We went into a shop this morning that majors in selling Christian T-shirts. Many of the shirt’s designs are nice, but how much Scripture can you put on a T-shirt? Because of this, many of the designs with their wording could be misconstrued as to the message they were intending to convey. Once again I was reminded how important Christian Doctrine is, because whatever you have on your chest for the world to see is the message you want the world to see about your God.
The question that follows is, “Can you make your God out to be whatever you want your God to be?” The quick and only answer is that if you are projecting a message about the God of the Bible … definitely not. If your god is not the God of the Bible you may make that god out to be whatever you want that god to be. Before getting into anything else, I need to say that doctrine could be extremely technical. For the study of doctrine from that angle you could use authors like Berkhof, Calvin, Hodge, Barth and Grudem amongst many others. That angle is not intended here. My intension is about doctrine as it applies to daily life and living out the faith of the gospel.
There are five places in the NIV Bible where the term “doctrine” is used. Although we have considered some of these in the past, I want to reflect on each of them briefly and state their purpose in context. Let me hold up that T-shirt with its “Christian message” as an illustration. You are advertising who and what your God is to the world as you wear the garment. Then you are advertising your ethics and morals … and flowing in the stream is your behaviour because you can be and do whatever you advertise. Closely coupled to all of this will be the comfort you derive from the message as in how it affects the assurance of salvation.
Doctrine exposes sin.
1Ti 1:8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
Here Paul uses the Law and the Gospel in tension. The Law’s purpose was and is to expose sin, wickedness, evil and all ungodliness. In other words it brings out into the open everything that is contrary to “sound doctrine” as revealed in the Gospel.
Doctrine is demonstrated by leaders. As they follow healthy Biblical doctrine, so ought the followers to imitate them.
Tit 1:6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
The elders attributes reflected in verses 6-9a constitute “sound doctrine”. The outworking of this doctrine in his life sets the example of encouragement to his followers and not only exposes those who live a godless life, but shows his followers the genuine from the counterfeit.
Doctrine is teaching.
Tit 2:1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.
As you run your eyes through this passage you will see examples of teaching for older men (v2); older women (v3); younger women (v4-5); young men (v6); slaves (v9) and generally (15). Your life … ethics, morals, behaviour, mental, emotional and even physical health, your work ethic, management of family, church life as well as your spirituality are determined by your doctrine.
Doctrine must be preached.
2Ti 4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 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. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
Verse 3 is so true about our modern age of secularism and materialism. The preacher’s responsibility towards the flock, based upon verse 3 is to
2Ti 4:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
Doctrine affects salvation. I am so aware that many teach against doctrine because it divides. As we have stated many times, it does. It divides truth from error!
1Ti 4:15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
True Biblical doctrine determines salvation. That is, what you believe about God and His salvation plan will determine genuine or counterfeit faith. So, remember, what you advertise (say on your T-shirt) makes your God known, reveals your belief and is teaching.
Dear God, help me to be diligent in the study of Your Word so that my doctrine will be accurate and reflect Biblical Christianity. Please help pastors and preachers to teach Your Word properly for Jesus’ sake. Amen.