On this "Throw Back Thursday", I am republishing a post that I wrote a number of years ago because I believe this is a growing problem among Christians today. I hope you are blessed and encouraged as you read this. Feel free to share this with others.
I had a long and interesting talk with a friend the other day. We frequently get into discussions over spiritual issues, and I wish i could say I agree with her position. However, there are times when I am troubled by the comments she makes. The other day she told me that it didn't matter if she went to church or not. She had a relationship with God and that is all she needed. She could go to any church and feel right at home. For her, doctrine did not matter because if we believe in Jesus Christ that is all that is necessary. She was tired of the disputing over various ideas put forth by denominations.
When we parted company, I was saddened by her position which I have encountered many times over the years. People so easily say, "It doesn't matter what you believe so long as you believe in Jesus." But the question that comes to my mind is what DO you believe about Jesus? This is what doctrine teaches us, and understanding the foundations of our faith are critical to growth in Christ. It DOES matter what you believe.
In Webster's "American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), we find this definition of doctrine: "In a general sense, whatever is taught. Hence a principle or position in any science; whatever is laid down as true by an instructor or master. The doctrines of the gospel are the principles or truths taught by Christ and His apostles.....Instruction and confirmation in the truths of the gospel" (pg 65). Based on this definition, I wonder, then, how can we be instructed in the things which Christ and the Apostles taught if we are not affiliated with a body of believers? For it is within the body, that we find Pastor/teachers who preach the Gospel to us, Sunday school classes and Bible studies where we can gain insight and find stimulation and fellow believers who will hold us accountable for our actions. Being isolated from the fellowship of other believers and trying to hear God on our own puts us at a disadvantage. The Apostle Paul wrote these words in his letter to the Romans: "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How then will they believe in Him in whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:14 - New Am. Standard)
Within the pages of the Bible, we have the fullness of God's counsel. The words of truth form the doctrine of our faith which is critical knowledge for the Christian. To say, "It doesn't matter what people believe as long as they believe in Jesus" is naive at best and at worst, makes us a target for Satan. According to another letter which Paul wrote to Timothy, we read: "Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth" ( 2 Timothy 2:15). In the same letter Paul goes on to write this about the Bible and hence the doctrine found in the Bible: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for gaining in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16).
Paul makes it clear that we are to study the Word of God and handle it carefully, but we also need to recognize that it is powerful in our lives. While studying the Bible on our own is important, we also must gather together in corporate worship which will help us stay the course and keep on the right track.
Unfortunately, today there are a number of churches that no longer spend time teaching both children and adults the doctrines of the faith. Instead, they have replaced sound teaching with "feel good" philosophy". Some have put aside the great Confessions of the faith as well as the catechisms which help to organize the basic doctrines of the faith as found in the Bible. Is it any wonder that many believers today do not have a clear understanding of what their church teaches or believes? So how can we remedy this problem?
Of course, sound preaching and teaching in our fellowships is key. This is where our faith can clearly be expounded. We may also wish to return to some of the practices of early believers who used a two year period of discipling new believers before they were allowed to join the church. When they came into fellowship, these Christians understood and knew what they believed. Church membership was more important to them and they looked forward to their time of fellowship with others. Finally, we, as believers, need to take time to be students of God's Word absorbing the doctrines of Christ.
There is no greater reward than the study of our faith (doctrines). When we do this in the context of fellowship, we will come to understand more quickly the grace of our Lord that saved us. Doctrine (our belief system) does matter and so does church fellowship. May we be found faithful in both. Selah!