“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Tim 4:3-4, NIV)
Each time we proclaim the Apostles’ Creed (the earliest form of which appeared C. 130-200) or the Nicene Creed (C. 325), it is to once again declare to the world that the Christian faith is one that has been through serious thinking and reflection.
The creeds encompass our belief in the Triune God (Holy Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), Creation, the Incarnation of the Word, Christ’s Salvation, Ecclesiology, Eschatology, and other core aspects of the Christian faith.
These creeds were carefully crafted and formulated, after much deliberation by apostolic fathers and theologians at church conferences, to prevent the spread of heresy within the Church that could cause confusion among the disciples.
Through the ages, these articles of faith have served as important criteria by which the Church differentiated Biblical and non-Biblical teaching. However, heresy is pervasive and ever-present. Heretic beliefs, with their beguiling and delusive content, can often appear as the truth. Such falsehoods were what Jesus referred to as ravenous wolves disguised in sheep’s clothing.
Paul warned the church against “the alternative gospel”. The Church therefore has to continually teach and guide believers to know the Bible well and to be clear about its teaching. Today, we are facing the spread of a different gospel among us – prosperity theology, cheap or hyper-grace, over-emphasis on amazing miracles, eschatology that is non-Biblical, and others.
How will the Church prevent believers from being confused and the core gospel truths from being muddled by these false teachings?
The best response is for all church pastors to hold fast to the faith of our Church and be conscientious in teaching and preaching the truth.
Believers must be ever discerning and discriminating when attending talks and seminars not organised by the Church. Our exertive response is to launch, with greater vigour, discipleship training and Bible study courses, and to encourage all believers to be equipped with God’s word.
Teachers of these courses must be fully prepared, conscientious in their teaching, and faithful to the truth as taught in the Bible.
Let those of us who are instructors, teachers, and pastors give attention to Paul’s counsel, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15, NIV).
Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2016. He served as President of the Chinese Annual Conference for two quadrennial from 2008 to 2016.
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