What role does doctrine play in our spiritual development? How important is it to fulfilling the mission of the Church?
[Steve Myers] You probably heard of the announcements for getting our Sabbath lessons started once again, and I couldn't help but be reminded of a story that I had heard from a little boy that got excited about some Sabbath lesson that he had heard. He came home and started to tell his dad about it. He said, “Well, what did you learn in class today?" He said, "I learned about the Exodus." He said, "What about the Exodus?"
He said, "Well, Moses and the children of Israel they were getting ready to leave Egypt, and the Israeli Air Force came and they bombed Egypt. And so then the Egyptians they retaliated, they tried to come after them with their laser bearing helicopters. But the Israelis counterattack and blew those helicopters to smithereens and so then Moses and the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea in triumph." Dad was pretty amazed by all and said, "Are you kidding me, is that what they taught you in Sabbath school?" Little boy said, "No, but you wouldn't believe the story they actually told me."
Well, does it matter what you believe? Does it matter what you're taught? Some might hear the story. Well, what's the difference? He knew that the children of Israel got out of there somehow, but does it really matter? That if you think about it a little bit you've probably heard it before.
I mean, you've heard it. What difference does it make what you believe? It's whether you're a good person or not that's what really counts. You've heard that before? Or perhaps, well, as long as you're a decent person, you're doing your civic duty, you respect other people, really it doesn't matter what you believe.
I mean, as long as you're not hurting anyone else, right? So long as you're not hurting anyone else then it really isn't that critical, is it? Or perhaps you've heard, you know, it's not that important what you believe just as long as you're sincere. As long as you're sincere well, then it really doesn't matter. Or if you take that to the logical extension. Well, all religions are fine, you know, don't all paths lead to God?
Maybe you've heard that before, all ideas, you know, they're acceptable we should find value in all of these things. Or perhaps you're like, "Well, all Church of God groups are all equal. They're all the same anyway, aren't they?" You see, when you begin to think about it in those terms where does doctrine enter into the picture? Does what we believe really matter?
Does it make any difference what teachings you hold as truth or is it just something that's kind of ancillary? It's not that critical because certainly in the last 70 years or so there's been a big ecumenical movement out there in the religious world. Trying to bring all religions together, it doesn't matter if you're a Catholic or Protestant, or whatever it may be Evangelical, some are trying to bring all the groups together. Well, what happens when that comes about? Well, teachings and what you actually believe kind of go on the sidelines then, so certainly the question has to be is doctrine primary? Is it really that critical or is it something that's secondary?
Let's take some time this afternoon to look at several reasons why doctrine is so valuable, why it is so critical and important, and look at several ways that it is vital to each and every one of us. If we claim to be God's people if we claim to be a Christian. It is something that is so important. One indication of that comes from what the apostle Paul told Timothy and what he told Titus as well, in those letters that he wrote to those two young men. Sometimes they are called the Pastoral Epistles because the elder apostle is teaching the younger men how to pastor, how to be a good minister.
And in 1 Timothy 4:13, he tells Timothy something interesting. So if you’d like to turn there with me, 1 Timothy 4:13. We’ll, notice what Paul writes to the young minister, the young man who is now going to be taking over many spiritual responsibilities in helping guide God's Church and His people. And in 1 Timothy 4 picking it up in verse 13, notice what he tells Timothy, the young minister. He says, "Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. And don't neglect the gift that is in you."
So one of the things Paul says for Timothy to give attention to is doctrine. And he's not just saying “Oh, don't forget about it” or “It'd be nice if you recalled a few things about right teaching.” When he says, “give attention to” he's telling Timothy something more important than just “Oh, keep this in mind.” Some translations say “pay attention to doctrine.” That word in the Greek can also mean to be cautious about it or to apply yourself to it.
Or by extension, it can mean to adhere to it or stick to it. Stick to Christ-like doctrine, to truth. Stick to truth so this isn't something that you can just kind of give or take. You can neglect it, but he's telling Timothy, he's telling us by extension, "Don't neglect it. Don't neglect doctrine." In fact, when you think about the importance of doctrine and especially when the New Testament church began, what was the apostles' perspective when it came to doctrine?
Do you remember some of those scenarios early on in the Church when the disciples were preaching, teaching, they're giving the message that Christ gave them preaching the gospel. Often times, they got picked up by the authorities, the learned men of the day, they appeared before the council. What did they do? They beat them, they admonished them to quit preaching in Christ's name. They were willing to give their life for doctrine, they were willing to sacrifice themselves because they didn't stop teaching, they didn't stop preaching, they were happy to be in a way criticized for preaching the truth. They were happy in that way to stand for what Christ taught, they were willing to give their life for it. So it's something that we certainly can't minimize when you think about doctrine.
