“Right Doctrine for Right Living” series (post #3)
The Christian realm today is dominated by an attitude known as ecumenicalism. Since I realize that’s a big, scary word, let me define it for you. Ecumenicalism is the attitude that says that professing Christians should lay aside all their doctrinal differences and work together for the greater good. It focuses upon love rather than doctrine, fellowship rather than separation, and unity rather than division.
The typical area-wide crusade is a classic example of ecumenicalism. Such a crusade might bring together professing Christians who are: Methodists, Presbyterians, Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, Catholics, Independent Baptists, Lutherans, Charismatics, Episcopalians, and non-denominationals. The idea is, “Let’s get all of the area’s professing Christians together and focus upon our commonalities instead of our differences.”
Now, let me say that I don’t have a theological ax to grind against anybody. I’m for love. I’m for unity. I’m for Christian fellowship. But I also understand that we can’t just treat right doctrine as an insignificant, meaningless, disposable thing. As one preacher has said, “People will forgive even poor theology (wrong doctrine) as long as they get out of church before noon.” Sadly, he seems to be right.
To showcase the high significance that God Himself places upon right doctrine, let’s see what His written word says. Here are ten selected passages (all from the N.K.J.V.) from a sizable list of them:
- In John 7:16-17, Jesus says, “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 is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” Here we see that Jesus taught that knowing right doctrine and doing God’s will are inextricably linked. Basically, you’ll have a hard time doing God’s will if your doctrine is wrong.
- Acts 2:42 says the early Christians “…continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine…” Notice that those Christians didn’t continue in just any doctrine. It had to be the doctrine preached by Christ’s apostles.
- In Ephesians 4:14, Paul encourages Christians to stop being children (spiritual babes) who are “…tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine…” That means that Christians should anchor themselves to right doctrine so that they will not be blown about by the winds of wrong doctrine.
- In 1 Timothy 1:3, Paul urges Timothy to remain in Ephesus and make sure that others “…teach no other doctrine…” It’s noteworthy that Paul didn’t stop at telling Timothy to teach right doctrine himself. Even more than doing that, he took the subject even further by telling him to make sure that others didn’t teach wrong doctrine.
- In 1 Timothy 4:13, Paul says to Timothy, “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” Telling Timothy to give attention to reading, exhortation, and doctrine is not the same thing as telling him to give attention to unity, love, and ecumenicalism.
- In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul says to Timothy, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.” The doctrine that Paul has in mind is obviously the apostles’ doctrine, right doctrine.
- In Titus 1:9, Paul talks to Titus about the importance of an elder (pastor), “…holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” Notice that if a pastor wants to preach a message that either exhorts, convicts, or both, he should do it by making it a message built around sound doctrine.
- In Titus 2:1, Paul tells Titus to, “…speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine.” You see, that’s different than telling Titus to speak the things that will unite all the people and not offend any of them.
- Hebrews 13:9 says that Christians should not be “…carried about with various and strange doctrines…” Even in the days of the early church, there were a multitude of wrong doctrines to tempt Christians to unanchor themselves from right doctrine and be blown away from God’s truth.
- In Jude verse 3, Jude says that his purpose in writing his short letter (epistle) is to exhort his readers to, “…earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” It is important to note that we are to contend for the faith. And what is the faith? It is that body of doctrinal teaching that was delivered to the church once and for all.
The common thread in each of these passages, and several others we could cite, is the importance of not only clinging to right doctrine but also defending it against those who teach wrong doctrine. Yes, right doctrine really is a big deal with God, and anytime we minimize or downplay its significance we venture out onto potentially dangerous ice. If the likes of Paul, Jude, and even Jesus Himself made a point of singing the praises of right doctrine, it’s not our job to come along in this modern era and change the tune to say, “Surely now we’ve reached a place where we’ve gotten past all those divisive issues.” All I can say to such an opinion is that if we have reached such a place, we’ve no doubt gone too far in the wrong direction. Right doctrine has always mattered to God and continues to matter to Him, and so how can our lives be pleasing to Him if it doesn’t matter to us?