Is it enough to “just believe in Jesus” in some structureless sense that separates “faith” from any particular doctrine about Him, or is doctrine—and the content of our faith—really important after all?
Scripture plainly teaches that we must be sound in the faith—which is to say that doctrine does matter.
1 Timothy 4:6(ESV)6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.
2 Timothy 4:2-3(ESV)2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,
Titus 1:9(ESV)9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
Titus 2:1(ESV)But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.
Sound Doctrine matters a lot.
1 Timothy 6:3-4(ESV)3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions.
The purpose of the church is to teach and preach sound doctrine while protecting the flock from wolves and false teachers. The Bible is clear that we are not to treat wolves in the same way that we treat sheep. The great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther said it well: “With the wolves you cannot be too severe; with the weak sheep you cannot be too gentle”. Luther also said, A preacher must not only feed the sheep so as to instruct them how they are to be good Christians, but he must also keep the wolves from attacking the sheep and leading them astray with false doctrine and error;
Sound, biblical doctrine is a necessary aspect of true wisdom and authentic faith. The attitude that scorns doctrine while elevating feelings or blind trust cannot legitimately be called faith at all, even if it masquerades as Christianity.
God holds us accountable for what we believe as well as how we think about the truth He has revealed. All Scripture testifies to the fact that God wants us to know and understand the truth. He wants us to be wise. His will is that we use our minds. We are supposed to think, meditate, and above all, to be discerning.
The content of our faith is crucial. Sincerity is not sufficient.Paul charges Titus, Titus 2:1 (ESV)“You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine”. Such a mandate makes it obvious that sound doctrine is important. But why is it important? Does it really make a difference what we believe? If I were to ask you what you think is the largest problem facing the church in America, what would your response be?
“A lack of biblical discernment. The church basically suffers from spiritual AIDS. It could die of a thousand heresies because its immune system is so totally deficient” John MacArthur
Discernment = In its simplest definition, discernment is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth. In other words, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically.
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22(ESV) teaches that it is the responsibility of every Christian to be discerning: 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil. The apostle John issues a similar warning when he says, 1 John 4:1(ESV)Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. According to the New Testament, discernment is not optional for the believer-it is required.
Here are a few reasons the church is in the crisis it is in.
1The rise of extreme tolerance – The church is reluctant to take a definitive stand on any issue.
2A refusal to shun the world – The church is preoccupied with image and influence.
3A failure to interpret Scripture accurately.
4A lack of spiritual maturity.
Many men get told stuff for going too far but no one says anything about those cowards that do not go far enough. We need pastors that will teach and preach sound doctrine not tickle and entertain the ears of people. The Word is a sword and the sword is to cut not to entertain.
Sound doctrine is important because our faith is based on a specific message. The overall teaching of the church contains many elements, but the primary message is explicitly defined: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4(ESV)3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,. This good news is not open for interpretation, and it is “of first importance.” Change that message, and the basis of faith shifts from Christ to something else. Over time the methods may change bit the message must stay in tact. Our eternal destiny depends upon hearing “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” Ephesians 1:3(ESV)3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,; Romans 5:8-9(ESV)8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
To proclaim the truth and to support the truth through Scripture and reason, this is the greatest need of the church.” John MacArthur
“There are too many ballpark interpreters and preachers. The theological atmosphere of evangelicalism is saturated with a dense fog of uncertainty and misplaced emphases in handling the Word of God. Many churches are on the rocks because of careless hermeneutics, ignorance of biblical languages and unsystematic theology. Rough estimates as to what this or that passage means will not do. We need qualified preachers and teachers who will take the time and make the necessary sacrifices to do their homework well and bring clarity to the minds of God’s people as they read and study God’s holy Word.”
The biggest problem facing the church is lack of discernment. If you can’t discern the truth you can die of a thousand heresies. It’s just like spiritual AIDS. A deficient immune system leaves you susceptible to dying at the hands of a thousand illnesses.
Along with the responsibility to teach, preach, and instruct, part of the responsibility of ministry is to reprove, rebuke and exhort
2 Timothy 4:2(ESV)2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.; Titus 1:9(ESV)9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. And in that vein, it needs to be said that a massive part of Christianity lacks discernment.
