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What About doctrine?

R. Sutcliffe

Shiloh Bible Chapel (Clearbrook BC)

2002 04 21

Reading: Titus 2: 1-14

1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.

4 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children,

5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no-one will malign the word of God.

6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.

7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness

8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them,

10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive.

11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.

12 It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,

13 while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ,

14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

What is Doctrine?

The words from which "doctrine" is translated are ones from which we get "doctor" (in the sense of "teacher", not in the sense of "physician" which is a newer meaning), and the word "indoctrinate". It simply means "teaching." In the context of scripture, Christian Doctrine is the summarized teachings of God's Spirit-breathed Bible, with nothing added or subtracted. In the passage from Titus 2, sound doctrine is first practical, teaching Christians how to live, act, and think in accord with God's will as expressed in His word, and second, theological, in that it teaches us the reason why we can and must live so--that God's saving grace has come to us--we've trusted in Christ for salvation.

What is false doctrine?

A good question, for lies are never far away.

1Tim 6: 3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

Notice that this passage not only gives examples of the content and style of false teaching, as do many other passages, it also defines false teaching as anything not agreeing with "the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching." Since we find Jesus' teaching in the Bible and there alone, any instruction contrary to Scripture is false doctrine. And, not surprisingly, false doctrine normally begins by undermining the true at its very foundations--the authority of the Scripture as the written word, an the nature of Christ as the living word.

What about the church's teachings?

Christ's church is defined by the scriptures, so any local church that derives its teachings from the Bible (and from nowhere else) will surely have a doctrine consistent with the Bible. The role of the church is to serve as a vehicle for discipling people in the scriptural following of Christ, not to create extra-biblical doctrines.

Matt 28: 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

1Co 4:17 For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.

Ga 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!

Ga 1:9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

What if someone claims to have a revelation from God?

Such claims arise frequently, as they did in New Testament times. Our response now should be the same as then:

1Jo 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

In other words, if the spirit in which a prophet (meaning a teacher in this context) speaks agrees with God's revelation, fine, if not, it is false.)

What does the Bible teach about God?

It teaches us that God always was, that He is all-powerful and all-knowing, that He created the entire physical universe by the word of His command, and that everyone and everything is accountable to Him. It also teaches that He exists eternally as a Trinity of persons: God the Father, his Divine Son, and his equally Divine Holy Spirit.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Genesis1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.

Is there a doctrine of humankind?

Certainly. The Scripture teaches us that human beings were made at the command of God, and for his purposes.

Ge 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Deut 10:12 And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

It further teaches us that the first man and woman disobeyed, and that following them, the whole human race (and it is a single race) has likewise sinned.

Ro 5:12 ... sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned...

Ro 3:23 ... all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...

It also tells us that the consequence of such sin (which is rebellion Against the Almighty God and our Creator) is death, i.e. eternal separation from God

Ro 6:23 ... the wages of sin is death

Mt 18:3 And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

But I thought God is love. How can he condemn people to hell for sinning?

God is also just. His justice demands an infinite penalty for the infinite transgression of disobeying God by not worshipping him all the time with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and by not always showing our love for him by loving our neighbour as ourselves.

But, you're right, He is love as well, and that love meant that although He didn't have to, He provided a way of escape from judgement for us, a way that we might still live eternally in His presence.

Heb 2:2 ...every violation and disobedience received its just punishment...

Ro 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

How could He do that, reconcile love and justice?

The only way He could. His Divine Son, Jesus (which means "Saviour"), called the Christ (the Divinely sent one), took all God's punishment for sin at the cross. Because He was Himself infinite, that punishment was enough to satisfy God's justice. Because He had been born as one of us, the punishment could be credited to our account, if we would only put our trust in Him.

Isa 53:5 ... he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Jer 39:18 I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the LORD.'"

Ac 16:31 "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household."

What then is a Christian?

A Christian is one who has personally, by faith, accepted the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ for sin on the cross and so has been redeemed, born again, baptized in the Holy Spirit, and made one of God's family.

Eph 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no-one can boast.

Ro 10:9 ...if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

But I thought religion is defined by what people do.

It is. We are saved specifically for the purpose of witnessing to the glory of God and for doing the works of Christ.

Note the last verse of the passage in Titus 2, with which we started

our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Jas 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Christianity is not first a religion but is first a faith-grounded, grace-given relationship with the Saviour. Out of that relationship flow actions or works consistent with faith. The latter constitute religion, something one can easily have without being a Christian, but cannot lack if one is a Christian.

