Keep a Close Watch
In 1 Timothy 4:16, the Apostle Paul tells the young pastor Timothy to watch his life and doctrine closely. In this Paul demonstrates that our life and doctrine are connected because what we do and consequently what we teach others comes out of what we believe.
Sadly, many Christians live their life without giving much thought to their doctrine. For some, this is spiritual suicide because as soon as someone challenges their beliefs or they experience hardships, their faith becomes shipwrecked.
Having served as a pastor for many years, I understand that entering into the world of theology and doctrine can be intimidating. This is why I like to share with new Christians or those interested in Christianity a brief tutorial of how to gain what we call “sound doctrine.”
The Open- and Close-Handed
First, you need to understand that there are open-handed issues and close-handed issues in Christianity. Close-handed issues are the absolutes that define the core beliefs of Christianity. Open-handed issues, though important, are not the issues that define Christianity.
Open-handed issues within Christianity include views on: spiritual gifts (such as speaking in tongues), musical styles during a worship service, ideas on what happens during the “end times” and whether or not to drink alcohol—just to name a few.
Christians have the freedom to have their own opinions regarding open-handed issues and may discuss and even debate their opinions as long as they do not allow these open-handed issues to cause division within the church. With open-handed issues, Christians can agree to disagree and still lovingly maintain unity within the church.
However, because close-handed issues are the absolutes that define Christianity, it’s important for Christians to have personal convictions that hold closely to these significant issues. Close-handed issues may be discussed within the church but when someone rejects these core issues, they go outside the realm of Christian orthodoxy. Likewise, when a church stops holding to and defending close-handed issues, it loses its doctrinal purity, becomes unhealthy, and can cease to be a Christian church.
Close-handed issues at Mars Hill include:
- There is one God who exists in three persons: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit.
- The Bible is the perfect, inspired word of God and our highest authority on life.
- The deity of Jesus: he was fully human and fully God.
- All people are created in the image of God, but all have willingly rebelled against God in sin. Because of this, we are spiritually dead in our sin and desperately need salvation from God.
- The Bible says that there is only one way of salvation and that sinners must be saved by grace through faith in Jesus. Only Jesus can save sinners.
- The good news is that Jesus lived without sin, died on a cross for our sin, and on the third day rose from the grave, demonstrating that he is the Savior of the world.
Persist in This
For a more in-depth look at open- and close-handed issues I encourage you to attend a Doctrine class at one of our Mars Hill churches. It’s a great way to learn the major doctrines of the Bible and get connected to your local church. As your pastors, our hope is that you would follow Jesus and watch your life and doctrine closely.