“Non-doctrinal Christianity is more than oxymoronic: it is a myth.” ~ R. Scott Clark1
Doctrine is the teachings of a belief system. Sound doctrine is the true doctrine that is taught within the pages of God’s Word.
Why bother with doctrine, though? Why spend time on studying it? Doesn’t it just lead to arguments and disunity within the church? Is there any good reason for making sure we have a sound doctrine? Isn’t just professing to be a Christian enough?
Knowing the doctrines taught in Scripture is vital to Christian living. Without studying doctrine we have no idea how to live our lives, what the purpose of our life struggles is, who God really is, and how He wants to be honored and worshiped. There are many reasons and purposes in having a sound doctrine.Knowing the doctrines taught in Scripture is vital to Christian living. Click To Tweet
Sound Doctrine Reveals True Wisdom and Authentic Faith
Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. (Psalm 51:6)
God desires us to know truth…real truth…true wisdom. Not just book knowledge, although that is vital, but real, applicable wisdom. We cannot gain wisdom without knowing the intellectual side of things.God desires us to know truth…real truth...true wisdom. Click To Tweet
“God’s Word makes it abundantly clear that He wants us to use our minds.” ~ Grace to You2
The truth revealed in the Scripture is not so philosophical that you have to just trust what it is saying. It is highly intellectual. God does not ask or expect His children to take a “blind leap of faith” into Christianity. He has given us His Word that is easy enough for a child or an illiterate shepherd to understand yet deep enough for the most intelligent men to spend their life digging into. Christianity is not a “blind leap of faith” kind of religion but one that is logical, concise, intellectual, and understandable.
“Nothing is more practical than wisdom, and doctrine is built into wisdom. It is impossible to be wise, in the biblical sense, without doctrine.” ~ R. Scott Clark1
Experience is important but if we base our knowledge merely on experience, we are putting blinders on. We are only seeing a small part of what God fully wants to teach us. Experience is also relative. It can be misinterpreted and can lead to greater folly. We must interpret our experiences through the lens of the Bible in order to properly understand.
“Sound, biblical doctrine is a necessary aspect of true wisdom and authentic faith. The attitude that scorns doctrine while elevating feelings or blind trust cannot legitimately be called faith at all, even if it masquerades as Christianity. It is actually an irrational form of unbelief.” ~ Grace to You2
Without knowing what Christianity teaches, we cannot profess to actually have true understanding and belief in the Christian faith. If what we think about when we say God or Christianity or Jesus doesn’t line up with the Bible, then we have a completely different god and faith. We must study the doctrine of Christianity in order to know what it is that Christianity entails.
In order to obtain a driver’s license, you must go through a class that teaches you all the traffic laws, how a car works, and what your duty and responsibility as a driver will be. Technically, you can drive without a driver’s license but you are not officially a driver. We announce to the world when we receive that plastic rectangle, “I’m now officially a driver.” It is similar to Christianity. Technically, you can be a Christian without knowing doctrine but the profession sounds hollow and weak if you do not know what that title stand for.
“The content of our faith is crucial. Sincerity is not sufficient.” ~ Grace to You2
Sincerity sounds nice. It pulls at our emotions when we hear someone speak or defend something with great sincerity. Sincerity is a good thing and you should be sincere in what you believe, however, sincerity is not enough.
If you break the law while driving, you will receive a ticket. Even if you sincerely wanted to do the right thing but was just not aware of the law, you will still receive a ticket. This is because, as a driver, it is your responsibility to know all the driving laws. If you are in a new area, you are duty bound to do your research and find out what the laws for this new town might be. Ignorance is no excuse.
This is the same when it comes to Christianity. God has provided us with all we need to live a holy and righteous life. It is our responsibility to study His Word and know what His doctrine teaches.God has provided us with all we need to live a holy and righteous life. Click To Tweet
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, (Colossians 1:9)
Sound Doctrine Leads to Correct Theology
“Above all, doctrine promotes God’s glory. Doctrine shines forth as one of the glorious rays of the gospel of God (1 Timothy 1:10-11) and, by directing our faith and love toward God in Christ, it enables us to walk in His presence and give Him the glory He deserves (1 Peter 4:11; 2 Peter 3:18).” ~ Scott Swain3
We cannot have a correct understanding of who God is and how to properly worship Him if we do not know what He has revealed to us in His Word. By knowing the doctrines that God has taught us in the Bible, we will know better who He is and how He desires to be honored and praised.
