Why is "Sound Doctrine" Important?
Seldom does anything cause more people to cringe and “stop their ears” than the phrase “sound doctrine”. Often when this phrase is uttered it is automatically associated with one or more of the following terms: “Pharisee”, “Ultra-Conservative”, “Fundamentalist”, and “Narrow-Minded” (despite Jesus’ description of those who would find life being on the “narrow way” in Matthew 7.14). A person who is willing to discuss “sound doctrine” is someone that is viewed as “looking for trouble”, or seeking to condemn everyone around them. And as a result, we avoid sensitive issues or teachings in the scriptures that are as absolutely true and valid as the widely-accepted sections of scripture (ex. John 3.16, 1 Cor. 13, etc.)
Sound doctrine is briefly defined as “correct teachings”, or holding to those things that comprise the absolute truth of the scriptures. If one reads through the book of 1 Timothy, one is struck by the repeated exhortations that the apostle Paul gives the younger evangelist Timothy to hold to sound doctrine. In fact, the very first command Paul gives Timothy in the letter is to “remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,” (1 Timothy 1.3) The question I would pose is this: If “sound doctrine” was something that Paul (the most prolific of the N.T. writers) strongly exhorts Timothy to hold to, who are we to avoid it? Who are we to feel uncomfortable or out-of-place to bring up these matters?
Brothers and sisters, if we would be a people that claim to teach and proclaim what the Bible says, then we must be a people that hold to “sound doctrine”. Paul warns Timothy about false teachers that would be “…swerving from these, have wondered away in to vain discussion, 7desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.” (1 Timothy 1.6b-7) Simply put, if we are not Christians who will both profess and defend the correct teachings we find only in the scriptures, then we are giving up in the face of the opposition! Read all of 1 Timothy. Determine whether or not the false teachers mentioned there will back down or stop spewing falsehood if we just let them alone to their own devices.
“But preaching ‘sound doctrine’ offends people! It splits congregations apart! It is aggressive and divisive!”
Let us call to mind what “sound doctrine” is again. Paul describes sound doctrine as being “in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.” (1 Timothy 1.11) The sound doctrine is in accordance (or agreement” with the gospel message! Would we ever claim to be people who refuse to preach the gospel? This message was entrusted to Paul and approved by God to be brought to the people (2 Th. 2.3-4). Would we ever claim to refuse anything given to Paul by divine revelation? Notice further how Paul describes the one who would “put these things before the brothers” in 1 Tim. 4.6: “If you would put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.” Who among us will have the intestinal fortitude to declare themselves as “good servant(s) of Christ Jesus” and yet avoid teaching the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20.27)???
Even more sobering is the result of teaching “sound doctrine” to everyone around us. “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Tim. 4.16) Teaching sound doctrine results in salvation for the speaker and the audience, if they will heed the message! The opposite of this is also true: not teaching the truth of the scriptures, not teaching the message proclaimed by Jesus and His apostles, not heeding the exhortations and warnings given to the churches of the New Testament will result in being lost! “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing.” (1 Tim. 6.3-4)
So why is sound doctrine important? It is the truth of the scriptures, entrusted to men like Paul and Timothy who then bore the grave responsibility of educating, proclaiming, and defending that truth to those around them. This teaching must still be done in great love and tenderness to those around us, with exceeding patience and understanding. “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” (1 Th. 2.7) No nursing mother would hide any truth from their children, especially if that truth would save their lives and prevent suffering. Why then can we possibly justify changing the truth of the scriptures for our audience for any reason? Teaching and defending sound doctrine results in salvation, while altering, adjusting, or changing it in any way condemns not only the speaker, but the audience as well.