Of course, you might say, "Well, what is doctrine anyway?" When you think about defining what doctrine is, kind of a buzzword, you might say it's something we just talk about maybe don't think oftentimes. What does it really mean? Well, fortunately, it's really not that complicated. If you'd look it up in a Greek dictionary or even look it up in an American word dictionary it gets it pretty accurately when it talks about its instruction. Where it talks about the fact it's a principle that's taught.
Most dictionaries will tell you something like that, and when you boil it all down it really comes down to teaching. Really comes down to a teaching and oftentimes if you look in different English translations of the Bible they won't translate the word doctrine, they'll substitute the word teaching. And of course, when we think about doctrine in the church or really in the Bible for that matter, we're not just talking about a single particular teaching, but in general, we're talking about the whole package. The whole package of what is God's truth?
Like sometimes people will swear by that. Well, I'm not supposed to do that, but it gives you that, what is God's truth? What is the truth of the word? And so when we consider that I think we also have to then consider where does right doctrine come from? From where does it come?
Well, it's got to come from this book, it's got to come from Scripture. It can't come from anywhere else. We know that passage, we probably have it memorized 2 Timothy 3:16 and you can turn over there if you want to. 2 Timothy 3:16 it says that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God." We know that Scripture is God-breathed, that's what that literally means. It's given by His inspiration, He spoke it, it is the truth.
And, of course, what was Timothy told there? That doctrine or teaching the Scripture is good for that very thing. It's profitable for doctrine, it's profitable for reproof, the teachings of God, Scripture itself is good for instruction in righteousness, it's good for correction, it's good so that every one of us, as Timothy was told, “…the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” So God's instruction, God's truth. Doctrine is good for those very things, like when you begin to think about it, think about the early Church think about think about those 12 guys that hung out with Jesus for all those years.
Do you remember what they were called? Before the apostles, they were called disciples. Well, what's a disciple? It's a student. A disciple's a learner. Well, what did the disciples, what did the learners, what did the students learn?
Well, they learned God's teachings, they learned doctrine straight from Jesus Christ. So it's interesting that as disciples, as students and learners they were taught truth. They were taught God's truth. And so hopefully we begin to see we can't minimize the importance of the truth, we can't minimize the importance of doctrine, it becomes so valuable and so important for each and every one of us. So let's think about a couple of specifics for just a moment.
Doctrine is critical because first of all it forms the basis for what we believe, doesn't it? Doctrine forms the basis for belief and if you had to turn to a section of the Bible they talked about basics of what we believe through a particular passage, perhaps in the New Testament that might come to mind it talks about… okay, it doesn't say fundamentals of belief. But really that's kind of what it's talking about. It's over in Hebrews 6. In Hebrews 6, if you turn there right at the very beginning of the chapter, chapter 6 verse 1, talks about the basics, talks about the basics. And it's interesting part of the message of what I believe Paul is telling us some wonder who exactly the author is.
It seems to be Paul — some of the arguments can certainly be made for that, but notice what he says here when he talks about the basics. Hebrews 6:1, he says, "Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let's go on to perfection." So when we talk about the ABCs, the elementary principles or kind of that. The elementary principles, the ABCs of what the truth is all about. He says, "Let's go on to perfection."
So what are some of these elementary things, the basics, the fundamentals? Well, he lists some of them. He says “the foundation of repentance from dead works,” he talks about “faith toward God,” he talks about verse 2 “of the doctrine of baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” In fact, he even says, well, we'll even add to these things if time permits.
But this little list gives a beginning, it gives the basics, the elementary principles that form the foundation of what we believe. And I was kind of interested to see that it mirrors in many ways the mission statement of the United Church of God. Because in our mission statement we have a couple of things that are mentioned there. Do you remember what our mission statement is in the United Church of God? The mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and it begins like that.
And it's interesting that Hebrew 6 starts like that. It lists the discussion of elementary principles of Christ. Because if you don't know who Christ is, you don't know who the Savior is, you don't know who the Master is, you don't understand who is High Priest, who is our King, who's coming back to this earth to establish the King? Where do you start? And of course, the mission statement also talks about the fact we're preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God, we're preaching the message that Christ Himself preached as well. In all the world we do that also to make disciples in all nations, and to care for those disciples.
And so our mission statement reflects the doctrine that forms the basis of what we believe, and of course, here in Hebrews it reflects the fact there are many different doctrines, many different teachings, and yet this forms a beginning. It forms those elementary things that help show us, here's what we believe. Christ taught these things, God inspired these things, the apostles taught these things as well. These reflect what true followers of Christ, true disciples of Christ actually believe and when you compare these things to what Christ taught… but it's an amazing thing when you see how they are reflected in Christ's own teachings.
