George E. Darling Sr.
Several years ago I heard Brother C.R. Nichols tell the following story: “When a lad I heard a church member tell an illiterate man, with a large family, who wanted to preach, to ‘continue farming,’ your speech will bring adverse criticism and hurt the church.” The man replied: “I must preach the gospel. Even though they make fun of me, I will preach the gospel. If they put me in jail I will preach the gospel through the key hole. If they put me in a barrel I will preach the gospel through the bung hole.” That brethren, is the kind of determination that these men have and that kind of commitment will get the job done as they prove their valor by contending for the faith, but now the purpose of my coming is to speak on “Sound Doctrine.”
Let me say in the beginning that Sound Doctrine is the only doctrine that should be preached. I cannot conceive of anyone preaching anything, save the doctrine of Jesus Christ and His apostles. There are many wonderful definitions of the word “sound.” That it means wholesome, healthful doctrine. Today we can appreciate even more than ever the necessity of keeping the church pure, always in the defense of sound doctrine. God has always had a message for His messengers; and now as always, that message must be kept pure and delivered, as it is, without alteration, modification or apology,
But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine (Tit. 2:1). Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar (Pro. 30:5-6). If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness (1 Tim. 4:6-7).
Note, right along with the commands to teach sound doctrine, the good doctrine, there are warnings against the fables that corrupt sound doctrine. There is no substitution for preaching the truth. We have more job holding preachers in pulpits today than we have ever had before. To withhold God’s Word is to sin against Jehovah, defraud the people and show oneself a cringing coward and a time server, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:1-2).
I visited a congregation a short time ago and talked with one of the members about some things that I had heard of that the congregation was doing that I questioned. He answered: “Maybe some of the things we are doing are not in accord with the scriptures but I’ll tell you one thing, this congregation is doing more now than it has ever done before. Our contributions have tripled. We have doubled our attendance. We are “Marching for the Master and are doing Great Things!”—we used to use the slogan “Great things for God” now it is just “Great Things.” The preacher welcomed the visitors, and insisted they sign the Guest Register in the foyer (“foy-ya”), bragged on the members and thanked them for their presence! Named all of the sick in the community, giving the details of their illness, room number in the hospital, and addresses where they could send cards, gospel meetings in the area, etc. He spent about 22 minutes for announcements and 18 minutes for preaching the Word of God—and then apologized for going overtime on the sermon. There is a definite trend to substitute a ceremony for preaching the Word. We must attract large crowds, enroll great numbers and spend millions. Maybe the church is on the march, but too many who are marching with us have no conviction and would not know Sound Doctrine if they heard it and certainly would not tolerate it. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:3).
Now to Our Lesson
Brethren, of this I am sure, God intended for us to teach a doctrine and he intended that doctrine be sound. It was sound when he gave it and it is our responsibility to keep it that way. Only sound doctrine will save souls. There has always been a tendency to drift away from sound doctrine to a corrupt system. This can be seen in Paul’s warnings to the church at Thessalonica, the Ephesian elders and to Timothy (2 Thess. 2:3- 7; Acts 20:23; 2 Tim. 4:1-4).
This so called unity movement that is being ramrodded by Ketcherside—Garrett and that crew of God denying perverters of the gospel is simply the old doctrine of “it doesn’t make any difference what doctrine we follow, sincerity is the criterion.” Surely sincerity is a virtue, but it is not a test of sound doctrine. Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia shows the danger of turning from sound doctrine to a perverted doctrine. It happened so quickly that Paul was “amazed.” Members of the Lord’s church today need to recognize that we are no more immune to false teachers than the Galatians were. To me this is what needs to be emphasized today. It is obvious that people today, both in the church and out of the church do not appreciate sound doctrine, and a failure to appreciate will cause us to fall away and be damned (2 Thess. 2:11-12). I do not expect a denominational preacher to appreciate sound doctrine however one would think that every member of “the pillar and ground of the truth” would uphold it, but you know as well as I, many do not. They will compromise and apologize for the preaching of the truth; fail to live it and will persecute the man who has the courage to preach it. Popularity, social prestige, the love of money and friendship with the world has pulled many a church member into hell.
When a man can write several pages in defense of something he is doing or has done without quoting a single verse of Scripture and correctly applying it, that man has little appreciation for sound doctrine. When brethren refuse to discuss issues and problems that trouble the church also shows a lack of appreciation of sound doctrine. Brethren in the past who loved the truth were willing and ready to discuss their problems. Today not only are they unwilling to discuss but when they speak they refuse to be recorded.
Another indication of the lack of appreciation for sound doctrine in the church is the fact that some are not willing to defend the truth nor allow it done. Elders will not grant the use of church buildings nor lend their endorsement for a debate.
Let me quote a statement from the pen of J.D. Bales in his book Christian, Contend for Thy Cause, page 18: “Those who oppose the right kind of religious debating are either weak in the faith; afraid of their own position; afraid of the consequences of standing for the truth; or they are uninformed on the particular question under discussion.” This I believe is in harmony with sound doctrine.
Today we hear from every quarter, “don’t oppose the other man’s religion.” They criticize for criticizing and condemn for condemning. They say that we should never say what is right or wrong in religion lest we be guilty of judging and try to hide behind Matthew 7:1, then turn right around and have the unmitigated gall to criticize “negative preaching.”
It is a fact that our greatest dangers in the church has been and I guess always will be from within. The false teachers of Galatians 2:4 were on the inside and were corrupting sound doctrine. It was an inside job. The most dangerous ones today are not the avowed enemies of sound doctrine but those who are unconscious of the fact. And in many cases it is not their fault. Strong Christians are not made on “Blue John” or the skimmed milk of the Word, but from the meat of the Word. Paul knew what was needed when he said, “Preach the Word!” Speak the things that become sound doctrine. We need men who are willing to put their necks out and their heads on the chopping block. Men who are converted to the truth and who will take a stand. Preaching about the high cost of gasoline; the visiting nurse program or the cost of peanuts in China is not, at least in my way of thinking, speaking the things that become sound doctrine. We need preachers who are known for their ability to “contend earnestly for the faith” and not for being among the 10 best dressed men in the city.
Thank God, we do have men today, among them a host of young men of stalwart character, with deep convictions who would suffer themselves to be beheaded before they would deny the Lord or compromise His Word at any point or condition. May God’s blessing attend them!
Our growth in the past has not been due to expensive church buildings, we haven’t had them until recently. It has not been because we had the best educated preachers, for we have not had them. Our growth has been due to the power of the gospel, Preach the Word Brother—
Reprinted from The First Annual Bellview Lectures, 1975, Pensacola, Florida, “Remove Not the Ancients Landmarks.”