By Larry Ray Halley
That “we preach too much doctrine” is one of the charges against the church. This criticism is as old as the doctrine of the Lord itself. “Ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine” (Acts 5:28). The Jews did not like it in the first century, and our critics do not like it today. Truly, “there is nothing new under the sun.”
The “doctrine of Christ” is the teaching of Christ (2 Jn. 9; Matt. 28:20). “The doctrine of the Pharisees” and “the doctrine of the Nicolaitans” was the teaching of those sects (Matt. 16:12; Rev. 2:15). Some say that “the doctrine of Christ” is simply teaching about Jesus, but “the doctrine of the Pharisees” was not “about” that group itself, but, rather, the teaching of the Pharisees, i.e., what they taught. Hence, “the doctrine of Christ” is the word of Christ, the “commandment” of Christ (Jn. 7:16; 12:48, 49; Col. 3:16).
Some have said that “we over emphasize doctrine in our preaching.” What doctrine (name one) is overly emphasized? They tell us that we need to give more stress to “spirituality.” It has been said that “Baptists have more spirituality in their little finger than we (Christians) have in our entire body.” The remedy for this is “less emphasis on doctrine.” “We are cold, formal, ritualistic. There is no joy in our service, but just look at the denominational people; they may not have all of our right answers, but they have the spirit, the joy, that we lack.”
Chart #6 (see next page) illustrates the complaint and the truth.
Is there “too much emphasis on doctrine”? (Our critics have a doctrine. It is this: We over emphasize doctrine. That is their doctrine. Do they over emphasize their doctrine, or are we the only ones guilty of doing so?) Let us note the Bible’s emphasis.
1. Romans 6:17, 18 “But God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” Shall we limit the amount of “doctrine” that is to be “delivered” to lost sinners? If so, who is able to tell us the correct dosage? This “form of doctrine” included baptism “into Christ” (Rom. 6:3, 4). It was made known “for obedience to the, faith among all nations” (Rom. 1:5). Shall we hold back the flow of such “doctrine” lest it flood the hearts of men with the knowledge of God?
2. Romans 16:17 “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” Observe that “the doctrine” was “learned”; therefore, it had been taught. Does this passage indicate the importance of doctrine? Does it diminish doctrinal concerns? How serious are “divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine”? What does the text indicate?
3. 1 Timothy 1:3 “As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine.” Paul, why did you tell Timothy to remain at Ephesus? I left him at Ephesus that he might command some that they teach “no other doctrine.” Was doctrine important at Ephesus but not at Houston, Memphis, Indianapolis, Louisville or Los Angeles? Should preachers today “charge some that they teach no other doctrine” ? Well, should they? “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6). Would Timothy have been “a good minister . . . nourished up in … good doctrine” if he had not put the brethren “in remembrance” of the doctrine of Christ in contrast to various departures “from the faith” (1 Tim. 4:1-3,13,16)?
4. 1 Timothy 4:16 “Take heed unto thyself, and unto thy doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” Should Timothy have lessened the emphasis that he gave in taking heed unto himself? Should he have neglected to take heed unto himself? No, of course not. Should he have softened the emphasis that he gave unto the doctrine? “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:13). If Timothy should restrict time given to teaching matters of doctrine, should he also take time away from “reading”? Does this passage indicate that “the doctrine” is important or unimportant?
5. Titus 2:1 “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.” This “sound doctrine” was “his (God’s) word” (Titus 1:3); it was “the faithful word” (Titus 1:9), “the truth” (Titus 1:14). “Sound doctrine” is “the glorious gospel” (1 Tim. 1:10,11). Shall we de-emphasize “the glorious gospel of the blessed God”? Who will do it?
The teaching of “sound doctrine” includes teaching men how to live, how to conduct themselves (Titus 2). “The things which befit sound doctrine” are the same things that “becometh the gospel of Christ” (Titus 2:1; Phil. 1:27). Our lives reflect, either positively or negatively, upon the doctrine, the gospel of Christ “The aged women . . . may teach the young women . . . that the word of God be not blasphemed. . . . Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters … that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” (Titus 2:3-5, 10, 11).