I'll give you one example, over in Matthew 22:29, Matthew 22:29 is one example of Christ's teachings. In fact, if you begin to think about the things that Christ taught sometimes it confused people what He taught, often times he spoke in stories and not everybody understood the story. He talked in parables and yet those that had ears to hear heard those teachings, they understood the doctrine and they based their beliefs on the doctrine that Christ taught. Well, here's another example of that Matthew 22:29 where there was a misunderstanding. All the Jews didn't believe the same thing, some believed in one thing, some believed in another, some believed in the resurrection some didn't, some believed in angels others didn't.
So they're trying to trap Christ and He answers the question… we'll kind of jump in the middle of the story, but He answers in an interesting way. He says in verse 29, Matthew 22, "You're mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God." He says, "Where in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' God's not the God of the dead, but of the living."
Now, people were taken back by that, because not everybody who was on the same page. He astounds them. But it's interesting what Scripture says, what was inspired to be the astounding aspect of what He said. Look at verse 33, "When the multitudes heard, this they were astonished at His teaching." They were taken back by the doctrine of Christ.
He was taken aback by that and as we read this and read other passages 1 Corinthians 15 among others, our belief in the resurrection is supported and based on the teaching of the doctrine of Christ. On… well, like they say here, astonished at His teaching, at His doctrine. If Christ hadn't taught this, it might be a little tougher to believe in the resurrection. And so in a way His teachings or maybe you could say He was indoctrinating the people. Okay, that sounds kind of negative, doesn't it?
I don't know why there's a negative connotation with indoctrination — it can be a good thing when you think about instruction, indoctrinating can also mean to implant or instill those sound more positive, don't they? Or to train. It's through God's teachings, through Scripture Christ indoctrinated — instilled the truth of God. And all too often people don't base what they believe on Scripture, they don't base it on the teachings of God.
You're probably familiar with the man who does all these religious surveys, you'll often hear about them. A man named George Barna and the Barna Group surveys all kinds of religious people that are out there.
And he's done these surveys for years, and years, and years, and years, and oftentimes at the end of surveys he'll give his own summaries, his own input, his own perspective on what the results came back bearing. And so one of the surveys I was reading about he made a couple of comments and one of them was kind of interesting because he was talking about elections.
And one of the things that he could surmise from the results that came in he said that most Christians were more influenced by their economic status in voting than doctrine. Kind of looked at that and, "Wow, that's kind of interesting." You know, who cares what we teach? I'll do what I want to to do based on my circumstances. That was one of the things that kind of caught my attention.
One of the other things that may be a little more connected with the topic today was what he had to say about teachings. One of the things he said is… “Please hear…” this is a quote from George Barna, "People hear a lot of religious teaching and they buy millions of religious books, but there is as much theological confusion as there is understanding." I think we look at the religious world out there and it's certainly the case and I think it all points back to the fact that doctrine forms the basis for what we believe or the opposite is true too. It doesn't form the basis for what we believe, I just go with what I want to believe. And so it becomes very critical of that, but it doesn't stop there. Another aspect of the importance of doctrine.
Secondly, doctrine forms the basis for living or to maybe say a little bit differently, why do we do what we do? Doctrine should form the basis for what we practice, for how we live our life, for how we think. Example of this if you're still here in the book of Matthew, turn over to chapter 16. Chapter 16 in the book of Matthew verse 6. We're going to find some instruction, some doctrine, some guidance of Christ teaching the disciples.
And they kind of get it wrong off the bat, they're not sure what in the world He's talking about as He begins this little discussion with them. Matthew 16:6, Christ says to the disciples, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." What did they think? Verse 7, "They reasoned among themselves saying, 'It's because we've taken no bread.'" They got it all wrong.
“Jesus being aware of it, said to them, ‘O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you brought no bread?’" Kind of saying to them “No, you got it wrong. That's not what I'm talking about.” Verse 9 he says, "Don't you yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up?" Kind of looking back at some miraculous circumstances.
Verse 11 He says, "How is it you do not understand that I didn't speak to you concerning bread? — but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." He says the same thing again, but now, the light bulb comes on for the disciples. Verse 12, “Then they understood that He didn't tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” See, He was very specific, it was their teaching. Why? Because of what they believed, because of what they taught.
Did that affect their behavior? Well, of course, it did. Of course, it did. The teachings of the doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees formed the basis for how they live their life. For all these commandments so they came up with… “Well, don't do this, you better light a candle on the Sabbath. You’d better not take too long a walk on the Sabbath.”
They came up with all these rules and regulations because of their belief, because of their teachings, and it led them to wrong conclusions or incomplete practice. Wrong application turned into wrong ways of living. And so here Jesus is saying, "Watch out. Watch out for wrong doctrine because it could take you to live your life in the wrong way. But true doctrine, right doctrine should help us to live a godly life, a godly life."
