By Bob Wilkin
“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim 4:16).
We ran an article in the May-June Grace in Focus in which Zane Hodges discussed 1 Tim 4:6-16. At the end of the article there was a short paragraph in which Hodges said, “The word save in v 16 cannot refer to what is past for us (cf. Titus 3:5)…The thought here is that of Mark 8:34-38 and John 12:25-26. We save first ourselves, secondarily others” (p. 17).
The following email in my inbox caught my attention:
“I need to bring it to your attention that the final paragraph of “Teach the Truth” by Zane C Hodges, whether intentionally or not, misrepresents salvation by saying:
“The word ‘save’ in v 16 cannot refer to what is past for us (cf. Titus 3:5). The NT has much to say of the salvation of the soul (psychē) or life, which is achieved only by discipleship to the fullest extent.”
“It should be made very clear that salvation is faith alone in Christ alone. It is incorrect to describe the means of salvation as anything but believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“If an unbeliever, having never heard the gospel, flipped to p. 17 and the only thing he read in the whole magazine was that “[salvation of the soul] is achieved only by discipleship,” that unbeliever would not know salvation or the soteriological view of Grace in Focus.”
Great point. We dropped the ball on this one. And by “we” I mean Shawn!
We knew what Hodges meant and left his statement as is. The problem is, as the reader points out, not everyone knows what he meant. If an unbeliever read what he wrote, he would be terribly confused. Even many believers could become confused.
When Hodges was speaking of the saving of the psychē, he was talking about gaining fullness of life by denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Christ.
That is what Matt 16:24-28 and Mark 8:34-38 discuss.
When Zane said, “We save first ourselves, secondarily others,” he was talking about the gaining of fullness of life, not salvation from eternal condemnation.
First we gain fullness of life ourselves, by abiding in sound doctrine, and then we help others gain fullness of lives by grounding them in sound doctrine.
The issue of false teachers and their false teachings is found at the very start of 1 Timothy (cf. 1 Tim 1:3-11) and at the start of chapter 4 (cf. 1 Tim 4:1-8). We have the same problem today. Those who teach in the local church, as Timothy did, are to take heed to “the doctrine,” that is, the doctrine passed down to us from the Lord and His Apostles. If we teach Apostolic doctrine, then we will deliver our listeners from the destructive false teachings which are out there.
The point is this: doctrine is important. Very important. What we believe directly impacts what we say and do and whether we are pleasing or displeasing the Lord. Remember what Paul said in Rom 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (emphasis added).
He also spoke of transformation via sound doctrine in 2 Cor 3:18: “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror [=God’s Word] the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Doctrine matters. A lot. Of course, once we are born again, our eternal destiny is set. But our fullness of life here and now depends on abiding in sound doctrine.
I’m sorry for the confusion. We should have put an editor’s note expanding on what Hodges meant.
Bob Wilkin is Executive Director of Grace Evangelical Society.