The Need for Basic Bible Doctrine
Tim Temple

Introduction

The first thing that we want to think about in this introductory study is the centrality of the Scripture in God's plan. In a beginning course on Bible doctrine, we need to understand the importance of scriptural principles. Why are we going to spend several weeks studying these things, and in fact, why should we base our worship services around the study and teaching of the Word of God? Why do we focus on that so much at Abilene Bible Church?

A fascinating verse to me is Psalm 138, verse 2, which says:

Psalms 138:

2I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.

Centrality of Scripture in God's Plan

The Word of God, in a sense, is even more important than the very name of God because without the Word of God, we wouldn't know the name of God, and so the Word of God has a very central place in God's plan. If the Word of God is not true, then nothing else is either because the Bible is the place that we find the focal point of all that we believe and practice. So we want to look at this familiar passage in II Timothy, chapter 3, verses 16-17, which talks about the centrality of Scripture in God's plan:

II Timothy 3:

16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Here we have the statement of the means by which we have received the Word of God and the purpose for which we have received it. Always keep in mind that these verses are not just saying that the subject of God is inspiring. It is inspiring to talk about God, but when we read here in II Timothy, chapter 3, verses 16-17, that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, it is not talking about inspiration in the sense that we often think about it from a human standpoint such as an inspiring poem or an inspiring hymn. Rather, what this says is that God actually wrote the words of the Bible through human authors.

We have talked before about the fact that technically, linguistically, the word inspiration is a translation of the Greek word Theopneustos , which means “God breathed”—that God literally breathed out His Word. So it is a statement of the fact that what we have here is God's Word to us in writing.

It is interesting, too, that even with all the modern communications systems that we have and the advanced technology that we have, it is still important to have things in writing, isn't it? We sometimes hear about a business deal that is made over the telephone or is made over a lunch or something; but once that deal is made, even though it has been agreed to, it has to be put in writing and is really not legal unless there is something written and signed and properly executed. So the same thing is true with God's Word. It is His Word to us and that ought to be enough. If God spoke to us audibly, that would be all we would need for authority, but for our sake God actually went to the trouble of putting it in writing. He spoke to us in the person of Jesus Christ. He spoke to us audibly in the person of Jesus Christ, or at least that generation of humans who were alive when Jesus was on the earth. I say again that God went to the trouble of actually putting it in writing for us. If we think about that in the context of the importance of written documents in our society, and it has always been true throughout history, then we realize God has done a very special thing for us in literally writing His Word for us.

Designed to be Profitable

Notice also that these verses tell us that the Word of God is not only given by God, but it is profitable. It is meant to be something that is useful to us. Again, I think we fall into the habit of thinking of the Bible and of Bible study as some kind of rigorous academic routine and something that we have to work at. There is a sense in which it takes work to master the truths of the Word of God, but this is not just an academic exercise. It is something that God designed for our profit. It is useful to us and, in fact, He lists the things for which it is useful.

He had in mind a useable book, and He lists for us five things for which it is useful. First, in verse 16, He said: “It is profitable, it is useful for doctrine.” The word doctrine is a translation of a word that means “teaching.” We talk about Bible doctrine. We talk about the doctrine of this or the doctrine of that, but it basically means “the teaching of any particular aspect of truth,” so the Word of God is useful to us in giving us God's viewpoint of things. It establishes what God's standards are. It establishes what God's goals for us are. It gives us the truth, so the Word of God is profitable. It is useable for truth, for goals, for standards, for God's viewpoint on things.

As we come to know the Word of God, we find that the more we know the Word of God, the more we see that God's standards are often quite different from man's standards; God's perspective on things is quite different from man's perspective on things. As I have pointed out to you a number of times, I believe since we are living in the end of the age and Jesus Himself warned us that evil men would wax worse and worse and Peter tells us that in the last times scoffers will come, that is going to be even more pronounced. But God's standards and God's perspective on things are going to be even more divergent from man's viewpoint on things. It is useful; it is profitable for doctrine.

It is profitable for reproof , which is a word that means “to show us when we have violated the truth.” Not only does God's Word teach us the truth, but it also points out to us when we have veered from that truth. The Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and convicts our hearts. God, for His own mysterious purposes which is all tied in with His honor and glory, has left it up to us what we are going to do with that reproof; but the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and reminds us when we have veered away from the standards, the goals, the doctrines for which it is profitable.

