4 Essential Reasons to Study Doctrine

4 Essential Reasons to Study Doctrine

young man reading small bibleWe live in an anti-intellectual, anti-authority society, especially when it comes to religious matters. Ours is an existential (based on human experience) society devoted to the ‘warm fuzzy’ feel good, self-centered mentality that is so characteristic of the Post Modernist Era which has influenced  our nation—including much of the church.

As a consequence, the terms doctrine or theology are not very popular in Christian circles. In fact, they are often denigrated or belittled. We hear statements like, “We don’t need to know all that theological or doctrinal stuff. We just need to know Jesus.” Or, “Well, I am not a theologian and never expect to be. I just love Jesus.” But knowing and loving Jesus in truth is dependent on the teachings of the Bible. Doctrine is simply another name for teaching and theology means “the knowledge of God.”

1. Spiritual Growth

Many new (as well as older) believers flounder in their Christian growth because they do not know the foundational truths for walking with Christ through the Spirit of God and in the light of God’s Word.

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 1 Peter 2:1-2. See also 1 John 2:13; 2 Peter 3:18; Philippians 3:12

If a Christian fails to  “feed” upon the truths of Scripture, he or she will be stunted and never develop to the full potential God intended. A Christian that doesn’t grow spiritually is most unlikely to have a well grounded ministry of any kind.

There is only one way to experience spiritual growth and sanctification and that is through Jesus Christ and the life God gives us in Him. We can only experience this, however, as we listen to the teachings (doctrines) of the Bible, which is our index for faith and practice.

2. False Teaching

False teachers often appear as angels or messengers of light (actually messengers of darkness).

2 Corinthians 11:13-15; James 3:5; 1Timothy4:1. Satan not only denies Christ as the sole answer but offers many other roads and substitutes to life, but they are all false and lead to destruction.

God’s Holy Word teaches us that to combat such false teaching, we need to know and be trained in the Scripture. This is a very strong thrust of the Bible, especially, the New Testament. “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Ephesians 4:11-14. See also Colossians 2:1-5; 2 Peter 1-3

3. Sound Foundation

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27

Once the foundation has been laid, we need to continue to grow and go on to greater maturity. When we fail to do this, we will regress and become hardened in our hearts. Other passages that use the foundation metaphor are 1 Corinthians 3:10-12; Ephesians 3:10-12; Ephesians 2:20; Hebrews 6:1.

4. Sound Doctrine

In keeping with the importance of having a solid foundation are the terms ‘sound’ or ‘healthy’ doctrine. To show our need not only of doctrine, but healthy, accurate teaching, we have another strong emphasis which exhorts us to not only train and bring believers to maturity, but to also guard the great truths of Scripture. The following passages and their sheer number demonstrate just how important sound doctrine is to the purposes and plan of God and to the people of God that they might not be led astray.

“Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”2 Timothy 1:13-14

“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness…” 1 Timothy 6:3

”For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4

“He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Titus1:9

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;” 1 timothy 4:6-7

the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.” 1 Timothy 1:10-11

Knowing God and experiencing Him in all aspects of life is both factual, involving an intellectual comprehension of the truth, and personal, involving a personal response to that truth by faith. And we cannot bypass this order. Faith is ultimately worthless unless it is based on truth, on that which is able, willing, and available to deliver.

“… Healthy relationships must be based upon both a factual and a personal knowledge of the one loved. Thus it is with knowing God. A healthy relationship with God must begin with an intellectual knowledge of who He is, which then matures into a deeper personal experience of knowing God in life. God manifests Himself to us on the mountain peaks, in the valleys, in the swamps—in all aspects of our lives”[1]

It is out of this foundation that a passion for ministry comes. It is out of a deeply routed understanding of the Scriptures that we develop a passion for the lost and gain confidence that the resurrection power of Jesus will empower us through the Spirit to take the gospel to those who are without Christ. It is sound doctrine applied in the life of the believer that empowers us to serve God.

[1] Gary E. Vincelette, Basic Theology Applied, editors, Wesley & Elain Willis, John & Janet Master, Victor Books, Wheaton, 1995, p. 15.


  1. stu

    Don I really appreciated your post on this topic. It would seem much of the modern church is compromising teaching balanced Biblical truth more and more so that it can be ‘sensitive’ to the world. Churches seem content to just teach about the aspects of God that they feel will attract people, instead of trusting in God in teaching a more balanced Biblical view of who He is. We hear so much on God’s love and grace (which is essential – don’t misunderstand me!), however we hear very little of His anger, judgment, wrath and holiness. We paint a picture of God that we feel people will respond to more, instead of teaching what the Bible says of God and trusting in the Holy Spirit to convict and draw people into a closer relationship with Him. How tragic! This deeply saddens me.

    The shocking irony is, in trying to please people and painting a half picture of the God we worship in the Bible, we are not serving, or dare I say loving, those we minister to! To grow in our relationship with God, we need to know about all the aspects of His character as taught by the Bible. To not teach of His holiness, righteousness, judgment and wrath as well as His grace, mercy and love, is to dangerously let people get into a false sense of security. God becomes someone who is there to please them and be molded into their own view of what is right. This tragically could lead people into thinking they are Christians when in fact they have never acknowledged their need of a saviour, repented of their sin and humbled themselves before God. Without repentance there can be no forgiveness of sin, and no salvation!

    If we truly love others we will strive to teach them about all aspects of the God of the Bible. Some of that will be tough, but we must honour Him in doing so and trust in the Holy Spirit to use biblical truth for His good purpose. Biblical doctrine and theology should be a primary focus for all Christians as it’s about knowing God and strengthening what we believe in Him. Everything else flows out from that.

  2. David

    Don…………Thanks for your thoughtful analysis and reasoned argument based on the Scripture.

    One’s passion for Christ is sustainable, and not fleeting, when based on some unchangeable truths found in the Bible as you rightly point out. A heart that is burdened for people to come to Christ is driven by the knowledge that sin separates man from God and the calamity of an eternal destination banished from God’s presence. It is biblical instruction on godly living that provides the lasting motivation to change personal character traits and behaviour that are not in line with God’s standards. One could go on and on with different examples as they relate to Christian belief and practice, however the point is that it is only Scripture (its reading, understanding and application) that will sustain a godly passion and drive over a lifetime.

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