8th July 2013

Sound Doctrine 

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
2Timothy 2:15 (NIV)

The Christian faith is not simply a checklist of beliefs or just a collection of doctrines or creedal statements. At the heart of Christianity is Jesus Christ and through him a loving personal relationship with God. But mature Christians do more than simply trust in God or in Christ, they believe certain definite things about them expressed as doctrine. Doctrine, on the one hand unites and distinguishes the Christian church from the world, including other religions. On the other hand, it divides and distinguishes one Christian denomination from another. This latter point need not lead to disputes provided we have a sound and balanced attitude to doctrine and correctly handle the word of truth. 

An analysis of scripture shows that not all Christian doctrines are of equal importance. There is a core of fundamental or primary doctrines. These primary doctrines are (or ought to be) shared by all Christian believers—for example, the existence of God and salvation by grace through faith. But there are also secondary doctrines, where the Bible is less specific and can be interpreted in several ways. In such cases genuine disagreements may be accepted provided that they don’t contradict primary beliefs. In addition, there are certain church rites and traditions that are neither commanded nor forbidden in scripture, what some have termed matters of indifference. It is these secondary doctrines and matters of indifference that define a particular church denomination. 

Unfortunately some have mistakenly regarded denominational distinctives as primary doctrines. The Apostle Paul was conciliatory when dealing with differences in interpretation of non-primary doctrines. “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). Even when Paul was clear in his own mind about such issues he was still conciliatory, allowing time for individuals to come to a deeper understanding of the truth: “As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean” (Romans 14:14). In contrast, both the apostles Paul and John had some strong words to say when issues arose that undermined primary doctrines (Galatians 1:6; 2 John 7) since they undermined the very basis of Christianity. 

The scripture quoted at the beginning was written to Timothy, but Paul also gives a similar instruction to Titus, “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). The Greek word translated ‘sound’ is associated with being healthy or sound in health. Therefore, Paul’s statement to Titus has the connotation of teaching that which maintains and promotes spiritual health. Upholding primary or core doctrines maintains the spiritual health of the church, and a balanced view of non-core issues promotes spiritual health within, and also between, denominations. 

Heavenly Father, help us to conduct ourselves as becomes the gospel of Christ.  Help us to discern and confirm the essentials of the Christian faith and be graceful to those that you have called into other denominations.

 Study by Eddie Marsh


 eddiemarshAbout the Author:
Eddie Marsh attends the Sheffield congregation of the Worldwide Church of God UK.

Local Congregation:
Worldwide Church of God Sheffield
Please phone or email for Meeting Place

Meeting time:
Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Email: sheffield@gracecom.org.uk

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One Response to “8th July 2013”

  1. Ian Woodley on July 12th, 2013 9:48 pm

    Hi Eddie
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You’ve cut through all those secondary matters to the important issues that should unite all Christians. Great balanced article.
    Thanks again

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