By Norman E. Fultz
“It doesn’t matter what one believes if he is honest and sincere,” we’ve often heard it said. Many prominent leaders in religious circles today advocate it and their attendants accept it, at least on the surface.
But is it possible .. .
That God really doesn’t care what one teaches or believes?
That one doctrine really is just as good as any other?
That one religion is truly as good as another?
You’ve likely heard that sentiment, maybe even voiced it yourself. It is an appealing idea and can do much to relieve the threat of offense to another who is of a different persuasion. But, really now, where did such great wisdom come from? Is it from heaven or is it of men (Matt. 21:25)? Does it matter that it might be of men (Matt. 15: 8-9)? Kind reader, I suggest to you most candidly that it is not of God, but of man; and it does matter. Let’s consider .. .
If it really makes no difference, there cannot be such a thing as false doctrine or teaching! Yet the Bible is replete with warnings against false teachers and false teaching (doctrine). Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing.” He compared them to corrupt trees that bear corrupt fruit (Matt. 7:15-20). He also stated clearly that it was possible for some to worship him vainly because of teaching doctrines whose origin is in men (Matt. 15:8-9). Further, he taught that if one is blindly led by blind leaders, they shall both fall into the ditch (Matt. 15:14), their honestly and sincerity notwithstanding.
Additionally, the apostles who were guided into all truth by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13), sternly warned against perverting that which they delivered. Hear Paul in Galatians 1:8-9, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than ye have received, let him be accursed.” First century believers were admonished to “try (test) the spirits (teachers), whether they be of God” (1 Jn. 4:1). Some will teach “fables” to tickle the ears of their audience (2 Tim. 4:2-4). And while it may be difficult to understand, God will allow one to believe a lie to this own condemnation who “receives not the love of the truth” (2 Thess. 2:10-12).
The very fact that there were Bible characters who were honest and sincere in their persuasions, but whose persuasions did not meet God’s approval is further testimony to the falsity of the thought stated at the beginning of this treatise. Saul of Tarsus who became the great apostle Paul was honest and sincere in the “Jew’s religion” (Gal. 1:14; Acts 23:1). He always labored to have a conscience void of offense before God and man (Acts 24:16), but it was not good enough. The treasurer of Ethiopia was so devout as to travel perhaps a thousand miles by chariot to worship according to the best of his understanding, but Philip the evangelist was commissioned by the Spirit to “preach Christ” unto him from the very scripture where the man was reading. And we learned from him that one who is truly honest and sincere, when he comes into new truth, will readily respond unto it (Acts 8:26-40). And the Roman commander, Cornelius, a worshipper of God, a good and devout man, and a good citizen, was told to “hear words whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved” (Acts 10:1-11:18).
Kind reader, it simply is not true that it makes no difference what one believes. If it makes no difference what one believes, ultimately we must conclude that it makes no difference what the Bible says. But the teaching of Scripture is, “If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). Being religious or saying, “Lord, Lord” is insufficient (Lk. 6:46). One’s salvation rests upon his doing God’s will (Matt. 7:21-23). Put your religious beliefs to the test of God’s word. Try those who teach, for it does make a difference what one believes.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 18, p. 7
September 15, 1994