What is new from the pulpit has become more important than expositional teaching on what God has written. Because of this emphasis, many do not know how to identify error, nor have a clue on what to do about it. Because of this lack of conveying doctrine to the assembly, we also find people that believe they can be Christian without the confines of doctrine. They like the moral teaching and higher ethics Jesus offers, they will emulate Jesus but they do not find it necessary to do it by the book. Jesus becomes their mentor and helps reinforce their views of what they think is right in life.
Paul wrote to young Timothy who was trained in the Jewish Scriptures since his youth. 2 Timothy 4:3-5: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Paul spoke prophetically bout that that “time” which should be apparent to all has come. They “will not endure sound doctrine.” They will NOT put up with those who teach correctly. Why? Because they have a need to scratch their ears with something new (like the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill). They intentionally turn from hearing the truth and appoint teachers that will speak (scratch) to what their itch (desire) dictates.
Some in the Church that have been persuaded not to sit under sound Bible teaching that will awaken them. More pulpit time is devoted to storytelling, jokes and illustrations (stories- fables and myths) than the exposition of the word. The sheep’s diet consists more of entertainment, with music, skits and dances with sermons that are like drinking warm milk that will only help them go to sleep.
But didn’t Jesus teach numerous of stories? Jesus only started to speak stories and parables because the nation of Israel rejected him as the Messiah. He did not start off his ministry with stories but with explaining the meaning of the Scripture from which they had strayed from. He often stated “have you not read,” “it is written,” “For I say to you,” etc. Once Israel’s leadership had blasphemed the Holy Spirit Jesus would almost always have a parable to accompany His teaching. It was not a good thing but a judgment in which He hid the spiritual meaning of the story from those who did not have ears to hear and made it more clear to those who were following the truth.
Of course Bible verses are still used in these sermons (mostly principles), but these are an added content to a message that is not based on or out of the Scripture. This changes the whole substance of the message. The more alienated we are to Scripture teaching of verse upon verse the more we become susceptible to trends. We wait for the newest idea, the newest method that will help enhance our spirituality. We are convinced what worked before does not work for today. We need something different, fresh for our times; the people, fashions and culture have changed. New books, new seminars on the newest concepts. We are excited thinking where is God taking the church. The fact is, it is not God taking us anywhere, He has been pointing to where He has always been and where He wants us to be, in the WORD.
Paul wrote to Titus, a Greek convert who he appointed to set elders in the churches established in Crete.“Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).
He likewise mentions in Philippians 2:15-16: “that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”
The Greek word for holding fast is epecho, it means to hold upon, i.e. to retain; to pay attention to. In Titus 1:9 when Paul mentions “holding fast the faithful word” the Greek word is antechomai – it is more active and intense, it means to hold oneself opposite to, or against, hold back, withstand, to keep oneself directly opposite to anyone, hold to him firmly, cleave to, paying heed to him (the Lord by His word).
Holding fast the word is someone who is Bible based, sound in his understanding of what the Scripture says and does not say. He understands what God has said as God’s word is living and active today just as it was when it was spoken or written.“As he has been taught” the Greek means “According to the teaching.” Meaning they received the truth for some time and are trained up in it. There are some people that know the truth, but need encouragement to continue in it, others are ignorant and unintentionally oppose it. Then there are some who intentionally align themselves AGAINST the truth with full knowledge they are not esteeming God’s written word.
Titus is told, “Exhort” (convict)- who? Those who contradict the word- the gainsayers (v.10). They are to actively refute the objections and defend the truth.
If you are firm in your belief of the doctrines of the Christian faith, you can be relied on to maintain and defend those doctrines. You can be expected to withstand those in opposition because you have become familiar and digested the faithful word.
2 Thess. 2:15: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, (holding fast) and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” Hold or stand fast is the Greek word steko, a perfect tense meaning to be stationary, to persevere: in other words we are not to be moved. Those who continue in sound doctrine have not moved from what they were taught, it is those who do not teach sound doctrine that have moved from where they once were.
Convince- Greek (elengchein) “convict.” We are to both exhort and to convince those who contradict. To persuade them and bring them over to God’s correct view by using kind exhortation, and by instruction that will convince them they are wrong and this is what is meant. We convince by the truth and we know they are of us if they are willing to hear and seek the truth. However, if they do not listen and are contentious then we must take the next step.
