Tit. 1:9 – “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”
There are five basic tests for false doctrine. Some have strange teachings about the Godhead, some say God knows some aspects of the future but not all, others say we are little gods, and beliefs like Mormonism say God gave new scripture to its founder that supersedes the Bible, while Roman Catholicism says we are justified by faith, but not by faith alone. All over we see so many extremes and for every true doctrine, there seems to be a hundred false ones. How do we sort through the madness? Let’s look at the five tests for false doctrines…..
The Test of Origin – Sound doctrine originates from God, and false doctrine originates from something or someone created by God. Paul made great effort to show that his gospel was not man-made, but given by God (Gal. 1:11-12). Even Jesus did the same (John 7:16). The test: Does this doctrine originate from God or from someone or something else? How do we know? Most times, it’s obvious. When it’s not, we turn to the second test.
The Test of Authority – Sound doctrine bases its authority from the Bible, while false doctrine relies on extra-Biblical authority. Every part of the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and so the Bible is more than sufficient to tell us all God needs us to know. Doctrines that originate in the mind of God are recorded or taught in the Bible. The test: Does this doctrine resort to the Bible as its only and final authority? Does it appeal to any extra-Biblical material or source? If two teachers, for example, claim the Bible as authority, and yet their teachings are conflicting, how do we know which is false? By looking to the third test.
The Test of Consistency – Sound doctrine is consistent with the whole of scripture, but false doctrine is inconsistent with parts of scripture. We are warned about “divers and strange doctrines” (Heb. 13:9) and accepting a “different doctrine (1 Tim. 1:3; 6:3). There is no contradiction in God’s mind, so there can be no contradiction in scripture. If scripture did originate in God’s mind, and it did, then it must be consistent throughout. What the Bible teaches in one place cannot be refuted in another. The test: is this doctrine established or refuted by the entirety of scripture? We must further consider two more tests.
The Test of Spiritual Growth – Sound doctrine is useful for spiritual health, while false doctrine leads to spiritual frailty (1 Tim. 4:6). It makes for spiritually healthy, mature and knowledgeable Christians, while false doctrine empowers people who may not even be Christians in the first place.
The Test of Godly Living – Sound doctrine inspires for godly living, while false doctrine tends to ungodly living. Truth has not been grasped until it has been lived. The implications of sound doctrine must be a life that lives it. We therefore conclude that sound doctrine originates from God, is recorded in the Word of God, is consistent with all of Scripture, and leads to both spiritual health and godly living. For a doctrine to be sound, it must pass all these tests. If it fails one, it fails all (2 Tim. 1:13, Tit. 2:1). The term “sound” is analogous to sound health. So, sound doctrine means doctrine that is healthy. You must ask, based on the evidence, is this doctrine healthy for me? Your responsibility is, having tested a doctrine, to hold fast to sound doctrines, and reject false ones. As we take responsibility for the things we believe, God will make His grace abound to us to live the truth until His return. Amen.
Have a blessed day – Carl Erinle