“They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” – Jeremiah 6:14
You may have heard people say to you before that focusing on getting doctrine (right teaching) divides rather than causes benefit to the body of Christ. Why can’t we just all love one another and not have to be so specific about theology?
R.C Sproul is right when he says; Christians have often divided over matters not essential to Christian orthodoxy and lobbed charges of heresy at one another. Such actions have created a distaste for theology in the minds of many people, and there is now a tendency to downplay any essential differences within the visible church because of all the vitriol shown over the less important points of doctrine. Let us be passionate for the truth, but let us not divide unless Christian orthodoxy is at stake.
I understand that some Christians have used Bible passages to push a particular way of thinking about end times or what their pet peripheral doctrine maybe but this is why most likely we have seen the term ” doctrine divides” as true.
Doctrine is True biblical teaching of what we should know and hold to. In that case, then should it not be the truth that unites and the truth that we rally around as believers that causes us to have one voice, one Saviour and one message? This Truth is actually Christ who called himself the Truth (Truth Incarnate – In the flesh) (John 14:6) So..When we say that doctrine does not matter what are we saying? That error of false teaching is permissible or allowable? (1 Timothy 1:3, 6:3) That we could teach something or believe something that is not true in the Bible and allow ourselves to live believing a lie or even worse deceived. (2 Thess 2:11, Jeremiah 28:15)
Doesn’t the Bible tell us to know what good and sound doctrine is and to thereby outwork it in our lives and in the life of the Local Church? Let’s have a look at the word doctrine and its Biblical implications to us to decide if it really matters or not. I’m not sure if you have really thought about this at all but like all good theological questions they are important to get right. To do this we must go to the pages of Scripture and particularly look for what Jesus spoke regarding this issue.
Doctrine is Unavoidable
Non-doctrinal Christianity is impossible. The teaching of non-doctrinal Christianity is doctrine. It is bad doctrine, but it is doctrine nonetheless. Some argue that “doctrine divides,” and, therefore, that we should avoid it. True, doctrine sometimes divides, but that is what the Lord intended. In Luke 12:51–53, our Lord expressly taught that He came not to bring “peace on earth” but rather to bring “division,” even among family members. We cannot hereby justify schismatic behaviour in the church, which Scripture condemns repeatedly, but we cannot accept the notion that division is inherently evil.
The real question is not whether Christians will have doctrine but which doctrine or whose doctrine? Our Lord and Savior Himself advocated a host of doctrines. The Gospels are replete with His doctrinal teaching. He taught about the nature of God (John 4:24), humanity (Matt. 10:28), creation (Mark 10:6), sin (John 8:34), redemption (John 3), the church (Matt. 16), and the end of all things (Matt. 24). He taught doctrines about the history of salvation and how it should be understood (Luke 24). Anyone who advocates non-doctrinal Christianity must do so without Jesus.
Doctrine is Biblical
Our English word doctrine is derived from a Latin word, doctrina, which means, “that which is taught.” In Christian usage, it refers to Christian teaching about Scripture, God, man, Christ, salvation, church, and the end of all things. It is fitting that the English word doctrine was first used in the 1382 Wycliffe Bible translation (from Latin to English), because, in the old Latin Bible, the word doctrine occurs more than one hundred times. The King James Version (1611) used the word about half as often, and contemporary translations use it more sparingly. Nevertheless, the idea is present throughout Scripture.
One of the root ideas in the word doctrine is instruction. Moses received instruction from the Lord on the mountain (Ex. 24:12), which occurred after the Israelites had sworn a blood oath (v. 7) to do all that the Lord had spoken. That instruction included truths about who God is, what He had done for His people, and what He expected of them. That pattern is repeated throughout the Old Testament.
In the New Testament, Titus, a young pastor on the island of Crete, was exhorted to “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught” so as to be able to “give instruction in sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9). There are several such passages in the New Testament, some of which we will survey below. Clearly, the teaching and preservation of divinely revealed doctrine is basic to the office of the minister and to the function of Christ’s church.
Doctrine is Evangelical
The universal church and her greatest teachers have always taught and confessed certain basic doctrines. The early church focused on the Bible’s doctrine of God and Christ. After considerable Bible study and debate, the church concluded that God’s Word teaches that God is one in essence and three in person and that Jesus, God the Son incarnate, is one person with two natures (divine and human).
Doctrine is Practical
The history of salvation and of the church is, in part, the history of the struggle between true and false doctrine and the moral consequences of error. Satan came teaching false doctrine about God, man, sin, and judgment. His doctrine led to death. Moreover, those who mocked Noah and those who called for Barabbas believed false doctrines, and they acted upon them.
In Scripture, there is no divorce between doctrine and practice. In Proverbs 8:10, instruction is a synonym for knowledge, and both come in the context of getting wisdom, that is, an understanding of how to live in God’s world according to the patterns He has established. Nothing is more practical than wisdom, and doctrine is built into wisdom. It is impossible to be wise, in the biblical sense, without doctrine.
The Apostle Paul warned the Roman congregation (Rom. 16:7) about those who divide the congregation, who seek their own gain, and who contradict Apostolic doctrine. The noun doctrine occurs in a similar context in Ephesians 4:12. Paul contrasts crafty, self-aggrandizing liars who are immature and who may cause believers to be tossed about “by every wind of doctrine,” that is, every passing fad, like a small boat in a big storm. Here, bad doctrine and moral corruption are intertwined.
True doctrine is never mere theory. This connection is explicit in 1 Timothy 1:8, where Paul lists a series of gross sins and categorizes them as “contrary to sound doctrine.” To deny biblical doctrine is immoral, and morality is based upon fundamental Christian teaching.
Let us never be ashamed of holding to and proclaiming forth a sound doctrine that we may gather around and live in doctrinal truth that unites us in Christ as one voice! (Romans 15:16)
Doctrine will actually divide in the end.
It is Jesus who we see coming with a sword in His mouth to divide the nations. The sheep from the goats, the believer from the unbeliever. (Revelation 1:16) Jesus the living word of God will do practically what the Word of God in written form did for us in clarity among those who called themselves believers. We must know and clearly perceive those who are of the truth and hold to true doctrine and those who do not. Only in truth can we have unity and represent the Church which is not the pillar and ground of personal opinion but of Christ the Truth! (1 Timothy 3:15)
A religion which is all excitement, and has little instruction in it, may serve for transient use; but for permanent life-purposes there must be a knowledge of those great doctrines which are fundamental to the gospel system. I tremble when I hear of a man’s giving up, one by one, the vital principles of the gospel and boasting of his liberality. (C.H Spurgeon)
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