In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.
1 Timothy 4:6
I read once that the creator of the classic Peanuts cartoons, Charles Shultz, once painted a little picture of Lucy and Linus in their home looking out a window at a thunderstorm. Lucy said, “Boy, look at it rain…What if it floods the whole world?” Linus came back with, “It will never do that..In the ninth chapter of Genesis, God promised Noah that would never happen again, and the sign of the promise is the rainbow.” Lucy sighed and said, “You’ve taken a great load off my mind…” Linus replied, “Sound theology has a way of doing that.”
He’s right. Sound theology, also known as sound doctrine, gives us steady assurance of continuity in a world filled with change. It helps us to make sure of what we are to believe and how we are to behave. Along that line, we need to make sure of some things.
First, we mustn’t mistake man-made traditions for the true doctrine of God. Jesus condemned those who did so when He said, “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men’” (Matthew 15:9). If the doctrine we are teaching is not the doctrine taught in the Bible then it is man-made. We must make sure we understand a distinction here. Simply because we are able to fashion a doctrine from a compilation of Bible verses doesn’t make it Bible doctrine. The intended biblical patterns of the New Testament are for the church to follow for all time. The invented patterns of many religious people today are nothing more than Scripture taken out of context and forced into supporting some made up belief.
Secondly, we mustn’t mistake smooth talk and flattery for the true doctrine of God. God through Paul warned us, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites, and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” (Romans 16:17-18). Sadly, many people can be persuaded of just about anything depending on the communication skills of the communicator. We need to be a discerning people who “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
Thirdly, we must understand that sound doctrine is not just about baptism, communion, how Revelation is interpreted, etc. It is also about how we live our lives. Paul told Timothy that the law is good if one uses it lawfully and then lists behavioral sins such as profanity, fornication, and lying to be “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:8-10). In all we do we should be “showing all good faith, so that in everything (we) may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10).
Only when God’s people are consistently fed a steady diet of sound doctrine can they grow into mature Christian men and women (1 Timothy 4:6-7). This is why pastors, also known as elders or bishops in the Bible, being told to feed the flock of God (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4), have as a requirement in order to be a pastor the qualification to “hold fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that (they) will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). That people hear sound doctrine is no guarantee that they will grow (James 1:22-25), but not hearing it is a guarantee that they won’t. Like Linus said, sound theology has a way of making you feel a whole lot better. It gives us an objective standard by which to measure ourselves and a promise of steadiness in a world filled with change.