At our office the other day, an acquaintance came by and as we were chatting, he made some astounding statements. He said that he does not understand why we have all these different churches around town. After all, he continued, we all believe in Jesus and are saved so why do we have to have to be concerned about doctrines? They don't matter in the scheme of things. I was somewhat taken aback by his comments. Didn't he know that the Bible is the foundation for our belief in Jesus Christ? Didn't he realize that to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that salvation in Him alone is doctrine?
Vocabulary.com defines doctrine in this manner: "Doctrine means a belief or set of beliefs. The idea that a man named Jesus was the son of God is part of the Christian doctrine." Doctrine, then, is a critical component of our faith. It is a set of beliefs and establishes for us our worldview.
In his sermon series on the book of Ephesians, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones spoke about how the new testament letters were written to correct errors and false teaching even at the beginning days of the church. He quotes from I Corinthians 15:33 and goes on to elaborate. "'Evil communications corrupt good manners,' by which he means that if we go astray in our doctrine, eventually our life will go astray as well. You cannot separate what a man believes from what he is. For this reason doctrine is vitally important....We are to guard ourselves against being 'tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine', for if doctrine goes astray your life will soon suffer as well" ("God's Ultimate Purpose, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, pg 118). He goes on to encourage us to be students of doctrine so we can keep ourselves free from erroneous teachings. So how do we go about learning correct doctrine?
For believers, the answer to that question is the Holy Bible. It is the foundation of our faith and the only true and infallible rule of faith. Reading, studying and making God's Word a part of each day strengthens us to do combat with worldly ideas and temptations. Leaning on our own opinions proves nothing. The Holy Spirit inspired writer of Hebrews had this to say about it: " For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). If we really want to have a powerful weapon that can get to the heart of truth, then, we must embrace God's Word. This book reveals who God is and who we are and how we are to live.
In another passage, the Apostle Paul penned these words: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible gives us the words of life, and yes, it is filled with doctrine.
Likewise, the Westminster Shorter Catechism offers us a summation of the teachings of the Christian faith. Question 2 says: "What rule hath God given us to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him?" Answer: "The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New
Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him." The Scripture proof for this question is 2 Timothy 3:16 among others. Then, if we move on the question 3, we read: "What do the Scriptures principally teach?" Answer: "The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man." The proof verse for this is found in 2 Timothy 1:13: "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus."
By reading, first, the Bible and studying The Westminster Shorter Catechism, we can learn the important teachings of our faith (also known as doctrine). We cannot say that doctrine is unimportant. As Dr. Lloyd-Jones clearly states, we open ourselves to erroneous teaching if we do not know what we believe and why we believe it. This is how a cult is started when men lose sight of God's Word. We are not to add nor subtract from it.
Unfortunately, there are many today just as there were in the early church who will not abide sound doctrine. They are biblically illiterate and prefer the soft, feel good messages that are abundant in many places today. These feel good messages, however, will not guide you into truth or keep you from stumbling when life becomes difficult. We cannot build on any other foundation other than that laid by our Lord, and this is found in the finished book called the Bible. Let us be good students of our faith so we are not tripped up by all the false ideas in our world today. This is how we grow and how we can glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Selah!