Fulton County Gospel News

a work of the mammoth spring church of christ


The Arrogance of Error

By Barry O’Dell

The Old Testament speaks of presumptuous sin.  David wrote, “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression” (Ps. 19:13).  Of the word presumptuous the Complete Word Study Dictionary of the Old Testament says, “An adjective meaning proud, arrogant. This word most often occurs in the Psalms where it is used in connection with sin (Ps. 19:13) or to describe the ungodly (Ps. 86:14; 119:21, 85). Elsewhere in the Old Testament it describes the proud who will be judged (Isa. 13:11; Mal. 4:1) and the disobedience of the proud (Jer. 43:2).” [1]  In his commentary on Psalms Albert Barnes wrote of presumptuous sins, “The prevailing thought is that of pride, and the reference is particularly to sins which proceed from self-confidence; from reliance on one’s own strength.”[2]  God used a similar term, a verb, when speaking to Moses about false prophets: “But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die” (Deut. 18:20).  Presume means that the false prophet had spoken insolently, proudly, or arrogantly.  Literally, the false teacher will take it upon himself to speak for God!  Pride is one of the things which Solomon wrote that God hates (Pro. 6:17).  James wrote that God “resisteth (is opposed to) the proud” (Jas. 4:6).  How does presumption tie in with the existence of religious error?

God has spoken (Heb. 1:1-3).  The faith was once and for all delivered by men who were inspired or guided by the Holy Spirit (Jude 3; 2 Pet. 1:20-21).  The word of God contains all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).  The gospel is God’s power to salvation (Rom. 1:16).  It would take a truly presumptuous (arrogant, proud) person to attempt to speak for God in a way different than His word already speaks.  Paul identified that there were different gospels in the first century (Gal. 1:6-9).  Those who spoke anything that was different from the inspired gospel are cursed by God, even if it were an angel!  Yet, error abounds.  Many so-called preachers presume to speak where God has not spoken and fail to speak where God has.  When writing about false teachers in the first century Peter said, “But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities” (2 Pet. 2:10).  Presumptuous is a noun meaning, “a bold, daring, or enterprising person. In a bad sense, an audacious or presumptuous person.”  Self-willed is a combination of two Greek words and literally means, “one who pleases himself.”  The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament says of this word, “A person who obstinately maintains his own opinions or asserts his own rights, but is reckless of the rights, feelings, and interests of others.”[3]  The false teacher then, according to Peter, obstinately maintains his own opinions without regard for the feelings of God.  Let’s use Peter’s thought above and consider some ways in which presumption and self-will is displayed by some who claim to be speaking for God.

Without regard for the feelings of God many teach that the only unifying doctrine of the Bible is the deity of Christ.  Does God care what His church teaches and practices just as long as they believe that Jesus is His Son?  He absolutely cares!  Jesus Christ has written His last will and testament and died on the cross to bring it into force (Heb. 9:15-17).  His teachings guide the life of the Christian (Matt. 7:24-27) and we are going to be judged by His words (Jn. 12:48).  The book of Acts is the history of the establishment, propagation, worship, and work of the church.  The New Testament epistles written by Paul, James, John, Peter, and Jude guide the work and worship of the church today and also correct errors that may creep into the church.  The presumptuous, self-willed do not care.  The words of Christ are of no consequence to those who accept and teach the unity-in-diversity error (Rev. 22:18-19).

Without regard for the feelings of God many are seeking a more progressive church.  A progressive church is often defined as one that accepts fellowship with the denominational world and does not see the sin in using instrumental music in worship.  What are God’s feelings on progressivism?  Fortunately for us, He is very clear: “Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed: for he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 Jn. 9-11).  The American Standard Version reads, “Whosoever goeth onward…”  On this passage Guy N. Woods wrote, “Any movement which is away from the teaching of Christ is progress in the wrong direction, and results eventually in the loss of God Himself.”[4]  In spite of this stern warning from John, many are proud to be progressive!  Often they are insulted when challenged because, as presumptuous is defined, they are arrogant and pleased with themselves.  Of the progressive, John says that his deeds are evil.

These are only two examples of the battle that the Lord’s church must continue to fight: unity-in-diversity and progressivism.  May God help us all to be of a humble and contrite spirit in our efforts to serve Him (Ps. 51:17).

[1] Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter (2003). The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the Old Testament, page 282. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Pubishers

[2] Albert Barnes (1998). Barnes’ Notes on Psalms, page 176. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books

[3] Spiros Zodhiates (1992). The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, page 830. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers

[4] Guy N. Woods (1991). A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles, Vol. 7, page 347. Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company




Featured Articles

Think on These Things

One can scarcely overstate the importance of one’s thoughts. One’s thoughts define one’s character: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). This verse has been paraphrased, “You’re not what you think you are, bu......

We All Believe the Same Thing

We were standing in line at a “Christian” bookstore waiting to pay for a Bible that we had just purchased for our youngest son.  Then, it happened.  I heard someone say the words “church of Christ.”  I hate to admit it, but I tend......

The Rumblings of War

In the early spring of 1953, I struggled down the gangplank of a huge military sea transport ship, and loaded into a Navy landing craft which would take me and hundreds of other soldiers to the mainland of South Korea. I’ll never forget the uncertainty and the empty feeling that overwh......