By “Sound” doctrine (Greek: hugiaino) means healthy, like the saying, “sound advice,” to be uncorrupt (true in doctrine). A church becomes unhealthy not because the gifts are not being used but because of no sound doctrine being consistently taught. This is our problem today. To be healthy means we are growing to maturity, we are growing in love, in grace, not being dysfunctional. If you are sound in doctrine the gifts will flow out correctly. When we see people have an unbalanced obsession with healing, miracles and rigorously pursue experiences it is because they have not been taught sound doctrine. They have neglected to train themselves in godliness that sound doctrine produces.
“The Faithful word” are the true doctrines. This means that we are to hold this, in opposition to those who would wrest it away, and in opposition to all false teachers we would encounter.
Titus 1:10 “For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision” Paul calls them unruly- rebellious people, deceivers. These are those that do not receive the sound doctrine, and are not willing to submit to the authority of Scripture. They are ruled by their own opinions, not Christ.
We find that THOSE WHO OPPOSE SOUND DOCTRINE ARE: Proud 1Tim. 6:3-4; Ignorant 1 Tim. 6:4; Doting about questions; 1Tim. 6:4; abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work Titus 1:16; Not to be received 2 John 1:10; To be avoided Rom 16:17; Not to be endured by the saints 2 Tim. 4:3. Do you do this? Do you separate, withstand or expose those who contradict the truth and shipwreck people? Jesus said you are either for me or against me. Consider what the apostles did when they found false teachers or teaching surfacing or influencing a church. They wrote about it, they named names if necessary, they were actively withstanding the influence. Today we are more concerned with a false teachers feelings than we are with those being harmed by their falsehood. The truth and the power to bring correction are put aside and we argue over so and so’s reputation and make excuses like “ he’s done so much good,” or “look at all the people that attend his meetings.” This didn’t stop Paul from rebuking Peter when he compromised on the gospel when eating with the gentiles (Galatians 2:11-14). Because of his compromise he influenced others even Barnabas who traveled with Paul and knew better. Of course Peter could have been prideful and said to Paul I was following Jesus before you even believed, he appointed me to be the leader of the apostles, he personally instructed me. But Peter humbled himself and was willing to repent. All was fine between him and Paul afterwards, for he compliments Paul and says “Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of evil (lawless) men and fall from your secure position” (2 Peter 3: 15-17). He calls those who persist in these teachings not from Scripture as EVIL men. That is a word we don’t use these days-evil. But that is what Peter calls those who twist the Scripture and do not want to be corrected.
The fundamentals doctrines are simple and plain. These are the ABC’s of Christianity; the 1-2-3’s of math. These are the things we use daily in our lives, and to witness to others. But there are some deep things that are for our personal spiritual growth (that would be like algebra), these we may never use in speaking to others. Notice that even Peter says of Paul’s writings that some things are hard to understand. Not everything is simple. Yet Peter cautions us to not be removed and deceived by wicked men who have become teachers that do not understand these things in Scripture.
1 Corinthians 11:18-19 says, “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions (heresies) exist among you; and in part, I believe it. For there must also be heresies among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you.” We find those who stand in the truth by their resistance to the false. They test what is said, and it becomes evident who agrees with the word. This gives approval to those who correct in doctrine and helps us identify whom we are to separate from that are wrong in doctrine (Romans 16:17). But you can only do this if you are well trained. Those who argue against all sensibilities show their immaturity. They are unable to distinguish what is good and of God and what is evil that opposes God. Hebrews 5:13-14 gives us the reason for this: “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” If someone cannot see a teacher is off on the fundamentals when they are shown the problem they are unable to receive from Scripture, they have not been trained by the word.
He admonishes us1 Tim 4:16: “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” If you are not continuing in the apostles teaching found in Scripture then how can you save anyone else, you will also be shipwrecked.
The Church began “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). Notice what came first, not food, not fellowship not prayer- TEACHING.
