The Intimidating Nature of Doctrine
Do you find doctrine intimidating? Stephen March shows that understanding doctrine as it is laid out in Scripture is vital for our faith.
Christianity And Doctrine
As we consider the various the things that are taught throughout Christianity, one word that keeps coming up, and admittedly can be very intimidating, is doctrine. Just what is doctrine? What does it mean, and what constitutes doctrine? More importantly, where does it come from and who decides what is included? The truth is we don’t really need to be afraid of doctrine. All we need is a healthy understanding of it.
Now the word doctrine does appear several times in the Bible, and each time it does, it is in the context of teaching or adhering to sound doctrine, or avoiding false or contrary doctrine. In every instance though, the meaning of the word is simply instruction or teaching. And what is really important is to not stretch it beyond that. If we do, we run the risk of replacing doctrine with ideology, which is more of a philosophical principle specific to certain person or group.
The Bible is the Word of God
For the Christian, we believe that the Bible is the word of God, and therefore what the Bible teaches is good and true. The Bible becomes the source of our doctrine. What this means is that Christian doctrine should consist of that which is taught in the scriptures. So for example, in John 1:1, we can read
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God.”
In verse 14 of the same chapter, we read
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
This verse is a reference to the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the Bible teaches that Jesus, was the Son of God, and was by nature fully God, this is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity, it is one of the teachings or instructions that we are given regarding what we believe.
Jesus Died For Our Sins and Rose Again
In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 we read
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.”
Again, we have biblical teaching or instruction that says Jesus died for our sins and rose again, so this too is doctrine. And there are many other examples of doctrine that we can find, especially pertaining to who Jesus is and what he has done. Acts 4:12 tells us that
“there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
“For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not of your own doing it is the gift of God, not a result of work, so that no one may boast.”
Now add to that Acts 16:31
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved,”
and you have the doctrine, or teaching, of salvation. Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and fully God, who died for our sins, and rose again, and only through faith in Him, can we be saved from our sins. That’s how it all works. Oh, but it’s easy when the teaching is so cut and dry, but what about things that can be interpreted different ways? Furthermore, what about things that the Bible really says nothing about? These exist, and so we have to be careful to understand what doctrine is from the Bible, and what doctrine is from man.
Doctrine From Man
Chances are a doctrine from man is based on a biblical teaching, with a little bit of ideology added to help it along and make it practical. These often become traditions, which can be good, but aren’t necessarily doctrine. When Paul taught at Berea, the bible tells us the Bereans searched the scriptures to see if what he said was true, and that’s how we should treat anything put forth as doctrine, what does the Bible say?
I’ll give an example of this from the Old Testament. The fourth commandment was to keep the Sabbath day holy, and to do no work on it. That is the doctrinal teaching, but what was the practical application of that for the people of Israel? What constituted work had to be defined by the religious leaders and priests because the scriptures were not specific about it. What naturally followed through the ages is that some Jewish groups prohibit certain things and others do not, this would all depend on their specific ideology regarding the law to keep the Sabbath holy.
Breaking of Bread
In the church, we might look to the remembrance of Jesus through the breaking of bread. Jesus instructed us as he broke bread and shared the cup with his disciples, to “do this in remembrance of me”, Paul would add in 1 Corinthians 11 that as “often” as we do this we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Again, there is the idea of what does often mean? Is it weekly? Monthly? Daily? Or just that whenever we do it we are proclaiming Jesus’ death?
There are many different ideas as to how often Christians should come together and remember the Lord in breaking bread. So, the doctrine is that believers should break bread together in remembrance of Jesus, but the frequency with which we do it falls under the ideology of each group that meets. Now, it should be made clear that ideology is not necessarily wrong or bad. Is it good to meet weekly to remember the Lord? Yes, of course it is. Is it good to meet daily? Absolutely, the only thing we could argue that would be wrong would be to willfully not meet at all in this manner.
Lastly, because doctrine literally means teaching or instruction, which is an active word, by definition doctrine cannot be formulated on what the Bible doesn’t say. What I mean by this is that just because the Bible doesn’t say anything about whether we can or can’t do a certain thing, the practice or prohibition of that certain thing really can’t be put forward as true Biblical doctrine.
Don’t Shy Away From Doctrine
So, don’t shy away from this idea of doctrine, but rather when one is presented, read the Bible to find out what the actual teaching is and follow that. We can never go wrong by being obedient to God’s word. And, if the Bible does seem silent on something, study the person of Jesus, if we believe in Him, the more we know about Him will help us to be more like Him, and He is the true source of all doctrine.
If you would like to know more about how to read your Bible and understand the truths that are in it, please contact us. You can do so by email to [email protected] or by phone at 1-800-567-1218.
Stephen March is the President of FBH International and HopeStreamRadio. He graduated from the Broadcasting Program at Niagara College in 2001, and has previously worked in television production and post-production. Stephen lives in St. Catharines, Ontario, with his wife Corinne and their four children. He serves as an elder at Scottlea Gospel Chapel.
Read and hear more from Stephen Marchon his contributor’s page.
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