Does God Require Doctrinal Perfection? The Mosaic Law was perfect, but it could not be perfectly kept by fallen humans. In fact, Jesus Christ was the only one to ever keep it. But it still served a useful purpose in that it convicts of sin and brings us to the foot of the cross with the realization that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Jesus died and freed us from the law of sin and death that was against us, nailing it to the cross.

But did He in effect transfer us from a Law that demanded moral perfection into a new law that requires doctrinal perfection? I don’t believe He did. But let me also quickly state that I am not saying that false teaching has no consequences, or that we are free to disregard the teaching of Scripture. Jesus himself said that is we love Him, we will keep his commandments (John 14:15)

What we need to focus on is that all of the commandments and doctrine of the New Testament points in one direction — Jesus. Jesus not only taught the truth, He is the truth! (John 14:6). Correct doctrine and practices are a means to an end, not the final goal. For too long we have scoured the scriptures to find what is allowed and what is not. While I am all for a diligent study of the Bible, trying to extract a legal code from the New Testament instead of reading it to draw closer to our Savior and to know Him better is to misuse Scripture. Israel used to be under a “letter of the law” covenant where perfect performance was demanded and nothing specifically authorized was permitted. But we are under a new covenant that changes our hearts instead of just our actions. Where there is no specificity, we follow the spirit of the law.
Paul described it this way in his second letter to the church at Corinth:

You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:2-6 NASB)

We no longer are under a system where anything not specifically authorized is a sin. Again, we are not free to violate specific commandments, because that is sin.

We do not earn salvation by our perfect interpretation of the Bible, any more than we earn it by our good works. It’s not that doctrine doesn’t matter. But we do need to make a distinction between what is essential, and what honest Christians can read and still end up coming to differing conclusions on. Plus, who of us has never had an erroneous idea that was later disproven by something we read or by a deeper understanding? There has to be room to grow in the truth as we grow closer to Christ.

In fact, if we make doctrinal perfection a condition of salvation, we are not trusting in the finished work of Christ, but instead are placing faith in our ability to properly interpret the Bible. No fallen man will ever have a mind so perfect that he will achieve perfect doctrine. And keep this in mind as well. On our best, most mentally alert day, dripping in spiritual anointing, and seeing more clearly than we ever have before, we still “see through a glass darkly.” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

If you want to read about some messed up churches, both in doctrine and practice, read about Corinth, or some of the churches in Revelation chapters 2-3. There were definite consequences to their error, but at no point does Jesus say they have lost their salvation. They were expected to change in the light of the truth Jesus was speaking to them or they would die out as congregations.

So in the end, what shall we do? I would say to be firm on that which is plainly commanded (like what must I do to be saved, and who Jesus Christ is, the Gospel, etc) and where there is no specific directive, or just one example of a way a thing may be done, follow the spirit of the law without violating other principles of the Word. Avoid the works of the flesh, and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. Realize that we are all at differing levels of understanding and that as long as we love the truth and draw closer to Jesus, we will finish the journey to our eternal home.

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