Not only are these widespread religious beliefs not taught by the Bible, they damage our understanding of our Savior and King.
I used to think that if a large number of people believed something, then there was a better chance it was true. And if only a few people believed something, it was unlikely to be correct.
But in this post-truth world of fake news and social media echo chambers, determining truth by poll numbers is clearly not adequate.
And when it comes to spiritual truth, the Bible claims it never has been. God has established eternal principles and plans that are not altered by human belief or disbelief. God does not set morality by majority or doctrinal positions by popularity.
The source of truth
God made everything, and He is love and truth. As our Creator, He knows exactly what is best for us, and He tells it like it is in His instruction manual for us, the Holy Bible.
Yet with thousands of churches and a vast spectrum of doctrines, many damaging beliefs have emerged since Jesus walked the earth.
Which beliefs are true? Jesus said, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). We must look to the Bible for the real truth about God and the way He wants us to live.
All churches get their beliefs from the Bible, right? But then why do so many of them disagree? Are all those beliefs really supported by the Bible?
Five widely held beliefs
Let’s look at five widely held beliefs and see what the Bible says. Could many or most Christians be wrong about Christ? Could long-held traditions turn out to be untrue? Could sincerely held but inaccurate beliefs and theological dogmas really be damaging to our understanding and relationship with our Lord and Savior?
Damaging Belief 1: Jesus wasn’t sinless.
According to research by Barna, more than half of Americans (52 percent) agree that Jesus “committed sins like other people.”
But if they are right, the Bible is not true and Jesus could not be our Savior. Without a Savior, all hope would be lost.
The Bible says it many times, but let’s look at one. Speaking of Jesus, Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (emphasis added throughout).
If we don’t believe He was sinless as the Bible says, how can we believe that He will forgive our sins?Jesus, the Son of God who emptied Himself of the privileges of being God that He had enjoyed for eternity, humbled Himself to experience life as we live it (Philippians 2:5-8). He bore the weight of temptations—but never once sinned! Still, He understands what we are going through. And He loved us so much He was willing to die to pay a penalty He did not deserve. He died to pay for my sins and yours!
Thinking of Jesus as a sinner is a damaging, heretical belief. If we don’t believe He was sinless as the Bible says, how can we believe that He will forgive our sins as it says (Acts 2:38)?
Damaging Belief 2: Jesus loves us so much, He doesn’t care if we sin.
Americans were asked to respond to this statement: “Even the slightest sin deserves eternal damnation,” and a startling 61 percent strongly disagreed (Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research).
Lots of people either think sin isn’t so bad, or that Jesus doesn’t really care about it that much.
Jesus does love us, but the Bible also shows that He does care if we sin! Sin is what killed Him—our sins!
Why does He care about sin so much?
Consider what sin is. It is breaking the laws that God designed for our good (1 John 3:4; Deuteronomy 10:13). When we break His laws, we bring evil results. Sin is the ultimate cause of all evil and suffering.
In addition to all of the suffering sin causes throughout life, the way of sin ends in death. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Every sin is the opposite of love, the opposite of God’s nature. God hates it!
But God the Father and Jesus Christ loved us so much that Jesus died in our place to give us a fresh start. That certainly doesn’t mean He doesn’t care if we continue to sin (Romans 6:1-2)! Jesus’ message to the woman taken in adultery is a message for us all: “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).
Damaging Belief 3: Satan is winning.
If you look at the number of people, past and present, who have claimed to be Christians compared to the whole population of the world, then it would seem Satan is winning. But will Satan really win in the long run, and are most people really lost forever?
God says He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). But is that just a pointless wish from a Being who seems to be losing the majority of people to Satan?
The Bible shows there is a battle (Luke 4:1-13; Revelation 12:7-12), but God controls every part of it, including the eventual outcome. For example, in the book of Job, the devil had to get permission for the trials and tests he wanted to bring on Job (Job 1:11-12; 2:4-6).
Consider who has the upper hand based on these scriptures:
- “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2:19).
- “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
- “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone” (Revelation 20:10).
That is the last mention of Satan in the Bible. Clearly God wins!
Damaging Belief 4: People who have never heard Jesus’ name will suffer in hell forever.
Related to damaging belief 3, we must consider: What about the billions of people who never heard the name of Jesus Christ—the only name by which we must be saved? As the apostle Peter said about the name of Jesus Christ: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Some churchgoers answer this by disagreeing with Peter. In a LifeWay Research survey, 26 percent agreed, “If a person is sincerely seeking God, he/she can obtain eternal life through religions other than Christianity.”
The Bible shows that Satan isn’t winning and will eventually be removed, and that every human who has ever lived will have a full, complete chance for salvation.But most churchgoers recognize the biblical requirement for people to know Jesus Christ. Which leaves the question: What happens to those who have never even heard His name, much less understood His teaching and responded to it? Based on many churches’ teachings, the logical answer is that they will suffer in hell forever.
There are many damaging problems with this belief. It makes God out to be unfair and even cruel. It rests on nonbiblical teachings, such as the ancient Greek concept of an immortal soul and Dante Alighieri’s poetic and satirical description about an ever-burning inferno that tortures such souls forever.
But the Bible says that “the soul who sins will die” and that “all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up” (Ezekiel 18:4; Malachi 4:1). The apostle Paul contrasts death with the gift of eternal life. To die the second death is to perish, to cease to exist (Revelation 20:14; John 3:16), not to have eternal life in a different, more painful place.
The Bible shows that Satan isn’t winning and will eventually be removed, and that every human who has ever lived will have a full, complete chance for salvation. Explore the intriguing biblical truth of how God will display His mercy and fairness to all in our article “Is God Fair?” This is one of the least understood truths of the Bible, but it’s an essential thread that ties up God’s plan with a beautiful bow.
Damaging Belief 5: Jesus is only figuratively a King.
Many churches teach that the millennial reign of Jesus Christ is only figurative. Amillennialists don’t believe Jesus will be King on the earth for 1,000 years as promised in Revelation 20:4.
But Jesus told the Roman governor Pilate that He was born to be a king (John 18:37). His Kingdom is not “of this world” (verse 36)—not “of earthly origin or nature” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). It will be of heavenly origin, but the Bible clearly says He will literally come to earth again (Zechariah 14:4; Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7; 11:15; 19:11-21). Then His disciples will also sit on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel (Luke 22:29-30).
Jesus said the meek would inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5), and they literally will as the Kingdom of God envelopes the world. In fact, Jesus said we should regularly pray, “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10).
If we don’t believe Jesus is returning as King of Kings to rule on earth, we won’t be preparing to assist Him. Jesus warned us to watch, be ready, be faithful, be wise, be serving, be giving, be prepared (Matthew 24:42-47; 25:34-36; Luke 21:34-36). The Millennium and the Kingdom of God are essential parts of God’s plan—and followers of Christ must embrace them.
Read more about the biblical promise of the Kingdom in our free booklet The Mystery of the Kingdom.
The word of truth
Misunderstandings about Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Bible are surprisingly common (for example, see our “Christ vs. Christianity” column in Discern magazine). But don’t take our word for it. Dig into the Bible yourself and prove, as the Bereans did, “whether these things [are] so” (Acts 17:11).
Pray for God’s help to rightly understand the “word of truth” and gain the doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness He offers (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16). Then, instead of being damaged by unbiblical beliefs, you will “be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (3:17).