Heading  Sound Teaching And Preaching Are Crucial

 

Sound teaching and preaching isn’t a side-show at a Christian “circus”

         At present especially in Western countries, many believe that even though pastors, evangelists and other leaders should aim to teach and preach sound Biblical doctrine from God’s Word of life, this is relatively unimportant. They regard sound teaching and preaching of the Word as like a minor side-show at the Christian “circus”.

Such an attitude is diametrically opposed to the Apostle Paul’s words in Titus 1:9 about what God expects to see in the ministries of His leaders: “Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” (N.A.S.B.). In this verse, Paul told the Apostle Titus that a key qualification for becoming a church leader was to hold fast to the Word that they had been taught. In Greek, the expression “holding fast” is a form of the word “antecho” which means “cling to, hold fast to something…, be devoted to”. [1] Paul would not say one of the crucial requirements for being a church leader is to cling to or hold firmly to or be devoted to the Word or Biblical teaching, if this was unimportant.

In Titus 2:1, Paul commanded Titus the apostle and pastor: “But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine.” 1 Timothy 4:16 records Paul told the Apostle Timothy to watch his doctrine carefully: “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” Timothy was the leader of the very large church at Ephesus.

In 1 Timothy 4:6, Paul again stated one of the qualities of being a good minister of Jesus Christ was to be sound in doctrine: “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.”

Today some in Western countries think that in order to build or maintain very large churches, it does not matter if it is not based on sound Biblical teaching and Holy Spirit-empowered holy living. They are content as long as attendances are high, tithes are large and their churches appear outwardly successful. They think an emphasis on sound doctrine is only found in what they call theological “cemeteries”. How contrary this is to Paul’s words to Timothy, a leader of a massive local church! In 1 Timothy 4:16, God reveals sound teaching and godly living cannot be separated.

Some over-intellectualised churchgoers wrongly try to have much understanding of Biblical teaching but live self-centred, fleshly useless lives. Others falsely try to live godly Holy Spirit-ruled lives but rarely if ever read and feed on every Word of God that is recorded in the Bible.

The Bible is not just a book of doctrine. Neither is it just a book of practical living. The Bible contains both sound teaching and an emphasis on God-empowered right practical living. It is a book of practical doctrine. We can see this also in Titus 2:7-8 when Paul told Titus, another apostle and pastor to do the following: “In all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned…”

In Romans 6:7, 16:7, 1 Corinthians 14:6, 14:26, Ephesians 4:14, Colossians 2:22, 1 Timothy 1:3, 1:10, 4:6, 4:13, 4:16, 5:17, 6:1, 6:3, 2 Timothy 3:10, 3:16, 4:1, 4:2, 4:3, Titus 2:7, 2:10, Hebrews 6:2, 13:9, 2 John 9, Revelation 2:14, 2:15 and 2:24, Paul, the writer of Hebrews (who may have been Paul) and John all emphasise the crucial importance of good Biblical teaching and the terrible dangers of false doctrines. In Ephesians 4:14, Paul strongly warned of being caught in every wind of false doctrine.

Some Christians say they want good teaching of the Word but they believe our doctrines are unimportant. But note the Greek words for “teaching” and “doctrine” basically mean the same thing.

 

Paul, Jesus and Peter warned us of false teachings

 

Over the years, I have heard various winds of doctrine which have destroyed many born-again Christians. In 1 Timothy 4:1, Paul warns us of doctrines of devils which ruin our lives: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” Hebrews 13:9 commands us: “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines…”

Colossians 2:22 tells us there are commandments and teachings of men: “…according to the commandments and doctrines of men.” In its surrounding context – Colossians 2:16-23 – we see such doctrines of men and the unbiblical practices associated with these were bringing God’s people into terrible bondage and were resulting in some believers being in danger of losing their connection with Jesus Christ.

Revelation 2:14-16 speaks of members of the church at Pergamum following the demonic doctrines of Balaam the false prophet and a group called the Nicolaitans: “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.” The false teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans were closely connected with sins like sexual immorality. Our beliefs – Biblical or otherwise – largely determine the practices of our daily living. Jesus commanded these Christians to repent of these false doctrines and associated sinful practices.

Similarly in Revelation 2:20-24, Jesus severely warned the members of the church of Thyatira to turn from the false teachings and practices associated with a false prophetess called or symbolised by the name Jezebel.

