Living by the Truth

We have imposed an artificial meaning on the word doctrine. We've made it something abstract and threatening, unrelated to daily living. That has brought about the disastrous idea that preaching and teaching are unrelated to living.

The scriptural concept of doctrine includes the entire message of the gospel-its teaching about God, salvation, sin, and righteousness. Those concepts are so tightly bound to daily living that the first-century mind did not see them as something separate from practical truth.

The New Testament church was founded on a solid base of doctrine. 1 Timothy 3:16 contains what many expositors believe is an early church hymn: "God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory" (KJV). There, in capsule form, is the basis of all Christian teaching. Without that, no practical application matters.

Departing from the Truth

The next few verses of 1 Timothy describe what happens when men depart from the basis of biblical truth: "Some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth" (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

Lying, hypocrisy, a dulled conscience, and false religious practices all have roots in wrong doctrine.

No ministry activity is more important than rightly understanding and clearly proclaiming sound doctrine. In 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, Paul commissions two young men to the ministry. His central theme is the importance of adhering to sound doctrine.

Paul charged Timothy: "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). "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching," Paul adds, "persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you" (v. 16).

Titus 2:10 says we "adorn [or honor] the doctrine of God" by how we live. When it comes to affirming sound doctrine, what we do carries far more significance than what we say. That's why it's disastrous when a pastor, seminary professor, or any kind of Christian leader fails morally. The message he proclaims is that his doctrine becomes merely an intellectual exercise.

Hearing the Truth

True doctrine transforms behavior as it is woven into the fabric of everyday life. But it must be understood if it is to have its impact. The real challenge of the ministry is to dispense the truth clearly and accurately. Practical application comes easily by comparison.

No believer can apply truth he doesn't know. Those who don't know the Bible's principles for marriage, divorce, family, childrearing, discipline, money, debt, work, service to Christ, responsibilities to the poor, care of widows, response to governments, eternal rewards, and other teachings will not be able to apply them.

Those who don't know what the Bible teaches about salvation cannot be saved. Those who don't know what the Bible teaches about holiness are incapable of dealing with sin. Thus they are unable to live fully to God's glory and their own blessedness.

© Copyright 2006 by Grace to You. All rights reserved.