The transition of the Old Testament covenant to the new is through the teaching of the apostles- that’s our doctrine. John wrote “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you – The apostles made it known by the Scripture- we can share in the same revelation, knowledge and grace that they did. (2 John 1:9). The repeated emphasis on “sound” or “healthy doctrine” (1Tim 1:10; 6:3; 2 Tim.1:13; 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1), “good doctrine” (1 Tim. 5:22) throughout the New Testament implies that a body of teaching has emerged by the appointed apostles. The faith has been delivered once to all the saints. This has become the body of truth (Jude 1:3). The apostles had a teaching/ equipping ministry to the church. The teaching ministry is about explaining Christ and answering people’s questions.
Many want to be a Christian without the confines of doctrine explicitly or implicitly stated in the New Testament. The theological implications of this separation is nothing short of disastrous, because it makes the church into a liberal organization that has no roots in the original church started by the apostles. The Pastoral and General Epistles are the revelation based on the new covenant of grace and are instructions on how to conduct ourselves until Jesus Christ comes again. They are to be continually taught to each succeeding generation.” The things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also”(2 Timothy 2:2).
John wrote, “Whosoever transgresses, and abides not in the doctrine of Christ, has not God” – If someone is consistently going beyond the words of Scripture or abandons the doctrine which Christ taught, or what the apostles wrote respecting Him they are not in Christ.
Doctrine is like the lines on the road. People who do not stay in their lane or do not pay attention to the signs or stoplights are like those who make up their own doctrine. They can hurt, or destroy themselves and others.
The New Testament focuses on the teaching ministry more than any other facet. Because we learn by communication- by seeing and hearing. It must be done but someone who has proven to have studied and learned, not a novice. Too many times a church puts in anyone into ministry because they have a zeal and willing to do work. Its been said that less than 10% of the church does 100% of the work. This should not excuse their finding anyone to work, what pastors need to do is begin to train individuals who believe they are called for ministry, make it hard to see who has endurance, willingness and the fortitude to actually be in leadership as a servant to the people. They will know who is called by those who persevere in the hardships of the discipleship process. He that abides in the doctrine of Christ - In the true teachings of Christ they will grow spiritually.
More often people depart from the truth because they did not have sound doctrine as their basis, so their living become affected. We preach with our life but not our life only, words need to be spoken.
Paul wrote in Phil. 3:15-17 “Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule let us be of the same mind. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.”
Mature in what? The teachings, in Christ and the spiritually minded all walk by the same rule. When you find someone who is not willing to hear about their being wrong or open to discussion, they are prideful. If they are in leadership, they are turning into a cult. Paul says to look the apostles as the model for ministry.
So how do we avoid this from happening to us? 1 Timothy 4:6 Paul writes for us to be “nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.” The Greek word for carefully is parakoloutheo- to follow one as to be always at his side; to accompany; to follow up a thing in mind so as to attain to the knowledge of it to understand, and to follow faithfully, that is, a standard or rule, to conform oneself to. How careful are we in doing what we hear. “You obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered”(Romans 6:17). Doctrine is our guideline that educates and trains us to obey God so we can do His will and have His blessings.
Gresham Machen wrote “The growth of ignorance in the Church is the logical and inevitable result of the false notion that Christianity is a life and not also a doctrine; if Christianity is not a doctrine then of course teaching is not necessary to Christianity. But whatever the causes for the growth of ignorance in the Church, the evil must be remedied…Christian education is the chief business of the hour for every earnest Christian man. Christianity cannot subsist unless men know what Christianity is” (Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism p. 176-177).
Doctrine teaches us how to live, practice a spiritual life, worship and serve our God. 2 Tim. 3:16: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” what for--v.17: “So that the man of God may be complete, trained and made ready (furnished) for every good work.”
Doctrine may be a word that has repelled many people but without teaching we have no true knowledge of God or a relationship that will be sustained by the truth. Often times the Bible uses symbols or metaphors for people, one of them are plants-trees. A tree needs good soil, water, sun and nutrients to grow straight and strong so it can PRODUCE FRUIT. The Bible uses the word of God symbolically as water and bread for our spirit. If we are removed from this nourishment, we participate in self- starvation.
Paul continues to tell Titus “whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucere's sake” (Titus 1:10-11). Paul says they teach what no one should hear for the money and because of this they MUST (imperative) be stopped. If we say we love Jesus we should show it by separating from the false teachers, not embrace them. We should not be silent as we watch our friends being influenced in. We show our love for the Lord by our obedience to His word and our willingness to help others. That is what sound doctrine will prompt you to do.
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