The wonderful thing is that, thirdly, it is profitable for correction, which here is the standard established by God's Word. Then as we study the Word of God, if we veer off course, if we get away from God's standard, the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God that we know and He rings an alarm and He convicts us of our variance from the standard. Not only does He remind us that we are off course, but the Word of God will actually give us correction about how to get back on course, so it is profitable from that standpoint also. He doesn't just leave us knowing that something is wrong and not being able to figure out what it is. The Holy Spirit will use the Word of God to show us what we need to do to get back to God's standard.

Fourth is instruction in righteousness, and that tells us how to stay on course before we ever get off or once we get off and get back on course, how to stay. The idea is a continuing process of righteous, obedient living. The result of all that is in verse 17. What is the purpose of the Word of God? That the man of God may be complete or be mature. The King James Version says “may be perfect,” but the sense of that word is “complete” or “mature.” That is the idea. God's purpose is to bring us to maturity, to bring us to stability.

The reason I am mentioning this is that this ties in with the need for the study of basic Bible doctrines because God has no other plan for maturity. God's plan for maturity is that we know the Word of God and that we store it in our hearts so that the Holy Spirit can use it when we get off course to get us back on course and to keep us on course. That is God's plan for maturity.

Let's turn back to the gospel of Luke and look at a story that Jesus told. In the Gospel of Luke there is an example of someone who thought that the plan could be circumvented. In Luke, chapter 16, is the story of the rich man and the beggar. Let's just read through the story to refresh your memory. Notice, beginning with verse 19:

Luke 16:

19There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
27Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
28For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

Let's stop our reading there. Here is a story that some Bible scholars say is a parable. This is another thing that seminary students debate about in the coffee shop—whether this is a parable or whether it is a literal story. I personally believe that this is a literal happening that Jesus told about. I don't think that this is a parable. I could explain to you from the standpoint that it does not meet all the characteristics of parables, etc., but that is beside the point. Whether it is a parable or not, the point that it makes is the same. The principle that it establishes is the same. Then there is something else about this story that you need to know and that is that if it is not a parable, if it is a literal story as I believe it is, it also tells us something about the difference between paradise in the Old Testament and Heaven in the New Testament.

One of our basic Bible doctrines that we are going to cover is the doctrine of Heaven. We will talk about the difference between Heaven in the Old Testament and Heaven in the New Testament in a later lesson, but for our purposes right now let's just think of it—and technically this is true—that the beggar died and went to Heaven and the rich man died and went to Hell. The beggar did not go to Heaven because he was a beggar. The rich man did not go to Hell because he was rich. This isn't teaching that rich people go to Hell. The whole point was that the beggar had believed in Jesus Christ and the rich man had not; but the rich man was in Hell and he said, “Send Lazarus to just drop a drop of water on my tongue,” and Father Abraham explained that it was not possible to do that.

Here is the reason I have turned to this story. In verse 27, he said:

Luke 16:

27Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
28For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

Moses and the prophets was a description of the Old Testament which was all of the Bible that they had in Jesus' day, and the Bible was referred to often as Moses and the prophets . Basically what Jesus quotes Abraham as saying is, “They have the Bible; let them read the Bible. They have the Old Testament; let them read it.” In verse 30, he said, “No, Father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” In other words, they are not going to repent by just reading the Bible, but if somebody came to them from the dead, they would repent. That would seem to be an understatement, wouldn't it? You would think that somebody would repent if someone came from the dead, but look what Jesus said in verse 31:

Luke 16:

31And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

In the context of Luke's gospel, what Jesus is saying is the very same thing that He said in very different words in II Timothy, chapter 3, verse 16-17, and that is that God's means of communicating to people is the Word of God, not climactic experiences like somebody coming from the dead. From a human standpoint, we would think that somebody coming from the dead would do it. If anything was going to convince unbelievers, that would do it. Jesus said, “If they won't believe the Bible, they won't believe even if somebody came from the dead.” The point is that the Word of God is central in God's plan. It is God's means of maturity and for that reason, I think we need to be careful in our church activities and in our testimonies that we put our stress on the Bible. Certainly there is room for things that are entertaining while we present various aspects of the Bible, but it is my opinion that we live in a day when there is too much emphasis on flashy techniques. We have the idea that if we can just put on a flashy enough show, we will get people to Christ. To some extent, that might be true if our purpose is to get them in to hear the Gospel, but it is the Word of God that works in people's hearts. It is not the techniques. It is not the flashy activities and it is not the entertainment that is so much of what claims to be Christianity seems to major in.

