Maintaining Sound Teaching

"But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." (1 Timothy 3:15)

Preserving sound doctrine, teaching consistent with the revealed will and word of God, was a commonly cited purpose of the ecclesia by those ecclesias that participated in the Lightstand Initiative. They referenced such scriptures as 1st Timothy 3:15, referring to the ecclesia as "the ecclesia of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." Paul's counsel in Ephesians 4:14-16 was also often quoted, "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."

Let's review Christ's familiar parable in Matthew 7:24-27 in relation to our topic of sound doctrine. The story illustrates the importance of a solid doctrinal foundation in preventing a spiritual disaster. Matthew writes, "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it." One house is built upon sand, and one upon rock. Let us assume that the houses were built of the same materials. The house built upon the sand was quickly and utterly destroyed, because the foundation was not sound and was subject to the violent conditions. The one constructed upon the rock, however, withstood what were potentially devastating elements.

One meaning of the parable is this. The sandy foundation represents that which is accepted, believed, and practiced as truth but which cannot be supported by scriptural evidence. It would not withstand the test of sound doctrine. The house that had the rock base was built upon a solid foundation, that of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-22). In the building of our individual character as well as in ecclesial practice, we should be extremely careful regarding the foundation of our faith.

While our subject is sound doctrine, we can't discuss doctrine without considering the walk of the believer as well. It is evident from Paul's words to Titus in 2:7-8 that sound doctrine and the behavior God expects from a brother or sister in Christ must be inseparably linked. He writes, "In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you." We also see this relationship between doctrine and walk in the condemnation expressed in 1st Timothy 1:9-11, "Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient...For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust."

Let's consider some other passages of scripture where we find this divine connection between sound doctrine and our walk in Christ. 1st Timothy 4:16 records, "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." Note also Philippians 3:16, "Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." And 2nd Corinthians 4:1-2 reads, "Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." Consider just one other reference that highlights the fact that doctrine and walk go hand and glove, Philippians 1:27, "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel..."

Paul, writing to the Corinthian brethren in 1st Corinthians 3:9-11 says, "For we are laborers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." After being inducted into the name of Jesus Christ, we are instructed to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. To grow in the grace or favor and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is to improve our understanding of God's word that we may more clearly comprehend how we should walk. It is also important that we be well prepared to instruct others in the way of salvation. In the beginning, we are babes in the truth, as described in Hebrews 5:13, "For everyone that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe." This should only be a temporary stage as we strive to grow in our knowledge of the word that we might be as those who have advanced to strong meat "...who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14). Note the instruction in 1st Corinthians 14:20, "Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men." This understanding involves searching the word of God and "holding fast the faithful word" (Titus 1:9). In Titus 2:1, Paul counsels Titus thusly, "But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine."

Christ has set for us the perfect example and pattern of obedience to God's word. There was never a compromise in his conviction or his dedication to maintaining the purity of God's teachings. This is quite evident in Our Master's words of Matthew 4:4 (quoting from the record of Deuteronomy 8:3, while experiencing trial in the wilderness) "...Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." The Psalmist in 119:97 wrote, "O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day." This was always Christ's mindset, and it should likewise be ours. Each day we must continue our preparation for the kingdom of God, studying "to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2nd Timothy 2:15).

There will be many challenges along the path to the kingdom. If we are to attain this wonderful blessing, we need to patiently continue in well-doing, and we must "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). We know that we can't earn our salvation through works alone, but we can't attain salvation without works. While we are dependent upon the grace and mercy of our Heavenly Father, we are obliged to be working in the Lord's vineyard, individually and collectively as an ecclesia. Christ will be judging us all by an individual standard.

The Apostle Paul tells us in 1st Timothy 6:3-5 that we should be careful of the company we keep, ensuring that those individuals with whom we are spiritually involved are aligned with the principles of truth and are working to manifest them. It is critical to our spiritual well-being. Paul writes to Timothy, "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings. Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself." We find also these words in Colossians 2:8, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."

We are living in such a time as portrayed in 2nd Timothy 4:3-4, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." Note the wise counsel of the preceding verse, verse 2, of this same passage, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine."

Every indication as we look about at world conditions in light of Bible prophecy is that the time is quite near when we shall be called upon to give an accounting of our stewardship. While it is yet day, let us increase our resolve and our efforts for the remainder of our probation in the hope that we will be approved by Our Master and Judge, and hear him say those welcome words, "well done thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

The reward is far greater than we can fully comprehend, for truly "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him" (1st Corinthians 2:9). The prize is certainly within our reach if we will bring our actions into conformity with the will of our Heavenly Father. God is compassionate, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy, but He expects us to obey his commands without reservation. He will be faithful to His promise and "is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).

Let us echo the thoughts of the Psalmist in Psalm 119:80 in our desire to please and honor our Heavenly Father, "Let my heart be sound in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed." And let us "give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine" (1st Timothy 4:13). "And let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (Hebrews10:23-25)

Sid Strickland
Orlando, FL