What is Doctrine?

What is Doctrine?

What is Doctrine?You may have heard people warn about studying doctrine. Some say, “Doctrine divides.” And, while that is a true statement, it isn’t a bad thing as they imply.

Other people, hoping to avoid unnecessary controversy or debates, will say something like “no doctrine but Jesus” or “no creed but Christ.” While those statements sound like a good rule or a pios statement, they lack substance and leave the Christian not knowing where they stand when asked about “the hope that is within them” (1 Peter 3:15).

What is Doctrine?

Doctrine, at its most basic, is a teaching on a particular topic. You may hear or read words like commandment, instruction, directive, belief, creed, confession, precept, dogma, rule, regulation, tenet, law, etc used as synonyms for doctrine.

Doctrine, at its most basic, is a teaching on a particular topic. Click To Tweet

The Bible mentions the doctrines of man, doctrines of demons, and doctrines of God. However, here, when I use the word doctrine by itself, I will be speaking of a teaching found within Scripture, a teaching of God, Biblical doctrine.

“According to one definition, doctrine is teaching from God about God that directs us to the glory of God. This definition provides a helpful anatomy of sound doctrine, identifying doctrine’s source, object, and ultimate end.” ~ Scott Swain

Paul instructed his portages Timothy and Titus to hold to and teach sound doctrine.

Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1:13-14)


You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:1-2)


But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. (Titus 2:1)

In Titus 1, Paul instructed Titus on how to choose leaders of the churches. One of the qualifications of a leader is that he is able to teach sound doctrine and correct those who do not.

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)

What is Doctrine?Examples of Doctrines

This is far from being an exhaustive list but here are a few examples of doctrines that are taught in the Bible.

  • Doctrine of the Trinity
  • Doctrine of God the Son/Jesus Christ
  • Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
  • Doctrine of Man
  • Doctrine of Salvation
  • Doctrine of the Church
  • Doctrine of the Future
  • Doctrine of Baptism
  • Doctrine of Inerrancy

Doctrine Divides

Yes, doctrine does divide. It divides the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the chaff. Right doctrine reveals who is truly following Christ and who is only using His name for their own idol.

“If Christian unity is to mean anything, it must be a unity of faith grounded in the truth. To sacrifice conviction for ‘peace’ is to have no conviction at all.” (Doctrine Divides)

“No doctrine but Jesus” is a nonsensical statement. If Jesus is your doctrine then you must study all the other doctrines and hold to them with all your might because that is what Jesus has instructed His followers to do.

Most of the people who hold to this illogical statement have encountered a Biblical doctrine that their sinful human nature does not want to submit to. Instead of repenting and bowing to Christ, they prefer to ignore all doctrine (except the ones they like) and worship God not in the way He has instructed but in the way they prefer. Their lives are easier and happier this way. As the saying goes, “Ignorance is bliss.” That is, until the Day of Judgment when they will give an account of every careless word they spoke (Matthew 12:36).

“The word doctrine simply means ‘teaching.’ And it’s ludicrous to say that Christ is anti-teaching. The central imperative of His Great Commission is the command to teach (Matthew 28:18-20).
“Unfortunately, cultists aren’t alone in their bias against doctrine. Some evangelicals have almost the same perspective. Because they view doctrine as heady and theoretical, they dismiss it as unimportant, divisive, threatening, or simply impractical.
“People often ask why I emphasize doctrine so much. Now and then someone tells me frankly that my preaching needs to be less doctrinal and more practical.
“Of course, practical application is vital. I don’t want to minimize its importance. But if there is a deficiency in preaching today, it is that there’s too much relational, pseudopsychological, and thinly life-related content, and not enough emphasis on sound doctrine.
“The distinction between doctrinal and practical truth is artificial; doctrine is practical! In fact, nothing is more practical than sound doctrine.
“The pastor who turns away from preaching sound doctrine abdicates the primary responsibility of an elder: ‘holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict’ (Titus 1:9). We teach truth, we teach error, or we teach nothing at all.” ~ John MacArthur

Doctrine in Apologetics

To be able to share what Christians believe with others when practicing apologetics and evangelizing, we need to be able to what and why we believe what we claim (1 Peter 3:15). In order to do this, we must study doctrine, the teachings of Christianity.

We cannot give people an answer for the hope that lies within us (1 Peter 3:15) if we do not know the answers ourselves.

What is Doctrine?Our Source of Doctrine

The Bible is our source of sound doctrine. Click To Tweet

The Bible is our source of sound doctrine. It is the only trusted source of Truth.

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)

The only way to know sound doctrine is to study God’s Word. Click To Tweet

The only way to know sound doctrine is to study God’s Word. I love how the King James Version translates 2 Timothy 2:15.

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV)

Other versions use “Be diligent” in the place of “Study” and  “rightly handling,” “accurately handling,” or “correctly teaching” in the place of “dividing.” These each expound exactly what this verse is saying. We are to be diligently studying God’s Word in order to properly handle and teach the Truth. If we do this, we will not be ashamed when we stand before our King on Judgment Day.

Without the anchor of sound, Biblical doctrine, we will not have an answer for those who need the Gospel (1 Peter 3:15) and we are at risk of being “tossed to and fro by the waves” of every false doctrine (Ephesians 4:14).