Chaos Without Scripture in God's Plan

So that is the centrality of the Word of God, but what happens if someone either is unwilling to go that route or is ignorant of that route? Ephesians, chapter 4, has a passage that describes what I am calling the chaos without Scripture in God's plan. What would happen if we did not have the Word of God? What would happen if we just somehow had to figure out what God would want us to do or what ought to be the right way to live? Ephesians, chapter 4, talks about that same question. First, the context of this is in verse 14-15. He says:

Ephesians 4:

14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

The context of what we are about to look at is spiritual maturity. In the verses just before these, he talks about how God has given to the Church some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, some pastors and teachers. Notice verse 11:

Ephesians 4:

11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

He is talking about the place of the local church in God's plan of bringing His people to maturity. The context here is the same thing—spiritual maturity and how God plans to bring about that maturity in the lives of believers through the ministry of the Word of God in the context of the local church. That is another thing to keep in mind—that although there are very effective para-church ministries, God intends that our real stability and our real maturity comes from the local church. Every one of us needs to be involved in a local church. No matter how much you may enjoy some television program or how much you may be impressed by some evangelistic ministry—those things are fine and they have their place—the thing God outlines in His Word is the local church. Those other ministries may augment, may supplement, the work of the local church and the local church may support or help to support some of those works. There doesn't need to be competition. The thing we need to understand clearly is that God's established means of doing it is through the local church. If some of these other things can fit in with the local church so that some of these other things can be sponsored by the local church, that is fine, but God's focus is on the gifted men and women who He gives to the local church for the edifying of the saints.

Having said all of that, verses 17-18 point out a contrast. Notice down in verse 17, where we read:

Ephesians 4:

17This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

Let's stop our reading there for just a minute. The subject of these next verses is “do not live like unbelievers do.” The word walk there is a term that describes living. Very often the Scripture talks about our life as a walk and the Christian life, particularly as a walk. He says, “Since our focus is on maturity, and since our focus is on maturity, particularly, through the fellowship of the local church, the ministry of the local church, this I say therefore and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk.” In other words, “We should not live the same way unbelievers live. We should not have the same standards and goals, etc.”

How do they walk? The last phrase of verse 17 answers that question: “…in the vanity of their mind.” That word vanity is a translation of a word that is very significant. The Greek word that is used here for the word vanity is the Greek word mataiotes and that is a very significant word because it does not mean just emptiness. It is more specific than that. The Greek word mataiotes speaks of a vacuum, and a vacuum is more than an emptiness, isn't it? A vacuum is not just emptiness. A vacuum is an emptiness that seeks to be filled and that draws in whatever is around it. That is very significant because not only does the unbeliever have an emptiness of the mind, he actually has a craving for that emptiness to be filled. The philosopher Hagal said many years ago, “There is within every human being a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill.” Human beings try to fill that vacuum with all kinds of other things. It's not just an emptiness like a vacant field out behind your house or on your block and everybody just thinks that maybe someday there will be a house there. It is not that. It is an emptiness that is craving to be filled. One Bible teacher called it a “frantic search for happiness.” Unbelievers are continually trying to find something that will fill that need within them. It is a God-shaped vacuum, and only God can really fill it.

This is an emptiness of the mind. This is a mental attitude. It is not just a vague kind of a feeling somewhere down inside. It is not an emotional thing. It is not something that varies from personality to personality. It is an emptiness of the mind. It is a mental attitude, and because of that, the mind is constantly involved in analyzing and drawing in the things that might fill that desire for happiness and satisfaction.

Also the human mind can draw in some seemingly good things, some things that are in and of themselves all right. Church attendance, charity, conservative politics, all kinds of things that would seem to be very good on the surface, people throw themselves into in an effort to fill that vacuum, and a lot of good has been done in the world through people who have devoted themselves to these good causes. The only trouble is that that good is all going to be burned up when this world that we know is burned up and God creates a new heaven and a new earth. That good that has been done is only human good and it only will last as long as human beings last and a lot of it doesn't last that long.

Besides that, the Scripture tells us that anything that is done like that to try to win God's favor is just filthy rags in His sight. The good works that we do are used up in the doing of them. In Isaiah we are told that our righteousness is as filthy rags. They are used up just like a filthy rag is all used up in dirt or whatever it is used to wipe up. It is no longer useable for anything; it is all saturated with the filth that it has picked up, and our righteousnesses are saturated with whatever good was accomplished humanly. That is the problem. This is the way unbelievers walk. Not all that unbelievers do is good, obviously, but their minds are constantly seeking for something to fill the void in their lives. With some people, that might be bowling or sailing or who knows what. For others, it might be charitable deeds, but the point is the same. Those things are simply an emptiness of the mind.

