Sound Doctrine – Sermons, Outlines, and Bible Studies

by Salvador Dellutri

Many say that they preach Christ and not doctrine. Others express that love unites and that doctrine divides. Both affirmations, frequent in our days, generate confusion about the importance of the doctrine, presenting it as contrary to the effective preaching of the gospel and as an enemy of the unity of the body of Christ. Is it possible that the doctrine really divides?

“I preach Christ, I don’t preach doctrine”, says an evangelist, believing to establish a wise statement. “Love unites, doctrine divides,” expresses another pastor, believing that he fosters unity.

Both affirmations, frequent in our days, generate confusion about the importance of the doctrine, presenting it as contrary to the effective preaching of the gospel and as an enemy of the unity of the body of Christ.

Luke reports that the early Christians “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine…” (Acts 2:42). He then describes everyday life by noting that “those who had believed were together” (v. 44), “continuing with one accord daily” (v. 45). “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (v. 47).

As is evident, perseverance in doctrine did not affect unity; on the contrary, it was a determining factor in keeping it. Nor did it hinder the preaching, which was vigorous and effective.

What is the apostles’ doctrine?

The word doctrine means teaching, therefore the doctrine of the apostles is the teaching that they offered to the converted. They did not do it of their own free will, but by order of the Lord, who ordered them: “Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:20).

The teaching of Jesus, transmitted by the apostles, forms the foundation of the church: “Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:20). Therefore, the doctrine constitutes the essential factor of unity of the Lord’s church and its foundation. If we discard it, we destroy that unity and crack the foundation of faith.

This doctrine is the basis of the preaching of the gospel, with which we affirm that Christ is the Son of God –doctrine of the incarnation–, that he shed his blood for our sins –doctrine of redemption–, that we are saved by faith – doctrine of salvation–, etc. It is impossible to preach Christ without preaching doctrine.

The Christian faith is not the result of human speculation, but of God’s revelation. He has spoken, and in the Holy Scriptures we have all the revelation of him to man. This constitutes the most valuable treasure of the Christian, the “sound doctrine” to which we must adjust: “But you speak what is in accordance with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1).

From the root of the adjective healthy, which is applied in Greek to doctrine, comes our word hygiene, that is, healthy, which provides spiritual health. Therefore, the doctrine of the apostles is the basis of the spiritual health of the people of God.

Doctrine of men and demons

The Word of God warns us about other types of doctrines that do not come from God. They are commandments and doctrines of men (Col. 2:22), and doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1).

The doctrines of men were censured by the Lord, who to disqualify them quoted Isaiah: “In vain do they honor me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Mr. 7:6,7). Men tend to develop apparently pious doctrines, but that generate divisions and spiritual illness. The Pharisees and Sadducees had very elaborate doctrines, which Jesus described as leaven because of its contaminating effect (Mt. 16:6).

These human doctrines can infiltrate the Lord’s church. We have the testimony of what happened in the church of Pergamos: “You have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication. And you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which I hate” (Rev. 2:14,15).

In Colossae, where they tried to infiltrate human doctrines, believers receive the apostolic warning: “Beware lest anyone deceive you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men… and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). The apostle clearly points out the difference between the doctrines elaborated by human traditions and that of Christ. Human doctrine can be permissive or restrictive. In the case of Balaam, who accepted and promoted fornication, the doctrine was permissive; but in Colossae it was restrictive: “Why, as if you lived in the world, do you submit to precepts such as: “Do not handle, or taste, or even touch (according to the commandments and doctrines of men), things that all are destroy with use? (Col. 2:20-22).

False doctrine, restrictive or permissive, is always pernicious and opens the way to licentiousness or self-righteousness. Man does not elaborate healthy doctrines but sick and contagious ones.

There is also talk of doctrines of demons; against them the apostle Paul warns Timothy: “But the Spirit clearly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, listening to deceiving spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). That doctrine infects the church through human means, “through the hypocrisy of liars…” (v.2).

All these doctrines, although dressed in piety, are contrary to the teaching of the Lord.

