Summary: This sermon teaches why theology is important and how we should treat those who disagree with our understanding of the Truth.
There was once a man in San Francisco walking along the Golden Gate Bridge, and he saw a second man about to jump over the edge. He stopped him and said, "Surely it can't be that bad. You know God loves you." The man about to jump got a tear in his eye. He said, "Are you a Christian or a Jew or a Hindu?" The fellow said, "I'm a Christian."
"Me, too. Are you Protestant or Catholic?"
"I am, too. What Denomination?"
"So am I. Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?"
"That's a miracle! I am, too. Are you Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?"
"Northern Conservative Baptist."
"Me, too. Are you Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist or Northern Conservative Reformed Baptist?"
"I'm Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist"
"Me, too. Are you Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes region or Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Eastern region?"
"I'm Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes region."
"So am I. Are you Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes region council of 1897 or Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes region council of 1912?"
"I'm Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes region council of 1912."
With that, the would-be rescuer screamed "Die, heretic," and threw the poor man over the bridge!
You might have heard one of the several versions of this humorous story. It serves to remind us of the extremes that some Christians go through to preserve what they regard as theological purity! We find humor in this story because it exaggerates the propensity that we have to take matters of essential doctrine too far.
I am preaching this today especially for our young people and for those who are new Christians. As you have come to learn, theology is important at Faith Bible Church. Yet we live during a time when many scoff at the Christian faith and our belief in absolutes that are derived from the Bible. Not only is there strong disagreement about our belief in biblical absolutes, Christians themselves disagree on points of doctrine. Some scoffers point to theological disagreements among Christians as one more proof that Christianity doesn’t work.
Today I would like to demonstrate why theology is important and how we should treat those who disagree with our understanding of the Truth.
We begin with Paul’s First letter to Timothy. This Epistle is regarded as one of Paul’s “Pastoral epistles” because it was written to Timothy, a pastor. There is also a very strong emphasis on the local church. Paul’s purpose in writing to Timothy was to encourage him to stand up to false teachers who were a threat to the church in Ephesus, where Timothy was sent to lead a local congregation. We see this admonition in the opening of the epistle:
“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.” (1 Timothy 1:3–7, ESV)
As Paul continues his letter, he lists a series of serious sins that Timothy was to preach against. These include “lawless, disobedient, ungodly, sinners, unholy, profane, those who strike thier fathers and mothers, murderers, sexually immoral, homosexuality, enslavers, liars, purjurers, whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” The importance of sound doctrine (verse 11) is at the same level as other sins that we might regard as more notorious. Doctrine is important.
But how do we ensure that we are holding to sound doctrine?
Before we get to the specifics about how to be certain of our doctrine, it is important to recognize that God expects that we know the Truth with certainty!
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29, ESV)
There are some things that only God knows, but he intends that we know the things that he has revealed to us in His Word.
Israel was expected to obey God’s Word and to disregard anyone who mis-represented it.
God provided a test to know whether or not a prophet was speaking for God. “ When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:20–22, see also Deuteronomy 13:1-5)