1 Timothy 6:1 and Titus 2:10 speak of God’s doctrine. 2 John 9 speaks of the doctrine of Christ. Therefore, it is unbiblical to suggest God the Father and Jesus Christ regard what teachings we believe as unimportant.

In Matthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7, Jesus showed that the false teachings of men can be determined by comparing them with God’s written Word.

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul stressed that all the Scriptures are to be used for imparting sound teaching or doctrine leading to righteous practical living: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

In 1 Timothy 6:3-5, Paul attacked those who taught false doctrines, saying they were conceited, corrupted and tried to use godliness for selfish financial gain: “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.”

In 2 Timothy 4:3, Paul prophesied a future time when many churchgoers would not want sound teaching or doctrine but instead would support teachers who would tell them what they wanted to hear in relation to satisfying their own selfish desires: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers.” I believe the above verse has been partially fulfilled in parts of the Church in recent decades. Possibly this verse has been partially fulfilled a number of times throughout history.

In John 7:17 Jesus said: “If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” Here we see why many religious people cannot really discern why various teachings are not God-inspired. In their hearts, such people do not fully desire to obey God’s will. As a result, a form of deception comes over their minds. A sure way of opening yourself up to various false “gospels” and heresies is to have the attitude you only want to obey part of God’s will.

No Christian has perfect doctrine. We can all grow in our knowledge of God and His written Word. But we all have to be on guard against destructive heresies. The Apostle Peter warned of these in 2 Peter 2:1: “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies…”

 

A timely prophetic warning about pragmatism

 

The Pentecostal minister Ian Jagleman made the following important observations about one of the main present dangers for us as Pentecostals and Charismatics. This is the danger of pragmatism – the 1800’s and 1900’s American philosophy that truth is found not from the Bible but from observing if something seems to work in practical living. Ian Jagleman is a pastor of a church in Sydney and was previously a Bible College principal. He said:

Pentecostal preachers, I believe, have a second source of authority which can best be described in the phrase ‘what works’.

Whether it does in fact ‘work’ at all, or whether it will continue to ‘work’ is something which, I have no doubt, many will have cause to question. However, the fact is that, for the present, many Pentecostal pastors are greatly reluctant to abandon the authority of ‘what works’ in favour of what may be true but which has not, or cannot, be seen to ‘work’.

Before Pentecostal pastors abandon the authority of what they presently have been taught ‘works’ they will need to be persuaded that what they are being offered in the way of new doctrine works just as well, if not better.

What is also needed is to help pastors to analyse how liberal and how catholic they have become.

Many pastors demean ‘theology’ and ‘doctrine’ as if only scholars discuss such matters. Whereas the truth is that they have strongly held doctrinal positions which, in many instances, have been communicated to them by preaching rather than teaching. As a result they erroneously believe that their faith is of the heart by the Spirit. In fact what has happened is that they have received their doctrinal grounding in a context in which there was no opportunity to question what was being taught. They were given meat instead of milk, and told not to chew on it but merely to swallow it whole.

Why they were willing to be moulded in this way goes back to the ‘what works’ authority element within the Pentecostal movement. If the person who speaks is “successful” – ie. has a big church etc – it is assumed what he/she says ought not to be questioned. A corollary is the commonly held view that if a person’s church is unsuccessful – ie. small – he/she has nothing of any value to say. What they say ‘doesn’t work’ and is therefore not true.

In addition, over time, the lives of some early Pentecostal ministers have been idealised, like the stories in the New Testament apocryphal documents. The effect of this idealisation has been to make their writing more influential, after their deaths, than it was during their life-times. As a result, Pentecostalism has, like Catholicism, developed a deutero-canonical collection of writings, whose authors are people like Smith Wigglesworth and E.W. Kenyon, among others.” [2]

 

The Word of God is more important than music and singing

 

One view today is that Christian music and singing are more important than the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. I love participating in praise and worship accompanied by fine Christian music and songs. Also there are many local churches today who must be highly commended for their very good quality Christian music and singing.

But it is a dreadful humanistic error to suggest preaching and teaching of the Word is less important than Christian music and singing. We are saved by believing the Word (see Romans 10:9-17) and are born-again through the Word. The Bible does not say we are saved or born-again through Christian praise or worship songs. 1 Peter 1:23-25 says: “having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever…But the word of the Lord endures forever. Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.”

