Ask for resources to do some more digging on your own. Don’t brush him off, but give heed to him as one who has to give an account for your soul. Take doctrine seriously, and understand the sometimes subtle differences that make a big difference.


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