Who Do You Hang Around?

Dr Pierre Coovert

It is important who you hand aground with. When I say hang around I mean who are your friends and who to you listen to. The Bible is clear that we are not to keep company with false teachers. If someone teaches anything contrary to “the faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3), they teach false doctrine and are to be avoided (2 Thessalonians 3:6).

Who you hang around with makes a difference. Listen to 1 Corinthians 15:33 “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.”

Defining the words:

Deceived, as used here, means to roam away from the truth.

Evil means that which is hurtful or does harm.

Communications refers to those we hang around with, those to whom we spend our time communicating with, this would not only be those with whom we hang around physically, it would also include those whose works we study.

Good manners refers to our moral habits. Since moral habits are based upon our beliefs this tells us that if we hang around with those who believe false doctrine our doctrine will be affected.

This is not a difficult verse to understand. It simply says that, if you hang around bad people, it will corrupt your habits. You may not accept their gross error, but you will become tolerant of it. You will say things like, “Most of what they believe or teach is good.” You will become less critical of error because you won’t want to offend or lose a friendship. The smaller, less evident, errors will start to creep into what you believe, and you will start asking yourself if you are being too critical on the big things.

Galatians 5:9 tells us that “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” This is a warning against allowing error into our doctrinal system. The context is about circumcision being part of our salvation. This was being preached by certain false teachers and Paul asked them what was stopping them from obeying the truth (Galatians 5:7), He trusted that they would, through the Lord, get this right and that the one who brought this false doctrine would be judged (Galatians 5:10).

The point is that it doesn’t take much error to cause the whole church to go bad. If a church allows error in one supposedly unimportant area, you can be sure that it will spread to other areas and eventually corrupt the whole church.

Let me illustrate this by looking at the five principles of fundamentalism. The Fundamentalist movement started at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was a response to the growing influence of modernism and liberalism. It was a Presbyterian movement at the beginning, but soon other conservative denominations jumped on board. Unfortunately, Baptists also came on board. To be part of the movement you only needed to agree to five “essential” doctrines.

Here are Fundamentalism’s five principles:

  • Biblical inspiration and the inerrancy of scripture

  • Virgin birth of Jesus

  • Belief that Christ’s death was the atonement for sin

  • Bodily resurrection of Jesus

  • Historical reality of the miracles of Jesus

You will notice that these are really quite vague. Let’s look at each one of them and see just how vague they really are.

Biblical inspiration and inerrancy

If you search the internet you will find that many conservative churches say something like this “We believe that the holy Scriptures are inspired and inerrant in the original autographs.” This fits this first principle of Fundamentalism. The question is do they believe that we have the inspired, inerrant Scriptures today? The answer is that most fundamentalists don’t. How can we tell? It is easy, they use any translation that fits their fancy. They believe that we must search all of the various translations to to try to find what God really said. They have no objective standard by which to judge the truth. They take the translation that fits their doctrinal position in any given area. A true fundamentalist will have a Bible that he believes is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. The only English speaking people I know who have this standard are those who hold to the King James Bible.

Virgin birth of Jesus

You may think that this one is clear, but let me show you that it is not. This last presidential election shows that many “Fundamentalists” accept those who error in this area as being true Christians. The Church of Latter Day Saints believes in what they call the “virgin birth.” They believe that while Mary was a virgin, Adam, the god of this earth, came and had intercourse with her and the result is the birth of their Jesus. No true Bible believer could hold this position but some accepted in the Fundamentalist movement did.

Belief that Christ’s death was the atonement for sin

There are many who hold this position that teach a false salvation. Even Catholics believe that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world. They just don’t think that, in itself, this is enough to get you to Heaven. You must add sacraments and works. It also, according to Catholic doctrine, requires the help of the Virgin Mary. They are not the only ones who add to this for salvation. Remember, these fundamentals were originated by the Presbyterians. They are Calvinists and they believe that Christ’s death is not sufficient for all mankind, but only for the “elect.” On the other side, there are the Armenians who add works to belief in Christ for salvation. We find both of these in the Fundamentalist movement. Christ’s death was for the atonement for the sin of all of mankind and everyone can be saved if they will only accept His sacrifice by faith. No works need to be added, nor can they be added if the Gospel is to be kept pure.

Calvinists hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith which says, “Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life: which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in his Church until the end of the world.” While, unlike some other protestants who say baptism washes away original sin, this does say that baptism is a sign and a seal (a guarantee) of one’s ingrafting into Christ, regeneration, and remission of sins. This makes baptism part of the salvation process and is totally unscriptural.

Bodily resurrection of Jesus

I know of no one accepted as a Fundamentalist who is in error on this one.

Historical reality of the miracles of Jesus

Again, I know of no one accepted as a Fundamentalist who is in error on this one.

There are some fundamental errors that have come through the Fundamentalist movement. Two of them have seriously affected Baptists. One is what I will call the doctrine of positivity. The other is the doctrine of the universal church.

Lee Robertson, who was pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church for 40 years, held this positivity position. He said, “Stay out of controversy in the pulpit – stay out of it and stay on the main line. I think that helped me a lot. I tried to avoid personalities and stay on the main line: preaching the Gospel, emphasis on winning people to Christ, emphasis on developing the spiritual life, dying to self, the fullness of the Spirit, the second coming – kept on the positive side, kept negatives away from people.”

All of these are good things except for the last two, keeping on the positive side and keeping the negatives away from the people. Where is Highland Park Baptist Church today? It has returned to the Southern Baptist Convention and is a full blown rock and roll church. This once great church is now solidly in the New Evangelical camp because the pastor stayed on the positive side and kept the negatives away from the people.

Although the doctrine of the universal church did not first enter Baptist circles through the Fundamentalist movement, it was made acceptable to most Baptist by this movement. When you hang around universal church people you will soon see this doctrine as acceptable and eventually move to hold it yourself. This breaks down the biblical walls of separation from error and opens the door to compromise. (See my book on the universal church) There was a time when no true Baptist church would even consider accepting alien baptism or open communion. Today many Baptist churches do.

These two doctrines, positivity and universal church, have done more to lead Baptist churches to contemporary music and multiple Bible versions than anything else. If people are not warned, and if people see those who teach false doctrine as acceptable, it must draw them down. It must weaken their stand on the Word of God.

Most churches that have accepted these compromises are pastored by good men who love the Lord and are trying their best to be faithful to God. However, instead of listening to the warnings, they usually attack the messenger as unloving and as a divider. God has given prophets, not future tellers, but those who warn, to the churches to point these things out. As with the prophets of old, no one wants to listen to them.

Don’t be deceived, if you hang around or study after those who hold false doctrine it will corrupt your doctrine (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved