Without sound doctrine, we have no moorings, no firm footing for our lives. If we are not grounded in sound doctrine, we will be easily deceived and led astray—susceptible to false doctrine. We won’t know how to discern truth from error when we hear a popular preacher or read a bestselling book that is not fully aligned with Scripture. Without sound doctrine, we can’t know how to live in a way that pleases God.
That’s why we so often see professing Christians falling prey to off-base teaching and justifying unbiblical and immoral choices—because they have fallen away from sound doctrine and its life implications.
Having said all of this, we need to acknowledge that it is possible to hold tenaciously to sound doctrine in a way that is cold, lifeless, and devoid of the Spirit. (Can you say Pharisee?) In fact, there are two dangers equally to be avoided when it comes to doctrine.
The first danger is that of life without sound doctrine. On the other hand, those who value and promote sound Bible teaching can be in danger of having doctrine without life.
This was Nicodemus’ problem when he first came to Jesus. This Jewish spiritual leader was well versed in the Old Testament Scriptures. He observed their precepts meticulously. He had his doctrine down. But he didn’t have the Spirit. He didn’t have life. And when he came to talk with Jesus under cover of night, it quickly became clear that Nicodemus was missing the basics of life in the Spirit. This caused Jesus to marvel: “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” (John 3:10).
Nicodemus was a prime example of the fact that it is possible to know right and do right and yet not be right.
Further, doctrine that produces self-righteous, critical, contentious, dry-eyed defenders of truth is not in accord with the heart and character of God. It is not truly sound—because sound doctrine is not only true and right; it is also beautiful and good.
Would people see that as they look at our lives? We may have the right answers to hard questions, but do we exhibit tenderness as we share those answers? We may be able to quote “chapter and verse” for our favorite doctrinal distinctives, but are genuine love and kindness— the fruit of the Spirit—manifest in our theological correctness? We may have mastered the Word of God, but is it evident to others that our hearts are moved by the wonder of what we know?
As Paul told Titus, the goal is that “in everything,” we would “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10). As we live out His truth in the power of the Holy Spirit, our lives are made more beautiful. And that truth becomes more compelling and irresistible in the eyes of those around us.
by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth
Known for her wisdom, warmth, and knowledge of Scripture, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has encouraged millions through her books, radio programs, and...
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