Jas 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? ... 18 Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

But I was baptized as an infant and grew up in a religious home.

If you haven't made Christ yours in your heart, it makes no difference. Christ once spoke to such a man, one who was not only religious, but a teacher of religion, learned in the Scriptures, and he told him this:

Joh 3:3"I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

What is Christian Morality? How should a Christian live?

It can be summed up in two sentences: (1) Know God by faith, learn to love him and his ways, seek to serve him, and have His Holy Spirit instantiate Christ's character in you, and (2) Love your neighbour more than yourself.

Jesus said in Matt 22:40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Wait. I want to be number one.

Self-fulfilment, self realization, and self-actualization--a three-self philosophy :)--is utterly antithetical to Christianity. Self-ism is a modern (new age) version of hedonism (eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die). It cannot lead to God, for He will brook no idols, especially self.

Php 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Ex 20:3 "You shall have no other gods before me.

But how does all this change the world for the better?

Ah, yes, the Liberal mantra. "Who needs religion? If only we would all get along and tolerate our differences the world would be a better place." But it won't work that way, because this liberal idea ignores sin, and so cannot explain what's wrong with the world, let alone propose anything to fix it. Since as the scriptures teach, it is indeed sin that causes evil (and death,) the world cannot be fixed by any amount of effort, government intervention, or money, unless human hearts are first made right. Individuals who accept by faith in Christ the power of God to change them personally are a means by which others also can be changed. Society can only be improved one person at a time from within, and the creator of the universe has sufficient power to do this.

Ga 3:22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

This liberal idea not only ignores the sin problem, it also focuses only on this life, ignoring eternity.

Lu 21:33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

1Jo 2:17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives for ever.

You propose Christian responses to ethical questions. I thought we lived in a post-Christian world.

Perhaps we live in a pre-Christian one.

I don't want Christians shoving their morality down my throat.

Let's put this one to bed for good. Christianity cannot do that, because Christian morality comes from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit working and changing individuals from within, NOT by external force. It simply cannot be imposed. Besides, there's no shortage of others who try very hard to shove their immorality down other's throats. My fiction has characters who'd like to. Just as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Amin, real world dictators and persecutors of all eras, such people prove to be a pretty nasty lot. No, the ability to live as God wants us to comes by grace, not by human effort.

Ro 1:17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

Ga 3:3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?

Ro 8:4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

Hey, man, I'm a moral person. I'm good enough to go to heaven.

The Bible says God's standard for admission is absolute perfection, and that no one but Christ has ever achieved this. He could and did because He was God as well as man. So, it's enter heaven on the basis of Christ's merits or not at all. He is the only way, the only truth, the only light.

Le 11:44 holy, because I am holy.

Ro 3:23 ... all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Variation--You've got your religion; I've got mine.

As already noted, strictly speaking, Christianity is not a religion, if by a religion one means a system of beliefs, practices, and rules that is supposed to produce better living, a salvation of some kind, or the reform of person or society. Rather it is a relationship with the living God (initiated by Him) that transforms a person from within. There is only one God, so there can only be one relationship with that God, and only one true religion following from that relationship.

Mr 12:32 ...God is one and there is no other but him.

Joh 10:9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.

Variation--I follow the ten commandments. I'll be just fine.

The purpose of the Old Testament law was to teach us the impossibility of coming to God by a rule-based morality. The law should, as it did with both Moses and David, bring us to the point where we realize that law cannot do the job of making a lost human being holy. We must understand, as they did, that we can only enter God's presence by His grace through Christ.

Ga 2:16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no-one will be justified.

Ga 3:24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.

Jesus was a good teacher. Why say more?

Why do you call Him good? No one is good but God. Jesus Christ not only claimed to be God incarnate, He backed that claim up. Imagine one of us claiming to be God! Either He was utterly mad, or He was who He claimed to be. A merely "good teacher" doesn't cut it.

Mr 10:18 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No-one is good-- except God alone.

Joh 10:30 I and the Father are one."

Joh 8:58 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"

Joh 20:28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

How do I become a Christian?

Look up John 3:3, 16-17; Romans 10:9-11, Acts 16:31. You must confess you are a sinner, unable to enter God's presence on your own merit, and ask in faith that the death and merits of Christ be applied to your account so that you may be born again. God will hear your prayer and give you His salvation by His grace. The death of Christ will be counted as your punishment for sin, and His merits will be used to cloak you in righteousness so that when God looks on you He sees His son. You will become His child and He your Father.

Ro 10:4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

1Jo 3:1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Then what?

