Sound Doctrine (1)
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. 1 Timothy 1.3, 4
Stay the course!
I have been arguing the point that, for the Word of God to fulfill its promise of being the joy and rejoicing of our heart, we must read and study it faithfully, following the best methods and practices for feeding on Scripture as our daily spiritual nourishment. One of the most delightful and edifying benefits of rightly dividing the Word of truth, consistently and increasingly, is that we come to know and learn to use the teaching of Scripture for growing in the Lord and His grace. Sound doctrine provides the solid food of the Word that helps us grow strong in our walk with and work for the Lord.
Paul’s admonition to Timothy is typical of similar words to the other churches under his care: Be on guard against false teaching. Since the Scriptures have been given to the Church as the source of sound doctrine (2 Tim. 3.15-17), any teaching which veers from the doctrines of Scripture must be identified and resisted. Paul instructed Titus to train the elders to oppose false teaching, which was threatening to tear the churches apart (Tit. 1.5-11). He warned the Corinthians not to be pulled off course by the false teaching of self-proclaimed “super-apostles” (2 Cor. 12). He expressed astonishment that the Galatians had so quickly turned from sound doctrine to a false gospel of faith plus works (Gal. 1.6-9). And he charged the Thessalonians not to turn away from the doctrine he had taught them during his visit with them (2 Thess. 2.15).
As is clear from these and many other passages, doctrine matters; and sound doctrine matters supremely if we are to know joy and rejoicing in our time of feeding on the Word of God.
Sound doctrine today
In Paul’s mind, teaching sound doctrine in the churches of the Lord is a serious matter. Anything that detracts from sound doctrine is to be resisted, silenced, and expunged from the Body of Christ. It is the duty of each pastor – and everyone who feeds on the Word of God – to keep a close watch on the doctrine which is taught in his congregation, lest deviations and divisions set in (1 Tim. 4.16).
We don’t have to wonder what Paul would think about the minimizing of sound doctrine that has infected many churches in our day. Mention the word doctrine to many Christians, and even many pastors, and they will wrinkle their noses up as though they’d been exposed to a bad odor. In our day, story is the preferred medium of instruction; doctrine is downplayed as academic, divisive, out of step with the temper of the times, and not what people want to hear anyway.
This diminishing of sound doctrine opens the door for false teaching, which can rob us of the joy of our salvation and make us slaves to men.
The divine economy
Doctrine – the sound doctrine of the Word of God – is the fuel that drives the divine economy in all its dimensions. Sound doctrine is indispensable for the work of making disciples. Jesus said that we are to teach others all that He has taught us, and His curriculum, as we read it in the Gospels, is nothing other than sound doctrine (Matt. 28.18-20). We cannot accomplish the task of making disciples if we allow those we teach only to sip on the milk of Scripture, flavored with whatever stories and anecdotes will satisfy their too-easily-quenched thirst. Making disciples requires sound doctrine; without it, we’re just filling our churches with babes in Christ.
Sound doctrine is therefore also necessary for building the Church (Eph. 4.11-16). The local church does not grow simply because it’s adding more babes to the roster. Many congregations of the Body of Christ today are little more than adult nurseries, and even though their ranks continue to swell, there’s no real growth in unity or maturity taking place. Such growth requires real disciples who are ministering to one another and the world, and, as we have seen, you can’t grow disciples apart from sound doctrine.
Sound doctrine is also essential for advancing the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Each of those defining ideas is fraught with doctrinal substance and significance. How can we seek this Kingdom unless we are steeped in the Biblical teaching concerning its defining attributes?
God is unfolding and advancing His Kingdom on earth, unto righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. That Kingdom proceeds by the power of God’s Spirit on the fuel of sound doctrine. Neglect sound doctrine, and the progress of the divine economy stalls, and the joy we are promised in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ eludes us.
There’s just no way around it. Sound doctrine is necessary for vital Christian life, church growth, and Kingdom advance. No Christian, and no church, can thrive without it.
1. Why do you think many Christians have a bad taste in their mouth for doctrine?
2. Does it matter which doctrines we believe? Can you think of an example of false doctrine that could undermine faith and obedience?
3. What is your approach to understanding the using sound doctrine?
Next steps – Conversation: Talk with a few Christian friends about their understanding of doctrine. Do they regard sound doctrine as something to be taken seriously?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.