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SOUND DOCTRINE (11) – When It Is Absent….

When Sound Doctrine is present, God’s people are eager to maintain good works (Titus 3:8). Other than the absence of good works, what characterizes the absence of Sound Doctrine?

Arrogant Men Go Their Own Way

The Pastoral Epistles begin and end with a description of unsound doctrine, or unhealthy teaching – with several passages in between that describe it as well.

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work – which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. – 1 Timothy 1:3-7

The verses following describes those for whom the law is made:

…not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers – and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. – 1:9-11.

The absence of sound doctrine apparently leaves unchecked open sinful rebellion and immorality of all kinds.

Near the end of the Pastorals, immediately after telling Titus to stress the grace and loving kindness of God so “our people will be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good” (Titus 3:8), he added this:

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” – Titus 3:9-11

The Greek word for divisive is the word from which we get heretic and heresy. This word literally means “one who chooses his own way.” He is not subject to the authoritative teachings of sound doctrine; rather, he chooses to go his own way. He ignores the love of God and the doctrines of grace to make vain assertions about “law” – when he does not know what he is talking about.

These are those of whom Paul speaks when he said:

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. – 1 Timothy 4:1-3

Where did they get these prohibitions? It was not from God, but from “deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” When men turn from loving the simple “truth that is in Jesus,” God will even send a spirit of delusion because men no longer love the Truth (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).

There is an example of this in 1 Kings 22. Israel’s wicked King Ahab, worshipper of Baal, wanted King Jehoshaphat of Judah to go with him to fight to reclaim Ramoth Gilead. Jehoshaphat declined to go unless they would first consult the will of God. No problem! Ahab brought in four hundred prophets of Baal who all said with one voice, “Go, for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand!”

Something didn’t seem right to Jehoshaphat, though, so he asked, “Isn’t there a prophet of the LORD here whom we can ask?” Ahab said, there is such a man, “But I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad.”

At Jehoshaphat’s insistence, they called and Miciah was brought before the kings.

After sarcastically prophesying victory, Miciah said the LORD had send a lying spirit to entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there. See especially 1 Kings 22:19-23.

What happened? Ahab wanted to go into battle. He looked for prophets who would support his desire and refused to accept the word of the one prophet of the LORD who spoke to him.

When people want to do something, they find justification.

As Paul said in what was probably the last book he penned,

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. – 2 Timothy 4:3-4

Do you see a pattern? Men turn away from Truth. They seek out mythical teachings that come from deceiving spirits and demons. Unscrupulous men are only too happy to provide what they are looking for – and spiritual anarchy and division fill the land.

Who Are the False Teachers?

The false teachers Paul condemns are not men who love the Lord but are honestly mistaken in some of their doctrine. If that were the case, unless we have complete understanding of all that God has taught, all of us would be false teachers. None could claim exemption from being a false teacher.

I told an elder one time that I believed my opinions were the very best ones any one could have. After allowing time for him to be shocked, I added, “Because as soon as someone can convince me he has a better one, I adopt it!”

In reality, all of us believe our opinions are the best. If we did not think so, we would not hold the opinion. The same is true of my convictions based on the Word of God. When I have carefully examined the Word of God about a matter, and have formed a conviction based on what I perceive the Word of God to teach, I believe that conviction is solid and healthy. But sometimes I have later found that I had misunderstood what the Scripture says. When I have found that, I have changed my conviction – not because I am “wishy-washy,” but because of a more mature understanding of the Word of God.

That does not mean that I was a false teacher, in the sense that Paul and Peter speak of false teachers, before my understanding matured. Peter described the false teachers this way:

…there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringinbg swift destruction on themselves….In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and the destruction has not been sleeping. – 2 Peter 2:1, 3

These are men who deliberately make things up and who exploit the people whom they teach. These are the ones of whom Paul said they are “men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain (1 Timothy 6:5). These are the men of whom Paul wrote:

If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. – 1 Timothy 6:3-5.

Envy, strife, malicious talk, suspicions and constant friction are the fruit of unsound, unhealthy teaching.

Can anyone objectively review the history of the Churches of Christ over the past century and a half without concluding that the fruit of unhealthy teaching is evident among us? Paul said that quarrelsome, ungodly teaching will “spread like gangrene” (2 Timothy 2:17), in the second sentence after he wrote:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene…. – 2 Timothy 2:15-17

Jesus said:

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

Does our teaching pass the fruit test? Does it leave people with a quarrelsome, factious spirit? Or does it cause them to be careful to maintain good works? Even Truth, when not spoken in love, can cause quarrelsomeness and division in the Church.

Healthy teaching, sound doctrine, does not produce such evil fruit.

NEXT: SOUND DOCTRINE (12) Some Questions

PREVIOUS: SOUND DOCTRINE (10) – Where Is Its Focus?


One Response

  1. Good points and hard work Jerry.
    Way to go!
    John Grant

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