Effects of False Doctrine

False doctrine has disturbing consequences in the lives of Christians and in the church of the Lord, that is why it must be paid close attention, and beware of it when it appears: “But I beg you, brothers, to pay attention to those who cause divisions and stumbling blocks contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and turn away from them” (Rom. 16:17). These doctrines produce divisions among the brothers and setbacks in the progress of the spiritual life of the entire body of Christ.

Therefore, what is sound doctrine must be clearly differentiated from false or human-made doctrine, inspired by Satan. That’s why we have to be careful. When we affirm that “love unites and doctrine divides”, we must be precise: what divides is the doctrine of human court and diabolical inspiration.

Sound doctrine, taught by the Lord and handed down by the apostles, comes from God. This is what Jesus affirmed when he said: “My doctrine is not mine, but his who sent me” (Jn. 7:16). This teaching can never cause divisions, moreover, it is the most important bond of the people of God.

When false doctrine is introduced into the church, the edification process stops and conflicts increase; that is why Satan likes to promote it, because it responds to his ends. In those cases, the shepherds are ordered to act with authority, expressly commanding that they not allow it and instructing the people to discard it (1 Tim. 1:3).

Sound doctrine, on the contrary, has a salutary effect on the life of those who receive it. Although sometimes it is harsh, pointing out errors and demanding amendments, all of this leads to living fully in Christ.

The minister of God has to feel the responsibility to preach what God commands with the certainty that it is healthy for his people. “If you teach this to your brothers, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished with the words of faith and the good doctrine that you have followed” (1 Tim. 4:6). The care we have of ourselves and of the doctrine will redound to the spiritual benefit of all God’s people (1 Tim. 4:16).

A people nourished with sound doctrine acquires maturity and firmness, remains fresh and can face, without wavering, all the winds of doctrine that shake the unlearned and immature (Eph. 4:14).

How to Evaluate Doctrine

How to know that a doctrine is healthy? There is only one way: refer to the Word of God. All the sound counsel of God is revealed in it. If we obey it, we will certainly be in sound doctrine. If our preaching is based on the Word of God, we are teaching sound doctrine.

The Scriptures are not to support our own ideas. It is true that many interpretations have produced some plots in the people of God, but they are secondary issues and should never affect Christian communion. However, the doctrinal foundation must be firm.

We must be unconditional of the Word of God, our doctrine must be clear and flow directly from the Holy Scriptures.

Today, everything new captivates, and this produces great winds of new doctrines that are almost always false. That is why we have to be constantly vigilant so that Satan does not introduce disturbing teachings that afflict the body of Christ.

The barrage of novelties produces much theological confusion, and allows the introduction of subtle heresies dressed as truths. To detect them we have to develop a healthy discernment.

Many times we refuse to do so, and the eclecticism of the world – which leads to accepting any opinion – seeps into the church. We Christians have to know how to discern and firmly reject error. We cannot be tolerant or condescending with what Satan wants to introduce to destroy the body of Christ.

We should not be suspicious, because we would end up seeing ghosts where there are none; nor naive, because we would end up denying reality. False teachers are among us, and false doctrines are constantly knocking at our door.

Let us remember the apostle’s exhortation to the elders of Ephesus: “And from your own selves shall rise men speaking perverse things…Therefore be on the alert” (Acts 20:30,31). It is naive to think that Satan has lost his virulence; however, he continues to act in the same way. Every Christian must, therefore, be vigilant to prevent the enemy from achieving his nefarious objectives, and remember the warning: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out through the world” (1 John 4:1).

The seduction of error

Christianity is going to complete 2000 years of history. In that long period of time, he had to fight hard against heresies and apostasies, differentiate between truth and error, and maintain sound doctrine. After such a long journey, it would seem that the seduction of the error should have diminished, and the antibodies had an effect. Will we go back to discussing what we thoroughly analyzed in the past? Perhaps, do not we learn with experiences? Although it may seem strange, many of the doctrines condemned in the past resurface today and once again violate the unwary.

Our time is particularly prone to generating more and more sick, heretical and apostate doctrines. It should not surprise us: “But the Spirit clearly says that in later times some will apostatize from the faith, listening to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1); “For the times will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will heap up teachers according to their own lusts” (2 Tim. 4:3).

Postmodernity daily proclaims the end of ideologies, and tries to build the future…

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