And of course, we think about our commitment to living a godly life. Of course, where did that begin? Well, maybe it began long before. But the defining moment probably all of us would point to would be the time of baptism. Baptism was the starting point of the rest of our lives, striving to live by God's way more completely, more thoroughly.
Now, in the book of Romans, it talks a lot about that. In fact, Romans 5, 6, 7, 8, those chapters are really key chapters in baptism counseling, and perhaps you spend a lot of time reading through some of those sections of Scripture as you were counseling for baptism. There is one section that I think is particularly important when we think of it in terms of doctrine forming the basis for our practice, for how we live, and it's in that section of Scripture. Romans 6:17. Romans 6:17, if you'll turn over there.
Here Paul is making that critical point, much in the way that Christ talked about doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees influencing and affecting us. Paul was certainly worried about the ways of the world that can indoctrinate us, can turn us the wrong way, can cause us to have the wrong focus. And Paul points out the way of life we used to hold dear. Look at chapter 6 verse 17 of Romans. He says, "God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin," you know, that's the way we used to be, maybe we didn't even know any better. May not have known at all that we were instructed in a wrong way and it reflected in our actions.
We were enslaved to sin probably didn't even know it. But when God called us, when He opened our minds what was the impact? Well, here we see that "Once you were slaves of sin yet..." the implications "...yet now, you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered." That's kind of a cool image when you think about it, isn't it? Here we are, we're out in the world, we're slaves of sin, God's grabbed us, kind of gave us a special delivery, we were delivered to true doctrine.
To right teachings. You were delivered out of sin to the truth, and so he says, verse 18 he says, "You've been set free from sin, you've become slaves of righteousness." And so how critical is that? What we believe impacts what we practice, what we believe, what we obey should be the truth. In fact, oftentimes, we'll say that very thing.
“Well, when God called me to the truth” which in another word to say when I began to understand true doctrine, it changed my way of life, it changed my perspective, it changed the way I thought, it changed the way I acted. And so doctrine should do that very thing. And so here we see very clearly that not only apostle Paul, but certainly Jesus Christ taught more than just teachings. They taught the application of those teachings so those instructions should teach us how to live and that way of life was defined by the doctrine that they taught. And so doctrine does define the way we live, our pattern of life, ultimately, our behavior — our behavior.
In fact, an interesting example of this is the apostle John. Outlived all the rest of the apostles and when you consider his life, consider perhaps the things that were on his mind as his life was coming to an end. He had a long time to think about this, probably lived into his 90s and when he wrote these general letters of 1st, 2nd, 3rd John I wonder if some of those things that he really wanted to impress on all of us, that were so critical were the things that were on his mind as he was nearing the end of his life. You wonder about those kinds of things, you wonder about the perspective that he had in these various things.
He was also inspired to record something I think amazing for us when it comes to true doctrine. Now, this is in the Gospel of John, the Gospel of John 7. John 7:14, he records an instance here that isn't recorded in the other gospels in the same fashion. In this particular section of Scripture, Jesus tells his brothers that they need to go and keep the Feast, and then Jesus goes to keep the Feast as well.
And in John 7, we find Jesus Christ in the middle of the Feast of Tabernacles teaching getting up to give truth, give doctrine. And so John 7:14, it's recorded for us here that “In the middle of the Feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. The Jews marveled saying, ‘How did this Man know letters, never have studied?’ Jesus answered them and said, ‘My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it's from God or whether I speak of My own authority.'"
Which is kind of an interesting thing. Oh, I can do my own thing or I can follow the truth of God. Says the end of verse 18, “…He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him." What's the implication?
Well, you can do your own thing, you might be able to get by for a while, but you want the truth, you want the facts, the right way to live, the way that leads to eternal life, the way that He says here, Christ Himself says leads to seeking glory. “He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true.” We seek eternal life, we're motivated to live rightly. Well, then we obey, we follow God's doctrine, we model our life, we imitate Jesus Christ. His pattern of life and we come to understand and have a right relationship with God. And so, I think it becomes pretty clear and there's probably example after example we could turn to show how doctrine impacts what we do.
I mean, think about well, what are we doing here today? Well, we’re observing the Sabbath. Well, why do you observe the Sabbath? Well, doctrine determines our practice. And why do we congregate together?
Doctrine determines our practice.
Why do you keep the Holy Days? Doctrine determines our practice. What about what you eat? What impacts your diet? Well, doctrine determines what we avoid eating and what we eat. And so all of those things point to the fact that doctrine forms the basis for how we live our life. And when you think about the connection of what we're doing here this is a critical aspect of what doctrine does as well.
