One of the overwhelming trends in post-modern culture is the tendency to shy away from doctrine. Many churches have adopted this philosophy and have done away with taking hard stances, affirming what Scripture so clearly says. Instead, many declare that the only thing we need to be firm on is that Jesus Christ died for man’s sins and that he desires to have a relationship with you. While this is a cop-out and a mediocre view of our Lord Jesus Christ at best, I want to look primarily at why many in the Church today view doctrine as something that is optional. For some, truth is relative. It may be one thing for you and a different thing for me. For others they may know what they believe, but do not want to push their views on others. Others still, may just not fully understand what doctrine is and why it is important for us to affirm as Christians.
I have had Pastors tell me that on one hand that their desire is to proclaim Christ and the Scriptures as authoritative, yet on the other hand explain that they do not take firm stands on some areas in Scripture or have a doctrinal statement in their church so that they may not cause anyone within their congregation to stumble. Keep in mind, these are completely contradictory statements, and we do not find support for this model in Scripture. We have to take a stance and understand that we are either loyal to Christ and to Scripture in every sense, or we are loyal to men and the ideology that smoothing over the offense of God’s word will somehow entice more people to come to Christ.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. -Romans 10:17
So what is doctrine? Doctrine is essentially a set of beliefs and principles held by a certain group of people and used for teaching and instruction. For Christians, biblical doctrine is the adherence to a set of beliefs given to us by God in His inspired written word. Some examples of this would be Bibliology (God’s Word), Theology Proper (God the Father), Christology (God the Son), Pneumatology (God the Holy Spirit), Anthropology and Hamartiology (Man and Sin), Soteriology (Salvation), Ecclesiology (The Church), and Eschatology (The Future).
The Importance Of Having Right Doctrine:
Theology is imperative because it extends one’s biblical knowledge, which will enable ones sound understanding of doctrine, which will enrich one’s wisdom, which will expand ones Christlike obedience, which will elevate one’s holy worship.¹
This is extremely important because what we believe effects how we live. We obtain proper doctrine through the faithful study of God’s word. Our doctrine is a result of our theology. If we have a shallow view of God, then we can be assured that our view of doctrine will also be shallow. Scottish pastor and theologian John Dick gave seven reasons as to why the study of theology was so important. He gives these reasons:
1. To ascertain the character of God in its aspect toward us.
2. To contemplate the display of his attributes in his works and dispensations.
3. To discover his designs toward man in his original and his present state.
4. To know this mighty being, as far as he may be known, [which] is the noblest aim of the human understanding.
5. To learn our duty to him, the means of enjoying his favor, the hopes which we are authorized to entertain, and the wonderful expedient by which our fallen race is restored to purity and happiness.
6. To love him, the most worthy exercise of our affections.
7. To serve him, the most honorable and delightful purpose to which we can devote our time and talents.²
Everything we are to be doing as slaves of Christ revolves around the ability to teach and understand sound doctrine. Sound doctrine is important because God has given it to us in His written word, and we dare not tamper with it in an ill fated attempt at being loving and gracious to all people. It is a false presumption that we can, in an effort to make peace, deviate in any way from the unadulterated proclamation of Scripture.
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. -Titus 2:1
If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. -1 Timothy 4:6
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. – Titus 1:9
The Christian faith is based on doctrine. Churches will stand or fall depending on their faithfulness to the truths given to us in the holy pages of Scripture. Doctrine is absolutely divisive, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Biblical doctrine, biblical truth, separate us from those who dabble in corrupt doctrine, those who proclaim Christ yet preach carnality, and those who’s motives are deceptive, desiring to draw away the souls of men into eternal damnation. Men’s pride often gets in the way of doctrinal clarity, and in an attempt to be seen as likeable or kind within the congregation, they draw attention away from the authority of Scripture. We need to be wary not to give into this temptation. Once you do away with clear doctrine, there are no longer visible guard rails in place to defend against compromise.
One concerning result of this is that once biblical parameters are weakened, or taken away completely, a lack of discernment develops and is often exemplified through what is being taught and and accepted in the Church. Paul addresses this very issue when he wrote to Timothy saying – for the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4). This is an absolute reality today. We have countless examples of this happening right before our eyes. Much of this can be attributed to the departure from sound doctrine. Let us not be fooled, brothers, into thinking that we can decide what is and what is not important for our congregations to be taught in Scripture. The ultimate goal of the Church is to bring glory to God, worshiping Him through the unhindered teaching of his word which results in the edification of the saints.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:16-17
Doctrine divides, but doctrine also unites. It binds together the hearts of God’s people who celebrate the truth of God together. – R.C. Sproul
May it be said of us that we were faithful to Christ, and to Scripture until the end. Even in light of a world who hates us. Resist the temptation to soften your approach to Scripture in order to make peace with the world. Be valiant. Be strong. Stand unashamed on the unwavering word of truth, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
1.MacArthur, John. Biblical Doctrine: a Systematic Summary of Bible Truth. Crossway, 2017, 27, 35.
2. John Dick, Lectures on Theology (Cincinnati, Oh: Applegate, 1856), 6.