In view of the attitude of the public toward doctrinal sermons and the general opinion that a
man may hold to any doctrine, provided he is sincere in his belief, and be saved, it is timely
to call attention to what the Bible teaches about sound doctrine.
With many people, a doctrinal sermon is one wherein differences between churches are discussed — the difference in doctrine and practice, especially a discourse in which faith, repentance, and baptism are discussed. But the doctrine of Christ is His teaching on every subject — not merely first principles and matters over which denominations differ in doctrines. "And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his teaching" (Mark 4:2 ASV). Jesus did not leave two or more doctrines. What He taught on any subject was His doctrine. When men differ in teaching, it is certain that one of them does not have the doctrine of Christ, and it may be that neither has it. The Bible does speak of various doctrines, but they are not the doctrine of Christ. The following are some false doctrines mentioned in the Bible:
The doctrine of Balaam. "But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there some that hold the teaching of Balaam" (Rev. 2:14 ASV).I suppose that no honest soul would say that a man can be saved by holding to any of these false doctrines. But is it not possible for a man to be cradled in a false doctrine, and for his father to have died in the belief of a false doctrine, even today? Does his sincerity in holding to such doctrines make them true? Certainly not. Every soul should be careful as to what he believes and practices. God has warned us against false teachers and false doctrines; and if in our ignorance and carelessness we are led astray from the faith, we have only ourselves to blame.
In view of these doctrines, we can better appreciate and understand why Paul, the aged apostle, exhorted young Timothy to "preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables" (2 Tim. 4:2-4 ASV). He does not say sound doctrines (plural). There is but one doctrine of the Lord Jesus. The following scriptures make this distinction clear:
"But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully, as knowing this, that law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and unruly,...for men-stealers, for liars, for false swearers, and if there be any other thing contrary to the sound doctrine" (1 Tim. 1:8-10 ASV).
Let us not deny the severity of God toward those who teach contrary to the sound doctrine. He has not only warned us against false teachers, but He has outlined the attitude we should hold toward them. "If any one cometh unto you, and bringeth not this teaching, receive him not into your house, and give him no greeting: for he that giveth him greeting partaketh in his evil works" (2 John 10-11 ASV).
To the church at Rome, Paul wrote, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent" (Rom. 16:17-18 ASV). If Christians would only obey the Lord regarding their attitude toward false teachers and those who cause divisions and occasions of stumbling contrary to the doctrine of Christ, most of our problems in the church today would be solved.
This attitude may seem hard and harsh, but we cannot deny it is the Lord's instruction. Jesus would not tolerate disobedience and unbelief even among His own kinsmen. He said, "For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother" (Mark 3:35 ASV). It is not love and friendship that causes a man to refrain from obeying the Lord in this attitude Christians should hold toward false teachers and peacebreakers. It is, rather, rank betrayal.
Love for my brother will not allow me to encourage him to do wrong. Paul rebuked the church at Corinth in his first epistle to it, and the rebuke bore fruit. He later wrote, "For though I made you sorry with my epistle, I do not regret it: though I did regret it (for I see that that epistle made you sorry, though but for a season), I now rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye were made sorry unto repentance; for ye were made sorry after a godly sort, that ye might suffer loss by us in nothing" (2 Cor. 7:8-9 ASV). It was because he loved these brethren that he wrote his first epistle and rebuked them for their sins. Every false doctrine in the land today would have died in swaddling clothes had not someone nurtured and encouraged it by tolerating its teachers and bidding them Godspeed. And so, as we have seen, by doing this they became partakers in the evil work.
When we talk to some men about these grave matters, they generally answer by saying, "Every man has a right to his own opinion." With this we agree. But this does not mean that it is impossible for us all to be of one mind and of one accord, speaking the same things, that there be no division among us (1 Cor. 1:10).
Man is not to place his opinion upon God's word. He is to believe it. He may not be able — yea, he will not be able — to fathom the Bible, but he is to believe the truth plainly revealed in God's word. "But foolish and ignorant questionings refuse, knowing that they gender strifes" (2 Tim. 2:23).
To say that we cannot understand God's word alike, and be of one mind and one accord, reflects upon the wisdom, the power, and the goodness of God. Either God could not give us a gospel that all men could understand alike, or He did not want to do it. To say that God did not want to, reflects upon His goodness and mercy. To say that He could not, reflects upon His wisdom and power. We cannot afford to take either position.
We must say that God not only wanted unity among His people, but that in His wisdom, power, and mercy He gave us a gospel that can be believed and understood alike by all mankind. It is not the doctrine of God that men stumble over, but the doctrines of men, the doctrines of devils, strange doctrines.