The third aspect, doctrine forms the basis for worship. Doctrine forms the basis for worship. I mean, it's probably a simple way to think about it, well, do we build statues? Do we worship icons? Do we, you know, pray to saints? Well, all of that's directly impacted by doctrine, by teachings. You know, whether we gyrate all around or we will lay down on the floor in holy roll or holy laughter if you've heard of that one? Holy laughter, you know, just people break out uncontrollably laughing for minutes on end.
Okay, what forms that practice? Well, we worship the way we do because of doctrine. And so it's an amazing… if you think about especially the early Church. You know, the Romans in one way were kind of willing, you know, to go ahead and include Jesus as a god. What's the problem with that as a Christian?
Well, He's not just another God, He's not just another guy, you know, they're really, "Okay, we can include in the pantheon sure. Put them in there, we'll throw them in there with the whole mix of all of our versions of the Greek gods, and he could just be another..." Early Christians say, "No, we don't do that." And because of doctrine, because of the truth, because they wouldn't put the true God on the level of all these other pagan gods they were persecuted, they were killed, they were martyred. And so it meant, you know, obviously how their worship was impacted in what the truth really was.
And so when you consider those types of things it has to form the basis for how we worship, why we worship, when we worship. Even Christ Himself talked about this to the woman at the well. A great example of this is over in John 4:21, if you'll turn there with me. The backstory is the Samaritans, Jews hated Samaritans remember the story the of the good Samaritan? The Jews weren't going to help him, the priest wasn't going to help him. They hated… why do they hate the Samaritan?
Why do the Jews hate the Samaritan so much? You could probably boil it down to one word it was doctrine. They didn't believe… they kind of mixed things up and added things, and they had this in syncretism of all kinds of different beliefs, and so the Jews didn't want anything to do with them. Yet they had a form of truth, wasn't exactly right. So here Jesus gets into a discussion with the Samaritan woman at the well and as a conclusion.
Verse 21 in John 4, here's what He says to her. He says, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
So we must have the right doctrines because right teachings and often times, we'll say just that, the truth. When God opened my mind to the truth, well, what do we mean? Well, when God showed me His true teachings. And so that does determine how we worship, how we worship in spirit and truth. And so whether we handle snakes during church services or whether we preach about them — that's defined by doctrine, isn't it?
Whether we cut ourselves, we abuse ourselves, we, you know, whip ourselves, all those… what defines that? Well, doctrine does. The days we worship the, you know, whether they're commanded to keep or whether they're just a nice suggestion is defined by the truth. Whether we keep Christmas, or Easter, or Halloween, or you name it.
All of those things are determined by the truth of the word of God. And so when we consider those things it becomes absolutely critical, absolutely critical. And when you consider that we can take it to another step. Another facet of why doctrine is so important.
Doctrine also forms the basis for fellowship. A fourth aspect of why doctrine is so critical. It forms the basis for fellowship. Is that true? Is that true or is it just we just kind of hang out with everybody and anybody? Well, there's something interesting that occurred right at the beginning of the New Testament Church.
Right at the very beginning, you turn there, Acts 2, we have that first Pentecost when God's Spirit was poured out. New Testament churches beginning. Of course, what happens during that whole event? The apostles are accused of being drunk, you know, they're hearing all these languages being spoken. Peter starts explaining what was going on, he talks about God's word being fulfilled kind of goes through a history of God's plan and His purpose and goes through the basics.
Points to Jesus Christ as being the Messiah and ultimately convicted those who are willing to listen. And as he comes to a conclusion in verse 37, we see the impact on the people who were willing to hear. It says, "When they heard this..." this is verse 37 of Acts 2, "they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’" Of course, Peter doesn't hesitate, he says, "Repent, let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." Has to begin with repentance and then you'll receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and so he points to this very fact and thousands were baptized. Thousands were baptized.
He says, "They gladly..." down in verse 41. He says, "Those who gladly received the word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them." Phenomenal, you know, they understood the truth, doctrine impacted them. But was that the end of the story? No, it was just the beginning.
Notice what their response to the truth is. Verse 42 going on from that highlight of huge numbers of people being baptized, what was their action? Verse 42, "They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." So what brought them together? What caused them to fellowship, and that's a great word, fellowship there.
They're fellowshipping together, it's a koinonia, they're fellowshipping, that's the same word that we read often times over, and over, and over, again at the Passover. It's the word for communion, they were communing together. Another word for sharing, another word for partnering. They were partnering together and what was the basis? Their common belief. Their common belief, the apostles' doctrine which wasn't just the apostles’ — it was God's truth.
It brought them together in fellowship. If they didn’t... but well, why weren't all the other Jews there? They didn't believe this stuff, they weren't a part of that. They didn't believe the doctrine, so why would they have this fellowship? Now, we're not just talking about a social interaction, yeah, we can socialize with everybody, anybody, we, you know, we should set a good example in that way no doubt.
