In his first letter to Timothy (1 Timothy), Paul addresses pastoral concerns Timothy is faced with in his leading of the church in Ephesus. One of the greatest threats they Facing the church in Ephesus was the threat of eJterodiaskalevw; literally “other doctrine”, or doctrine opposed to and outside of the Gospel (1 Tim. 1:3). A primary concern of Paul and challenge to Timothy was that sound doctrine, uJgiainouvsh didaskaliva, was being threatened by those infiltrating the church seeking to teach and usurp the truth of the Gospel (1 Tim. 1:7; 4:1).
In 1 Timothy we see Paul’s emphasis on the importance of didaskaliva, sound doctrine and teaching, contrary to what many Christians believe about doctrine today. Paul is writing to exhort Timothy to guard doctrine, the truth, as critical to the shepherding of the flock. Paul teaches that the proper and sound proclamation of the truth, that is the Gospel, is necessary for the perseverance, training, and for living in godliness, all required of the church. Without the sound doctrine and teaching of the Gospel, God’s flock would be lost and led astray. It is by means of sound doctrine that the church is able to grow in faith and knowledge of the truth that is Christ Jesus and to walk in godliness. It is through faithful preaching and teaching of the word that His people hear His voice; the very foundation for the life of a believer (Rom. 10:17).
The spiritual health and prosperity of a believer depends upon the sound preaching and teaching of doctrine. Similar to Paul’s other Pastoral Epistles, emphasis is placed on the uncontaminated health of teaching sound doctrine (MacArthur 1813). The use of uJgiainouvsh in 1 Timothy 1:10 gives the implication that proper teaching is both wholesome and healthy that “produces spiritual life and growth” (1813). Similarly Moses instructed Israel in Deuteronomy to “obey the voice of the LORD your God” in order that God may bless them and establish them as His holy people (28:1,9). David writes in the Psalms that God’s Word is what “gives life” and “revives the soul,” giving us reason to cherish and know God’s word (Ps. 119:50, 93; Ps. 19:7). One can see then the connection of sound doctrine and to God in blessing His people through his word. It is through His Word that God has provided sound doctrine and teaching as a means to bless His people.
Paul goes on to explain how the church is to train itself in sound doctrine. In 1 Timothy 4:1 Paul begins explaining the importance of continual training in sound doctrine warning that some “will depart from the faith” and become devoted to the didaskalivaiV, “teachings”, of demons and deceitful spirits. He then urges Timothy to continually train the brethren being a “good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of διδασκαλίας” (1 Timothy 4:6). Similarly Moses writes throughout Deuteronomy about the importance of continually training Israel in the teaching and instruction “that the LORD your God commanded me (Moses) to teach you” (Deut. 6:1). God commands that His word be upon their hearts, and that teaching and instruction of God’s word should be taught diligently, even to children (Deut. 6:6,7). God requires this that we would be “training in godliness,” so that in every way we would be blessed because it holds a “promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:7b, 8b). Paul is saying explicitly that continually training in sound doctrine is absolutely required for walking in godliness.
In 1 Timothy 4:13 Paul give an imperative command for Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture, exhortation, and teaching. This devoted proclamation of teaching explained further in verse sixteen makes σώσεις, their future salvation and deliverance, possible through the persistent attention to Scripture, exhortation, and teaching. God instructed Israel to “read the law” and “follow carefully all the words of the law”, for Israel to enter into the land in which they were to possess (Deut. 31:11-13). It was through God, and through the revelation of His character through His word that Israel came to enter into the Promised Land. It was the truth of the Word coming into the world, the proclamation and hearing of this that made possible the way for God’s people to be saved. Paul is not instructing Timothy in works based righteousness, but is emphasizing the importance of the message being “sound doctrine” and not the teachings of demons and deceitful spirits. Paul is emphasizing what is truly at stake when it comes to sound, didaskaliva; it is the salvation of immortal souls that are at stake.
This emphasis on doctrine is something that is sometimes conveniently overlooked in many congregations, but not generally the case within the confessionally Reformed community. The importance of doctrine and sound teaching within the Reformed faith has been present since their inception in constructing many of the early creeds and confessional statements we still hold to today. Reformed churches began instituting doctrinal standards such as the Heidelberg Catechism as a way to solidify teaching in their congregations against challenges to their faith. Many of traditional confessions throughout church history in some way arose in response to outside heretical influence and challenges to sound doctrine, much like how Paul writes in 1 Timothy. Today the more traditional confessions sometimes get overlooked and are often viewed as dated or irrelevant, but for the Reformed faith they are the bulwark of their beliefs second only to the Bible the very word of God (Sola Scriptura). These confessions contain within a great deal of theological truth and exposition that sometimes gets blurred in our modern discourse, forgotten, or worse, thought of as unnecessary for teaching and instruction. The Reformed faith, however, sees doctrine and teaching as the essential lifeblood that makes a relationship with God possible through continual growth and learning from God and His Word.
In my own life, I have become more and more aware of the importance of sound doctrine than I could have ever thought possible. Growing up without sound teaching and instruction from the Lord I was not simply lost, I was without any hope. The things I would say, the teachings of deceitful spirits and demons, which I once clung to, offered no hope and no assurance, only bringing more calamity and chaos. Hearing the word faithfully preached for the first time opened my eyes to see what I had truly become as a result of sin. It was upon hearing the Word that I was convicted to come before God confessing my sins repenting in prayer, where I was saved from the sin that had once enslaved me.
It has been the sound doctrine and teaching that has allowed me to grow in faith. Weekly bible studies with my pastor allowed me to grow in my faith and understanding of God and His redemptive history. Reading books, attending conferences and seminars grew me further in my faith and knowledge of God eventually inspiring me to attend college and gain further understanding. The faithful teaching of the Word and the instruction in sound doctrine led me to Providence Christian College where I am every day learning more about the great and glorious God whom I am privileged to serve.
Studying topics like Systematic Theology has made it possible for me to give more back to the Church and to my community. Being trained critically in sound doctrine has given me great confidence in defending my faith both privately and publicly. Knowing and being taught the truth and growing in it has allowed me to share with others in order that they too may receive the gift of faith I have been given. It has been the greatest privilege and joy of my life to share the faith with others that has brought me such great home and has allowed me to walk in the light, being continually transformed into His glorious image and seeing that in those around me.
Paul’s words to Timothy are the encouragement to do this very thing, to share the teaching of faith that reconciles man to God. It is sound didaskaliva that makes possible a sinner to know the danger of sin and to grow in godliness. Sound teaching and godliness go hand in hand whereby “right doctrine without a godly life is of no value; while a godly life without right doctrine is not possible” (Carson 1301). Paul’s overarching emphasis on living godly throughout his letters is made possible through proper doctrine and teaching. It is how Timothy is instructed act in order that he would save himself and his hearers (1 Tim. 4:16). It is how we must act in order to know the truth of teaching that is “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,” in order that we may persistently walk in godliness and be reconciled to God (1 Cor. 2:2b).
Carson, D. A., R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, eds. New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity, 1994. Print.
MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2010. Print.