There is a growing trend to devalue doctrine for Christian living and make the teachings of scripture irrelevant or unimportant. I have repeatedly heard statements like, “Doctrine is not important in Christianity. Nothing is important but having a relationship with Jesus”.
This can be made to sound good if presented with passion and is packaged right, but it’s a completely false statement. In fact, it is impossible to have a deep relationship with Jesus Christ without doctrine because doctrine is about knowing him.
A young man who meets a young girl and finds his heart going all twitter pated, naturally wants to know everything about her. If you love hunting you naturally want to know everything about hunting, same with sports or baking. Jesus says the same thing about knowing him. In John 14:15 he says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Then also in verses 23 & 24, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”
Bottom line is this… if you do not know the word, you can’t keep the word.
If you do not keep the commandments of scripture, you do not love God regardless of how emotional we get and how spirited our time of worship becomes. Keeping the Word of God is the evidence that the love of God is in our hearts.
If you do not know God’s word, how can you keep God’s word? If you do not know God’s word, how can you know God? Sound doctrine is critical because it reveals to us how to know and relate to our Creator and Saviour.
Paul tells Titus to “Teach what accords with sound doctrine.” – Titus 2:1. Such a mandate makes it obvious that sound doctrine is important. In fact it’s so important that it’s the last command given by Jesus before he left earth.
In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Later on, we see how the apostles followed through on that command of Jesus’ in Acts 2:42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
Doctrine Is A Sacred Trust
In Titus 2:1; Matthew 28 & Acts 2 we see a command of God’s to teach doctrine because he wants us to know him. If that’s true then doctrine is a sacred trust.
The overall teaching of the church contains many elements, but the primary message is explicitly defined by the word of God itself: “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, [and] that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
This is the clear-cut good news that we are to share, and Paul says it is “of first importance.” Change that message and the basis of faith crumbles and shifts from Christ to something else. Our eternal destiny depends upon hearing and then acting on that message.
A sacred trust is defined as something not to be violated, criticized, or tampered with. That means we dare not tamper with God’s communiqué to the world. Truth is, we are the couriers of the message, not its editors. Our duty is to deliver the message, not to change it.
Jude was so insistent that the church defend sound doctrine that he uses the word ‘contend’: “I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” – Jude 1:3
To “contend” carries with it the idea of strenuously fighting for something and to hold nothing back in the struggle, to give it everything you’ve got. A contender in boxing is someone who has worked hard for a shot at the title and will fight through pain to get it.
Are you known as a contender for the doctrines of God or are you more known as a lover not a fighter? Love Wins is applicable only in that someone else contended and died for us first. God now wants fighters and defenders for his truth. The question is… are we?
Doctrine is such a sacred trust that scripture includes a warning about tampering with God’s word. Revelation 22 says, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” – Revelation 22:18-19
Rather than alter the apostles’ doctrine, we are to receive what has been passed down to us, keep it, contend for it and pass it on.
Doctrine Affects How We Live
We also need to understand that doctrine is a statement of faith which articulates our orthodoxy (meaning ‘right belief’). Belief is only the beginning because what we believe affects what we do.
In his first epistle to Timothy, Paul clearly associates proper belief (sound doctrine) with right behaviour. Writing to slaves he says in 1 Timothy 6: “Let all who are under the yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honour so that the name of God and our doctrine may not be spoken against.” – 1 Timothy 6:1
If a Christian slave dishonoured his master in any way by disobedience, by acting disrespectfully, by speaking shamefully of his master, the worst consequence would not be the beating he would receive but the curses he would cause his master to hurl at this slave’s God, his religion, and the teaching he had embraced: “So that is what this new religion teaches its converts!”
Instead of bringing honour to the true God and the gospel, as every Christian should be anxious to do, this slave would bring about the very opposite.
With that in mind it’s of interest then that the history of the early church reveals that Christian slaves generally commanded a higher price on the slave market than unbelievers. If a master knew that a certain slave on the auction block was a Christian, he would generally be willing to pay more for that slave, since he knew that the slave would serve him faithfully and well.
This is high tribute to the Christian faith and the soundness of the doctrine that this slave embraced. What this slave believed inside himself, affected how he lived outside himself.
Here’s a question for all of us to consider. If you were put on the “slave market” so to speak would you “command a higher price?” The purpose of doctrine is not to simply inform us intellectually of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith, but to challenge us to live out our faith in life and practice.
Behaviour is an extension of theology and there is a direct correlation between what we think and how we act, between belief and behaviour.
Let’s look at it another way. If you believe that you’re invincible you can easily make foolhardy decisions. For example, two guys stand on top of a bridge; one believes he can fly, and the other believes he can’t. Their next actions and ultimate results will be quite dissimilar.
In the same way, someone who believes that there is no such thing as right and wrong will naturally behave differently than someone who believes in well-defined moral standards.
Paul says, “Understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” – 1 Timothy 1:9-10
Isn’t it interesting that here Paul lists sins like rebellion, murder, lying, and slave trading and then concludes with “and whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine.” I think Paul thinks sound doctrine is kinda important don’t you think? In other words, Paul’s saying “listen, bad behaviour is out of sync with true belief”. Sound doctrine curbs corrupt conduct.
So ask yourself, “Are my actions before my family, in school and at the workplace giving clear testimony to the reality of the doctrine of Christ in me?”