Christian songs are like Christian books. They are both only interpretations of God’s Word mixed with mere human opinions about Him.

Ephesians 5:19 instructs believers to sing spiritual songs and hymns. But note the lesser importance of music and singing is indicated by the fact that in Paul’s three pastoral letters – 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus – in which Paul gave detailed instructions about being a godly church leader, he not once mentioned music or singing. This does not mean Paul opposed Christian music and songs. It just indicates their lesser importance. 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus have many mentions of teaching (see 1 Timothy 1:3, 1:7, 2:7, 2:12, 3:2, 4:11, 6:2, 6:3, 2 Timothy 1:11, 2:2, 2:24, Titus 1:11, 2:3, 2:4 and 2:12) and preaching (see 1 Timothy 2:7, 3:16, 2 Timothy 1:11, 4:2, 4:17 and Titus 1:13). This is because teaching and preaching of God’s Word is more important.

To try to justify a major focus on music and songs instead of sound preaching and teaching of the Word of God, someone may argue that in heaven we will do nothing else but praising and worshipping God through music and singing. It is true believers will be spending part of eternity praising and worshipping in these ways (see Psalm 145:2, Isaiah 66:23, Revelation 5:13 and 15:2-4). But the Scriptures do not teach this is all we will be doing. We will also:

 

         knowing God intimately as Father (see Revelation 21:7). Part of this will be hearing Him speak His Word to us.

         be hearing about what Jesus Christ has done (see Revelation 5:12-13).

         and be involved in the operations of His Kingdom (see Matthew 24:45-47, 25:21, 25:23, Luke 19:11-19, 22:29-30 and Revelation 22:5). We are not just priests involved in worshipping God. Revelation 1:6 and 5:10 reveal that all believers are both priests and kings. God and Christ are the King of kings (see 1 Timothy 6:15 and Revelation 17:14). Believers are vassal kings – lesser kings who are subject totally to their greater King.

 

Ecclesiastes 2:8-11 and 12:13-14 taken together show that having wonderful male and female singers who bring great enjoyment to others and having all kinds of marvellous musical instruments is vanity or meaningless compared with having reverence for God and obeying His Word.

In Amos 5:21-24, God told the Israelites He was more interested in them living righteous lives than in their beautiful religious songs and melodies: “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I wilI not accept them, nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Read the Book of Amos to see how these hypocritical Israelites loved their sins and refused to turn from them. Amos 5:10 reveals these worldly compromisers hated those who challenged their sins and who spoke in true godliness.

Amos 6:5 relates to the Word of the Lord in Amos 5:21-24. In context, Amos 6:5 shows that the Lord was not pleased with the Israelites even though they were devoted to inventing for themselves “musical instruments like David”. They probably imagined God was very pleased with them just because they were copying what is recorded in 1 Chronicles 23:5 – David’s practice of inventing musical instruments for worshipping and praising the Lord.

Worshipping Him includes singing and music. But true worship is always accompanied by turning from our sins and obeying His Word by His Spirit’s power. Revival is not produced by a type of worship which is limited only to very good music and songs.

Today, multitudes of spiritually immature churchgoers prefer enjoyments to convicting preaching and teaching of the Word. Such babes in Christ flock to churches whose primary focus is on Christian music and who replace the fiery preaching and solid teaching of the Word with professionally given exciting talks based on a mixture of self-centred religion and some verses of Scripture which are often interpreted out of context or contrary to other Bible verses on the same topic. But note such compromising will backfire in the long run. This is because it causes the liberalising of many Western churches and hinders real revival.

Let us have churches filled with tremendous Spirit-anointed praise and worship. But let us restore the Word of God to its higher place of importance. Otherwise, we will end up with churches who promote a form of humanistic entertaining man-made religiosity like that practiced by the backslidden Israelites in Amos’ time.

 

The curse of syncretism

 

Throughout history, one of the main reasons many Christian leaders and ordinary churchgoers have interpreted parts of the Scriptures unsoundly in many serious ways is they have attempted to interpret the Scriptures in agreement with various non-Christian ethical, political, social, economic, psychological and religious philosophies.  These attempts to mix non-Christian philosophies’ so-called “knowledge” with Biblical teachings have been the sources of most serious heresies throughout church history.

