In our last post we looked at the first mark and that was: Expository Preaching. Most believers would not argue that the preacher must say something, but when we deal with this type of preaching, the point is going to be to find out what the Word of God tells us on a particular matter. The passion in a service should not be “what does the preacher think” - for my opinions are of no more value than yours - our desire should be to find out what God thinks on a particular passage. Funny enough, this next “mark” is one that brings up many emotions. It is one that in Paul’s day was obvious, in Martin Luther’s day was obvious, and in John Calvin’s day was obvious - but somehow, in our day not so much. We live in a day that frowns on theology. Any teaching on doctrine causes people to run and hide or believe that it will divide. Let me encourage you in this, doctrine does not divide - it simply unites. Example? The fact that we are the United States excludes us from calling ourselves Swedish. So by making a declaration that unites us with some, it obviously excludes us from something else. But rather than just looking at the exclusions, we rejoice in the inclusions! To believe ignorantly that we can hold to absolutely nothing and therefore not “exclude” anyone is to accept utter chaos…there is no way that we can have a church where “every man does what is right in their own eyes” and yet we all accept each other’s opinions as equally valuable as our own – it will lead to division nonetheless. In a previous church I had preached a series on “Doctrinal Words” (words that every believer should know but few could discuss in our average Baptist church): words like Regeneration, Sanctification, Justification, Propitiation and many other wonderful doctrinal words. I found out some time later, after I was several hundred miles away, that a staff member declared in short, “You can’t grow a church with studies like that.” Now to be perfectly honest, after I took a baby aspirin and relaxed, I was reminded of two primary issues: (1) This man had never been a pastor and had no “clue” and (2) He knew very little about what the Word of God said about the importance of doctrine. Now to be biblical, because of his ignorance of doctrine, we should all rejoice #1 is also true! I share this story, not to attack or incriminate this man, but to display the dominant thought in so many churches today and to show you that unfortunately, it infiltrates the staff and leadership of many churches as well. Most people don’t believe doctrine is important - they just don’t think about it. They are not sure what to believe but they just want everyone “to love Jesus and tell people about Him.” Now I desire to see people saved and love to share Christ, but I would submit to you that without sound doctrine we have no idea if we are speaking of the Jesus of the Bible or the Jesus of the Jehovah’s False Witnesses!
If one would study Paul’s letters as he speaks to each of the churches that God used him to plant, you would find that he found it pretty important to ground them in doctrine first! Before any real application took place in Ephesians he deals with doctrine - first. The reason for this? The focal point of our walk with God is not simply in the “doing things” or checking off a list of what to do and what not to do. Obedience begins in the heart of the believer, and flows from a love for God. I witness not because I’m afraid God will zap me (if that is my motivation I will be a legalist), I witness not simply because people are going to hell (if that is my motivation I will quit out of discouragement when people don’t come to Christ), I witness because I love my Father, and I long to glorify Him! I share Christ for the same reason I talk about my family! I love them. I can speak of my family in detail because I know them - I know what they love, what they dislike, what makes them happy and what grieves their heart. By knowing doctrine I know the same things about God.
At Trinity, we must not be a church that falls into the trap that we can come and be entertained. We must be thinking Christians - Christians who do not fear looking at difficult doctrines, even if as we finish our study and leave, we are still grasping and thinking over the particular doctrine. When we face those things we are reminded “His ways are higher than our ways.” Jesus was pretty fond of teaching doctrine even if people didn’t grasp it all. Look at Matt. 7:28, Matt. 22:33, Mark 1;27. The early church was pretty fond of doctrine also - Acts 2:42. Paul, the greatest missionary I know of, thought doctrine was pretty important and made sure new churches were “cutting their teeth” on things that many of our churches will refuse to look at: Rm. 6:17. In 1st Corinth. 14:26 Paul is pointing out that the lack of consistent doctrine is causing conflict in the church. Eph. 4;14 and 1st Tim. 1:10 point out that to know what sound doctrine is, they must also recognize false or unsound doctrine. In 1st Tim. 5:17 it appears that Paul felt those who refuse to see the importance of doctrine were not really laborers at all and in 2nd Tim. 3:10 Paul used his doctrinal teaching to enhance his testimony.
But I end with the day we are in - the saddest day of all: in 2nd Tim. 4:3 we are reminded that there will come a day that sound doctrine will not be tolerated. Could it be that “not tolerated” doesn’t mean out- right hated, but just simply thought of as unimportant? Overestimated? Controversial? Useless? Pointless? Harmful? Problematic? So should we just leave it? Can you really grow a church with doctrine or will it simply divide and harm? I would tell you based on the authority of the Word of God you can grow a CHURCH no other way! Social clubs, support groups, organizations and rallies – yes, can be grown without doctrine – but a CHURCH? – is it really a church if it is not based on those beliefs that He calls us to live out? After all it was Christ who said: “I will build my Church” - so it is my job to make sure our Church has depth and He will take care of the breadth. You can’t build a crowd with doctrine, you can’t build the next mega-whatever with doctrine - but beloved, we can and we must function as a true church – one built on doctrine!