I read once that the creator of the classic Peanuts cartoons, Charles Shultz, once painted a little picture of Lucy and Linus in their home looking out a window at a thunderstorm. Lucy is worried that all this rain would flood the whole world. Linus responded by referring to Genesis 9:13-14 and God’s promise to Noah that he would never again send a flood that would cover the whole earth, putting the rainbow in the sky as a promise that this would be true. Lucy sighed and said, “You’ve taken a great load off my mind.” Linus replied, “Sound theology has a way of doing that.”
He’s right. Sound theology, or doctrine, gives us steady assurance of continuity in a world filled with change. It helps us to make sure of what we are to believe and how we are to behave. Along that line, we need to make sure of these things:
First, we mustn’t mistake man-made traditions for the true doctrine of God (Matt. 15:9). If the doctrine we are teaching is not the doctrine taught in the Bible then it is man-made. We must make sure we understand a distinction here. Simply because we are able to fashion a doctrine from a compilation of Bible verses doesn’t make it Bible doctrine. The intended biblical patterns of the New Testament are for the church to follow for all time. The invented patterns of many Christians today are nothing more than Scripture taken out of context and forced into supporting some pet belief.
Secondly, we mustn’t mistake “smooth talk and flattery” for the true doctrine of God (Rom. 16:17-18). Sadly, many people can be persuaded of just about anything depending on the communication skills of the communicator. We need to be a discerning people who “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
Thirdly, we must understand that sound doctrine is not just about baptism, communion, how Revelation is interpreted, etc. It is also about how we live our lives. Paul told Timothy that the law is good if one uses it lawfully and then lists behavioral sins such as profanity, fornication, and lying to be “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:8-10). In all we do we should be “showing all good faith, so that in everything (we) may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Tit. 2:10).
Only when God’s people are consistently fed a steady diet of sound doctrine can they grow into mature Christian men and women (1 Tim. 4:6-7; Tit. 1:9). That they hear it is no guarantee that they will grow (James 1:22-25), but not hearing it is a guarantee that they won’t. Like Linus said, sound doctrine has a way of making you feel a whole lot better. It gives us an objective standard by which to measure ourselves and a promise of steadiness in a world filled with change.