16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17 And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. (2 Timothy 2:16–18, NKJV)
False teaching is not benign. It leads to harmful spiritual effects upon its teachers, those who follow them, and those influenced by the followers (2 Pet. 2:1-2). Yet, some will tell us that false doctrine is really a non-issue. They say things like, “everybody is in error on something;” or, “nobody is 100% doctrinally pure.” Their solution is agreeing to disagree on revealed truth. That is not the Bible solution (1 Corinthians 1:10). Today’s passage exposes and explodes this false reasoning about false teaching. First, false teaching is identifiable. Some messages are indeed profane and empty, infecting and destroying souls (v. 16). These stand in contrast with “the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Second, error leads to ungodliness (v. 16). False teaching is sin. Third, error leads to more error. It spreads. Someone said, “Error does not stand still. It continues to work.” Unopposed, it spreads like cancer (v. 17). Fourth, false messages leas to overthrowing faith (v. 18). It does matter what you believe. Fifth, false messages lead to strife (2 Timothy 2:23). Avoid error. Do not begin to listen to it, or receive those who teach it (2 John 10-11). It leads you away from the truth, and straight into iniquity (2 Timothy 2:18-19).
11 “How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?—but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:11–12, NKJV)
Jesus warned against the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees bound the traditions of the elders as if they were the law of God (Mark 7:1-13). The Sadducees went to the other extreme, denying the Scriptures with their teaching of no resurrection, no angel and no spirit (Matthew 22:23-33; Acts 23:8). Currently, some categorize doctrine as “primary essentials,” “secondary essentials,” primary non-essentials,” and “secondary non-essentials” (“Doctrine Grid,” Matt Slick, carm.org/doctrine-grid). We have yet to discover such graduations of doctrine identified and defined in the inspired Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Then, there are those who would convince us doctrine is entirely non-essential to salvation, and to hold doctrine as essential is to incite division amongst believers (“The Gospel/Doctrine Distinction, Part Two,” Tom Roberts, truthmagazine.com). Why would Jesus warn against their doctrine, if doctrine is secondary, and not essential for God’s approval? In fact, “the doctrine of Christ” is essential for fellowship with God and His people (2 John 9-11). The doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees is still at work today.
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. (1 Timothy 4:16, NKJV)
It is much easier to watch others and form opinions about them, than it is to carefully look at ourselves for our own spiritual deficiencies. And so, Paul warned the evangelist Timothy of this temptation. Self-inspection is required if we are to improve our personal faith and character. Just as building inspectors use a building code to test the integrity of buildings, self-examination must be made using a standard by which we test our attitudes and actions. The only reliable standard to use is the doctrine of Christ; the doctrine preached by Christ’s apostles and available in the Scriptures. Timothy was to teach this doctrine, and use it to examine himself. Careful attention to ourselves is not complete unless we actually do the things we have been taught. So, look at yourself through the lens of God’s word and then, do His will. Your salvation is secured as you do this. And, you will be helping save others, too.
“holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” (Titus 1:9, NKJV)
This instruction to elders of the local church gives us insight into the nature of sound doctrine, and how God views its importance. It is clear to see in today’s verse that “the faithful word” corresponds to “sound doctrine.” The word of God is the tool by which the elders are to encourage and warn those who oppose the truth. Those who are not “sound in the faith” need the rebuke from God’s word that convicts and corrects (see Titus 1:13). Just as elders must “hold fast the faithful word,” each Christian must “hold fast the pattern of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13). Christians are not sound in the faith by merely claiming it to be so. We must hold fast to God’s word, examining ourselves and correcting ourselves to be in harmony with the truth. Personal opinions and self-approving proclamations of “soundness” are meaningless without Scriptural approval. Obey sound doctrine, and then you will be sound in the faith.
Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them. (Hebrews 13:9, NKJV)
There is an undeniable, irrefutable connection between being “established by grace” and the doctrine we believe and hold. We are clearly warned against “strange doctrines” precisely because they jeopardize grace rather than establish it. For example, binding food restrictions does not make one firm in grace – just the opposite. Paul commended the Ephesian church elders “to God and to the word of His grace” because it “is able to build you up and give you an inheritance” among the sanctified (Acts 20:32). Grace does not minimize or ignore doctrine. Any teaching that tries to convince you that God’s grace overlooks false doctrine is not “the word of His grace.” Grace and doctrine are not adversaries. Sound doctrine advocates for grace, and grace is sure as we stand “in truth” (Col. 1:6).
For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. (Acts 17:21, NKJV)
When the apostle Paul brought the gospel of Christ to Athens, it was certainly new to the ears of the idolatrous philosophers of Mars Hill. One God, creative, self-sustaining, sovereign, purposeful, merciful, authoritative, and judge of the world; this was truly an “unknown God” to them. It is alarming that even now, not a few who name Christ as their Lord are discontent with the “old paths” of God’s gospel. They want a new message and exciting messengers. The same old gospel no longer thrills them. Even though a new gospel will not save one lost soul. Every perversion of sound doctrine corrupts and condemns (Gal. 1:6-10). The gospel has not changed since the first century (1 Pet. 1:23-25). Every attempt to improve upon its power to save is a futile and faithless endeavor (Rom. 1:15-16).
15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:15–20, NKJV)
Are you sure your preacher is preaching the truth? How do you know? Jeremiah warned of prophets who “prophesy lies in my name” by speaking “the deceit of their heart” (Jer. 14:14). These two-legged wolves in sheep’s clothing continue to devour God’s flock by speaking error in the name of God. When someone speaks on behalf of God we must test what is said to be sure it is indeed from God. Our measuring stick is inspired Scripture, including what the apostles taught (Acts 17:11-12; 1 Jno. 4:1, 6). You see, it does matter what is taught and what is believed. If doctrine doesn’t matter, then why does Jesus warn us of the wolves?