The Importance of Doctrine in
I have felt very burdened to put this article together due to a deeply disturbing attitude that I see amongst an increasing number of Christian believers who seem to think that biblical doctrine isn’t important. On the contrary, as will be seen below, doctrine is actually fundamental to all areas of Christian life. I think part of the aversion to doctrine (especially amongst younger Christians) comes from a variety of factors:
‘In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will
judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I
give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season;
correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead,
to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of
teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn
their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.’ (2 Tim. 4:1-4, emphasis
Doctrine is important to the Christian faith. Without it we are more susceptible to being deceived, falling into error and damaging ourselves and other believers we come into contact with. Doctrine is also vital to every area of our Christian life. We cannot divorce one from the other.
Christian living and Christian doctrine are inseparably interlinked:
‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who build his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.’ (Matt. 7:24-27, emphasis added. Compare also James 1:22-25).
'Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.' (1 Tim. 4:16, emphasis added).
Preaching and teaching in the Church can only be successful if biblical doctrine is involved:
'They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.' (Acts 2:42).
‘Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.’ (1 Tim. 4:13).
‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.’ (2 Tim. 2:15).
‘In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.’ (2 Tim. 4:1-4, emphasis added).
‘…teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.’ (Titus 2:1, emphasis added).
Doctrine is important worship:
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:21-24, emphasis added).
In the above passage worship and truth are inseparably intertwined. Furthermore, later on in the same Gospel, we are told that it is God’s word that is truth:
‘Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.’ (John 17:17).
Doctrine is a vital requirement for being involved in Church leadership. All to often, pushy and/or naturally gifted people push themselves forward for some sort of Church leadership when they are neither called for this or doctrinally ill equipped. However, amongst other requirements for someone seeking leadership in the Church is the necessity that the person can encourage others in sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it:
‘Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.’ (Titus 1:7-9, emphasis added).
Doctrine in necessary in our evangelism and the conversion of those we seek to reach with the Gospel.
In the book of Acts we see Paul bringing the scriptures to the Bereans who examined them carefully and were considered more noble than those at Thessalonica for doing so:
‘As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.’ (Acts 17:10-12, emphasis added).
In Romans Paul argues that people can only call upon Christ for salvation and be saved if they are specifically told by a messenger declaring this:
‘for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” (Rom. 10:13-15).
Doctrine is important to morality in the Christian life:
‘We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.’ (1 Tim. 1:9-11, emphasis added).
Related to this, teaching (and therefore doctrine) is specifically linked to salvation:
‘But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.’ (Rom. 6:17-18).
‘…we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things.’ (1 Tim. 4:10-11).
Relationship With Jesus
Doctrine is important in our relationship with Jesus.
It is common to hear emotional and sincere sounding statements like: “Doctrine doesn’t matter. The only thing that really counts is a relationship with Jesus!” Of course people who merely have doctrinal head knowledge and no relationship with Jesus are equally as wrong. Both are needed. Even so, scripture shows how doctrine is vital to our personal relationship with Christ. Jesus said:
‘If you love Me, keep My commandments.’ (John 14: 15).
‘Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. "He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me.’ (John 14: 23 -24).
With the above texts in mind, to those who feel that doctrine is not important to a relationship with Jesus the question would arise: “If loving Christ means keeping His commandments and His word then how are you able to do this is you don’t know His commandments or His word?“
Some Common Objections Responded to:
Objection: “People who are into doctrine are like the Pharisees as they were also into doctrine.”
Response: Jesus’ complaints with these people was not that they were into doctrine (Jesus Himself clearly knew doctrine) but rather it was their hypocrisy, coldness, lack of mercy, pride, and love of praise by others rather than God (e.g. Matt. 6:1-8, 16; ).
Another complain that Jesus had about these people was their man made traditions which they added on to God’s word and burdened others with it (Matt. 15:1-14; Mark 7:1-13).
The apostle Paul (as in the Scriptures above) often exhorts and instructs Timothy in the importance of teaching the word of God and correct doctrine and warns of the dangers of false doctrine (Seen throughout 1 and 2 Timothy).
Objection: "Christians shouldn't go about quoting Bible verses as it is annoying and self righteous!"
Sure there are Christians who will do this in a holier than thou kind of 'look at how many Bible verses I know' kind of way. However, this shouldn't stop us from memorizing Scripture and quoting it in our conversations with others. After all, this is the living word of God that can powerfully change situations and lives (e.g. Heb. 4:12). Also, it is worth remembering that both Paul and Jesus often quoted Old Testament passages in their dialogues with people.
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