READ: 1 Kings 19-21, Psalm 105, Matthew 16, 1 Timothy 4
It is increasingly common to regulate doctrine to a secondary tier of importance. In the church and in mission we are bombarded with the message of journey, relationship, and process – as if journeys don’t need maps, relationships don’t have guidelines, and process is without benchmarks. Teaching, biblical teaching, right thinking about God and the world is more necessary than ever. Wrong thinking about Jesus and His plans in the world is an offense to Christ (Matt. 18:23). Jesus reserves some of His strongest verbal attacks to those near to Him who misunderstand (and try and dissuade Him from) His purposes.
To forfeit doctrine (by regulating it to a place of unimportance) is a critical error, for according to Paul demons have doctrines (1 Tim. 4:1). Demonic ideologies are very much at work crafting their message artfully, expounding their worldview, being very pedantic in pressing their thinking. To not forcefully stand up for right thinking about God and His world is to allow demonic doctrines a free hand. We must resist demonic doctrines from without and from within the church. Jesus warned us to beware the doctrine from within that is religious, hypocritical, and legalistic (Matt. 18:12).
Good doctrine empowers and gives life. We can be “nourished in the words of faith and good doctrine” as we “give attention to reading, exhortation, and doctrine.” As we “take heed to ourselves and the doctrine, continuing in them, we will save both ourselves and those that hear us” (1 Tim. 4: 6, 13, 16). Doctrine matters because it nourishes and saves us, and it saves those who hear us. Sound teaching leads to life! Sound teaching (bread of Heaven) satisfies God’s people (Psalm 105:40). God’s people can’t live on sugar; neither can they live on medicine. They need the meat and potatoes and vegetables and fruit of the whole counsel of God.
In our pursuit of good doctrine, we must be careful not to fall into the error of thinking we alone have it. God’s people need God’s people to understand the Bible and the nature of God. We need our African brothers to tell us that prosperity is demonic. We need our Chinese sisters to tell us that suffering is normal. We need our Latino fathers to remind us to depend on the Holy Spirit. We need Americans to underline the value of a consistent devotion to the Word. We need Europeans to show us how the gospel can ride on the arts.
There is a temptation to the error of Elijah: “Oh Lord, I alone am left! I am the only one with good doctrine.” And God says: “Nonsense, I have reserved thousands of others for Myself who have not bowed the knee to demonic thinking. Link with them. Be strengthened by them. Be balanced by them.” Doctrine matters, and we need the full-orbed perspective of the global body of Christ in order to get it right.