Then, having begun the only possible way, carry on to do. (Holiness is an effect of salvation, not it's cause.) Read the Bible, saturate yourself in the word and obey it. Get baptized. Being immersed does not itself save, but is a public declaration that God has saved you and you are determined to follow Him. Actions flowing out of a character that is daily being transformed into Christ's will be evidence you indeed have saving faith. The Holy Spirit of God will work in and through you to instantiate the Character of Christ in your heart and soul, mind and strength, doing the Divine way what cannot be achieved by any human effort.

Eze 36:27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

1John 1: 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. 4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No-one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No-one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

What should I look for in a church?

You've asked the right question, for you do need to express your Christianity as part of a fellowship of believers, to be discipled and to help make disciples. Look for a church where the Bible comes first, where human traditions and human interpretations are subject to scriptural authority, and where you can see the evidence of God's grace in action as souls are redeemed and lives are changed.

What churches should I avoid?

A Church with heavy emphasis on human leader(s), where the Bible is not regarded as authoritative, with excessive interest in your money, that demands certain works or services to gain a blessing or to earn salvation, or that emphasizes experience, emotionalism (or anything else) above faith, obedience, grace and God's Word. No, I won't be more specific. If you're serious, you can find such a church for yourself. It's not the name over the door that matters; its the Spirit dwelling in the people who make up the local church that is important.

What of signs and miracles?

God has sometimes used these to warn people to repent, and to authenticate his word in the mouth of Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles. But the real power of God is not so much manifest in such signs; they are somewhat incidental. His real power is in the Gospel, which changes the hearts of men and women to want to obey Him. Moreover, Satan may use signs and wonders in his attempts to deceive people and keep them from the truth.

2Co 11:14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.

Mt 24:24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible.

What about revelation in creation?

Observations of Christ's creation, if properly interpreted, can illustrate Biblical truths. However, the physical universe was badly broken by the fall of Adam and Eve, and, moreover, our interpretations of it are by fallen minds. Thus, whenever there is a difference between a human interpretation of the physical world and the literal normal reading of the Bible, the latter should be taken as true.

Ro 8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

Alternate: Surely you don't believe in Creation. Life evolved, didn't it?

I've worked in and around science all my adult life and have never seen any compelling evidence for this. Typically, whatever has been offered as proof has been discredited within ten years or so. There is no mechanism known by which evolution could have occurred, and the assertion that even one protein, let alone a complex cell, could have arisen by chance, is utterly absurd. I grow more confident as the years pass that the diversity of life, as we know it from the fossil record and present-day observations, was all created at the same time.

I've heard the Bible has errors.

When documents from the first few centuries are compared, one does occasionally find what appear to be minor copying mistakes. In no instance do these affect the overall teachings of the scriptures. No doubt in anticipation of our obtuse attitude, the fundamental truths of Biblical teaching are repeated numerous times. This ensures the original infallible and inerrant Divine revelations will survive even being handled by fallible human beings.

2Tim 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Do Old Testament and New Testament teachings differ?

Much of the Old Testament law was given to Israel to ensure God would have a set-apart (sanctified) people. Some of that law is national or ceremonial in nature, and is not repeated in the New Testament, leading us to conclude that it was limited in scope, not universal. Moreover the New Testament teaches that law was designed not as an end in itself, but to lead us to Christ (by showing us we couldn't obey it and create our own righteousness, so were in need of His.) However, God's demand for worship and service to Him alone, the moral laws, and the principles on which they are based, are all repeated in the New Testament. Right and wrong (in the moral sense) is defined by the very character of God, and so cannot change, because He does not change.

Jas 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.


Doctrine, the summarized teaching of the Scriptures, teaches us that God exists, that He is pure, holy, and just, that our failure to love Him above all else, love our neighbour as ourselves, and obey God's moral law, condemns us as sinners and demands the death penalty against us. But it also teaches us that God loved us so much that he executed the penalty instead against Jesus the Christ, His Son. How will you respond to His invitation to accept what Christ has done, to be reconciled with God, and to live for Him?

Ro 1:17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

Do you wish to live, to live for all eternity, to really be alive for the first time? Respond to Christ. And do not wait. You do not know if you have a tomorrow, and if you die tonight, it will be too late, so act now. 2Co 6:2 I tell you, now is the time of God's favour, now is the day of salvation.

Or, perhaps you once made a commitment to Christ, but now there is sin in your life you have clung to, not repented of. It's time to turn your heart back to God:

1Jo 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

What commitment is God's Holy Spirit prompting you to make this moment?


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