Why Sound Doctrine & Teaching Is a Matter of Life and Death

October 10, 2019

Acts 20:25-31 (NIV)

“Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.


Doctrine matters. We live in an age where people seem to want it to matter less and less.

One of the things I love about Paul is the way he sees sound teaching as a matter of life and death. Check it out: Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you.  And then this: For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.  Yesterday he reminded us he had taught publicly and from house to house.

Paul’s greatest fear for the young church was not that people would lose their faith and leave the community. He knew that false teachers and bad doctrine were far more dangerous to the life of the church than the lukewarm commitment of its members. He called them “Savage Wolves.” For Paul, false teaching did not present itself or “appear” like a pack of savage wolves terrorizing a flock of sheep. This was the aftermath. He warned them so fiercely, because he knew they would not see it coming. And he knew it would leave nothing but carnage in its wake. 

It brings me no pleasure to say this, but we face a similar moment today as we are rapidly moving into an era of false teaching across the church. It centers largely around our theology (or lack thereof) of the human body, gender and sexuality, all of which proceed from our understanding of the will of God as revealed through Scripture. Like Paul, we must not hesitate to proclaim the whole will of God. Just as it was with these early Christians, so it is with us—a matter of life and death.

Let me offer a final warning from today’s text. It exposes what is largely missing in today’s conflicted battleground over these matters.

Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. 

For Paul, sound doctrine and teaching were not mere matters of right and wrong but of life and death; not about winning or losing but the real lives of real people. Hear the profound depth of compassion in his words again:

Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. 

Could it be that the Word of God needs less defense and more offense— more clear articulation and compassionate application? What if we spent the next three years warning people night and day with tears? Maybe I am naive. I had to ask.




What about those last two questions: Could it be that the Word of God needs less defense and more offense—more clear articulation and compassionate application? What if we spent the next three years warning people night and day with tears?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

4 Responses

  1. Thank you for your post. My son went to a preschool that is affiliated with one of the churches in the attached article. Think about that. How many children in that school, which is still operating, are affected by that kind of teaching? Terrifying.

  2. The UMC is in the mess it is now because the teaching of basic orthodox Christianity–which is NOT modern fundamentalism–has not had a strong presence for a very long time. My own experience is that the gospel is the best kept secret of the UMC. It is no wonder people are talking past each other; they each have a different perspective as to what Christianity is about–they are talking apples and oranges at each other. Finally getting a grasp of who God is and who I am and the lengths to which he has gone to heal the breach between us–the breach we created–has totally changed my perspective on the homosexuality argument: it is the result of once again, in the age old story of rebellion and redemption, humanity has done what it does best, wandered off and muffed the message of the existence of a triune God of holy love who is most definitely way more verb than noun; an unfathomable God of mystery who loves each of us more than we could ever think about loving ourselves; and we are a rebellious lot; incurable control freaks who do not understand that there is a Savior, and it is most definitely not me. I am still waiting to hear that truth proclaimed on Sunday morning.

  3. Five sisters raised together. One is living a homosexual lifestyle. We love her so much. So why don’t I be honest with her. She is now married to the woman here in Tennessee. Never thought it would happen in my lifetime. It would devastate her to know the truth of how out of God’s will she is. She chooses not to believe in the God who has a will. And now I’m afraid to shatter our close relationship by talking about it. The gospel would be offensive to her. That is the culture we are living in. And some of us are too meek to address it.

  4. Dear Mr. Walt-
    At first sidestepping the ‘nudge’ from the Holy Spirit, it morphed into more of a shove…so here it is.
    The first nudge was in response to your posting on September 11. ‘Where Paul went wrong’ is indeed dangerous ground to enter! If anyone in the history of the Gospel was Holy Spirit led, it was Paul! God knew his ‘wiring’ and used it for His Kingdom purposes. Claiming his Roman citizenship pointed out underhanded wrongdoing by the officials, possibly circumventing any such conduct with future victims. If the Holy Spirit led Paul to use the citizenship card on that occasion and not on others, it is not ours to question. Placing doubt on Paul’s actions or motives is the same as saying that he was not Spirit led, and that is NOT ours to do!
    Following, the post on September 12 was also disturbing. Yes, in our day we tend to strategize concerning evangelism with plots, plans, and committee meetings by the droves. Just as the Spirit on several occasions ‘prevented’ entry into certain regions, they were led to certain locations by the Holy Spirit. Assuming our current social mores and cloaking them around Paul’s story is a huge assumption. Thinking that Paul and company held strategy meetings rather than simply allowing the Spirit to lead is again trying to put them on our current timetable.
    The latest example is the most disturbing. Matthew 10:19-20 offers, “…do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Holy Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Your September 18 posting asked the question, “Does he really share the gospel or has he been lured into the seduction of ‘smart talk?’” Once again, placing anything Paul said or did into a modern context is ludicrous as we can only guess what the times were truly like…and questioning his words or actions is tantamount to claiming that he ‘tuned out’ to the ministering the of Spirit during that occasion.
    The September 19 post was likewise disturbing. “Paul’s famous Mars Hill Plenary Address picks up a few stragglers, Dionysius and Damaris and a non-descript “number of others.” Maybe I’m pushing the text at this point, but I find it interesting in this instance they are called “followers of Paul.” Not too many chapters ago we were calling them followers of “the way.” GOD KNEW THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF PAUL’S LISTENERS AND WHO NEEDED TO HEAR WHAT AND WHEN, and it all could have been put in place for ONE of those ‘stragglers’!!! Sarcasm and cynicism while undermining Paul’s motives is not Biblical as 2Timothy 3:16 reminds us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful in teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.”
    Adding our own opinions is harmful to the Gospel, especially with a platform as large as the Daily Text. Slurring a Spirit led speech with ‘Mars Hill Plenary Address’ is irreverent. It also gives permission to anyone who looks to the Daily text for spiritual guidance to pick and choose which parts of Scripture to believe/not believe and to slur at will –DANGEROUS!
    I have been a reader for quite a while and have gleaned much wisdom from your Spirit led teachings. I fear that, in an effort to appear more ‘modern’ and ‘relevant,’ a tendency to paint Biblical days and happenings with a paintbrush of today’s times is occurring. September 20th’s assumption that Paul is again strategizing by returning to tent making for a time is a good example. Perhaps there was a specific person within that tent making community who needed to be reached – we don’t know. It does, however, dilute the message of Scripture to interject our current opinions into it as it can stand on its own. Younger readers or new Christians may assume that their own ‘current’ interpretation of Scripture is just fine… if a respected teacher takes such liberties, it must be okay!
    One more ‘modern’ reference that is inappropriate is alluding to the Harry Potter series. It is based completely on witchcraft, something the Bible speaks strongly against in any form.
    Proverbs 30:5-6 admonishes that “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”
    Walking the journey together,
    Elaine Britt

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