(Note: Many of the concepts in the first part of this study were borrowed from Douglas Jacoby)
2 Tim 4:1-5 (HCSB)
1 Before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom, I solemnly charge you: 2 proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will accumulate teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. 4 They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5 But as for you, keep a clear head about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
This letter was one of the last letters written by the apostle Paul. He was writing to Timothy (a younger evangelist whom he had trained). Among other things, Paul tells Timothy that a time would come when people would not tolerate sound doctrine.
Question: What does Paul mean by ‘sound doctrine’?
Answer: Sound doctrine basically means ‘healthy teachings’. In verse 4, Paul says that these same people who would not tolerate sound doctrine, would turn away from hearing the truth and would turn aside to myths. So sound doctrine, or healthy teachings, are teachings that are true.
Now the Bible is a big book and there are a tremendous number of teachings in it. Since we are human, we are very unlikely to understand every teaching perfectly. So since none of us are likely to understand or teach every teaching in the Bible correctly, should we just give up and decide we can\’t understand or teach sound doctrine?
I believe that all of the original scriptures that make up the Bible are the exact Words of God (see my study, \’Why I Believe the Bible is God\’s Word), and because of what the Word of God says, I also believe that not every teaching in the Bible is as important as others. In other words, according to the Bible, there are some teachings that are more important than other teachings. For instance, look over to Matthew 22:34-40:
Matt 22:34-40 (HCSB)
34 When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together in the same place. 35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important commandment. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”
When an expert in the law asks Jesus which commandment in the law was the greatest, notice Jesus did not say, ‘All of the teachings in the law are equally important.’. Instead, he says, ‘This is the greatest and most important commandment\’. So Jesus, the author of the Bible, says that some commandments are more important than others. Another example of Jesus saying that some of the teachings of the Bible are more important than others is Matthew 23:23-24:
Matt 23:23-24 (HCSB)
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. These things should have been done without neglecting the others. 24 Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, yet gulp down a camel!
Here Jesus says that there are more important matters of the law, i.e., some matters of the law are more important than other matters of the law. For the record, Jesus also says that these scribes and Pharisees should have practiced both the more important matters of the law and the lesser important matters of the law, but it is still clear that Jesus understood that some parts of God’s Word were more important than others. He tells these people that paying a tenth of mint, dill and cumming while neglecting the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faith is like straining out a gnat, yet gulping down a camel! In this illustration, ‘straining out’ means practicing what God’s Word says, ‘a gnat’ is paying a tenth of mint, dill and cummin, and ‘a camel’ is justice, mercy and faith.
For simplicity, it is helpful to classify the teachings of the Bible into three different levels of importance:
1. Peripheral Doctrines – doctrines that are debatable and not crucial for one to live the Christian life.
Peripheral doctrines are doctrines that would fall under the umbrella of Romans 14:1-4…
Romans 14:1-4 (HCSB)
1 Accept anyone who is weak in faith, but don’t argue about doubtful issues. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, but one who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 One who eats must not look down on one who does not eat; and one who does not eat must not criticize one who does, because God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to criticize another’s servant? Before his own Lord he stands or falls. And stand he will! For the Lord is able to make him stand.
So an example of a ‘peripheral doctrine’ would be whether or not a person can eat anything or only vegetables. The passage above makes it clear that these are opinion matters and so should be treated as such.
2. Important Doctrines – doctrines that are important, but not critical for one to live the life of a Christian.
Matt 2:1 (HCSB)
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod…
Even though it is important to know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, not knowing this fact would not prevent someone from being able to live the life of a Christian or understand that Jesus died for our sin, etc.
3. Core Doctrines – doctrines that are crucial for one to live the life of a Christian.
Acts 2:36-40 (HCSB)
36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” 37 When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?” 38 “Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 And with many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!”
Since someone can not become a Christian without believing, repenting and being baptized for the forgiveness of sins and since no one can live the Christian life without being empowered from within by the Holy Spirit, this is a crucial or core doctrine that one must understand in order to live the life of a Christian.
Titus 1:7-9 (HCSB)
7 For an overseer, as God’s manager, must be blameless, not arrogant, not quick tempered, not addicted to wine, not a bully, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.
Although this passage is referring to elders, I believe that each Christian should be able to both encourage with sound teaching and refute those who contradict sound teaching. In order for us to refute those who contradict sound teaching, I believe we must first identify these false teachings. I believe that in today\’s world, there are many teachings that violate what I consider to be core doctrines. In part 2 of this study, I will try to identify what I believe to be false teachings that are being taught today.