Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 18, 1951

A Dangerous Interpretation

Leslie Diestelkamp

Some gospel preachers seem to be placing a new emphasis upon an old, but false doctrine. For a long time denominational preachers have taught that it makes little difference what one believes, just so he is sincere. Now some of our brethren seem to be "warming by the same fire."

Here it is: Some gospel preachers seem so determined to "cover up" defective doctrine, unscriptural methods, doubtful works and liberalistic (if not modernistic) ideas, that they are teaching that great and good works plus sincerity, will substitute for imperfection in doctrine.

The parable of the good Samaritan is used (rather abused) to try to uphold this theory. It is suggested that Jesus commended the Samaritan who held a false doctrine, but did a good work, while he condemned the priest and the Levite who held a true doctrine and did not do good works. Notice the following quotation from a church bulletin, describing the sermon of a prominent preacher:

"Speaking on the parable of the good Samaritan, he analyzed with convincing clarity the fundamental difference between the religion of the priest and the Levite and that of the Samaritan. The former had the doctrine, were very sound, but they had neither life nor the spirit. The Samaritan was about as unsound as a man of Jesus' day could be, but he had the life and love of his fellow man. Jesus preferred him over the others, at least in the matter of the thief."

But the story is misinterpreted. Jesus did not mention soundness nor unsoundness. He was not making a comparison between the "doctrine" of the priest and Levite and that of the Samaritan. He was answering the lawyer's question, "Who is my neighbor?" He was teaching that the Samaritan was neighbor to one who needed his help, though that one was not necessarily a friend or acquaintance. It is good to use this story to emphasize the need of helping others. It may be used to further emphasize Paul's admonition to "Do good unto all men." The story of the good Samaritan might be used to illustrate our Lord's words, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." On the other hand, it is not good to ABUSE the story and try to make it teach that soundness of doctrine is less important than good works.

There is no substitute for soundness in doctrine. Just as such soundness will not substitute for impurity of life and failure to work, so neither will proper spirit, great works, etc., substitute for false doctrine. Why should we encourage a choice between two evils? Why hint that this New Testament story teaches that one may be either lacking in works or in sound doctrine? Why not teach as Jesus did that our life, worship and work must be RIGHT, both in spirit and in truth?

The Salvation Army is indeed "neighbor" to thousands, but that will not excuse its false teachings. Roman Catholics do "many mighty works," but such will not substitute for their false doctrines. Jehovah's Witnesses (?) certainly demonstrate zeal and sincerity, but their doctrine is not made less damaging by such sincerity. So, false doctrines, unscriptural methods, doubtful works, etc., when practiced by Christians today, will not be excused by the Lord just because of a pious attitude, a sincere motive or a great zeal to do good.

From New Testament emphasis upon soundness in doctrine, such as is found in Titus 2 and Mark 7:7, we must conclude that our doctrine (teaching) must be true to the word of God, and it must be with sincerity, and must be exemplified by faithfulness of life and works.