I must be careful. It is easy to get confused and stumble around. I have been brought out of slavery but will I see the promised land? I must listen to what God has said. That requires I know the word of God in a very detailed way.
As followers of the Messiah, I have no excuse for remaining ignorant of theology because I have the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) available — the Bible is complete. As we “study to show ourselves approved unto God”, we are less likely to be taken in by smooth talkers and false teachers / prophets. When we know God’s Word,
“we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14).
It is important to point out the difference between false doctrine and denominational disagreements. Different congregational groups see secondary issues in Scripture differently. These differences are not always due to false doctrine on anyone’s part. Church policies, governmental decisions, style of worship, etc., are all open for discussion, since they are not directly addressed in Scripture. Even those issues that are addressed in Scripture are often debated by equally sincere disciples of the Messiah. Differences in interpretation or practice do not necessarily qualify as false doctrine, nor should they divide the Body of the Messiah.
Paul charges Titus, “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Such a mandate makes it obvious that sound doctrine is important. But why is it important? Does it really make a difference what we believe?
Sound doctrine is important because our faith is based on a specific message. The overall teaching of the church contains many elements, but the primary message is explicitly defined:
“the Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures [and] . . . he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
This is the unambiguous good news, and it is “of first importance.” Change that message, and the basis of faith shifts from the Messiah to something else. Our eternal destiny depends upon hearing the word of truth, the good news of our salvation.
Sound doctrine is important because the good news is a sacred trust, and we dare not tamper with God’s communication to the world. Our duty is to deliver the message, not to change it. Jude conveys an urgency in guarding the trust: “I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 1:3; see also Philippians 1:27). To “contend” carries the idea of strenuously fighting for something, to give it everything you’ve got. The Bible includes a warning neither to add to nor subtract from God’s Word. Rather than alter the apostles’ doctrine, we receive what has been passed down to us and keep it as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in the Messiah Jesus”.
- Romans 16:17–18 (NASB) —Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Master the Messiah but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
- 1 Timothy 1:3–4 —As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.