Verses 18-19 talk about the continuing process of that. Notice as we read:

Ephesians 4:

18Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
19Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

Notice in verse 18 the word understanding. This is a translation of the Greek word dianoia and that word is a combination of two other Greek words. The word noia , which means “to think,” and the word dia which means “through”—the ability to think things through. This says that a person who is seeking to fill his own vacuum and just seeking to make life satisfying with whatever means he can eventually loses the ability to think things through clearly. The important thing we need to realize is that this emptiness can even be filled with good things and when a person is frantically seeking to fill that vacuum, he can fill it with such good things as church attendance; but because he can't think things through, church attendance is more important than what is being taught in church. That is why you find very fine upstanding, moral people in churches that are liberal to the core and churches that are using money that was intended to be used for God's purposes, used for all kinds of wicked purposes. There is documented evidence of that happening a lot, and because they are seeking to fill their own vacuum, they have lost the ability to think things through and they have come to the conclusion that it really doesn't matter what their church teaches and it really doesn't matter what they do with their money. It is just important to be there. They have lost the ability to think things through clearly. They have their understanding darkened.

The next step is in verse 19: Being past feeling. Just above this, Paul has been talking about the hardening of the heart, the blinding of their hearts. The word that is translated “hardening” or “blinding,” is a Greek word porosis , which is the word for “callousness.” This verse is saying that as a person loses his ability to think things through and as he continues trying to fill his own vacuum, he actually becomes calloused to the point that he doesn't have any sensitivity about spiritual things. He is just in a calloused condition and he thinks in terms of doing good and following a routine and trying to stay out of trouble. There is no real spiritual sensitivity at all.

Then the culmination is in the last part of verse 19: “…giving themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness, etc…” These are words that speak of sensual sin, sexual kinds of sins. A more modern term might be promiscuity . I believe in the context of Ephesians, chapter 4, these are just examples of the kinds of sins. They are not the only sins but they are the kinds of sins that can come into the lives of those who just seek to fill their own vacuum with whatever they can find. Throughout history people who may be outwardly doing a lot of good things, a political leader or some other recognized person, some moral, upstanding citizen we discover for years has had this sordid other side of his life going on, and this is because he has just been trying to fill the emptiness in whatever way he can. Some of it is filled with goodness, but at the same time, his mind has become blinded, his heart has become callused and he is not sensitive to true spiritual things, so all kinds of things creep into his life.

The conclusion to that is in verses 20-21:

Ephesians 4:

20But ye have not so learned Christ;
21If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:

The word learned here is an active voice word and it means “an active learning process.” The implication in verse 20 is if you are not practicing these things, if you are on the other hand learning Christ, if you are actively learning Christ and practicing what you know of Christ, then you will not be walking this way. Of course, the reverse is true, too. He has been describing unbelievers. Remember he said back in verse 17, “Don't walk like the rest of the Gentiles walk, the unbelieving Gentiles,” but the implication in verse 20 is for those believers who do not grow spiritually, it is possible for a believer to walk like an unbeliever. This same process that he describes in verses 17-19, can take place even with a believer. The difference is that with an unbeliever, the ultimate destiny is Hell unless they are saved out of that process. With the believer, the ultimate destiny is still Heaven, but loss of rewards unless they get back in fellowship somewhere along the line. The point is that it is possible for all of these things that are the process with unbelievers to happen to a believer. But if you are actively learning Christ, then we don't need to be concerned about that because our vacuum will be filled by the things of God as taught by the Word of God.

Conclusion

That is God's plan. That is why God has given us His Word so that that God-shaped vacuum can be filled by God. This is the reason that we are going to spend some time studying these basic Bible doctrines, but it really is the reason that we major in teaching the Bible in all of our services. It is the reason that we have our focus on the teaching of the Word of God and hopefully the application of the Word of God, because that is God's plan for our maturity.

The mind is going to be on something. That vacuum that exists within us is going to be filled with something. Let me ask you something. What is your vacuum being filled with? Fellowship with the Lord, as I pointed out in verse 20, is an active voice verb. It is something that we have to pursue in the sense of keeping our hearts open to the Lord, not that we work our way into fellowship or work our way into Heaven, but that we are very careful to guard our hearts and keep our hearts open to the things of God, to the truth that is revealed in His Word. Each of our minds is going to be filled with something. We all have that vacuum and God help us to let it be that our minds, our vacuum, will be filled with the Word of God.

That is our purpose in the next few weeks as we look at these various areas of the basic, foundational principles of the Word of God. We will be studying things like Heaven and Hell and the nature of God, who God is, who you are—just some very basic things that will build a foundation upon which you can learn some of the more complex doctrines of the Scripture.


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