Assembly Characteristics - 12 Sound Doctrine

Assembly  Characteristics  Chapter 12
Joel Portman

Sound Doctrine

1 Corinthians 15

In 1 Corinthians, Paul has been correcting problems in the  assembly at Corinth. Those problems warn us today, and his  instructions provide the basis to correct problems in any assembly.  He addresses their attitudes, behavior toward each other and the  world, their appearance, their order and testimony and the proper  functioning of spiritual gifts in the assembly. Mr. Caldwell, in his  book on 1 Corinthians, properly called this epistle “The Charter of  the Church,” since it is so essential for the proper function and  maintenance of local assembly testimony. May we seek to  understand and practice its truth.

Possibly Paul has kept the most important subject until last.  Underlying all the other problems undoubtedly is the problem of  wrong doctrine held by some in the assembly. No doubt, the  greatest doctrines of Scripture are those that touch on the Person  and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. One of these vital doctrines is  that of the actual, bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus from among  the dead. He deals with this in this chapter. We could say that this  truth is so important that it supports and affects all the other truths  in some way.

Importance of Sound Doctrine

Taking this doctrine as an example, but generalizing its  principles, we can see that correct doctrine is important for the  spiritual well-being and function of an assembly. Every doctrine of  Scripture has its practical outcome and effect. One cannot separate  doctrine from conduct. Paul shows that the truth of Christ's  resurrection affects their gospel and salvation (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), their  confidence now and eternally (1 Corinthians 15:17-19) and their behavior (1 Corinthians 15:32-  34). This doctrine also influences their service and constancy  (1 Corinthians 15:58). It touches on the future glories of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:23-28) and His  coming to deliver His saints (1 Corinthians 15:50-54). The ultimate effect of sound  doctrine here is wide and important.

Though some may say that this doctrine is more important  than other doctrines, yet what we believe in any area of spiritual  truth affects a wide scope in our lives. Usually when one has wrong  practices it is because he has wrong doctrine. If doctrine is not  important, then the existence of the assembly testimony as we seek  to maintain it has no basis. Those who maintain that Scriptural  teaching about the assembly does not apply today leave the door  open for anything and everything that men might desire to  introduce. Those who do not have a solid doctrinal basis also will  have practices that are not scriptural.

The local assembly has the responsibility to uphold and  display the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). This is impossible if the assembly  is not teaching and maintaining doctrine according to God's word.  Appreciating the importance of doctrine will also uphold the  assembly. Only as we value and practice it can we properly display  the truth to others.

God intends an assembly to be composed of believers that  appreciate and uphold the truth of His Word. Though the world  around is declining morally and spiritually and the Word of God has  a decreasing effect, an assembly is to maintain these precious  truths until the end. One aspect of faithfulness that the Lord will  reward is the effort to uphold and propagate the truth. Jude 2 makes  clear that there will be conflict as the saints “contend for the faith  which was once delivered (once for all delivered) unto the saints.”  The powers of darkness array themselves against every company  (or individual) that seeks to carry out Divine truths in simplicity and  faithfulness. Paul charges Timothy to proclaim the Scriptures  emphatically and clearly for the preservation and correction of the  saints (1 Timothy 1:3, 4:13-16, 2 Timothy 2:1-2, 2:24-25, 4:2-5).

The clear teaching of the doctrines of God's Word is essential to  maintain scriptural testimony. This emphasis on sound doctrine is  very definite in epistles having to do with conditions of the “last  days” before the Lord's coming. It is only the Word of God that will  preserve God's people today.

Basis of Sound Doctrine

The only correct basis for sound doctrine is the Word of  God. We have to realize that “Thus saith the Lord,” is true, and that  God has said what He means. The certainty that God has spoken  and that we have His Word in our hands provides the solid  foundation for our faith. If not, then we have nothing but wishful  thinking and man's reasoning that can change with changing times.  Perhaps this is the reason why the devil has always  attacked the authority and veracity of the Word of God. Through  centuries, men have made virulent, repeated attempts to destroy or  corrupt the Scriptures. Man has shown his hatred for the truth, but  its preservation provides great evidence for the Divine Origin of the  Scriptures.

Today the attack against the Word of God and sound  doctrine is more directed toward its foundation, in order to  undermine it and make men question its authority and truth. Many  wonder, “Does the Bible mean what it says?” and others question  whether truth written so long ago has any relevance to us today. We  can only say that the God who gave us His Word means exactly  what He says. To those who question it, He will prove its reality in  His own time. We remind those who doubt its relevance that an  omniscient God, who knows the end from the beginning, is fully  capable of giving us a Word that is sufficient to meet the needs of  His people until the end without any man-made additions.

We see this principle in this great chapter. Resurrection  truth is founded on the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), the truth of the Old  Testament as well as the New. It is based on the certainty of  credible witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). Its proofs are multiplied and their  effects seen. He is countering the teaching of others who said there  was no resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:12) and who questioned the  results that would come of such a resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:35). Those  undermining teachings would harm the confidence of the saints and  prove detrimental to their lives.

 Effects of Sound Doctrine

Sound doctrine strengthens the assembly. Our strength lies  in continuing to be “saints of the Book,” not only to study its truths  but to live in the power of them practically. The power of assembly  testimony lies in believers displaying the reality of true Christianity.  It is not enough to have sound doctrine if it does not hold and  change our lives for God. Believers need to be encouraged to study  the truths of Scripture personally in order to have a firm grasp and  understanding of the basic doctrines.  Sound doctrine keeps the assembly clean. By the proper  use of the Scriptures, an assembly will maintain conditions suitable  to the Presence of the Lord in the midst. It is like the laver, which  was essential for the proper functioning of priests before and unto  God. The standard to be maintained is that of God and His Word,  not the changing mores of the world that surround us.

Sound doctrine gives an assembly a definite purpose and  aim. If we see that our responsibility is to uphold and send forth the  Word of Truth; then as believers enjoy assembly fellowship, they  will realize for what is the purpose for which the assembly exists  and how it is to function.

Sound doctrine provides confidence for our lives, for our  service and for the future that we anticipate. The spiritual life is not  based on impressions or feelings, but upon the unchanging and  unchangeable Word of God. In the midst of the turmoil and  confusion of men today, what a blessing it is to be able to lay hold  on “Thus saith the Lord” and go on for the honor of His Name! With  the Lord’s help to support us in our weakness and lack of exercise,  may we seek to maintain local assemblies that are faithful to the  Lord, a blessing to His people and a light to the lost until He comes!