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)
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
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.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.
The only way to know sound doctrine is to study God’s Word. Click To Tweet
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. 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
- “Doctrine Divides”. 2016. Ligonier Ministries. Accessed November 10. http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/doctrine-divides/.
- MacArthur, John. 2016. “Doctrine Is Practical”. Grace To You. Accessed November 10. http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A141/doctrine-is-practical?Term=doctrine.
- Swain, Scott. 2015. “What Is Doctrine?”. Ligonier Ministries. http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-doctrine.