Doctrine defined, is a belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a Church, political party, or another group. In the US, it could also mean a stated principle of government policy, mainly in foreign or military affairs eg “the Truman Doctrine”
Doctrinal integrity is something that makes one invincible. A man or a woman armed with the unquestionable authority of the Bible is not someone to joke with. An armament of sound doctrine makes one preach with power, and silence every erroneous teaching and opinion. Doctrinal soundness is the spinal cord of every religious practice and worship. The distinction between true and pure religion is based on what is taught by either. In spiritual arguments and apologetic discourses, everyone who argues outside the doctrinal framework stultifies themselves before every thinking man. Anyone who brings their opinions in stipulated discourses plays on unsafe ground, and will sooner or later be dumbfounded and be sent out of the arena.
However, there is an argument that silences all doctrines and gives a terrible blow to those who are doctrinal and mighty in words. And it calls for more watchfulness. It goes beyond the power of words spoken in a flowing poetic beauty. You may be a great orator, but this cannot give you an advantage here, on the same note, a fidgeting trembling stammerer can prove unquestionable eloquence here. Are you ready to know what it is?
Maybe I could share a little personal experience as a basis for this discourse. As early as I can remember, from when I was a little boy, I have always loved sound doctrine. When I say sound doctrine, I mean teachings that can be reasonably supported by the Holy Writ. Not those teachings based on opinions of men and women. I can confidently say that I am comfortable in the assembly of the saints because I can defend my faith with clear Biblical evidence. I am not afraid of apologetic discourses, so long as opinions are set aside and scripture is given a chance to defend itself.
However, I have met cases that I cannot defend. These are not due to a lack of Scriptural evidence, or linguistic impotence but to the failure of the helping hand of the gospel. After my powerful unrefuted arguments on the part of the truth, somebody asked me about the power of the gospel to save. They could see and cite inconsistencies in the life of people who claim to have accepted the scriptures as their authority. They, with some weird show of triumph, feel like they are safe with their irreligious practices because they can see people who have not been sanctified by the truth we profess.
While the doctrine is sound and consistent with the scripture, how do we reconcile it with the unfruitful fig trees who claim to be in the assembly of the saints and have verily professed it? What about the tares causing discord in the choir and always disturbing the church board? How does doctrinal correctness benefit them? Haven’t they neutralised all the power of the gospel and made the worldlings comfortable in the quarry of error?
A great argument in favour of truth must be accompanied by the power of the truth in sanctifying those who receive it. After wounding the transgressors of God’s law with the great and powerful exposition of hidden truths, let them see even great evidence in favour of truth in the lives of those who have received the very truth. If the truth does not bring transformation, it loses its power to save and becomes a toothless bulldog and a laughing stock. The only important thing about any truth is its impact on the lives of the recipients. If those who have received the truth are not better than the renegades and scoffers, then it becomes powerless to save because no one will believe it.
And in most cases, those to whom we present the truth, do not attend our programmes to listen to what we teach. They assume by our behaviour and practices, what we teach. We are the letters they read. What do they read in you? Do you make the work of gospel workers easier by your character, or do sons of Belial cite you to favour their refusal to bear the yoke of Christ? Thinking about this, you realise that a lot of work is not to be done in the pulpit, but outside in our day to day walk on the highways and byways.
How is the reality of the gospel represented in your life? You see, the name ‘Christian’ was given by the non-church members. They saw the apostles live and teach Christ in Antioch and named them Christ-ians. It was so obvious by their behaviour and lifestyle, that Christ was both their saviour and their Lord. The peril of the Christian world today is the deadly double standards oftentimes practised. Many of the professed Christians smile and rejoice on Christ as a saviour, but these selfsame people grimace and sneer when called to have Him as their Lord too. They gladly receive His salvific and redemptive offer, but they deny His Lordship. This produces loveless and unchristlike behaviours that do not recommend Christianity to anyone.
We could do more if we silenced all our pulpits and displayed practical Christlike character in our day to day lives. If we were Christians at home, at work, in our entertainment, in our daily interaction with people, especially “the least of these”, the world could have been transformed by the power of God unto salvation. The powerful argument in favour of Christianity is not in what say ye more than others, but what do ye more than others.
“The world will be convinced, not by what the pulpit teaches, but by what the church lives. The minister in the desk announces the theory of the gospel; the practical piety of the church demonstrates its power”.—Testimonies for the Church Vol 7, P. 16.