Summary: It is fashionable in some Christian circles today to minimize the importance of “doctrine.” This is contrary to what Jesus did. He not only preached the good news of God’s kingdom, He also taught the people extensively — “Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching…” (Matthew 26:55) and “Jesus went all through the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues…” (Matthew 9:35). So should we who minister in the churches — “[Pastor Timothy,] devote yourself to preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13).
Matthew 28:19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.
• “Doctrine” means “teaching.” Jesus emphasized its importance in the Great Commission.
• We are to reach people for the Lord and to baptize and teach them with a goal of making mature disciples (19).
• Jesus exhorted them to teach His commands (20).
• And He said not simply to teach His commands, but to teach them to obey them (20).
2 Timothy 4:2-4 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people 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.
• This is an increasing trend today. Many Christians, even some pastors, are minimizing the importance of solid doctrinal teaching. In the churches that I personally pastored and taught the Bible in for many years, the single largest turnout for evening Bible school was for a series on the Book of Revelation. But the largest turnout should have been for the series on Bible Foundations. Sometimes that which is “exciting” evokes more interest than teaching which provides a strong foundation for victorious living.
• The apostle Paul understood this great need in the churches in all generations: Preach the word of God! Teach the word of God! Consistent feeding upon God's word is essential for spiritual growth into Christian maturity.
• There is a simple truism: we tend to live according to what we believe. And if we are to live lives that are biblically pleasing to God, it is very important that our lives and conduct be grounded in the solid, fundamental teachings of the Scriptures.
Hebrews 5:12-6:2 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. [6:1] Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
• God expects Christians to mature, to move beyond spiritual infancy — “…you ought to be teachers … mature … trained … [going] forward to maturity.”
• There are “elementary teachings” (6:1) [“the foundation,” KJV] from which we go “forward to maturity.” Without these solid foundations, we remain in a continual state of needing “milk, not solid food” and remain spiritual “infants” (5:12).
• These foundational doctrines, necessary stepping stones to maturity, include (6:1-2):
1 Timothy 4:16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
• This is a word to pastors. We must watch our doctrine closely. Why? Because good doctrine will have a “saving” effect on both the pastor and on those who hear his teaching. Look at the next verse, which applies to elders, and by extension, to pastors and all spiritual leaders.
Titus 1:9 [An elder, vs. 6] 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.
• To be a spiritual overseer in the Lord’s Church, one must “hold firmly” to the trustworthy message that has been taught. The elder in turn will thereby be equipped to do two important things: (1) he can encourage others by sound doctrine and help them build their lives; and (2) he will be well equipped to refute those who try to bring wrong doctrines into the church.
• As a pastor and elder over many years, I have had numerous occasions where I had to speak out against wrong teaching, in order to protect the flock. To be able to do so, I had to be solidly grounded in the good doctrines of the Bible.
• 1 Timothy 1:3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer…
• False doctrines can creep easily into the church. In our church's Bible school in Alaska many years ago, three young students fell into an ages-old heresy called "Ultimate Reconciliation," or "Second Chance." Sadly, we were unable to turn them from their error, and they left our church and continued to embrace other heretical teachings.
Titus 2:1-6 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.
• “Sound doctrine” is not only things like salvation, baptism, sanctification, the Deity of Jesus Christ, and similar foundational teachings. It also includes important teachings on biblical living — as mentioned above, such things as temperance, self-control, strong faith, love, respect, sobriety, purity, kindness, and more.
• As I said earlier, we live according to what we believe. So it is vitally important that our churches be places where a broad base of biblical teaching covers the things needed to live in a way that pleases God.
1 Timothy 4:6 If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.
• A “good minister” has himself been nourished on good teaching and the truths of our faith. Then he in turn will communicate these life-changing truths to others and will be continually “nourishing” them on sound teaching. Here’s how it works:
• 2 Timothy 2:2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.
• Notice here that four — I’ll call them generations — were positively influenced by sound doctrine. The teaching went from (1) the apostle Paul to (2) Pastor Timothy to (3) other reliable people, who would in turn would be able to (4) teach others.
• You can see the dramatic multiplying effect that sound doctrine can have in a fairly short period of time. I was blessed personally to receive sound doctrine under some great men of God in Anchorage, Alaska. In turn I committed myself to passing that on to my former Bible college students in Alaska, to the members of the churches I have pastored, and now to those who read the sermons and bible studies on my Bible-teaching website. Just get God’s word out, and you might be amazed at how far the Lord will cause it to spread and to influence people’s lives for good.
Matthew 15:8-9, KJV This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
• This is a strong warning to us in leadership — that is, not to teach as doctrines that which is merely the teachings of men without a biblical basis. One common example in our day would be the modern-day teaching of a pre-Tribulation “rapture” of Christians to heaven. This is a doctrine that is not taught in Scripture, nor by the early Church writers. Yet millions of modern-day Christians accept it as “gospel” without looking carefully to see if it is found in Scripture (it is not).
• The best way to combat false doctrine is to know the Bible well. That way, when a false teaching comes along, the Holy Spirit will bring Scriptures to your recollection that will help you to refute and reject the erroneous teaching.
2 Timothy 3:14-15 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 1:13, AmplifiedHold fast and follow the pattern of wholesome and sound teaching which you have heard from me…
• Do you want to be solidly established on good Bible doctrine? You can, if you follow both of the biblical principles we just read:
(1) “Know the Holy Scriptures!” There is no substitute for a solid knowledge of the life-giving word of God.
(2) Submit yourself to the ministries of pastors and other ministers that you know and trust, men with proven track records of both character and Bible knowledge. Today, 43 years later, I am still feeling solidly grounded because of the teachings of my pastors/teachers, Dick Benjamin and Dick Strutz of Anchorage’s Abbott Loop Christian Center. Our Pastor Steve, too, has been substantially influenced by the teachings of these men of God.
In sum, stay in God’s word daily. Read it, study it. And stay under the teaching of men of God whose ministries you have come to trust and who have proven themselves to teach that which lines up with the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). If you do this, your spiritual life will surely prosper.