October 6, 2016
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4. We are living in the time that Paul was talking about. New Age, Yoga, Meditation, Contemplative Prayer, political correctness, Prosperity Gospel, and many more heresies are creeping into Christian congregations and none of these are sound doctrine. Even the outright rejection of Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation is being preached from some pulpits. How did we get to the place where sound Biblical doctrine is rejected, but satanic lies are embraced? It’s sad to think of how many people refuse to accept Christ because Biblical truth doesn’t fit their lifestyle. Sound doctrine is not endured by many people today.
If you aren’t interested in Biblical truth, it’s easy to find someone who teaches a “warm and fuzzy” lie. Itching ears can always find someone to scratch them. If you’re looking to condone a particular sin, you can find a book to support your error or a group that makes you feel good about unsound doctrine. Are you old enough to remember Flip Wilson and his comedy routine about the “Church of What’s Happening Now”? It was funny then, but today it isn’t so much a joke as reality. Instead of preachers speaking sound Biblical doctrine their sermons are silenced by laws that require them to sidestep God’s truth and we seem to think that’s acceptable. In order to remain tax free they become politically correct instead of Biblically correct. The same sin that gripped Sodom and Gomorrah is gripping people today, but sound doctrine is not endured…it’s not politically correct. Is it wrong for the man in the pulpit to speak against adultery? What if he offends Mr. Smith and Mrs. Jones, or even Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones? Will they keep giving money if their sin is preached against? After all, this is 21st century and we’ve become more tolerant, right? Wrong. God hasn’t changed and Christians need to hold fast to Scripture and live to please Him rather than expect Him to change to accommodate us. God wrote on the stone tablets “Thou shalt not commit adultery. ” Exodus 20:14, and Jesus said “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28. That’s sound doctrine. God wrote it on stone tablets, Jesus confirmed it, and this truth hasn’t changed. Always look to God’s word for doctrine instead of to a denomination or the government. Then live by what God says.
It’s time for men of integrity who are not afraid to stand on the sound doctrine as found in God’s word to speak out. Women too need to hold fast to God’s truth and stop compromising. The first Christians faced many troubles and persecution. People from both Greek and Hebrew backgrounds joined together to serve Christ and care for each other. Disputes arose and the need for overseers was evident. To be sure everyone’s needs were met, men were appointed who could be trusted to serve honestly and without showing favors to one group or the other. “And the saying please the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.” Acts 6:5-6. Stephen is described as “… full of faith and of the Holy Ghost” and that quality should be evident in every Christian. He was a man who didn’t follow false doctrine or scratch itchy ears to appease others. He served God and studied Scripture. “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” Acts 6:8. Could he have done those wonders and miracles if he had compromised his faith? God can use us in spite of failures, but standing firm on God’s word will allow us to be used by Him in powerful ways.
When we take time to study God’s word it becomes easier to see the sin in our own life and ask for God’s forgiveness. It also helps us to take a stand against false teaching. Stephen’s miraculous activity was noticed by Jewish leaders who were trying to stop Christianity from spreading, and so Stephen was arrested. False witnesses were brought in with false accusations. Stephen could have compromised his faith by tickling ears in order go along with political correctness, but he chose to stand on God’s word. He had studied Scripture and wasn’t afraid to speak truth, even in the face of death. Stephen gave a Jewish history lesson to the high priest and all who were within earshot and didn’t back down from the truth. From Abraham to Solomon and the building of the Temple, Stephen told of how they had always resisted God. “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murders: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.” Acts 7:51-53. Stephen showed how they had rejected God in the past and how they had rejected their Messiah, the Just One. His words brought anger to those who accused him of blasphemy, but as Stephen didn’t back down. People who will not endure sound doctrine will always refuse to listen. “Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.” Acts 7:57-58. How ironic. The very man who held the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen for preaching sound doctrine would years later write the letter to Timothy warning that sound doctrine would not be endured and people would have itchy ears. Because Stephen was not afraid to speak truth he bore a strong witness for our Lord, Jesus Christ. Saul later would be known as Paul. After his conversion he fearlessly spoke God’s truth and wrote many letters encouraging us in sound doctrine.
Stephen began his speech with God’s call to Abraham and the establishment of the line that would bring the Messiah to the world. The foundation of Christian faith is rooted in Jewish history, but Christianity has not replaced Israel in God’s plan. Many Christian denominations teach the heretical doctrine that the ekklēsia (the called out body of Christ) has replaced Israel in God’s eyes. This is absolutely not true. Our faith is in the Jewish Messiah who entered His creation just as the Jewish prophets foretold. He fulfilled the Law but did not abolish it. The Law gives us a good idea of what God expects from us; the Ten Commandments are still valid and are to be obeyed. Jesus’ blood sacrifice took away our sin instead of just covering it. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” Hebrews 10:4. Sound doctrine begins in the Old Testament and is fulfilled in the New Testament. Sin is defined in the Law, but forgiveness of that sin is found only through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
The only way to discern sound doctrine is to study God’s word. God’s truth runs from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21. God has not changed and neither have humans. We still try to twist Scripture to make it say what we want so we can pretty much keep on sinning and figure it’s okay with God. We don’t want to endure sound doctrine because that might require us to change our mind about sin in our life and view it as God does. It might cause us to repent and live our life so as to please God. Paul is a good example of how our life should change to please God. Once Paul met Jesus his life was changed forever. He never again held cloaks as stones were thrown at someone for preaching the truth of Jesus Christ. In fact, he was stoned, beaten, imprisoned, and beheaded for speaking God’s truth. Paul never spoke false doctrine, but through his knowledge of Old Testament Scripture and the truth of the Gospel taught others sound doctrine. As he travelled he would often begin teaching in a synagogue in spite of the fact that they usually rejected his message of the Good News of Jesus Christ. One such place he taught was in Berea and they were astute enough to check Scripture to see if what he preached was true. “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11. Do you search the Scriptures to see if what you are being taught is true? If you’re willing to have your itchy ears tickled then you won’t care one way or the other about God’s truth. That’s a pity.
Stephen was martyred because he spoke the truth, but his reward was great. He used Old Testament Scripture to show that Jesus was the Messiah. The Bereans also used Old Testament Scripture to test Paul’s teaching and found it to be the truth. Today we still need to study all of Scripture to be sure that we understand God’s word and have been taught sound doctrine; we need to rebuke false teachers. “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” 2 Timothy 4:2. It takes time and effort to study Scripture. Get busy.
We live in the time that sound doctrine isn’t politically correct, but there’s no excuse for accepting what is unacceptable to God.
God bless you all,
Ron Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.