Monday, October 8, 2012

Sound Doctrine

Sound Doctrine

Paul grouped six terms together, breaking them into three pair of related words to describe the audience for whom the Law was intended:

"The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane." (1 Timothy 1:9)

  • Lawless: Those with no law, not included in any government or supervisory system
  • Disobedient: Those with law, but refusing to obey, rejecting governing authority
  • Ungodly: The irreverent, those not adoring God
  • Sinners: The losers, those who miss the mark and fail to obtain a prize
  • Unholy: Those in the wrong, those who are untrue, weak, and common
  • Profane: The wicked, those who live worthless lives, filled with coarse, easily-satisfied appetites that are often based upon superstition or myth

The three groups of descriptors can be separated according to their focus:

  • Lawless and Disobedient: Authority
  • Ungodly and Sinners: Pleasure
  • Unholy and Profane: History

It's as if beginning a study of human sociology, asking three questions, researching three grand themes of human life and culture:

  • What directs and controls human behavior?
  • What do humans desire and seek after?
  • What have humans accomplished?

Perhaps, rather than an objective study of humans in general, it would be more meaningful to personalize those questions.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What directs and controls your daily behavior? What do you desire and seek after, more than anything else? What have you accomplished since your birth? How would your answers differ from those of a scientist who had observed you, 24-hours-a-day, in every circumstance?

Paul has explained that God laid down the law as one sweeping, broad message to all humans, all religions, Jew or Gentile, past, present and future:

Your behavior, your desires and your accomplishments all prove that you are not righteous and you need a Forgiver, a Redeemer...a Saviour.

Now, Paul moves from the general to the specific. He lists eight specific behavior which characterize the unrighteous:

  • FATHER-STRIKER: patraloas (a parricide, a father-killer); from pater ("father") and halon (a threshing-floor, as rolled hard; grain and chaff); from heilisso (to coil or wrap)
  • MOTHER-STRIKER: metraloas (a mother-thresher, matricide); from meter ("mother") and halon (a threshing-floor, as rolled hard; grain and chaff); from heilisso (to coil or wrap)
  • MURDERERS: androphonos (a murderer); from aner (a man) and pheno (to slay)
  • SEXUALLY IMMORAL: pornos (a male prostitute or debauchee, one given to sensual excesses); from pernemi (to sell)
  • HOMOSEXUALITY: arsenokoites (a sodomite, one given to unnatural copulation); from arren (male) and koite (a couch, cohabitation, the male sperm); from keimai (to lie outstretched)
  • ENSLAVERS: andrapodistes (an enslaver, bringing men to one's feet); from aner (a man) and pous ("foot")
  • LIARS: pseustes (a falsifier); from pseudomai (to utter an untruth or attempt to deceive by falsehood)
  • PERJURERS: epiorkos (on oath, a false forswearer); from epi (superimposition, over, upon) and horkos (a limit, restraint or oath); from herkos (a fence)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Looking at the eight definitions, do any modern meanings surprise you? Do you see a pattern or progression to Paul's list? Do any of the eight behaviors seem out of place or inappropriately listed?

Paul connects these eight behaviors, and the six general descriptors previous, to one over-arching class:

"Whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine."

CONTRARY: antikeimai (to lie opposite, to be adverse or repugnant to); from anti (opposite or instead of) and keimai (to lie outstretched, utterly prostrate)

The root word of "contrary" is the same as that of "homosexuality": to lie outstretched, utterly prostrate, as well as the word "made" or "laid out", found in verse nine.

SOUND: hygiaino (to have sound health, to be well, uncorrupt or true); from hygies (healthy, well or true); from auxano (to grow or "wax", to enlarge)

DOCTRINE: didaskalia (instruction); from didaskalos (an instructor); from didasko (to teach); from dao (to learn)

"Sound doctrine" is instruction that maintains, or causes, good health, whether physical, mental or spiritual.

A foundational tenet of education is that something is learned when it results in changed behavior. Unless a student can actually perform or accomplish something, the lesson they've studied has not yet been learned.

In other words, our actions show best what we've learned well. Our words, our diplomas, our books and blogs and bumper stickers all mean little unless our lifestyle behaviors reflect the fact that we've learned what we talk about.

It's not enough to simply say, to others or to ourselves, "Quit being bad." To acknowledge sinfulness in the general is only a start. To stop at "Don't kill parents" or "Don't practice homosexuality" is a poor use of God's Word.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Take each of the eight sinful behaviors listed by Paul and try to see what foundational truth, what "sound doctrine" they violate or harm. How are each of the eight sins unhealthy?

  • Parent-killers:
  • Murderers:
  • Sexually immoral:
  • Homosexuality:
  • Enslavers:
  • Liars:
  • Perjurers:

Image provided by Korean Resource Center,, Creative Commons License