20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?” (Colossians 2:20–22, NKJV)
Christian live for Christ and not according to the principles of the world that oppose Christ. Since we are alive in Christ we must not turn back to those things that produce spiritual death (Colossians 2:12-13). The futility and sinfulness of the commands and doctrines of men is firmly established in today’s verse. Yet, century after century heavier and heavier burdens have been laid on believers, demanding that creeds, confessions or catechisms be followed to define and determine their faithfulness to God. The religious regulations of men have no standing before the God of the Universe. Christ the King has approved no doctrine beyond what is written in His New Testament (1 Corinthians 4:6; Jude 3; 2 John 9). The gospel calls souls back to the Bible, not to being regulated by the commandments and doctrines of men. If what you believe and do cannot be found in the gospel of Christ, it is not of Christ. Lay all such things aside or you will perish with them.
3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. (1 Timothy 1:3–4, NKJV)
Is doctrine essential or nonessential to your faith and fellowship with God? Undoubtedly, there was a particular doctrine that was to be taught in Ephesus. All other doctrines were to cease. Timothy was to charge teachers to “teach no other doctrine” than the one that produces “godly edification which is in faith.” Doctrine means teaching, and it is essential that one’s teaching (doctrine) conforms with God’s truth, the Scriptures. Therefore, doctrine must be “sound” (1 Timothy 1:10), “good” (1 Timothy 4:6), given attention (1 Timothy 4:13), and continued in (1 Timothy 4:16). Doctrine must be God’s (1 Timothy 6:1), and it must conform to godliness (1 Timothy 6:3). Apostolic doctrine must be “carefully followed” (2 Timothy 3:10). It must agree with the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16), and it must not be rejected (2 Timothy 4:3). Anyone who says doctrine is not essential to your salvation and fellowship with God is not teaching and applying 2 John 9 properly: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” Oh yes, doctrine matters.
For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed— (2 Corinthians 10:8, NKJV)
Are you ashamed of Bible authority? Have you grown tired of establishing Bible authority for all you say and do by the commandments, apostolic examples and necessary inferences of the New Testament (Colossians 3:17; Acts 15:7-19)? If so, please accept this gentle reminder that without heaven’s authority for our words and deeds, we do not have heaven’s approval (see Matthew 21:23-27). Jesus Christ possesses all authority (right to rule) in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). He reveals and exercises His authority over us through His word (John 12:48-50). Only when we live according to His truth are we truly His disciples (John 8:31-32; 14:6; 17:17). The apostles of Jesus spoke and wrote His authoritative word for our benefit (1 Corinthians 14:37). Paul was not ashamed of the authority he had as an apostle of Christ. Nor did Paul abuse his authority. Apostolic authority edifies all who submit to it. Spiritual growth in Christ (edification) occurs by following the apostles’ doctrine, not the doctrines of men (Acts 2:42). Who is authorizing what you say and do: heaven, or men?
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.