THYSELF AND THY DOCTRINE
T. PIERCE BROWN
I do not know of anyone who is more concerned than I, and sometimes dismayed, by what I consider doctrinal errors that have made large inroads into the church of our Lord in recent years. Of course we can truthfully say, “It is not just recent years. It has been going on ever since the days of Paul” and then perhaps shrug it off as insignificant. Of course Paul did say in 2 Thess. 2:8, “The mystery of iniquity doth already work,” and “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but having itching ears will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts” (2 Tim. 4:3). But the fact that it was happening then does not make it less reprehensible now.
However, the thrust of this article is somewhat different. We think we see preachers and elders who are so concerned with doctrine that they seem to forget that their responsibility is to attend to the total spiritual welfare of the flock–not just make sure it has pure food to eat.
A farmer may get so concerned with keeping his fence repaired and his fence row clean that he may forget that his cows, hogs and sheep need more than to be kept in the right pasture. They can stay in the right field and still die of neglect. And a person can stay “in the right church” and hear the right doctrine and still die of neglect!
The principle Paul stated in 1 Timothy 4:16 has a broad application. “Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt save both thyself and them that hear thee.” I know of a preacher who was a powerful and accurate proclaimer of the true doctrine concerning the sanctity of marriage, etc., but who had an affair with another woman, and actually took off and lived with her. Another was as sound as a dollar (that may have been his problem, considering the state of our economy!) on doctrinal matters, but apparently embezzled or misused thousands of dollars which he controlled.
So, elders and preachers need to take heed to themselves first, then to the doctrine. And of course Paul repeats that idea in Acts 20:28, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of the Lord–.” The word “feed” is not “bosko”–feed, but “poimaino”–shepherd. It involves more than simply giving them the right doctrine. It involves their total spiritual welfare.