We all know (I’m being a little adventurous today with my assumptions) that we are to preach and teach sound doctrine which is in agreement with the entire content of Scripture. We rightly are to confront false teaching in ourselves and others through the correction of the pure truth of the Bible. However, there is more to the story than just winning one for God’s debate team.
The apostle Paul states that the main objective of sound doctrine is “love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Through the teaching and preaching of the truth of God’s Word, pouring over it, meditating upon it, and applying it to our lives, we will see a change take place in our lives … hearts that aren’t drowning in sinful desires and weighed down by the subsequent guilt of those sins, and lives that are free of hypocrisy and charades. God’s truth is to inform and transform leading to a “sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3ff).
If we have anything less than this goal that Paul is laying out, then we have settled for less than what God commands. It is not enough to just to be a part of the “good doctrine club.” Without changed lives, we are left with dead orthodoxy. Dead orthodoxy is characterized by some or all of the following:
· Sound doctrine with no new birth
· Sound doctrine with no evidence of grace (a practical outworking of Scripture that is demonstrated through the fruit of the Spirit)
· Sound doctrine with no concern for those outside the faith and no sense of urgency to proclaim Christ’s glorious gospel
· Sound doctrine but experiencing no delight in Christ and passionless worship
· Sound doctrine with no zeal for His Word
· Sound doctrine with no love for the brethren evidenced by practical and sacrificial acts of service
Ironically, Paul’s letter, as you can see, was sent to Timothy while he was at Ephesus with a specific charge to teach sound doctrine AND sound living. In a matter of 30 short years, Christ again had a message for the church at Ephesus. After commending the believers for having held on faithfully over the years to the message delivered to them, even in the face of stiff opposition, the Lord rebukes them in this way:
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (Revelation 2:4-5)
The Ephesians were slipping into the rut of dead orthodoxy. They had all the right answers and could go head-to-head in refuting the heresies of the day while enduring extreme persecution. However, a hardness and unresponsiveness were settling into their hearts. The love, which is the true mark of any genuine church, was missing. So the Lord’s message was sent to them as a strong shot of espresso to wake the church out of its slumber. It was a serious call to repentance with the warning that if they did not repent, Christ would remove the lampstand from their midst.
There is a very strong connection between orthodoxy and orthopraxy (correct, biblical living). We cannot neglect one or the other. They are both interconnected and proper attention must be given to both. Knowing all the right answers is not enough.