“Doctrine” is a dirty word for a lot of Christians. Many are oblivious, often throwing around phrases like, “All this talk about doctrine… isn’t the important thing knowing God?” and, “There’s nothing worse than theology in the hands of the untrained.”
Maybe I got hit in the head too much when I was a kid, but the whole point of doctrine is for us to know God—all of the teaching we receive is about God and the Christian life is doctrine.
The Bible is doctrine.
Paul wrote to his disciple, Timothy, about this very issue:
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. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching [or doctrine]. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
1 Tim 4:6-16, emphasis added
There are a few important things to note:
- Good doctrine prevents us from falling into irreverent and silly myths, like man-centered pop-psychology preaching that has absolutely nothing to do with the cross of Christ, and in fact makes a mockery of it.
- Good doctrine trains us in godliness: Godliness holds promise for the present life and the life to come, says Paul. Good doctrine allows us to better understand who Jesus, and live out our lives in loving grateful response to Him as He truly is.
- Good doctrine is to be taught publicly: We are not ashamed of the hope that we have in Jesus. We need not fear that teaching sound doctrine—teaching the Scriptures—will return void. Isaiah 55:11 says, “O shall my word be that goes out from my mouth it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (emphasis added). God’s word always accomplishes God’s purposes. We need to stand in that confidence and not be afraid to proclaim the word of God!
- Good doctrine will save you: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers,” says Paul. The doctrine we proclaim tells others what we believe about Jesus, and if our proclamation is antithetical to Scripture, we have cause for concern. Therefore, we must keep a close watch on ourselves that we not fall into error.
When we fail to stress the importance of sound doctrine, when we treat everything as “caught,” but not “taught,” where do we find ourselves?
Confusion. We find for ourselves teachers whose words are clever and sound nice, but they teach a different doctrine that does not agree with the sound words of Jesus. “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 Tim 4:3-4).
So what are we to do? “[P]reach the word,” says Paul in 2 Tim 4:2. “[B]e ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”
At all times, in all places, patiently, lovingly, confidently teach sound doctrine.
Because doctrine matters.