“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” (Deut. 4:2)
The prohibition against adding to God’s word or taking from it is, perhaps, one of the best known but least obeyed commands of God. It is regularly violated with impunity. It was the first sin to be committed, when Eve added to God’s word, the words “neither shall ye touch it,” and satan added the little word “not” to God’s condemnation “Ye shall surely die.” This prohibition has been repeated throughout God’s word. It was repeated in the Law of Moses (Deut. 13:1-4). Jeremiah reminded the people of Israel that they were not to diminish a single word from the Law (Jer. 26:2). The wise man warned against adding to the word lest we be made liars (Prov. 30:6). Jesus said one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law till all be fulfilled (Matt. 5:17). The warning is finally repeated at the conclusion of the Revelation (22:18,19). Jesus condemned those who engage in vain worship by “teaching for doctrine the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9).
There are those who intentionally rebel against God’s express will and follow their own designs. These, Paul said, are “men of corrupt minds,” “reprobate concerning the Faith” and “always resisting the truth” (II Tim. 3:8). Sometimes they come in the form of ravening wolves disguised in sheep’s clothing, as Jesus described them (Matt. 7:15), or as “vain talkers and deceivers, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not for filthy lucres’ sake (Tit. 1:10,11). Others wrest the scriptures just because they are unlearned and unstable (II Pet. 3:16). This sin manifests itself in many ways.
God’s word teaches “sing and make melody in your heart” (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19). Some, however, want to add the instrument to this command or use their voice to make the sound of an instrument.
God’s word teaches that we are to take the Lord’s supper on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). Some, however, want to take it once a year, or during special occasions.
God’s word teaches to lay by in store upon the first day of the week (I Cor. 16:1,2). Many, however, want to take up a collection any time they can.
God’s word teaches that His word is to be taught faithfully (II Tim. 2:2). Some, however, want to teach anything but the word.
God’s word teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:18-25; Matt. 19:1-9). But some want to pervert God’s design for marriage into something it is not.
God’s word teaches that Holy Spirit baptism was given to the apostles for the purposes of revealing and confirming the word (John 14:26; 16:13; Heb. 2:1-4; etc.). But a few want to claim this was and is given to all Christians.
God’s word teaches that baptism is for the remission of sins (Mark 16:15,16; Acts 2:38). Some, however, want to say that baptism does not wash away sins.
On and on the list could go. There is an infinite variety of ways to pervert God’s word, but only one correct way to understand it.
Doctrine is undeniably important. The prohibition against altering or changing God’s word is very clear indeed. “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” (II John 1:9-11).
Eric L. Padgett