We are to be diligently studying God’s Word in order to properly handle and teach the Truth. Click To Tweet









  • Gretchen

    Loved this! Doctrine is a passion of mine and I relish meaty, sound teaching. This is it! Well done!

  • Yes! We need to know what we believe. I heard a pastor say, “Christians know just enough of what they believe to hang themselves”; he was right. I’ve had two friends to leave Bible teaching denominations/churches for a cult. I was so saddened when I heard one of them say, I found something that I could relate with. Thanks for sharing this very important lesson with Thankful Thursdays.

  • Jann Olson

    It’s important to study the doctrine of our religion. Something I could be better at. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  • I am thankful for the wisdom found in the Word. Thanks for encouraging us to be diligent students of doctrine.

  • Amber Taube

    Good, sound advice, especially for those of us who have platforms to teach from. We must be careful to stay true to the doctrines of Scripture. Stopped over from Glimpses Link up. God bless.

  • I used to run from discussions that centered on doctrine, fast and furiously.But then a grace-giver who always opened the door to deep discussion told me once, ” What if you look at it by defining it first… doctrine is a teaching… ” and from there I began to be less overwhelmed when the term would fly my way. 🙂 Such an informative post. Thanks for sharing it at the #GraceMoments Link Up.

  • Leslie

    All of us who are writing and teaching need to remember these things. I’m more of a practical application type of writer, but there is NO way I could do that without knowing and studying God’s Word. You remind us here of what is most important. Thank you!

  • Debbie Kitterman

    Amen! The only way to know sound doctrine is to study the Word and know what it says! Your neighbor today at #LMM

  • Brandi Tesreau

    Sound doctrine is so important and vital to a healthy, growing Christian. Thank you for your exhortation on this subject! And thank you for linking up at Literacy Musing Mondays.

  • Hi thanks again for linking up with at the #LMMLinkup. You were the most clicked this week. 😉

  • Brandi Raae

    Hi, just letting you know I’m featuring this post as my favorite on the Literacy Musing Mondays Linkup tomorrow. 🙂 Be sure to grab the featured button!

  • momzilla76

    I would be a little more graceful towards people who say such things like “no doctrine but Jesus” not all are running from a convicting teaching. Some are just so burned out on bad doctrine that they need to distance themselves from the concept as their only experience was with teaching claiming to be God’s way but really wasn’t. They also have not had the time(healing can take years) and/or Spirit’s leading on how to renew their mind to healthy doctrine.

    • Thank you for your comment. I do not feel I was ungracious in my discussion. I do realize there is great harm done by teachers of bad doctrine but without doctrine, there is no way for a person to know what they are being taught is bad. It is also negligent of the church to not correct those who want to completely avoid doctrine and to not guide them into true and life-giving doctrine. The only way to heal a person from bad doctrine is to teach them what good doctrine is.

      However, I would say that hurt from bad doctrine for a cause of no longer desiring to study doctrine is rare. In most cases that I have heard such statements, it has, as far as I know, never been the case.

      • momzilla76

        How the little words sneak away. I see I forgot some that would have cleared my comment up a bit more. When I wrote about the wounded needing to distance themselves from doctrine I meant to say “for a time”. That has been my personal experience. I needed to detox the bad so there could be room for the new. Just switching gears and cramming more teaching on top of the old would not have helped as part of the muddle I had gotten into hinged on seeing the bible as the textbook from which you gleaned rules for Christian living and not as God’s message to you revealed by the Holy Spirit.
        As for the church teaching them. Sad to say most people who discover they have been getting bad doctrine received it from their church and finding a healthy church takes time especially when they are healing and learning what is God’s truth vs. man’s ideas masquerading as God’s truths. Not always but far too frequently than it should happen.
        I do not think anyone truly stays away from doctrine/teaching forever regardless of their personal convictions. I will say I do not have personal experience with those who use “Jesus is my doctrine” as a way to avoid all teaching and just coast along without actually being effected by Jesus.

        • I am sorry you have been hurt by bad doctrine. I would hazard to guess that the vast majority of those in the church today have as well. I do disagree about needing time away to heal or detox as you say. I do not see that idea taught in Scripture.

          • momzilla76

            Sabbath breaks, rest days and renewal years are all over the bible. Pausing to rest and heal is very scriptural.

          • That is true but none of those passages or any other passage in the Bible every says that we are to take a break from the Bible, fellowship with other believers, or studying sound doctrine. Wounds from bad doctrine will only fester, grow deeper, and lead to worse doctrine if now replaced with good doctrine. We are to rest but never rest from studying God’s Word.

  • I understand you wanting to end this conversation. I respect that. My reply here is for any others who may read this dialog.

    Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

    In this verse, we are told to “hold fast” and not “waver” from the “confession of our hope.” Any confession or profession of the hope we have is a doctrine. We are to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” Without sound doctrine, we cannot know what love or “good deeds” are. We are not to “forsake the assembling together” which means we are to be active participants in our local church. A sheep without a shepherd is at risk of all sorts of dangers. A Christian without the encouragement, correction, and instruction found in the local church is also at risk of all sorts of dangers.

    There are many other verses throughout the Bible that instruct us to constantly be in God’s Word and meditate on it. You are right that we are to keep our faith, love, and pray without ceasing but without sound doctrine, how does a person know what they have put their faith in? How do they know how to properly love? How do they know who they are praying to?