Everyone follows doctrine. Even professing Christians that claim to not like doctrine because “it divides” and those who adhere to “no doctrine but Christ.” Everyone has beliefs they follow. The question is, what doctrine does a person follow and where do they get this doctrine?
“The real question is not whether Christians will have doctrine but which doctrine or whose doctrine?” ~ R. Scott Clark 1
Doctrine comes from all sorts of sources: parents, culture, friends, social interactions, media, books, teachers, our own mind. But is what we are taught by all theses sources true? Is the doctrine sound? If it is, how do we know? If it isn’t, where do we find sound doctrine.Doctrine comes from all sorts of sources but is it true? How do we know? Click To Tweet
The Bible tells us of doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1), doctrines of man (Matthew 15:9, Colossians 2:22), and the doctrines of Christ (2 John 1:9). How can we distinguish between these doctrines and know which ones are of Christ?
The Bible: The Source of all Sound Doctrine
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; (2 Timothy 3:16)
The only true and sure resource we have for knowing sound doctrine is the Bible. God’s inerrant, infallible, all-sufficient Word has been given to us to inform us of all we need to know to live holy and righteous lives, to know who He is, and for peace and joy that will last all eternity.The only true and sure resource we have for knowing sound doctrine is the Bible. Click To Tweet
“Doctrine is inescapable because it is revealed in Scripture and necessary to Christian faith and life.” ~ R. Scott Clark1
Consistent time spent in God’s Word is the only place we can expect to find the perfect doctrine of Christ. In Matthew 4:4, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3 when He said that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. (1 Timothy 4:6)
Spiritual life is often compared to our temporal life. The Bible refers to unbelievers as being dead (Ephesians 2:1), Christians as being alive (Ephesians 2:4-5), and growing in our understanding of God as maturing (Hebrews 6:1). It also uses metaphors for how to remain healthy spiritually by reading God’s Word. Christ quenches our spiritual thirst as the Living Water (John 4:14), He spiritually feeds us as the Bread of Life (John 6:35), and commands us to exercise the faith to keep spiritually fit (Philippians 2:12).
that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. (Colossians 2:2-4)
I love the passage above. In Christ is “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” How beautiful! Proverbs 4:7 says, “with all your acquiring, get understanding.” Proverbs 5:7 says that the beginning of wisdom is to acquire wisdom. I like that. The beginning of wisdom is to know that you need to acquire it and to do so, to seek it at all cost. This wisdom is not the wisdom of the world that is ever changing. This is the wisdom of God, theology, doctrine. It’s not only salvation but sanctification as well. In Matthew 7:7, Jesus instructs us to seek, to ask, to knock. We are to be as miners seeking precious jewels. We are to dig into the Bible seeking to find all the precious doctrines God has revealed to us in His Word.In Christ is “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Click To Tweet
“When we accept the Bible as God’s Word to us (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20–21), we have a solid foundation for our doctrine.” ~ Got Questions3
As with miners, there is wisdom that we should obey. Miners never go into a mine alone, they know the difference between real gold and fool’s gold, and they work hard.
Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
Miners never go into a mine alone. They are taught how to mine by people who have been mining longer than they have. In the same way, Christians are to be discipled. We are to be taught how to properly handle the Word of God and how to study it.
“Though the triune God is the ultimate source of doctrine, He has chosen to minister doctrine to us through His prophets and Apostles in Holy Scripture. Until the day when God speaks to us face-to-face in His eternal kingdom, Holy Scripture is the source and norm of sound doctrine (2 Tim. 3:16; see Mark 7:7–8). Doctrine is drawn from Holy Scripture as from a fountain. Doctrine is measured by Holy Scripture as by a rule. Furthermore, doctrine leads us back to Scripture by equipping us to become better readers. Indeed, those ‘untaught’ in sound doctrine are most prone to twisting the Scriptures ‘to their own destruction’ (2 peter 3:16).” ~ Scott Swain2
The Bible is our ultimate source of sound doctrine, but God in His wisdom, has established the offices of preachers and teachers to guide us in His Word. The Bible has been delivered to us in a way that a child, in illiterate girl, a shepherd, a poor carpenter, an uneducated fisherman can understand it. However, there are parts that even the most learned scholars and theologians still seek to understand. Because of this, we need guidance.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
No matter your level of understanding in Christianity, you need to be discipled. If you do not have someone leading you, find a good church if you are not in one and speak with your pastor. He should be able to help guide you to someone who would be willing and eager to disciple you.No matter your level of understanding in Christianity, you need to be discipled. Click To Tweet
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. (Titus 2:1-8)
Teach me good discernment and knowledge,
For I believe in Your commandments. (Psalm 119:66)
Miners must know which rocks to dig into, they must be able to recognize the difference between what is precious and what is worthless, they must be able to determine which tunnels are safe to venture into, and they must be able to recognize the warning signs of a cave in or dangerous gasses.
God’s Word is perfectly sound and trustworthy. However, because we are fallen humans, we often let our sin nature lead rather than submitting to what He has revealed in Scripture. As a result, we often misinterpret what is being taught. We must exercise discernment when searching the Scripture for sound doctrine. We do not have to keep an eye out for false teaching within the pages of the Bible but within our own heart.
“There is a right interpretation of everything God says, and it is our job to discern that meaning, not create an interpretation to suit our tastes. God wants us to know His heart and has given us His Word upon which we can build godly lives (see Matthew 7:24). The more we study true doctrine, the more we understand God and ourselves.” ~ Got Questions3
Another place we need to practice discernment is in discipleship. As I mentioned above, we are to be discipled. However, as with any teacher, preacher, or book we must compare what they teach to what God’s Word says. We are to be like the Bereans in Acts 17 who were commended for comparing what Paul was teaching to what Scripture teaches.
Make your ear attentive to wisdom,
Incline your heart to understanding;
For if you cry for discernment,
Lift your voice for understanding;
If you seek her as silver
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will discern the fear of the Lord
And discover the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:2-6)
Mining is hard work but it is rewarding work. When a miner strikes gold he cheers. He cleans off the rock, holds it up to the light, shows it off to his friends. He suddenly no longer notices the pain in his back or the dirt on his face, he is no feels tired, he smiles, he dances, he rejoices. He counts all his hard work as worth it. He has a renewed energy to keep digging.
Such joy and excitement can be experienced in digging into God’s Word. When we learn something new we get excited, we tell our friends, we post it on Facebook, we wonder how we have missed this gem for so long. It renews our excitement to dig deeper into God’s Word.
“Doctrine is the worldview by which we govern our lives. If our doctrine is based soundly upon Scripture, we can know we are walking in the path God designed for us. However, if we do not study the Word of God for ourselves (2 Timothy 2:15), we are led more easily into error.” ~ Got Questions3
God’s Word is our only reliable source for sound doctrine. There are many other teachers and preachers out there that teach sound doctrine that we should learn from but we should also be diligent to study on our own and to compare what they are teaching to God’s Word. Jesus taught us that if we seek we will find. Seek truth in God’s Word and you will find sound doctrine.Seek truth in God’s Word and you will find sound doctrine. Click To Tweet
- Clark, R. Scott. 2014. “Non-Doctrinal Christianity Is Impossible”. Ligonier Ministries. http://www.ligonier.org/blog/non-doctrinal-christianity-impossible/.
- Swain, Scott. 2015. “What Is Doctrine?”. Ligonier Ministries. http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-doctrine/.
- “What Is Doctrine?”. 2016. Gotquestions.Org. Accessed December 1. https://gotquestions.org/what-is-doctrine.html.