Nana Yaw Aidoo
Let us suppose for a moment that you returned from a run and found poison in a water bottle in your kitchen. Since the poison was in a water bottle, you decided to drink some of it in order to quench your thirst. You sincerely believed that the content of the bottle was water. Would your sincerity turn the poison into water or would it protect you from the harmful effects of the poison?
Or what if you were sat on a plane moving from your country to Ghana when you intended all along to travel to England? If you sincerely believed that you were sat on a plane moving to England, would your sincerity make it so?
Anyone who thinks right about the a foregoing scenarios would certainly answer a great big no to both questions. Both scenarios serve to illustrate the insufficiency of sincerity. No one accepts, believes things or acts based on sincerity alone in profane matters. We do not choose our security personnel, our doctors or our baby sitters based on sincerity alone. Why is that? Because we know that such a decision could prove fatal. It is rather unfortunate that what most men do not do in profane matters they have no problems doing in spiritual matters. Men who do not make decisions that pertain to this life on the basis of sincerity alone, have no qualms making eternal decisions on the basis of sincerity alone. It seems that such men are more interested in this life than in the afterlife.
But where in the Bible does it say it doesn’t matter what a person believes as long as he is sincere? The answer is nowhere. Nowhere in the Bible is this doctrine taught. The following examples will prove this point.
In Genesis 20, we have an account of Abraham and Sarah’s sojourn in Gerar. Whiles there, Abraham left king Abimelech with the impression that all Sarah was to him was a sister. That was true but it was only half-true (Gen. 20:12). This half-truth was intended to deceive the king so that Abraham would save his life. Having been left with this impression, Abimelech decided to commit fornication with Sarah and he most probably would have but for the intervention of God. In a conversation with God concerning this issue, Abimelech said: “Said he not unto me, she is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this” (Gen. 20:5). The highlighted word integrity has the idea of sincerity and is so translated by the Modern King James Version. Abimelech was in effect saying, “I sincerely thought Sarah was Abraham’s sister and nothing else.” Even God Almighty in the very next verse affirmed Abimelech’s sincerity. Yet, in spite of Abimelech’s evident sincerity God told him that if he had gone ahead with his intention, He would have killed him (Gen. 20:3). Why would God have killed the king? Because regardless of sincerity, fornication is a sin against God (Gen. 20:6). Abimelech’s sincerity would not have made the sin any less sinful or any more pleasing unto God.
Nadab and Abihu
In Leviticus 10, we have an account of two priests, Nadab and Abihu, who were killed by God because they “…offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not” (Lev. 10:1). Notice that these brothers were the right people, in the right place at the right time who out of sincerity offered a sacrifice to the LORD. Yet, their apparent sincerity did not excuse their use of unauthorized fire.
In 1 Samuel 15, God commanded the extermination of everything Amalek, both humans and animals. Yet, Israel led by Saul, evidently out of sincerity, “spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God” (1 Sam. 15:15). God’s view of the issue was that Saul had done evil in His sight (1 Sam. 15:19).
In 2 Samuel 6, God killed Uzzah the son of Abinadab for putting forth his hand to the ark. This God did because He had already given the transportation and handling of the ark to the Levites (1 Chr. 15:2). Beyond reasonable doubt Uzzah acted the way he did because he wanted to stop the ark from hitting the floor. The sincerity of this man’s actions shines through in the account. Yet because his actions were contrary to God’s order (1 Chr. 15:13), his sincerity could not save him from death.
Some People Before the Judgment Seat of Christ
Jesus Christ in the sermon on the mount said that some on the judgement day will say to Him: “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” (Matt. 7:22). These will be those men who go about their religious affairs on the basis of their sincerity alone. Whiles on earth they thought that merely claiming allegience to the Lord was enough to make heaven. They thought that merely being sincere in divine matters was enough. But our Lord will say to them: “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:23).
The Apostle Paul
Paul prior to his conversion had lived as a blasphemer of the Way and a murderer (1 Tim. 1:12-15). Yet in his defense before the Sanhendrin, he said: “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1). You see, even when Paul opposed the church, he did it out of a good conscience. He was sincere in his opposition to Christ and His church but was he right?
The Unbelieving Jews
In Romans 10 Paul speaks of some sincere Jews who were lost because their sincerity or zeal was not based on true knowledge (Rom. 10:1-3). Why is this so if sincerity is all that matters?
What do the Foregoing Examples Teach us?
They teach us the following:
Sincerity is not a substitute for belief.
Sincerity is not substitute for obedience
Sincerity in and of itself is not a virtue. Depending on its focus or object, it could be a vice. For instance, the man who sincerely thinks poison is water will die if he drinks it. Sincerity in this case would not be a virtue. Again, whiles sincerity towards the things of Christ in religion is a virtue, sincerity towards the things of Caesar is not.
These lessons however do not mean sincerity isn’t needed in religion. Passages like Joshua 24:14, 1 Corinthians 5:8 and Ephesians 6:24 clearly indicate the necessity of sincerity in religion. However, if there is anything we have learnt from the examples we have surveyed it is that in addition to sincerity God expects us to believe and practice the truth.
Some Specific Religious Errors That People Sincerely Believe
Let us now consider some specific errors that people sincerely believe in religion that will unfortunately damn their souls.
The all roads lead to heaven error. Many sincere folks believe that all religions lead to God. Yet the Bible says there is only one way to heaven and it is Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
The Jesus Christ isn’t deity error. Many sincere folks believe that Jesus Christ isn’t God and that He was just a good man. Yet the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is God (John 10:30-33; Rom. 9:5). If Christ isn’t God then He is a liar and liars aren’t good men.
The salvation by prayer error. Many sincere folks are saying a prayer in order to be saved. Yet in order to be saved, the Bible teaches that one must be taught the gospel and must understand it (Rom. 10:14-17), believe the gospel (Heb. 11:6), repent of all sins (Luke 13:3), confess Christ as the Son of God (Matt. 10:32; Acts 8:37), and be baptized unto the remission of sins and in order to put on Christ (Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:27).
The baptism isn’t necessary to be saved error. Many sincere folks teach that baptism isn’t necessary to be saved because it is a work. Yet the resurrected and victorious Savior says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). Faith is a work (John 6:28-29). Yet these people don’t think it isn’t necessary to be saved.
The join a “Bible believing church of your choice error.” Many sincere folks are joining churches of their choice and yet the Bible says when God saves us, He adds us to His church (Acts 2:47). He does not ask us to join the church of our choice. The Savior has only one church (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 4:4; Col. 1:18).
The no pattern in the worship and work of the church error. Many sincere folks are doing things in the work and worship of the church, which God has not authorized such as mechanical instruments in the worship, utilizing singing groups in worship, forming organizations to do the work of the church among others. Yet we are told that our teaching and our practice must be authorized by God (Col. 3:17).
The idea that it doesn’t matter what a person believes as long as he is sincere is a mistake. It is a mistake in profane matters and it is a mistake in eternal matters. The road to hell is paved with good intentions or sincerity. The reason is this: It is possible to be sincere and yet be sincerely wrong.