Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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After many years of laboring in the vineyard of God, Paul “the aged man” wrote two letters containing precious instructions to Timothy, the young man whom Paul called “my own son in the faith.” There are many wonderful insights that we could harvest from the rich fields of those two letters, one of which concerns Paul’s wisdom concerning the importance of doctrine.
When we read those two letters from Paul to Timothy, we see that the old apostle stresses the great importance to the saints of being taught what is right. Consider the following examples of Paul’s thoughts concerning doctrine when he was an old and wise apostle; they are to be given great weight for they must have been in harmony with the thoughts and desires of God.
By the time in his life when he wrote to Timothy, Paul had seen too many times the devastation that false doctrine brings into the lives of God’s people, and he was adamant from his opening comments in his first letter that Timothy command some there in Ephesus “that they teach no other doctrine” (1Tim. 1:3; 4:11). Young Timothy was in a battle for the souls of the saints in Ephesus, and it was no time for equivocation.
Paul had sent Timothy to Ephesus to salvage what he could of the believers who lived in that city. For a while now, there had been in Ephesus a number of false teachers coming into the congregation, some actually sprang up from among the saints there - just as Paul had earlier prophesied that some elders in Ephesus would do (Acts 20:28-30). There were several false doctrines taught by these false teachers. One that Paul mentions concerns the issue of slavery. Some of the false teachers apparently held the opinion that to hold slaves was sinful, and by inciting slaves to rebel against their masters they “consented not to wholesome words, even to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine that is according to godliness” (1Tim. 6:2-3). It was important to God and to Paul that believing slaves hold their believing masters in high esteem “and not despise them”, but the teachers who relied upon their own reasoning, and called it truth, offered a different view of things. Paul described these men as “proud, knowing nothing”. Those teachers did not understand the truth, and so they could not believe that slaves who showed disrespect to their earthly masters would cause sinners to blaspheme both God and His doctrine (1Tim. 6:1). And to bring a reproach on the doctrine of Christ was a most grievous sin.
Paul also disclosed to Timothy that the saints in Ephesus would in the future refuse to submit to sound doctrine. Instead of hearing the doctrine of Christ, Paul told Timothy they would hire men to teach them what their flesh wanted to hear (2Tim. 4:3). And because they would turn from the truth, prophesied Paul, God would give their hired teachers power to persuade them to trust in fables (2Tim. 4:4). This prediction was not guesswork on Paul’s part; God Himself told Paul in plain words that it would happen (1Tim. 4:1). Paul obviously felt that an indication that someone has drifted from the pathway of holiness is a lack of love for the doctrine of Christ.
In one place, Paul told Timothy that he was coming to see him and that, until then, Timothy should give himself to reading the Scriptures, to exhorting the brothers, and to doctrine (1Tim. 4:13). This must be done, Paul insisted, in order for Timothy and for the saints there with him to be saved from the coming wrath of God (1Tim. 4:16). In the meantime, he later added, Timothy was to show “double honor” to the elders in the congregation who labored “in the word and in doctrine” (1Tim. 5:17).
Sound doctrine provides a high moral standard for people to live by; therefore, Paul told Timothy, all sins, including murder, lying, and immorality, are “contrary to sound doctrine” (1Tim. 1:10). In other words, false doctrine might well lead God’s children to commit such vile sins, whereas true doctrine will keep them forever from such conduct. It is very important to God that His children understand this, and so, it was very important to Paul that they understand it.
How good it is when the children of God walk in the truth! The apostle John told one congregation that he had no greater joy on earth than to hear that his children in the Lord were walking in the true doctrine of God (3Jn. 4). No greater joy! Paul would have felt the same way.