This mixing of non-Christian or pagan philosophies with the teachings of God’s written Word is called syncretism. Syncretism is the process by which elements of pagan or non-Christian philosophies and associated practices become so joined with the teachings of the Bible that many Christian leaders and churchgoers imagine these non-Christian ideas and practices are actually a part of Christianity and/or in the Bible.

The syncretism of non-Christian unbiblical philosophies and practices with the Scriptures create paganised forms of the Gospel and paganised types of Christianity.

Church leaders and churchgoers fall into the curse of syncretism when they amend, add to or subtract from the teachings of the Bible in their sometimes sincere attempts to make Christianity relevant to and contemporary with the surrounding non-Christian community and social context. Tragically, many theological and Bible Colleges teach their students to contextualise the Bible in these sinful ways. It is right to find relevant contemporary methods to evangelise but it is never right to add to or subtract from the Gospel and the teachings of the Bible in the process.

In Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32, Proverbs 30:5-6 and Revelation 22:18, God strongly warns us not to add or subtract from the written Word of God. In Deuteronomy 4:2, God commanded: “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul expressed a very low view of non-Christian or pagan philosophies when in 1 Timothy 6:20-21 he insisted to Timothy: “O, Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and vain babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge – by professing it, some have strayed concerning the faith…” In Greek, the phrase “idle babblings” here is form of the word “kenophonia” which means “empty talk” [3] or “vain, empty babbling, vain disputation, fruitless discussion” [4] or “empty discussion”. [5] In Greek, the word “contradictions” is a form of the word “antithesis” which means “a statement which involves direct contradiction or is logically inconsistent”. [6]

Note Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:20 that what many people call “knowledge” is not really knowledge in God’s eyes.

Here is one example of syncretism among churchgoers out of thousands of examples we could mention:

The Roman presbyter Caius (180-217 A.D.) wrote the following about a group of compromising churchgoers in Rome in the late 100’s and possibly early 200’s A.D. who were mixing the teachings of the Greek philosophers Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) and Theophrastus (approx. 372-287 B.C.), the Greek mathematician Euclid (approx. 330-260 B.C.) and the famous medical physician Galen (approx. 129-200 A.D.) with the Bible: “The sacred Scriptures they have boldly falsified, and the canons of the ancient faith they have rejected, and Christ they have ignored, not inquiring what the sacred Scriptures say, but laboriously seeking to discover what form of syllogism might be contrived to establish their impiety. And should any one lay before them a word of divine Scripture, they examine whether it will make a connected or disjoined form of syllogism; (or arguments expressed in two premises and one conclusion which is logically deduced from the two premises – Author’s addition) and leaving the Holy Scriptures of God, they study geometry as men who are of the earth, and speak of the earth, and are ignorant of Him who cometh from above. Euclid, indeed, is laboriously measured by some of them, and Aristotle and Theophrastus are admired; and Galen, forsooth, is perhaps even worshipped by some of them. But as to those men who abuse the arts of the unbelievers to establish their own heretical doctrine, and by the craft of the impious adulterate the simple faith of the divine Scriptures, what need is there to say that these are not near the faith? For this reason is it they have boldly laid their hands upon the divine Scriptures alleging that they have corrected them. And that I do not state this against them falsely, any one who pleases may ascertain. For if any one should choose to collect and compare all their copies together, he would find many discrepancies among them. The copies of Asclepiades, at any rate, will be found at variance with those of Theodotus. And many such copies are to be had, because their disciples were very zealous in inserting the corrections, as they call them, i.e., the corruptions made by each of them. And again, the copies of Hermophilus do not agree with these; and as for those of Apollonius, they are not consistent even with themselves. For one may compare those which were formerly prepared by them with those which have been afterwards corrupted with a special object, and many discrepancies will be found. And as to the great audacity implied in this offence, it is not likely that even they themselves can be ignorant of that. For either they do not believe that the divine Scriptures were dictated by the Holy Spirit, and are thus infidels; or they think themselves wiser than the Holy Spirit, and what are they then but demoniacs? Nor can they deny that the crime is theirs, when the copies have been written with their own hand; nor did they receive such copies of the Scriptures from those by whom they were first instructed in the faith, and they cannot produce copies from which these were transcribed. And some of them did not even think it worth while to corrupt them: but simply denying the law and the prophets for the sake of their lawless and impious doctrine, under pretexts of grace, they sunk down to the lowest abyss of perdition.” [7]

Note Caius says that these syncretistic churchgoers had wicked attitudes to the Scriptures and to God’s grace and interpreted the Scriptures according to pagan philosophies and methods.

