“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim. 4:3).
The rebellion of Satan and of man has thrust the creation into vanity and folly. Satan tempted man to be as God, to make God-type decisions and to choose what he thought was best. He first caused man to doubt God’s decisions and judgments with his questioning to the woman, “Did God really say?” (Gen. 3:1). When Eve heeded the serpent’s voice the lights went out, and the whole creation was plunged into darkness, death, decay, and despair. God, by the revelation of Christ and his word, has sought to bring us and all creation back to soundness. In several places (I Tim. 1:10, Titus 1:9, & Titus 2:1) the scripture speaks of the importance of “sound doctrine.” Let us ponder some of the differences between unsound and sound doctrine.
UNSOUND DOCTRINE DOESN’T WORK, AND IT IS NOT GOOD FOR US
Probably one of the best proofs of a real and personal devil is the fact that man is still trying to do things that simply do not work. Wouldn’t it be crazy if man were still trying to make a square wheel after all these thousands of years? Long ago he tossed the square wheel into the trash and opted for the more practical round one.
Obviously, long ago he would have done the same thing with many moral issues had it not been for the fact of the devil and his blinding and seductive power over humankind. The fact that people are still trying to make adultery, fornication, dishonesty, and cheating work after all these millennia is proof enough that there is a supernatural power of evil influencing humankind.
Unfortunately, it takes a while to find out that sin doesn’t work. It seems that people in every generation must try sin out for themselves and prove its folly. In the world around us, we often see a similar process going on as foolish doctrines run their courses. For instance, think of how long it took for the doctrine of Communism to run its course and prove itself bankrupt. Shortly after the turn of the twentieth century there were millions of fervent young people who were sure that Communism was the answer to the world’s ills. Now, a century later, Communism has become a worldwide fiasco that has brought economic ruin on many nations of the world, and death to tens of millions under its ruthless leaders. Today there remains little argument about its political validity, although many liberal professors are still enamored with it.
Things are not always so clearly demonstrated in the spiritual world, however. Let us think about some of our more recent doctrinal follies. Beginning like a flood in the 60s, we were blasted with many philosophies and theologies, like “Do your own thing,” “free love,” “LSD,” “Gay life styles,” etc… Many of these doctrines, although seemingly new, were just age-old sins repackaged to make them look more attractive. It is always interesting to watch Satan work to disguise the repulsiveness of evil. Satan never calls evil by its real name. He makes it sound beautiful by using fancy terminology. Adultery is called a “meaningful relationship;” Homosexuality is called “an alternate life style;” and fornication, is called “free love” or “Safe sex.”
Well, some of the grim results of the last few decades are now becoming apparent. The accounts are beginning to come due from this spending spree of immorality. We are now getting the huge bills for these meaningful relationships and alternative life styles, and we are finding that the price is much too high for society to pay. Free love wasn’t free after all!
We are learning that just as the Bible says, sin destroys the sinner and plenty of innocent bystanders as well. Think how adultery and fornication, for instance, must ripple down through the generations. Even God in his great mercy tells us that some sin must be visited upon us, even down to the third and fourth generation (Ex. 20:5). Many innocent people pay the consequences of sin. David, after his awful adultery, prayed to God to be spared from the blood-guiltiness of his act (Psa. 51:14). We can never know the exact toll of emotional suffering, suicide, murder, etc. which may result from one evil act
on our part.
Most dramatic of all is the effect upon the sinner. Little does the sinner know that the act of sin leads to death. The author of Proverbs speaks of the enticement of sexual sins in this wise: “Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death” (Prov. 7:27). It is not only so with sexual sins but with other sins. The Bible instructs us also that: “Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the lives of those who get it” (Prov.1:19).
When we look at the secret sins of the heart and tongue we see the same thing. The Bible says that “envy rots the bones” (Prov. 14:30). God instructs us with these words – “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech” (1 Pet. 3:10). We hardly think of deceitful speech as something that will kill us, yet the Bible assures us that it will.