As shepherds we must teach and preach sound doctrine and show people how to have spiritual discernment. You must know what you believe, why you believe and be able to give a defense on it.
1 Peter 3:15(ESV)5 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
Titus 1:15-16(ESV) To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. Knowledge of what the gospel teaches about various subjects is the preventative vaccine that enables the believer to resist false teaching. Truly embracing this vaccine produces not merely head knowledge of the gospel, but good works that flow out genuine saving faith.
Sound doctrine is important because the gospel is a sacred trust, and we dare not tamper with God’s communication to the world. Our duty is to deliver the message, not to change it. Jude conveys an urgency in guarding the trust:
Jude 1:3(ESV)3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Philippians 1:27(ESV)27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, To “contend” carries the idea of strenuously fighting for something, to give it everything you’ve got. The Bible includes a warning neither to add to nor subtract from God’s Word
Revelation 22:18-19(ESV)18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. Rather than alter the apostles’ doctrine, we receive what has been passed down to us and keep it “as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus”
2 Timothy 1:13(ESV)13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Sound doctrine is important because what we believe affects what we do. Behavior is an extension of theology, and there is a direct correlation between what we think and how we act. For example, two people stand on top of a bridge; one believes he can fly, and the other believes he cannot fly. Their next actions will be quite dissimilar. In the same way, a man who believes that there is no such thing as right and wrong will naturally behave differently from a man who believes in well-defined moral standards. In one of the Bible’s lists of sins, things like rebellion, murder, lying, and slave trading are mentioned. The list concludes with “whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine”
1 Timothy 1:9-10(ESV)9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, In other words, true teaching promotes righteousness but sin flourishes where “the sound doctrine” is opposed.
Sound doctrine is important because we must ascertain truth in a world of falsehood. 1 John 4:1(ESV)“Many false prophets have gone out into the world”. There are tares among the wheat and wolves among the flock
Matthew 13:25(ESV)25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.
Acts 20:29(ESV)29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; The best way to distinguish truth from falsehood is to know what the truth is.
Many times when those who stand firm in God’s Word as truth and call out false teachers they are told they have a critical or judgmental spirit, it is because we have stepped on the tender toes of a false teacher that is teaching the opposite of what biblical Christianity teaches. We are told that they are humble people with good hearts, and we need to stop bashing them. We are also told that we are false teachers because we are creating disunity in the Body of Christ, first off if they are a false teacher then they are wolves and not part of the Body, secondly we (true teachers) can back up what we say in scripture in context, we do not cherry pick and take scriptures out of context to make our doctrines.
May I suggest that these well-meaning scolders and followers of false doctrines are possibly venting at the wrong people? The real dividers in the Church can be found throughout scripture.
Romans 16:17-18(HCSB)17 Now I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause dissensions and obstacles contrary to the doctrine you have learned. Avoid them, 18 for such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites.They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words.
Some will say we need to be in “unity” yes we will be in unity with those teacheras and churches that teach sound doctrine, not doctrines that will send people to hell.
Sound doctrine is important because the end of sound doctrine is life.
1 Timothy 4:16(ESV)16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. Conversely, the end of unsound doctrine is destruction.
Jude 1:4(ESV)4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Changing God’s message of grace is a “godless” thing to do, and the condemnation for such a deed is severe. Preaching another gospel (“which is really no gospel at all”) carries an anathema: “let him be eternally condemned!” Galatians 1:6-9(ESV)6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
Sound doctrine is important because it encourages believers. A love of God’s Word brings “great peace” Psalm 119:165(ESV)Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. and those “who proclaim peace . . . who proclaim salvation” are truly “beautiful”
Isaiah 52:7(ESV)How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”. A pastor “must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” Titus 1:9(ESV)9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it..
The word of wisdom is Proverbs 22:28, (ESV) Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set. If we can apply this to sound doctrine, the lesson is that we must preserve it intact. May we never stray from “the simplicity that is in Christ” 2 Corinthians 11:3(ESV)3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.