Thursday, January 8, 2015

The importance of sound doctrine in the Christian life - change and unity

Acts 2:42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Yesterday we considered the importance of sound doctrine in the Christian life as it pertains to its content. To review, based upon Peter's inaugural sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2:14-40, we can define the contents of "Apostle's Teaching" in Acts 2:42:

1. Authority of Scripture
2. Jesus Christ
3. God's Sovereignty
4. Holy Spirit
5. Salvation
6. Church
7. Missions
8. Second Coming of Jesus

Those eight teachings comprise the heart of the Apostolic doctrine and define the core of the Christian message in regards to the Christian faith and practice. Various church groups may differ of course on the nuance and details of each, as well as perhaps stating other doctrines that fall under secondary and tertiary importance. Nonetheless the eight truths above are found consistently throughout the scripture. 

With the importance of sound doctrine defined by way of its content, we now need to consider today how the doctrine of scripture are vital in terms of the change they bring and their creation of unity.

Sound doctrine is important because of the change it brings
Acts 2:40-41 states: "And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls." As a result of the preaching of God's word that is the basis for Apostolic teaching, great change came about. Sinner's were converted by the Word of God and the exposition thereof and saints immediately grew in their obedience and commitment.

Other scriptures in the New Testament testify to the necessity of sound doctrine for bringing about true spiritual change. The Apostle Paul speaks on this subject by inspiration of the Holy Ghost in Titus 1:9 "holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict." 1 Timothy 4:13-16 "Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. 15 Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you." 2 Timothy 3:16-17  "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."

Another Apostle, the Apostle John, states clearly the importance of sound doctrine from God's Word as bringing about necessary change and retaining such. 1 John 5:13 "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life." 2 John 1:9  "Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son." 

Then of course we come back to the Apostle Peter who wrote the following some 30 or so years in 2 Peter 3:20-21 after that inaugural sermon: "You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." It is abundantly clear the sound doctrine that flows from the preaching and teaching of God's Word is necessary for spiritual change and growth. But now notice also a third reason for the importance of sound doctrine in the Christian life (remember the first two reasons: content of it and the change it brings)...

Sound doctrine is important because it creates unity
Notice the unity enjoyed by the early church in Acts 2:44-46 - "And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart." What was it that caused this church to be unified? Two principle realities: The Spirit and the Word. When sound doctrine is accompanied by the Holy Spirit's working, the church cannot help but to be unified. We see evidence of this for example in Ephesians 4:1-3 in regards to the Spirit's working: "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." In the same chapter in Ephesians we see the agency of God's Word, expressed in sound doctrine, as the source of unity in Ephesians 4:4-6 "There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all." The Person of the Holy Spirit is the uncreated fire of Deity and His Word is the sweet smelling incense of the unity of the church. The Spirit of God will not do His work apart from the scriptures right preached and taught. Without a doubt the Bible ever is and ever will be the Word of God, with the Spirit ever being associated with its words. Conversely, whenever the scriptures are used apart from reliance upon the Holy Spirit, they will come off as a dead letter. If a church or individual grieves the Spirit, He will mute His voice and illuminating ministry until which point their is repentance and return to Him and humility around the cross. (see Ephesians 4:30-32). 

The church today must re-emphasize sound doctrine
These last two posts have labored to show the importance of sound doctrine in the Christian life. Far from advocating "classroom" churches that make members fat and lazy, sound doctrine sanctifies and exhorts the church to be the church and proclaim the life changing power of Jesus Christ. We know that a word-centered, Spirit anointed church is of utmost necessity today as it was in the days of the apostles. In closing, consider these words from Ephesians 4:11-17 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love."

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