Knowing Sound Doctrine
I considered turning the following into a sermon, but thought I would share it in full here. It is an excellent Bible study on whether we can and should emphasize doctrinal truth.
April 11, 2023 | David Cloud, Way of Life Literature
The Bible tells us that sound doctrine can be known.
Today doctrine is often downplayed in favor of ecumenical unity, evangelism, social work projects, and other pragmatic goals. The following statement by popular Christian singer Pat Boone, who is charismatic in theology and practice, typifies an attitude that is widespread: “Doctrine divides, experience unites. We don’t all have our doctrine all completely correct, but God doesn’t judge us on our understanding of doctrine.” (Aug. 17, 2001).
This thinking is refuted by the Scripture.
The Bible teaches that sound doctrine can be known.
– Christ taught that right doctrine can be known. He promised that it is possible to “know the truth” (Joh. 8:31-32) and to “know of the doctrine” (Joh. 7:17).
- 31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
- 17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
The Bible tells us how to know sound doctrine.
Following are some of the things that are necessary to come to a proper understanding of the Bible so that its doctrines are rightly known.
– Sound doctrine is known by the new birth. The natural man cannot know spiritual teaching (1 Co. 2:12-14). There is a spiritual veil over the unsaved man’s eyes. He is blinded by the devil because of his unbelief (2 Co. 4:4). When the sinner believes the gospel and receives Christ as Lord and Saviour, God gives deliverance and spiritual sight. By turning to the Lord from the heart, the spiritual veil is removed (2 Co. 3:14-18).
- 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
- 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
- 14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. 15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. 16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. 17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is 18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
– Sound doctrine is known by walking in the Spirit (1 Co. 3:1-4). The carnal believer does not let the Spirit rule his life, so he does not grow in spiritual understanding. He can take the milk of God’s Word, but not the meat. The carnal does not become skillful in the Word (Heb. 5:12-14).
- 1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
- 12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
– Sound doctrine is known by prayer (Ps. 119:18, 125). The saints are perpetually dependent upon God’s enlightenment. Every individual believer should pray earnestly and continually for spiritual enlightenment. The Psalmist exemplified this. “Open thou mine eyes eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Ps. 119:18), and, “I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies” (Ps. 119:125). To read and study the Bible without such prayer is presumption. To preach and teach the Word of God without prayer is presumption.
- 18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.
- 125 I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies.- Sound doctrine is known by obedience ( 7:17 – above). If a man is open to the truth and willing to obey God, the Lord will give him wisdom to discern sound doctrine from false. In Proverbs 1:23 God says, “Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.” God has promised to make His truth known to those who submit to Him.
- 23 Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
– Sound doctrine is known by continuing in God’s Word (Joh. 8:31-32 – above). To continue in God’s Word is to continue reading and studying it, to continue obeying it, to continue pursuing a right understanding of it. It requires patient continuing. To continue means to not quit, to not get sidetracked, to not slack off. Those who do not continue in God’s Word will not know sound doctrine.
– Sound doctrine is known by diligent study (2 Ti. 2:15). The word “study” is the Greek spoudzao, meaning to “use speed, i.e. to make effort, be prompt or earnest” (Strong). It is elsewhere translated “do diligence” (2 Ti. 4:9, 21; Tit. 3:12), “labour” (Heb. 4:11), and “endeavor” (1 Th. 2:17). Learning the Bible requires serious labor. The effectual Bible student must be “a workman.” He must aim to become “skillful (Heb. 5:12-14 – above). He must set aside a good portion of time for this endeavor. He must make it a major priority. He must develop a daily reading and study habit. He must learn the sound principles of Bible interpretation. He must learn how to use the excellent tools that are available in our day, and he must use them diligently. It’s not enough to have a good concordance and Bible dictionary, the Bible study tools must be at hand (not across the room or in another room) and must be used continually. I nearly wore out a Strong’s Concordance the first year I was saved by looking up hundreds of Bible words in the Hebrew and Greek dictionaries.
- 15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. 17 And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; 18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
- 9 Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me:
- 21 Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.
- 12 When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter.
- 11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
- 17 But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.
– Sound doctrine is known by the Bible student who wants to be “approved unto God” (2 Ti. 2:15 – above). The effectual Bible student who learns sound doctrine is the student who wants to be approved unto God. This is his motive for study. He knows God in salvation, and he studies the Bible in fellowship with God. He loves God and wants to live his life in such a way that God is pleased.
– Sound doctrine is known by rightly dividing the Scripture (2 Ti. 2:15 – above). “Rightly dividing” is orthotomeo, meaning “to make a straight cut, i.e. (figuratively) to dissect (expound) correct” (Strong). It refers to right interpretation. The first rule of sound Bible interpretation is context, and the second rule is comparing Scripture with Scripture. See The Effectual Bible Student (a beginning course) and Understanding the Bible for Yourself (an advanced course) for a study of the rules of Bible interpretation. These are available from www.wayoflife.org.
– Sound doctrine is known by avoiding false doctrine (2 Ti. 2:15-18 – above). Avoiding false teachers and false doctrine is in the context of rightly dividing the Scripture.
– Sound doctrine is known through sound teachers in sound churches (Eph. 4:11-14). The New Testament church is the pillar and ground of the truth, and it is God’s ordained Bible teaching institution (1 Ti. 3:15). See also Ac. 18:11; Eph. 4:11-12; 2 Ti. 2:2; Tit. 1:9-11; 2:3-5. The church is God’s truth institute. It is where the Word of God is to be preserved, taught, and obeyed. After I was saved, I didn’t know where to go to church and I floundered around in the midst of the heresies that abound today. I was studying the Bible diligently with a desire to know the truth, and I was crying out to God for guidance, but I was encountering false teaching on every hand. I found Herbert W. Armstrong on the radio and sent for some of his literature, not knowing that it was filled with heresy. I found a book on Seventh-Day Adventism at a public library and was confused about the sabbath and soul sleep. I attended some Pentecostal services and was confused about the sign gifts. Finally, the Lord led me to a little fundamental Baptist church where the pastor and the kind people grounded me in the fundamentals of the faith. It was like a refuge.
- 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
- 15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.