“Doctrine teaches us to see God as the one from whom and through whom and to whom all things exist, and doctrine directs our lives to this God’s glory (Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 8:6).” ~ Scott Swain3
The first question of the Westminster Shorter and Longer Catechisms is, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer follows, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Our main duty in this life as a Christian is to glorify God. How can we do this if we do not know what He has revealed about Himself and what He expects out of His children. We cannot obey if we do not know what is being asked of us.We cannot obey if we do not know what is being asked of us. Click To Tweet
Sound Doctrine Teaches Us How to Put Our Faith in Action
“In Scripture, there is no divorce between doctrine and practice.” ~ R. Scott Clark1
If you don’t know the laws of driving or even how to drive, you will be a bad driver. You can still be a bad driver even if you do know the laws but you cannot be a good driver without the knowledge of driving. You cannot know how to live as a Christian if you do not know the doctrines of Christianity.You cannot know how to live as a Christian if you do not know the doctrines of Christianity. Click To Tweet
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; (2 Timothy 3:16)
Studying the doctrine that has been given to us through God’s Word trains us in how to live out our lives. It gives us the ability to put our faith in action.
“Biblical doctrine helps us understand the will of God for our lives. Biblical doctrine teaches us the nature and the character of God (Psalm 90:2; 97:2; John 4:24), the path of salvation through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9; Romans 10:9–10), instruction for the church (1 Corinthians 14:26; Titus 2:1–10), and God’s standard of holiness for our lives (1 Peter 1:14–17; 1 Corinthians 6:18–20).” ~ Got Questions4
God’s will for our lives is to bring glory to Him and to obey His commands. To those who have not been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, such a statement can sound harsh and egocentric. However, studying Christian doctrine reveals a God that is merciful, loving, gracious, just, and sacrificial. We see His commands, not as a slave driver taking all the fun out of life, but as wisdom that guides us in truth and to eternal life. They are not requirements that must be met to earn our way into heaven but the correct ways we can show God love, honor, and thank Him for salvation.
God’s chosen people are holy, set apart. We are to live as though we are a people set apart. We are foreigners here on earth and, as such, others should see our ways as unusual. God’s Word informs us in how to live holy lives, how to relate with each other within the church, how to relate to those outside of Christianity, how to share the Gospel, and how to react to the things of life.
Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11)
We bear the name of Christ on our lives. We are His ambassadors to the lost. We must remember than when we come into contact with those who do not know Christ, how we react to them is testifying of who Christ is. How we behave toward our brothers and sisters in Christ also testifies to those outside the church and to those younger within. We must remember that when we speak of God, when we serve each other, in all we do, we are doing it to bring glory to Christ. When we know who He is and how He wants to be glorified, we are more likely to act accordingly. Without this knowledge, we are wandering in the darkness.Without this knowledge, we are wandering in the darkness. Click To Tweet
“According to Paul, doctrine is among the things that matter most for the well-being of the Christian and the church. Sound, or ‘healthy,’ doctrine provides a pattern that, when followed, promotes healthy faith and love. Sound doctrine is a valuable heritage that is to be treasured in this generation and faithfully transmitted to the next (2 Timothy 2:2).” ~ Scott Swain3
As Christians, it is our duty to pass this knowledge onto others, especially the next generation. If we do not know what the Bible says, we are doing great harm to the generations after us. Let us study to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15) and pass this glorious truth onto the next generations.Let us study to show ourselves approved and pass this glorious truth onto the next generations. Click To Tweet
Sound Doctrine Reveals Clarity and Order
for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. (1 Corinthians 14:33)
God does not want us to be in the dark or confused about Him and how to live our lives. As we learn under the doctrines He has given us in His Word, our blurred vision starts to clear and a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) comes upon us.God does not want us to be in the dark or confused about Him and how to live our lives. Click To Tweet
“There is another consequence of denying Christian doctrine: chaos…Today, partly as a result of the misguided search for non-doctrinal Christianity, there is virtually no consensus as to what constitutes evangelical Christianity.” ~ R. Scott Clark1
Due to Biblical illiteracy, much of what tries to pass itself off as Christian these days is far from it. People pick up books at their local Christian bookstore and trust that what they are being taught is in alignment with God’s Word. Unfortunately, this is becoming less and less of the case. There is much chaos in today’s churches because people do not study the doctrines God has given us.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments;
His praise endures forever. (Psalm 111:10)
Sound Doctrine Protects from False or Incomplete Teaching
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Sinful man prefers to hear what validates and approves them in their sinfulness. We do not like it when our failings are pointed out, when what we want is not what is best, when we are asked to act in a way that is contrary to our flesh’s desires. It feels wrong. It feels like we are going against nature. And we are…we are going against our sin nature and we do not like that. So, we look for teachers who affirm what we want to hear, who make us feel better about ourselves, who give us the power over our lives rather than revealing Who truly has all the power.