No doubt, but here it's pointing to a deeper bond, it's talking about a bond of the Spirit, not just intellect. And so they couldn't have that same bond of godly fellowship with those who didn't accept the Messiah. They had a whole different set of doctrines, they didn't have that belief. And so this formed the basis that they could continue steadfastly in the truth and share it together at a spiritual level.
And so it's a powerful thing that was going on here and so the impact was tremendous and that fellowship we can read in so many different passages throughout Scripture is not just with each other. It goes beyond that, doesn't it? Our fellowship is with God the Father and Jesus Christ. You know, 1 John 1 talks about that over, and over, and over, that we could have fellowship with God the Father and Jesus Christ as well. But if we don't hold the truth, how can we have an intimate relationship with God?
How is that possible? You see, it limits us then and so doctrine defines how Jesus Christ lived His life. Think 1 John tells us that very thing that we should walk as He walked or live as He lived, and so if we don't hold that truth we walk a different direction, don't we? We go a different direction. In fact, it's so critical even as following Peter's example, what was he doing?
Well, to those that would listen he was preaching the gospel. Does doctrine have an impact in preaching the gospel? Absolutely. Talk about a fifth impact that doctrine has. Doctrine forms the basis for preaching the gospel, or you might even say preaching the truth.
There's a great example of this, one of my favorite is in the book of Acts. Acts 13:4. If you turn over to the book of Acts. Acts 13 we'll begin in verse 4, here we find at the beginning of the book this kind of amazing church that was at Antioch and how Barnabas was there, and the apostle Paul was there, and they choose Barnabas and Paul, and they send them out to preach the gospel. They sent them out on a journey and so picking up the story we find this amazing event, Paul's just kind of getting started here seems at this point Barnabas is still kind of the lead guy. But they're “Sent out” it says in verse 4, “by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they went to Cyprus. Then they went to Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues.”
John was there as well. Now, verse 6 says, “They went through the island of Paphos” and now there's opposition. They face opposition there. Verse 6 in the middle it says, “they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew who's named was Bar-Jesus.” So how convenient is that a guy named Bar-Jesus to bring a wrong message, a false prophet. But anyway, it says, verse 7, "He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man."
So now the sorcerer, this false prophet, has an in with what we might say the governor. Well, how in the world can you preach the truth to somebody that's infected by a false prophet? Well, it's kind of interesting the governor calls it says in end of verse 7. "The governor called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God." Here's the problem, verse 8, "Elymas the sorcerer," that's the guy's name, the false prophet, "withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith."
Because of course, if he turns to the faith that means he turns away from the false prophet which probably meant he wasn't going to get paid and, you know, he'd be in trouble. But notice what happens, verse 9. “Saul, who's called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at the sorcerer and said, "O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness.” You know, Paul was kind of timid, kind of shy, like to pull punches a little.
Wow, he just — bam! There it is, take that, right? Snap on that one. You enemy of all righteousness. Wow, he just lays it on the line. He says, "Will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? And now, indeed the hand of the Lord…”
If that isn't enough “the hand of the Lord is upon you, you should be blinded, not seeing the sun for a time." Now, what's going to happen? Well, immediately it says, "Immediately a dark mist fell on him and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand." You know, he was groping all around immediate… wow, talk about a curse falls on him just, boom! Just like that.
Okay, think about the impact watching this, you know, I'm the governor kind of interested in what this, you know, gospel's about and that this is kind of interesting too. You know, how would that impact you? What would you think about this? I think I'd be astounded. Wow! Can you imagine this?
Wow, it seems like you have to have say this Paul he's got some special power there, doesn't he? Well, it's interesting the reaction. Verse 12, it says, "Then the proconsul believed,” of course, if we stop right there we'll say, “Well, yeah, of course, you'd believe. I just saw it with my own eyes, the guy is blind he's groping around, he can't see. Wow, of course."
But that's not the case, at least not the whole story. Notice verse 12, "Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching." And that word teaching even in the King James it says "doctrine." What astounded the proconsul more than this false prophet going blind was the truth.
This guy was trying to twist and pervert the truth, Paul taught the doctrine of the Lord. He preached the gospel, he taught the truth, lead others to God, showed them the way of life and that impacted the proconsul. He was astonished he was taken aback by the gospel, by the truth, by true doctrine of the Lord. He was astonished at the teaching of the Lord, that true doctrine. This doctrine has to be our basis for preaching the truth, for preaching the gospel, and throughout Scripture, we're reminded of that fact.
