The Importance of Sound Doctrine
“What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 1:13 (NIV)
Many Christians believe that sound doctrine or teaching is important, but they do not always know why it is important. Sound doctrine is not an end in itself, but instead it serves as guard rails to keep us on the road of faith. Following sound doctrine will lead to sound living, sound ministry and sound hope. When we look at the results of following sound doctrine we can come to the conclusion that differences in doctrine, resulting from varied experience and training, can be considered sound as long as the outcome is sound.
Much of Paul’s letters served to correct and reinforce doctrine as it applied to the way that we live. Interpersonal relationships, moral purity, work ethic, the handling of finances, the role of government and our relationship to it, to name a few. Those who are called into a new life in Christ live life differently than the prevailing standard of the world and yet the pull and draw of the world is always there. Sound living is important. We are called to live holy lives because God is holy and not be ensnared by deceptive teachings which lead us away from Christ.
Secondly, sound doctrine serves to help us maintain the proper focus on sound ministry. We are called to go into all of the nations of the world to preach the gospel and to make disciples, but without the proper guidance we can easily become distracted from our calling and commission. “But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.” 2 Timothy 4:5 (NLT).
Finally, sound doctrine stimulates and protects sound hope. Several times in the New Testament, Paul had to deal with those who had lost hope because of some who were teaching that the resurrection had already taken place. True hope is such a vital component of our Christian faith that when those who intentionally or erroneously mislead people into believing that they have missed out on God, it is very important to set the record straight. Sound hope is what keeps us looking forward and keeps us encouraged in our faith.
If we accept the premise that sound doctrine serves to lead us into sound living, motivate us for sound ministry and encourage us to maintain a sound hope then it should cause us to re-examine our definition of sound doctrine and cause us to be careful in labeling some teaching as false simply because it is not the same as ours. In particular, I have observed that the teaching and instruction of those who have differing eschatological beliefs can still result in sound living, sound ministry and sound hope. To be certain there is plenty of false teaching and heresy in the church today, but let us look at things in light of the results that they produce in lives instead of carelessly causing division (which is the real definition of heresy) because of speculation and a desire to be right in our own eyes.
Sound doctrine, in spite of differences, should bring us together for the cause of the Gospel and keep us moving forward on the road to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.