Poisoned Corn Flakes
Thursday of Epiphany 2
19 January 2017
Some people criticize those concerned about purity of doctrine in the church for being a "doctrinal preservation society." Such people argue that God is not interested in maintaining doctrine but spreading it. Some even want to portray congregations and church leaders that are interested in maintaining a true confession as "dysfunctional." However, this flies directly in the face of clear texts of Scripture, where God certainly reveals that he is supremely interested in both preserving the divine truth and spreading it. The Bible exhorts us to see to it that our teaching squares with the divine word. Indeed, "sound doctrine" refers to healthy teaching. Therefore, if we were using the categories of the Bible, dysfunctionality would actually be disinterest in healthy teaching. An unhealthy church is one that ignores pure teaching and the practice that arises from it.
 
The critics of those who are interested in purity of doctrine contend that they don't care about the world full of dying people. This is a divinely mandated concern. But the mission of preaching the gospel means that the doctrine must be kept straight. Scripture does not permit us to be careless about the content of the preaching. What is preached is what saves. For example, I could eat a bowl of arsenic-laced Corn Flakes as easily as a bowl of virgin Corn Flakes. However, the first bowl of Corn Flakes would probably kill me.
 
In our modern ignorance of what is doctrinally healthy, we will swallow almost anything. If we do, it will kill us. Thus purity of teaching is not a dysfunctional mania of an obsessive "doctrinal preservation society," but the call and command of a loving Lord who says, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Mt 7:15). Our pastors are to be defenders of the sacred Word and they are to beat off the wolves with powerful, biblical teaching.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Hilary of Poitiers
 
"The Blessed Apostle Paul in laying down the form for appointing a bishop and creating by his instructions an entirely new type of member of the Church, has taught us in the following words the sum total of all the virtues made complete in him: 'He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers' (Ti 1:9-10). For in this way he points out that the essentials of orderliness and morals are only profitable for good service in the ministry if at the same time the qualities needful for knowing how to teach and preserve the faith are not lacking. For a man is not straightway made a good and useful pastor by a merely innocent life or by a mere knowledge of preaching. For an innocent minister is profitable to himself alone unless he be instructed also; while he that is instructed has nothing to support his teaching unless he be innocent.
 
"For the words of the Apostle do not merely fit a man for his life in this world by precepts of honesty and uprightness, nor on the other hand do they educate in expertness of teaching a mere Scribe of the Synagogue for the expounding of the Law. But the Apostle is training a leader of the Church, perfected by the complete accomplishment of the greatest virtues, so that his life may be adorned by his teaching, and his teaching by his life. Accordingly, he has provided Titus, the person to whom his words were addressed, with an injunction as to the perfect practice of religion to this effect: 'Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us' (Ti 2:7-8).
 
"Paul, the teacher of the Gentiles and elect doctor of the Church, from his consciousness of Christ who spoke and dwelt within him, knew well that the infection of tainted speech would spread abroad, and that the corruption of pestilent doctrine would furiously rage against the sound form of faithful words, and infusing the poison of its own evil tenets into the inmost soul, would creep on with deep-seated mischief. For it is of these that he says, 'their talk will spread like gangrene' (2Ti 2:17), tainting the health of the mind, invaded by it with a secret and stealthy contagion. For this reason, he wished that there should be in the bishop the teaching of sound words, a good conscience in the faith and expertness in exhortation to withstand wicked, false, and wild arguments.
 
For there are many who pretend to the faith, but are not subject to the faith, and rather set up a faith for themselves than receive that which is given, being puffed up with the thoughts of human vanity, knowing the things they wish to know and unwilling to know the things that are true; since it is a mark of true wisdom sometimes to know what we do not like. However, this self-willed wisdom is followed by foolish preaching, for what is foolishly learnt must needs be foolishly preached. Yet how great an evil to those who hear this foolish preaching, when they are misled into foolish opinions by conceit of wisdom! For this reason the Apostle described them thus: 'For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers' (Ti 1:9-10). Therefore, we must utter our voice against arrogant wickedness and boastful arrogance and seductive boastfulness. Yes, we must speak against such things through the soundness of our doctrine, the truth of our faith, the sincerity of our preaching, so that we may have the purity of truth and the truth of sound doctrine." 

Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 8.1
Titus 1:5-11

Appoint elders in every town as I directed you- if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.
 
For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
 
For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. (ESV)
Prayer
Almighty God, grant that in the midst of our failures and weaknesses we may be restored through the passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
 
For all our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Nicaragua, that God would give them the joy of knowing that God has set our sin upon the shoulders of Christ

For all those who have suffered property damage from flooding in Houston, that they would be kept safe and find strength in the gifts of God beyond this world
 
For all those who are not able to be in divine services to hear together with the faithful that the Word bore all our sins, that they would not be forgotten by friends and family
 
For the members of the Boards of Regents of CTS, Fort Wayne and CSL, St. Louis, that they would have productive meetings today
 
For Diva Pilli, that her gracious Lord would watch over and strengthen her 
Art: DAVID, Gerard  Triptych of Jean Des Trompes (1505)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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