“The Bible gives stern warning to those who would teach false or incomplete doctrine simply because it is more compatible with man’s ideas.” ~ Got Questions4
It isn’t only outright false doctrine that is wrong but also an incomplete teaching. Often false teachers teach a lot of solid truth. They will teach most of what would be recognized as orthodox and sound doctrine but they may just leave a couple of things out or add a little something or just slightly bend a verse here and there. These are often much more dangerous than those who teach obvious false doctrine. A bottle marked “POISON” is probably not going to tempt us. However, a delicious cup of coffee with a tiny drop of arsenic hidden in it doesn’t seem that bad until it is too late.
In order for us to be able to recognize this spiritual poison, we must know what to look for. The Bible teaches us what to look for when we listen to or read what a preacher or teacher is advising.In order for us to be able to recognize spiritual poison, we must know what to look for. Click To Tweet
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20)
God has instructed us to look at the fruit of a teacher to discern whether what they are teaching is healthy. But what is this fruit? Is it how the teaching makes us feel? Is it how many people follow this teacher? Is it based on what others say about this teacher? No. This fruit is their doctrine.
If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; (1 Timothy 63-4a)
In order to determine whether the fruit of a teacher is healthy, we must ask, “Does this teacher’s doctrine line up with what is revealed in Scripture?” In order to answer this question, however, you must know what the Bible teaches and this is only accomplished by studying the doctrine within its pages.
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; (Ephesians 4:14)
False doctrine has been compared to yeast in the Bible. Yeast is a single-celled microorganism. It is incredibly small. However, yeast is a fungus that explodes in growth in no time at all. Our culture does not bake bread at home like we once did so many people do not understand how potent yeast can be.
Today, the analogy could be compared to something like cancer. It starts out as one rogue cell that goes unnoticed for a time. However, once it has had time to infect, the cancer can metastasize throughout the body. Almost every one today, knows someone who has had cancer. We know how quickly things can progress when it has been ignored. We know how devastating it can be to the body. We know how it kills.False doctrine is a spiritual cancer within the church. Click To Tweet
False doctrine is a spiritual cancer within the church. It may start out innocent enough, small and of little influence but when ignored and not corrected, false doctrine always takes root and spreads. It can utterly destroy a church, an entire denomination, and the testimony of all Christians. What the world understands of Christianity today is not even close to what is true Christianity. We have allowed false doctrine to speak louder than true Christianity and what the world knows about us is often inaccurate.
“Sound doctrine delivers us from the snare of false teaching (2 Tim. 2:24–26; Titus 1:9-11), which otherwise threatens to arrest spiritual development (Eph. 4:14) and to foster ecclesiastical discord (Rom. 16:17).” ~ Scott Swain3
It is our duty to know sound, Biblical doctrine to protect ourselves, to protect others, and clarify to the world what true Christianity actually believes and teaches.
You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17-18)
Sound Doctrine is Encouraging
Understanding true, Biblical doctrine, is encouraging. Click To Tweet
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)
Understanding true, Biblical doctrine, is encouraging. God reveals to us how we are to live our lives, how to glorify Him, and how to understand the things that happen to us in this life. Life can be very difficult. We often go through very severe trials and, to one who does not understand Biblical doctrine, these times can be discouraging, confusing, and can lead to a seed of bitterness taking root in our spirit.
The verse above says that the hearts of the people were to be encouraged because they had obtained a great wealth from understanding, wisdom, and knowledge from Christ. They were taught this so that they would not be swayed by “persuasive arguments.” These people were to have peace and joy that accompanies knowledge of God and His doctrines.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:2-5)
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, (Hebrews 12:2a)
“Nevertheless, for all its virtues, good doctrine is not magic. It is possible for someone to profess right doctrine and yet remain an unbeliever. That is called hypocrisy. It is also possible for one to live well and yet confess bad doctrine. That is blessed inconsistency. Neither Scripture nor history commends either option. We should rather think that good doctrine is salutary—healthy and helpful in the same way that sunshine, clean air, and rain are salutary for living beings.” ~ R. Scott Clark1
Having a sound doctrine is not what makes a person a Christian but it does help a Christian know who God is, how to please Him, and how to make sense of the world around us. Studying doctrine is like feeding our bodies good food. It isn’t what makes us alive but it does nourish us in order than we will be healthy and effective.Studying doctrine is like feeding our bodies good food. Click To Tweet
“The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom;
And with all your acquiring, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7)
- Clark, R. Scott. 2014. “Non-Doctrinal Christianity Is Impossible”. Ligonier Ministries. http://www.ligonier.org/blog/non-doctrinal-christianity-impossible/.
- “Does Doctrine Really Matter?”. 2016. Gty.Org. Accessed December 1. http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A142/does-doctrine-really-matter.
- 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.