 

She found Yin and Yang in the Bible!

 

Here is another example of the dangers of syncretism. In 1995, one of my undergraduate students in an Old Testament class which I was teaching, wrote how God’s grace expressed in Hosea’s marriage to a prostitute was a manifestation of the pagan eastern religious forces of “Yin and Yang – the symbol represents the independent female and male, negative and positive forces of life.” But note the Bible is not a manifestation of any aspect of any pagan religion in any way.

 

The great danger of continually having just a little Bible knowledge

 

Continually having just a little bit of Bible knowledge is often just as dangerous as having none at all. This is because churchgoers with just a small amount of knowledge of God’s written Word usually become syncretists. In other words, they mostly mix pagan and non-Christian ideas and practices with Biblical teachings and practices.

Most churchgoers who are syncretists in the above ways do not even know they are doing this mixing of non-Christian unbiblical ideas and practices with the teachings and practices of the Scriptures. These churchgoers usually quote a few proof-texts from the Bible which are taken out of context and/or interpreted contrary to other verses on the same topic, to support their sinful ideas and practices.

 

The incorporation of pagan Greek morals in the church

 

Over the centuries, through so many Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant leaders and churchgoers highly venerating the writers of ancient Greek and Roman religious poets, philosophers, medical physicians, dramatists and other authors as wisdom-laden textbooks, many ancient pagan Greek moral or ethical attitudes and practices have been incorporated into the Churches. I refer here to:

 

         women supposedly being inferior to men in nearly all ways.

         women supposedly being less suited to be highly educated than men.

         women supposedly not being suited for professional jobs like medical doctors and lawyers.

         a foetus supposedly becoming a human only after 40 days in the case of males and after 80-90 days for females.

         abortion being supposedly a good thing if the child has any deformities, the mother was raped or the parents do not want the child.

         medical astrology being supposedly scientific and approved of by God.

         claiming many women suffer from hysteria and using this as an excuse to prevent them from being highly educated and from entering the professions and to sexually abuse them.

         it being supposedly wrong for married females to own property. This was the law in Britain until the 1880’s.

         basing our moral standards partly on the natural law or natural justice philosophy of Aristotle and the Stoics.

         approving homosexuality.

         approving immodest displays of human nudity.

         approving having sex with slave girls.

         approving either the ascetic attitude that sex was only for producing children or the opposite attitude that sex outside of marriage is fine. Both opposing attitudes found many supporters in the Church in the 400’s-500’s A.D., parts of the Middle Ages and 1500’s up until the present time.

 

So relevant to the world the real God becomes less and less relevant

 

In Revelation 3:14-20, God warned a church that it was very compromising and slack and that He would spew it out of His mouth if it did not change: “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were either cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing” – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked – I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.’”

At present, some churches have become so hardened in known sin and compromise, they are in danger of the above happening to them. They have become so relevant to the world that many aspects of God and His character are becoming more and more irrelevant to them. They are heading towards worshipping a God and a Jesus of their own imaginations instead of the one revealed in the Bible.

Nehemiah 13:30 records godly Nehemiah cleansed the worship of the people of Israel from every pagan influence: “Thus I cleansed them of everything pagan…” This sets a tremendous example to the church today.

 

Bible Study Questions

 

1.         Which verses show that preaching and teaching the Word of God is not a side-show or relatively unimportant.

2.         What does 1 Timothy 4:16 reveal about the relationship between sound teaching and godly living?

3.         Which verses show the importance of:

 

a)             having sound doctrine and

b)             avoiding false doctrine.

 

4.         Why is the written Word of God more important than Christian music and singing?

5.         What will believers be doing in heaven?

6.         Explain what God told many hypocritical Israelites in Amos 5:21-24 and 6:5.

 


 


[1] Bauer, page 73.

[2] Ian Jagleman, “The Tension Between Pastor/Evangelist and Teacher” in “PCBC Journal”, published for the Association of Pentecostal and Charismatic Bible Colleges of Australasia, Volume 1 #2, April 1998, pages 1-2.

[3] Bauer, page 428.

[4] Perschbacher, page 236.

[5] Vine, page 48.

[6] Louw and Nida, page 440.

[7] “Fragments of Caius”, Part 2, Section 3.


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