Even Paul reminded Titus about that very fact, kind of in an Elymas kind of a way because there were certainly a lot of detractors from the truth during those early days of the Church. And you can notice his instructions to Titus in Titus 1. Notice Titus 1:6. Titus 1:6, we find some instruction that Paul is giving Titus. And oftentimes we just focus on the fact well, he's talking about leadership in the Church and Paul should choose men that are right-minded, right-acting in order to be leaders in the Church, in order to be elders. And certainly that's part of the point here, but it's interesting that that's not just a goal of in and of itself.
Titus 1:6, let's notice what Paul instructs Titus. He says, "If a man's blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children, not accused of dissipation or insubordination." He says, "A bishop must be blameless." Of course, an elder, yeah, this is the way it's supposed to be. We see “as a steward of God. not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine,” the list goes… Well, how do we know these things? Well, because doctrine tells us that.
Doctrine reminds us that we should be exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit, that it affects our way of life, that we should be patient, we should be kind, we should be loving, we should be exhibiting all of those attributes of God's Holy Spirit. One of the things he also talks about is because of this aspect of leadership. He says in verse 9, Titus 1:9, "Hold fast the faithful word as he's been taught." Not just to hold it and keep it, but it says "that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convict those who contradict." So in a way we're talking about preaching the gospel, that we can exhort someone and it says, of course, he delineates, not just by any old doctrine, but by sound doctrine, right doctrine.
Some translations say healthy teachings, wholesome, the truth of God. And so we see this aspect of doctrine forming the foundation for the true teachers, for the gospel of God. And so over and over, in fact, maybe you could take some time later on the Sabbath to even add to this list of how many times we see doctrine forming that basis for the preaching of the gospel. Because certainly, it sets us on that right path, in fact, you take it to its logical extension. Critical aspect of true doctrine, it also forms the basis for salvation.
I mean, just preaching the gospel we just don't preach it for the gospel says… yeah, there's a warning in a witness message that has to go out no doubt, but Christ also said to make disciples. And of course, part of our mission statement is to do just that for those that God's calling. So whose minds he's opening that we teach and help, and we work with people and it becomes a basis for salvation as well. And when you think about it for a moment, how can I be a member of the family of God? How can I be in the Kingdom for all eternity if I believe God's a fish?
That doesn't really seem to work if I believe he's a jackal, or a snake, or some cosmic blob, or cloud, or… how's that possible? You see the truth, the doctrine of God teaches us who God is, what He's like so that we can have a relationship with Him and ultimately be saved, ultimately be in the Kingdom of God, become a full-fledged member of God's family and be a divine being. And so it forms that basis ultimately, in a sense for understanding what real life, what eternal life is really all about. So Paul reiterated that fact over, and over, and over, again. In fact, if you remember where we began with Paul's instruction to Timothy in that same area of Scripture he ties it into the big picture.
There's this big picture of ultimately being in the Kingdom of God. So go back to 1 Timothy for just a moment, 1 Timothy 4, a little bit later on in the chapter near the end of chapter 4. After Paul got done saying to adhere, to stick to this, hang on to it, have the truth, teach the truth, know the truth, live the truth. In verse 16 notice what he says, he once again says how critically important this is. He says, "Take heed" or some translations say, "beware," or "watch out," see implication. What do we watch?
He says, "Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine, to the truth." He says “Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” So we've got this preaching the truth, preaching the gospel, and this path to eternal life. This path to eternal life, so doctrine, I mean, doctrine's not going to save us we need a Savior. But doctrine's intricately tied to salvation.
How can I be saved if I don't know the truth? How can I be saved if I don't understand that I have a Savior who died… how can I be saved if I don't understand I need to repent and I need to change? How can I be a part of the family of God if I don't even understand those very things? So it becomes so critical in that way. In fact, Paul reminded Timothy once again a little bit later if you turn a few pages over to 2 Timothy, similar kind of exhortation here.
2 Timothy 4:1, right at the very beginning of that particular chapter. Paul doesn't just say, beware, watch out, or stick to this. Now, he gets even a little bit stronger he says, "I charge you," and like it sounds in English it's in the Greek it's a similar type of thing. “Here's a warning, I'm the commander you're the soldier, I'm giving you an order.” That's kind of the impact of what he's saying here.
Here's your orders, he says, “before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, He's going to judge the living and the dead at His appearing in His Kingdom.” Alright, what is the exhortation? What's the command? He says "Preach the word! Preach the word! Be ready in season, out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine, and teaching… and teaching.”
He says, "The times going to come they're not going to endure sound doctrine." Now, they're not going to understand wholesome, right, true, teaching, but according to their own desires because they've got itching ears. They'll heap up for themselves, teachers, and so like George Barna said, "Yeah, you can read whatever you want, wherever you want, about whatever kind of belief you want to it's all out there. All you're going to do is google it and buy the book from Amazon, there it is.
