Grounded Faith

During my 3-month sabbatical I began reading the letters commonly referred to as the Pastoral Epistles (Thessalonians, Timothy, and Titus). What struck me in a fresh way was the importance of being grounded in solid doctrine. Of course, good doctrine has always been important to me but perhaps this familiar truth took on greater weightiness because of our current cultural moment where there are so many issues that divide our country. State laws being passed to protect the lives of the unborn. Biological males competing against biological females in sports. Racism and Critical Race Theory. Mask and vaccine mandates. Immigration and border protection. On top of all of these things, there are so many Christians who subscribe to the most perplexing conspiracy theories. Paul’s charge to Timothy jumped off the page as I read these sobering words:

3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion…” – 1 Timothy 1:3-6

While we can’t be certain of the exact content of the myths and endless genealogies, it’s clear that they led to speculation and vain discussions and diverted from the gospel message that Christians have been entrusted with. These people had misplaced their devotion to Christ, and without a weighty doctrine to anchor them, they drifted into the endless ocean of speculations.

Sound doctrine has to do with what we believe. Seminaries teach a course on systematic theology that typically covers among several topics, the nature of God, the Trinity, the nature of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the nature of man, salvation, the church, end times, etc. However, I was surprised when the very first topic we studied wasn’t about God per se, but our doctrine of Scripture. This was foundational, not because Scripture is more important than God, but because we can only know God because He has chosen to reveal Himself to humanity primarily through Scripture. By necessity, our doctrine of Scripture impacts all of the other doctrines, including God Himself. If your understanding of Scripture is that it is the inspired revelation of God that reveals His character, His purposes, and His plans, you will recognize its authority and seek to live consistent with its teaching even at great cost to yourself. If your understanding is that it is merely a good book, inspirational guide, or one of several revelations from God, then it will not hold the same authority over you, and you will tend to pick and choose what you follow with your comfort being the final arbiter of how you will live.
While a solid foundation is critical to any structure, the foundation is not the totality of the structure. A house needs a strong foundation but a livable house is more than a foundation. Our life in Christ is more than having good doctrine. This is why the writer of Hebrews says that we need to move beyond the elementary doctrines if we want to be mature.

1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” – Hebrews 6:1-2

To be mature then means that we need to live our lives based on God’s word. The mature Christian interprets the culture through the lens of the unchanging word of God instead of interpreting Scripture through the lens of a constantly shifting culture. To know God you must know Scripture. To follow God you must follow Scripture. Inevitably, a Christian that fails to know God’s Word will wander into false teaching or misguided praxis. But those who continue to study His Word and treasure it because by it they are meeting with the living God, and diligently obey what it says, they will bloom even in the desert, they will stand tall even during a shutdown, they will shine even as the world descends into darkness.

And to our Christians brothers and sisters who have become entangled in the far-reaching web of conspiracy theories, you’ll find that the Bible is no stranger to them as well. Those who guarded the tomb of Christ and the religious leaders who had Him put to death, all conspired to purport that the disciples had stolen His body (Matthew 28:11-15). It was a conspiracy theory from the pit of hell that Satan used to thwart the spread of the gospel!

May we establish a solid doctrinal foundation based on God's word that sprouts a vibrant lifestyle that can engage our culture with God’s truth in a way that draws people to our Lord and His salvation!

1 Comment

Lori - September 24th, 2021 at 8:29pm

Thx PJ for the encouragement to keep in the word in a world of distractions. Today I was struggling to do my study in ACTS. Hard to focus today so I appreciate the redirect back to knowing the scriptures.