Unsound doctrine also causes the creation to become our enemy. This creation was made by God and it operates according to his laws and principles. Since the fall, the creation has been attempting to expel the virus of evil much like a body would expel a natural virus. We see this so vividly pointed out in the Book of Judges, where it is said that “From the heavens the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera” (Jud.5:20). Imagine that! Even the heavenly bodies fought against this one evil man until he
The Bible tells us that as a result of evil, “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Rom. 8:22). The creation is groaning to be delivered of sin and of the sinner. Therefore, the Bible assures us that “misfortune pursues the sinner” (Prov. 13:21). The Bible promises that “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil” (Rom. 2:9). I once heard the story of a man who robbed a department store and in his haste to escape he took the “up” escalator instead of the “down” one. No matter how hard he tried to escape he was always brought back into the waiting arms of the police. The rebellious and sinful life is like that.
The evil life leads to death both now and hereafter, for it says in Ezekiel 18:4, “The soul who sins is the one who will die.” Someone once said that we do not break God’s laws, instead, we break ourselves upon them. Yes, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov. 14:12). Such is the way of unsound doctrine.
SOUND DOCTRINE NOT ONLY WORKS, BUT IT IS GOOD FOR US TOO
In Deuteronomy 10:13, Moses told the people that if they would keep God’s commands it would be for their own good. God’s laws are given for our good and for our protection.
Let us consider how this operates in some common areas of our lives. Just think about family relationships for instance. It is good for children to obey their parents (Eph. 6:1). It is good also for parents to assist their children in keeping this commandment (Prov. 13:24). By obeying their parents, children learn the restraints and boundaries that will guide them through life. Many are the youth who have problems with authority today because they were never taught to obey. For the rebellious child, the Bible has a dreadful promise in Proverbs 30:17, “The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures” (Prov. 30:17).
It is good for a wife to be submissive to her husband (Eph. 5:22). By this I do not imply that a wife must be some sort of slave to her husband’s wishes. Yet, she does need to have a deep respect and admiration for her husband. She should encourage him and allow him to exercise the spiritual authority God intended for him as priest of the home. Her submission will bring her ultimate security and happiness. This certainly runs counter to much that we hear today. But remember, these new teachings have not been tried through the centuries. God’s word has been tried (Psa. 12:6). We might add that it is good also for a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church and offered himself up for her (Eph. 5:25). If husbands loved their wives in this manner, it certainly would not be so hard for wives to respect and admire them!
Let us consider the area of humility. It is good and safe to be humble. The Bible promises us that, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5). The Bible also tells us that pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before the fall (Prov. 16:18). We could point out numerous other follies of pride from the word.
The actual benefits of sound doctrine are many. It improves our health and even extends our lives. The scripture states that righteousness tends to life (Prov. 11:19). Obedience to God’s law is much better for us than oat bran muffins and fish oil capsules. In Proverbs 3:8, it is said that to depart from evil, “will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Prov. 3:8). In Proverbs 3:2 we are told that the keeping of God’s commandments brings us length of days, long life and peace.
Yes, in some mysterious way, the keeping of God’s law actually increases our days and years (Prov. 9:11). In a day when health foods are the rage, this simple and practical advice for good health is often overlooked.
God’s law also makes us prosperous. While poverty and shame is the lot of him that refuses instruction, we are told that “He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor” (Prov. 21:21). Also, “Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever” (Psa. 112:3). We are certainly not teaching that there should be a BMW in every believer’s garage, and that God’s people should have no trouble or testing. Nor are we trying to raise up a prosperity cult, but we are saying that blessing tends to be the lot of the righteous.
Finally, God’s commands make us wise. The Bible says, “Then you will understand what is right and just and fair-every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul” (Prov. 2:9-10). Sound doctrine makes us secure, wise, happy, loved, and blessed. And it brings us to eternal life, joy and glory. The Psalmist says, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psa. 16:11).
The obedience to God’s law is vitally important. However, we must point out one way in which Christianity differs from Judaism. We do not feel that we can keep God’s law. After all, the law of the Lord is perfect (Psa. 19:7), and we are not. Jeremiah tells us that the Lord himself will become our righteousness (Jer. 23:6). We feel that now because of Christ, “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13). Jesus is the law fulfilled in each of us. It is no longer we that live, but Christ that lives within us (Gal. 2:20), helping us to do that which is pleasing to the Father and leading us ever toward sound doctrine.
This updated article is presented courtesy of Bridges For Peace, Jerusalem (original publication date, 1992).