But what if men do not approve of such preaching? What if they seek to have such matters removed? What if they oppose the speaking of “the things which become sound doctrine”? What shall we do? “These things (“the things which become sound doctrine”LRH) speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Titus 2:15). If men “despise thee,” if men oppose your unrelenting emphasis on “sound doctrine,” you will either have to please men or please God. The choice is yours.
6. 2 Timothy 4:2-4 “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when men will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own
“TOO MUCH EMPHASIS ON DOCTRINE”
1 Bible Emphasis – Rom. 16:17; 1 Tim. 1:3; 4:16; Titus 2:1; 2 Tim. 4:2-4; 2 Jn. 9; Jas. 5:19, 20
2 1 Tim. 6:3, 4 If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing;
3 Do Critics Emphasize Their “Doctrine” That We Emphasize Doctrine?
4 Make Critic Cite A Specific Doctrine That
Is Over Emphasized
lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” Does “in season, out of season . . . with all longsuffering and doctrine,” mean that we should not “go overboard” on doctrine or teaching?
The fact is that there are modern day complainers who have “itching ears.” They say, “Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things” (Isa. 30:10). They want their ears to be tickled because their spirits have been pickled by the “cares of this world.” They have been enamored by the wisdom of this world. They have a latent sympathy for the doctrines and commandments of men. They would rather suppress the truth of God than to express it, especially if it exposes their sins or offends their friends in error. They will not admit it to you, of course, but they do not like the pinch and punch of sound doctrine. It condemns their manner of life and combats the doctrines of denominationalism which they secretly love and espouse. Romans 1:18 tells us that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all. . . who hold (hinder or suppress) the truth in unrighteousness.”
7. 2 John 9 “Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” Shall we slow down the proclamation of that which causes men to have “both the Father and the Son”? How important is it to abide and continue “in the doctrine of Christ” ? Can one have God if he does not obey and walk in the doctrine of Christ? What does the text teach?
The first disciples “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). The “apostles’ doctrine” was “the doctrine of Christ” (Lk. 10:16; 1 Cor. 14:37). Will people continue “steadfastly” in that which we cease to emphasize? It is hard to believe that there are those among us who do not want “the doctrine of Christ” to be impressed on the hearts of men. Some do not like the “doctrine of Christ” regarding divorce and remarriage (Matt. 19:9). Some do not like the “doctrine of Christ” which teaches “modest apparel” (1 Tim. 2:9). Some do not like the “doctrine of Christ” which opposes social drinking (1 Pet. 4:3,4).
Again, they will not tell you that, but they will quietly try to turn you against such preaching because it is “so negative” and “so out of touch with today’s society.” They will seek to convince you that “constant harping” on “how right we are, and how wrong they are” is only a recipe for “disaster.” They will cite a case of someone who was made angry by a “brow beating, doctrinal sermon.” They will tell you that the man was “run off ” by preaching that “attacked his denomination.” Now, they will reassure you that they believe the truth “just like you do,” but they wonder out loud if you do not agree with them that there must be a better way to reach people than by “beating them over the head every time they attend one of our services.” While you are trying to sort out what they have said, you will be told that they do not believe in compromising the truth; oh, no, not that; they just think there should be a “little more balance in our preaching.” Who opposes a “balanced diet” of preaching? No one!
Brethren, their goal is to subvert the doctrine of Christ. They are paving the way for the introduction of their unscriptural doctrines of men. They want a congregation that accepts those who are living in adultery. They want a congregation that will accept them as they engage in social drinking. Some of them want a congregation that will accept a Baptist with his Baptist baptism and extend to him “the right hand of fellowship” with a wink and a smile. Some of them want “humming” in addition to “singing” in worship yes, humming! They do not oppose the Lord’s day contribution, but they believe it is scriptural to take up a collection on Wednesday night, too. There are even those who are “wrestling” with the idea that one may be saved by faith, before and without water baptism. “If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing” (1 Tim. 6:3,4). They are all members of the church. Their influence is spreading, “and their word will eat as doth” cancerous gangrene (2 Tim. 2:17).
They are not ready to tell you what they really believe. You would be repulsed if you knew it. So, for now, they will bring you along slowly. They will say all the right things. They will express their reservations with such love and concern that you could never doubt their sincerity and good will. “By their smooth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent” (Rom. 16:18 ASV). “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness” (2 Pet. 3:17).
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 2, p. 9-11
January 20, 1994