Dorothy, to find the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was told to follow the yellow brick road. Sounds simple enough, but she discovered there were distractions and misdirections along the way. It can be the same for us if we are not diligent in our pursuit of sound doctrine. Scripture is the yellow brick road; it is our guide to our destination. I used to associate in Christian circles that suggested finding our destination depended upon our following the Holy Spirit. Being lead of the Spirit was the way to walk in and discover God's purpose for your life and arrive at the your destination's end. I can use my imagination in the picture above and see the well meaning Scare Crow assisting Dorothy in her journey. He could be saying, "Dorothy, I have a word from the Lord for you. I hear the Lord speaking to my spirit, it seems He is saying you should take this road. He has some great blessings waiting for you; He will use you mightily down this road."
Dorothy, truly wanting to follow the will of God and please Him, is now very drawn in that direction. If she expresses some concern, she might be told, "Just go to the Lord in prayer" (which would also involve praying in tongues in her prayer language) and trust Him to reveal this to her as well. She might be told by the Scare Crow that he just feels the Lord has a ministry for her down that road. In her confusion and her desire to please God, she tries to do what the Scare Crow is telling her. This is not uncommon in our churches today, and many people spend and consume their lives following what is nothing less than mysticism. There is no soundness or assurance in this type of instruction. It is not an aid in our Christian walk, but a hindrance.
Sound doctrine is the communication of faithful words, conveying the meaning accurately. It is teaching that is sound and indisputable. The ERV version renders this verse, "An elder must be faithful to the same true message we teach. Then he will be able to encourage others with teaching that is true and right. And he will be able to show those who are against this teaching that they are wrong."
Truly there is a leading of the Spirit, and truly there is a great need of prayer to find our way and our destination's end. But this leading and prayer is not by the means of mysticism, but sound doctrine.
Rom 6:17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
The thought I want to convey is that there is a faith as Jude declared, that was once delivered to the Saints. (Jud 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.) Understand this faith can be known and understood today through the means of sound doctrine. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, He is presently, actively working in our lives, directing and ordering it according to His will by the means of this doctrine. This doctrine has been expounded and refined by the Church throughout its history. It aids us in our understanding of Scripture and how the Church has understood these doctrines over the centuries. What would this look like as it is applied to our lives? If we were to begin down the yellow brick road, it might look something like this:
As you study and become familiar with this wonderful friend, let the Church help you become grounded and confident. Examine the great creeds and confessions to discover how the Church understood the scriptures over the years. As the Saints lived out and experienced the Christian life, they solidified sound doctrine (teachings) to help us remain faithful to its true meanings. This practice found its beginning in the Apostolic Church and was continued by the early Church fathers, then throughout history and to our day. Here are just a few examples of sound doctrines:
1 Cor. 15:3-7: For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
Phil. 2:6-11: who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
1 Tim. 3:16: Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
Then in the early Church:
The Apostles Creed (A.D. 140)
Nicene Creed (A.D. 325)
The Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 452)
Athanasian Creed (A.D. 500)
The Canons of Orange (A.D. 529)
This is Christianity as it was understood and defined in the first 500 years.
We then move into the reformation and the reaffirming of these doctrines.
The Augsburg Confession (A.D. 1530)
The Smalcald Aritcles (A.D. 1537)
The Scottish Confession of Faith (A.D. 1560)
The Heidelberg Catechism (A.D. 1563)
The Book of Concord (A.D. 1580)
The Canons of Dordt (A.D. 1618)
The Belgic Confession (A.D. 1618)
The Westminster Confession (A.D. 1646)
The London Baptist Confession (A.D. 1689)
But when you examine it closer, you discover there is a true Church, and it has a sound doctrine that has been delivered down through the ages. It holds to one faith and rests upon a solid foundation. It knows what it believes and in whom it trusts. It is the Church, it is alive and it is well in the 21st Century. You discover all these confessions from the Apostolic traditions down through the early church to our day are all wonderfully consistent and expound upon the sacred Scripture with unity and conformity. It is one Church holding to and living one faith from beginning to end.
You might be one who truly loves God and takes your faith very seriously. Yet, you stand looking at the Christian world today and wondering what church to be a part of. The answer is a Biblical Church. How do you find one? Look at their doctrine. If their faith and practice are in agreement with the great creeds and confessions of the past that are consistent with Scripture, then you have a true Church.
If you are going to a Church that has departed from the sound doctrines and understandings of previous generations and have laid aside the doctrines that have been affirmed and understood by the Church throughout history and in their place have instituted pragmatism, inventions, and private interpretations in effort to promote other doctrines, beware. They may call themselves Church, but they are indeed something else.
Many of our Churches are full of new ideas, some seem rather harmless, others more profound. They don't seem new to us because they have been around all our lives. We don't recognize them because we are not familiar with sound doctrine. Take the Sunday School movement for instance, it began in Britain around 1780. It was very controversial at the time and has evolved into what we now experience as accepted Christian Worship. It began for very different reasons than what it serves today. It is an example of a new idea that developed into a new way of worship. Is it wrong to have a Sunday School? That depends on how close to Scripture you want to live. The church knew of no such form of worship from Apostolic times until 1780. The church survived just fine without it for over 1700 years. Stop for a moment and consider how long a 1000 years is (pause). Now add 700 years to that. That's how long the Church conducted worship without Sunday Schools.
Do we have the liberty to introduce new ways of worship other than what is prescribed in Scripture? If so, how far can we go before it does become an incorrect form of worship? You see how careful we must be, one new idea that causes no harm can open the door for others that do. But aren't new ideas a way to test and improve over the old ideas? Yes, else we would still be riding in horse and buggy. But when we apply that reasoning to Scripture we are reaching into another domain. Scripture is the revealed Word of God, we are to add nothing and to take nothing away. It is truly inerrant; dare we consider some new idea to improve upon God's instruction!
What are some examples of other new ideas of Worship?
1. Being slain in the spirit.
2. A prayer language in an unknowable mystical utterance.
3. Prayer tunnels
4. Fallible prophesying
5. Dancing in the spirit, dancing in worship (sometimes referred to as the bunny hop)
6. Modern practice of alter calls
7. Miracle crusades
8. Today's health, wealth, and prosperity teaching
9. Laughing revivals
10. The impartations of Apostolic gifts
And the list goes on. None of these practices and many others can be soundly supported from Scripture. They are all new ideas of worship being introduced within the last 150 years. They show up in none of the great Church confessions or the ancient Church councils and creeds. They are practices unknown to the Church for over 17 centuries. If you are in a Church that practices any of these forms of worship, I suggest you seriously consider why that might be.
May the Grace of God be upon each of you,