We live in an age in which the very word ”˜doctrine,’ or worse, ”˜dogma,’ is a negative term. And yet it is simply impossible to live without doctrinal beliefs. While many do not want to use the term, all people””secular as well as religious””treat some views as horrific heresies. I have encountered churches that claim, “We don’t teach doctrine, we just preach Jesus.” But the moment you ask them”””˜Well, who is Jesus, and what did he do?’””the only way to answer is to begin to lay out doctrine.
But Paul does not simply say that right doctrine is necessary, but it is “sound.” The Greek word Paul uses here means healthy rather than diseased. This is Paul’s way to say that wrong doctrine eats away at your spiritual health. Or, to say it another way, if you lack spiritual vitality and fruit, if you are not courageous enough, or joyful enough, or if you are not filled with love and hope, it may be because your grasp of Biblical doctrine is shallow and thin, or distorted and mistaken.
This came home forcibly to me many years ago when I spent a number of weeks working through a Bible study on the attributes of God by Warren and Ruth Myers. What was so revealing were a couple of application questions: 1) What specific false thoughts or disturbing emotions hinder me when I don’t trust (fully grasp) that God has this particular attribute? 2) Although my conscious mind may agree that God has this attribute, does my outward life demonstrate that he is like this? (Experiencing God’s Attributes, NavPress, 1978.)