But he says, “Wait a second, you've got to stick to God's truth” and so no wonder he says in verse 5, "You be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." So here's Paul nearing the end of his life, recognizing at least for the apostle Paul the Kingdom was right around the corner, right? He's going to be taking a rest soon and what's on his mind? Well, salvation, the Kingdom of God.
The family of God is on his mind and so he's talking about this basis for living unto salvation. Having that kind of salvation, that kind of faithfulness, that's going to last for all of our life until the return of Christ. That's on Paul's mind and he's urging Timothy, he's charging him, he's commanding him. Keep these things in mind, keep the true teachings. Keep it close and live by those teachings because doctrine forms the basis for salvation.
Now, it's great to know all these things, in fact, I'm sure that you could add numerous things to this list of why doctrine is so important, why true teachings, why the wholesome instruction of God is so critical to us. In fact, you might want to make a Bible study out of it, and do that very thing. But hopefully, it also moves us to ask ourselves, "Do I really understand true doctrine? How well do I understand even the basics that were mentioned in Hebrews 6? Do I really get it or have I just taken it for granted? Maybe I haven't really looked into some of those fundamental things in a long, long time?"
Well, we have a wonderful booklet. You can get it at beyondtoday.tv. Okay, maybe that doesn't fit. But the fundamental beliefs of the United Church of God is a valuable resource if you haven't read it for a while or maybe you've never read it because “Well, I know this stuff.” It's important. It's critical because it's not just the beliefs of the United Church of God, the amazing thing is when you read through this it takes you to the Bible, it takes you to the Word of God.
It references why we believe what we believe and it all revolves around the true teachings of God, and how critical it is that we study these things and not… well, be like Paul said to Timothy, devote yourself to it, don't take it for granted, stick to it. And if you've been wondering what, “I don't know what to study, I don't know what to read, I don't know…” This is great beginning. It's a great beginning, it's kind of like I don't know, already a self-made Bible study. We can go through and see exactly why we do what we do like you go on our website what a phenomenal tool we have? That you go on our website and type in any topic and they'll be a multitude of things that will come up.
I mean, we have an amazing array of doctrinal study papers that are on the website. Everybody… anybody can access them. If you've never done it, you ought to do it. You ought to do it because it helps us in so many ways to be cemented to the truth which, ultimately, is not just being cemented to the truth, but being connected to God. Having that right relationship with our amazing Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ because it does.
Doctrine forms the basis for that relationship as well. And so how well do I really understand? Not so much what this booklet teaches, but what the word of God teaches. How well do I know it? One other instruction that Paul gave Titus if you go back to Titus 1:9, I think it's kind of an admonition for him as a young minister, but certainly also an admonition for all of us.
For each one of us not just for elders, but let's rehearse this just one more time. Titus 1:9. He told Titus… you know, as people of God, as men of God, what do we do? Verse 9 he talks about “holding fast the faithful word.” Holding fast the faithful, the true teachings.
Says “as we've been taught.” He says “that he may be able, by sound doctrine, true teachings, wholesome words.” I can exhort first and foremost, myself. Myself so that I can get myself back in line into God's way of thinking and God's action to be repented myself because sometimes, you know, I contradict what I'm supposed to be living and I've got to be living God's way. And the impact, I think, is absolutely phenomenal.
It'll kind of be like a Sergius Paulus, like a proconsul in a way. In fact, we're promised that very thing, there's a promise maybe as a final passage over in Proverbs 2. There's a, I think, a wonderful promise that God gives us as we devote ourselves to understanding the truth, learning the truth, and living the truth. Notice the promise right here at the beginning of the Proverbs.
Proverbs 2. Let's see, let's begin in verse 2. Proverbs 2:2, it says, "Incline your ear to wisdom, apply your heart to understanding." So what we want to understand God's way, His word, His will, His teaching. “Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, search for her as a hidden treasure; then…” what's the result when we want to understand the truth? We want to repent, we want to live by the… what's the impact then?
Verse 5 he says, “then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth… and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; and He's a shield to those who walk upright; He's a guard at the path of justice, and preserves the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path.”
And so what an amazing promise. As we strive to dedicate our lives to living God's way, to being faithful disciples, faithful learners, faithful students of God, understanding the truth of His teachings. Certainly, we recognize doctrine's pretty important, God's teachings. It matters, it definitely matters and for so many reasons.
Doctrine forms the basis for what we believe, it forms the basis for why we do what we do, how we live our lives, forms the basis for how we worship, when we worship, how we fellowship, who we fellowship with. Forms the basis for preaching the gospel and ultimately frames salvation itself. So let's take these words and look at the truth of God. Let's be sure we're striving to hold fast to sound teachings, to wholesome words, to true doctrine.