The Life of the Church Preserved through Proper Doctrine
May 19, 2002 Topical – Pastoral Epistles
We have been talking about the life of the church.
In order for us to grasp the importance of this we must understand that the church can have either a good "body life" or a bad "body life."
In other words, the church can be either a burden or a blessing in how we "do church."
There is a right way to do church and we have been talking about that in the Pastoral Epistles.
We have seen so far that the life of the church can be enhanced considerably in how we deal with difficult people, or we might say, how we handle human relationships in order to redeem them.
We have also seen that the life of the church can be enhanced considerably in how we manage our affairs, or "business" if you will, by choosing proper leaders and taking proper concern for situations like the needs of widows.
Today we will talk about the life of the church in proper doctrine – the life of the church is preserved through proper doctrine, or what we believe together as a church.
You have probably heard it said that "you are what you eat" – promoting the value of healthy food.
But the Word of God will proclaim to us today that "you are what you believe."
Indeed, we must feed upon the Word of God and none other.
The Word of God is true health food – it will nourish us and give us life.
You have also heard it said that "what you don't know won't hurt you" – promoting the idea that innocence is bliss.
But the Word of God will proclaim to us today that what you don't know can hurt you – the Word of God will save you if you know what it says and what it means and apply it.
And there is the rub or the test of the matter – there should be a connection between what we know and what we do.
If we don't do it, can we say that we really know it?
It is possible to know something and not do it.
If you don't do it because you don't know it, that is one thing. But if you know it and still don't do it, that is another. The life of the church fails in either condition.
To know something and not do it is the same as not knowing and not doing – with the exception that accountability has entered the picture for the one who has rejected right action based upon right knowledge. And with failure in accountability comes subjection to judgment.
Salvation starts with knowledge about Christ, but many people will hear and not believe.
Right knowledge then must be combined with faith and both come from God to the person who will believe.
And with faith comes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who helps us overcome our unbelief, helps us understand the Word of God, and helps us obey it.
And then the church is what Christ intended it to be.
We might take note that today is Pentecost or 50 days from the time Jesus rose from the dead when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers assembled in the upper room and the church began its mission to a sinful and dying world (Acts 2:1).
In Jewish worship, Pentecost celebrates the end of the Passover cycle when the law was given to Moses at Sinai (Ex. 20).
Now in N.T. terms, the Holy Spirit helps us obey that law that is now written upon our hearts.
And our mission is the same. We are the same church that believed so much in the resurrection of Jesus that we wait upon him for instructions and then obey them without hesitation.
To make a difference in our world we must hold fast to the true doctrine of Pentecost and proclaim it.
The word doctrine (or didoskalia) means teaching or instruction and occurs in 15 different verses in the Pastoral Epistles.
Certainly, the core of what we believe in Christ is central to the lifeblood of the church.
Paul refers to this theme a number of times in various ways through application and context to make his point.
So there are 15 direct references to doctrinal truth that will be related to the context in which they are found.
But there are also 5 references to a phrase (pisto" o logo" – faithful the saying) that is used in the New Testament only in the Pastoral Epistles.
This phrase seems to refer to a doctrinal tradition that Paul puts forward as being worthy of "full acceptance" (kai pash" apodoch" axio" – and full acceptance worthy). This latter part of the phrase is attached to two of the five occurrences.
Doctrinal tradition is important for the life of the church as something assuredly unchanging and trustworthy to hold on to in changing and perilous times.
1. References to Doctrinal Truth – Proper Doctrine: ---
a. Exalts the Gospel - 1Tim. 1:8-11 (10)
The gospel is held forth as the substance of correct doctrine or teaching. Therefore, whatever is contrary to it is not true doctrine in the fullest sense. Those who teach the OT law rather than the gospel are caught in a focus on what is condemned by the law rather than on what is enabled by the gospel. So the OT law, though good in the sense of condemning sin, is contrary to the gospel if it stops there, because it cannot give release from sinful behavior. It is the true doctrine of the gospel that gives release from sin through forgiveness in a right relationship to God in Christ, and this is essential to the life of the church which is the substance of Christ. Paul says that the true doctrine of the gospel is a trust that he (and we also) should hold dear. We are the repository of truth.
b. Exposes the Lie – 1Tim. 4:1-6 (1, 6)
Paul is not unaware of the spiritual battle for truth, realizing that demons teach deceptive things that are not true doctrine and draw people away from the truth of the gospel. Demons influence people to believe and teach falsely. In context here he refers to false asceticism that is a form of works righteousness rather than faith righteousness. He urges Timothy to be a good minister by not falling into this trap and remaining true to what he knows. Victory over the flesh is subservient to godliness, and only possible by pursuing godliness. Knowing the forces behind what opposes truth is essential to the life of the church.
c. Remains Diligent and Watchful – 1Tim. 4:13-16 (13, 16)
Timothy is urged to be devoted to teaching right doctrine, to take great care regarding it, and to persevere in it, since true doctrine is essential to salvation both for himself and for those he instructs.
d. Regards Co-laborers – 1Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:9 (1Tim. 3:2)
Besides the pastor, elders are also charged with the responsibility of teaching true doctrine. Paul holds this forth as worthy work in the life of the church (1Tim. 5:17) and part of the calling and capability of those who serve as elders (Titus 1:9). Upholding and teaching proper doctrine is a community responsibility.
e. Affects Behavior – 1Tim. 6:1; Titus 2:1-10 (2:1, 7, 10)
The effect of true doctrine is to influence proper behavior. Paul gives an aspect of this in how it should affect the relationship between slaves and masters. Proper behavior shows the power of true doctrine so that God is honored by what he teaches through the church (1Tim. 6:1). Beginning in Titus 2:1, Paul continues with a broad list of what the teaching of sound doctrine is to accomplish by listing categories such as older men, older women, younger women, young men, and slaves (there must have been many more slaves than masters in the early church since masters are not mentioned as a category). He then lists an explanation of Christ-centered doctrine that is to affect behavior (Titus 2:11-14) and gives a summary of proper behavior in Titus 3:1-2.
f. Exposes False Teachers – 1Tim. 6:3-5 (3)
Paul describes the spiritual condition of those who teach false doctrine. They are caught up with themselves, controversy, and personal gain rather than an uncompromising commitment to truth. It is they themselves most of all that have been robbed – of the truth.
g. Contextualizes Truth - 2Tim. 3:10-11, 16-17 (3:10, 16)
Regarding the increase of evil attitudes and behaviors in the last days (3:1-9), Paul charges Timothy to remain mindful of his teaching, example, and perseverance in truth as the only effective alternative to the times. He reminds Timothy that this truth is found in Scripture, and its application is all encompassing and all sufficient.
h. Anticipates Rejection – 2Tim. 4:2-5 (4:3)
Understanding that true doctrine will be naturally opposed, considering the nature of sinful man and the increase of sin in later times, it is also natural that sinful man will attempt to bend doctrine to support their sin. Timothy is warned, then, that the preacher of true doctrine will be increasingly opposed and even persecuted (4:5). He is charged to persevere as Paul is doing (4:6).