The Need for Doctrinal Preaching in the Church Today
by Tom McLemore
What is Doctrinal Preaching?
It seems that some disparage “doctrinal preaching” and belittle those whom they consider to engage in “doctrinal preaching.” One gets the impression that many of those who are in the pew today are not interested in “doctrinal preaching.”
What do these folks consider to be “doctrinal preaching?” Do they consider it to be preaching that declares the matters which distinguish New Testament Christianity from denominationalism? Do they consider it to be preaching that condemns worldliness and immorality and that contends for the truth of the Bible in the face of political correctness? What do they consider to be “non-doctrinal preaching?” Do they not consider it to be preaching about the things with which everyone who claims to be a Christian would agree? Preaching that makes everyone who hears feel good about themselves as they are?
The word “doctrine” simply means “teaching.” Anyone who preaches anything is teaching something. One cannot preach without teaching something, and therefore, ALL preaching is in this sense “doctrinal preaching.” The issue lies in the fact that some preaching includes false teaching (teaching that is contrary to, or in addition to, what the New Testament reveals) and some preaching is incomplete in teaching (teaching some things that are revealed in the New Testament to the neglect of other things).
Jesus preached, and what he preached was his doctrine or teaching (Matthew 7:28; 22:33; Mark 1:22; 4:2; 11:18; 12:38; Luke 4:32; John 7:16; 18:19). Jesus was a doctrinal preacher. He is the model in all things, and preachers would do well to look to him as the model for their preaching. The apostles preached, and what they preached was their doctrine or teaching (Acts 2:42; 5:28; 2 Tim. 3:10). New Testament preaching is doctrinal preaching. No one can preach anything from the New Testament without preaching doctrine.
The New Testament Emphasis on Doctrine
Regardless of impressions and trends, the fact remains that the New Testament is the God breathed, authoritative, exclusive, and all-sufficient declaration of teaching or doctrine (2 Timothy 3:14-17). Every word of it is doctrine (teaching), and this fact implies that the New Testament, and all of it, is to be preached by preachers who would promote the cause of Christ. When they preach any of it and all of it, they are preaching doctrine.
The New Testament emphasizes doctrine (teaching). References are made to “the doctrine” or “the teaching” (John 7:17; Acts 13:12; Romans 16:17; 1 Timothy 4:16; 6:1, 3; Titus 1:9; 2:10; 2 John 9). This doctrine is “the standard of teaching” (Romans 6:17). It is the sound doctrine (1 Timothy 1:10; 2 Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1) and the good doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6). It is God’s doctrine (1 Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:10; cf. John 17:7), and it stands against every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14), whether doctrines of men (Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7; Colossians 2:22), doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1), or strange doctrines (Hebrews 13:9). No other doctrine is to be taught (1Timothy 1:3).
This doctrine is “the faith” (Acts 6:7; 13:8; 14:22; 16:5; Romans 1:5; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 1:23; Ephesians 4:13; Philippians 1:27; Colossians 1:23; 2:7; 1 Timothy 1:2; 3:9, 13; 4:1, 6; 5:8; 6:10, 21; 2 Timothy 3:8; 4:7; Titus 1:13; 3:15; James 2:1; 1 Peter 5:9; Revelation 14:12). The faith has been once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
This doctrine is “the truth” (2 Corinthians 4:2; Galatians 2:5, 14; 3:1; 5:7; Ephesians 4:15, 21; Colossians 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Timothy 2:4; 3:15; 4:3; 6:5; 2 Timothy 4:4; Hebrews 10:26; James 5:19;1 Peter 1:22).
The Necessity for Modern Preachers to Preach New Testament Doctrine
Many passages could be considered in identifying the need for modern preachers to preach New Testament doctrine, but Ephesians 4 may serve to make the point. This passage illustrates the necessity of preaching the doctrine and all of the doctrine. Paul emphasizes “the unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:3). This unity of the Spirit is unity in doctrine (i.e., “the unity of the faith,” Ephesians 4:13). That doctrine must be preached as a means of leading the church to the unity of the faith. The unity of the faith is the genuine unity of the Spirit, and it fulfills God’s purpose for the church.
The major doctrines of the faith are listed by Paul in Ephesians 4:4-6. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.” Today, many preachers emphasize some of these doctrines to the neglect of others. It is not enough to preach one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, and one God. One body, one faith, and one baptism are also involved in the unity of the faith.
We cannot have ANY of these unless we have ALL of them. Some who claim to be New Testament Christians are not preaching the New Testament doctrines of “one body” and “one baptism.” Preaching a Lord who has more than one body is not preaching the Lord of which we read in the New Testament (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 1:22, 23; Colossians 1:18). The “one Lord” has only “one body,” and the “one Lord” commands the “one baptism” which is administered in his name (Mark 16:15, 16; Acts 2:38; 10:48). The “one Spirit” dwells only in the “one body” (1 Corinthians 3:16), and the “one baptism” that the “one Spirit” teaches is into the “one body” exclusively (1 Corinthians 12:13). The “one hope that belongs to your call” is the hope to which God has called people in the “one body” (Colossians 3:15).
Preaching a Spirit whose revelation provides for more than one faith is not preaching the Spirit of which we read in the New Testament (John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 2:13). Preaching a God and Father who has children who have not been baptized is not preaching the God and Father of which we read in the New Testament (Galatians 3:26, 27). Preaching a God and Father, a Lord, and a Spirit other than those revealed in the New Testament does not represent a call to the hope revealed in the New Testament. Yet, such preaching goes on continually, promising a hope to the hearers that it cannot deliver!
It may be that what detractors consider to be “doctrinal preaching” is not heard in the big, thriving, metropolitan churches. No doubt many preachers who desire for the congregation they serve to draw large crowds of participants and for all who attend to feel good have been moved to abandon “doctrinal preaching.” Whatever preachers may preach from the Scriptures, at the end of the day, if hearers have not been taught to be baptized into Christ and into the “one body” and have not been taught to believe and to practice what the New Testament church believed and practiced, all is in vain. The church needs doctrinal preaching today. The church must have preaching of ALL of the doctrine today.
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