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SOUND DOCTRINE (3): Conforms to the Gospel


“…sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel….” – 1 Tim. 1:10-11

Healthy teaching conforms to the gospel, the good news of salvation through the death of Jesus for our sins, His burial, and His resurrection the third day. This is the core message of the Bible, and this reveals to us God’s glory – full of grace and truth.

Any message that subtracts from the glory of God shown in the cross and the empty tomb is not healthy. In fact, it is no gospel at all according to Paul in Galatians 1:6-7.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. [Emphasis added – JS]

Sound Doctrine Develops The Character Of God In Us

The gospel of Christ, that is sound or healthy teaching, points us to the greatest commandments – to love God and to love our neighbor. Paul and James both said that these are the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:8 & James 2:8-13).

One of the woes Jesus pronounced on the Pharisees was because they paid more attention to tithing the herbs from their gardens than they did to righteousness, mercy, and faithful­ness or loyalty (Matthew 23:23). What made these qualities so important? Could it be that these qualities describe the character of our God, whom John describes as Love?

Unfortunately, many who proudly wear the name of Christ do not show the character and life of Christ.

When I was chaplain at the Church of Christ Care Center, a nursing home near Detroit, most of our staff was not from the Church of Christ. Those of us who were members of the Church were embarrassed when other staff members spoke about residents and their families who were from the Church as being the most troublesome of all our clientele. This was not true in every case, but it was true often enough that we all could see it.

Why was this? Unfortunately, the history within the majority of our congregations of failing to teach a Biblical concept of grace means that many people are not gracious. When people believe in a God who demands perfection before He will receive broken sinners, they tend to demand perfection in those who serve them as well.

Sometimes, because we have demanded this perfection of ourselves, this view of God has led to mental breakdown and illness. When I was a student at the Sunset School of Preaching, Dr. Lowell Johnson, M.D was a deacon in the Sunset congregation. He talked with the students one day about this. He said that the 7th floor of Baptist Hospital in Lubbock, which housed the psychiatric ward, had a larger percentage of people in it from the Churches of Christ than were in the general population of Lubbock at the time (the mid to late 1960’s). He attributed this to impossible demands people made of themselves and of others close to them because of their impoverished view of God and His grace. If we do not understand God’s forgiveness, we will not know how to forgive others or even ourselves.

When our teaching conforms to the gospel, we will learn how to sacrifice self for the sake of others willingly – just as Jesus gave Himself for us. Then our lives will conform to the gospel as well. If all we hear is the absolute necessity of complete obedience to the commandments of God, we will not know how to live healthy lives.

This does not mean “the obedience of faith” is not important. It does, however, change how we view our obedience. When teaching is healthy, obedience becomes a trusting response to God’s love as we accept His directions for how to live our lives. Obedience is no longer how we attempt to win God’s approval and acceptance.

Which family is healthy? Is a healthy family one where the children strive mightily to do everything their parents say because they fear that any little mistake will bring down parental wrath on them? Or is a healthy family one where the children want to please their parents because they reciprocate their parents’ love for them? One is a family built on law; the other is a family built on love. Both have rules for behavior, but the way every member of the family approaches the rules is vastly different.

So it is in the family of God. Throughout the Pastoral epistles, Paul’s instructions to the young preachers stressed Christian behavior that grows out of God’s love for us and our trust in Him. He wrote to Timothy:

Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. – 1 Timothy 4:14-16 [Emphasis added – JS]

Why did he write? He said it was so “you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s family. Have you ever wondered about the placement of the last verse of this quotation? Remember context is important. That Jesus, our Lord, appeared in a body of flesh like ours (and was crucified), was vindicated by the Spirit (in His resurrection), is believed on in the world, and now is taken up into glory has something to do with how we are to conduct ourselves in the church.

Healthy teaching will give attention to how we, as a church that is God’s family, can reflect the life of Jesus and His glory through our faith. When we turn away from this focus on Him, we fall into quarreling and fighting among ourselves – and become the laughing-stock of the world.

Healthy teaching about God transforms character. Paul wrote to Titus,

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he save us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. – Titus 3:3-7 [Emphasis added – JS]

What will effectively change people? Paul said it was when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared. We need to do more to insure that His kindness and love appear in our teaching if we want it to be healthy teaching.

Is there severity with our God? Yes, there is. We dare not ignore His holy wrath on those who consistently rebel against Him. However, I wish that I had heard more of his kindness, mercy, love, and grace when I was growing up. I believe I would have been a better person and more gracious in my own life. I believe this sort of teaching would be more healthy for others as well.

NEXT – SOUND DOCTRINE (4): Holding Fast to the Faithful Word

PREVIOUS – SOUND DOCTRINE (2): What Makes for Healthy Teaching?

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