Basic Christian Doctrine 1
1. Doctrine is Important.
This is the first of 50 studies on Basic Christian Doctrine. Each study will include 10 summary statements, explanations of the terms and topics covered, and the main Scripture verses to study. The Bible is our textbook, and it places a high value on doctrine. For example, God often says, “I want you to know” (I Cor. 11:3; Col. 2:1). God gave us the Bible so that we might know certain important things (I John 5:13). Sadly, too many Christians know very little about the Bible and Christian doctrine. They often know more about sports than about God’s Word. This series will study the basics for beginners, but also give teaching for those who are more advanced. It will cover Christian doctrine from the Bible, not the theories of philosophy, psychology, opinions, or false religions.
2. “Doctrine” Means Teaching.
In the Greek New Testament, there are 2 words for doctrine: DIDACHE and DIDASKALIA. Both mean teaching, instruction, education, and explanation. Pro. 4:1-2 equates doctrine with “instruction and understanding”. A doctrine is a statement about a specific truth. It is a statement, not a command or a question. “Doctrinal” means “having to do with doctrine”. Jesus taught doctrine (Matt. 7:28, 22:33; Mk. 1:22, 4:2, 11:18, 12:38; Luke 4:32, etc.). One of the main characteristics of early New Testament Christians was that they followed “the Apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42).
3. Doctrine Must Be True and Sound.
God says, “I give you good doctrine” (Pro. 4:2). Acts 13:12 calls it “the doctrine of the Lord.” True doctrine must come from God, not from mere men. Even the Lord Jesus said, “My doctrine if not Mine, but His who sent Me” (John 7:16). Paul placed a very high value on doctrine which is true and must be sound (I Tim. 1:3, 10, 4:6, 13, 16, 5:17, 6:1, 3; 2 Tim. 1:3, 3:10, 16, 4:2-3; Titus 1:9, 2:1, 7, 10). 2 John 9-10 says that we are to ignore any so-called Christian who believes or teaches anything other than “the doctrine of Christ” (the doctrine from and about Christ).
4. Sound Doctrine is an Anchor Against the Danger of False Doctrine.
You can’t fight something with nothing. We need true doctrine to fight and be defended against false doctrine. False doctrine is not only useless; it is dangerous. Eph. 4:14 warns us against the winds if false doctrine. Heb. 13:9, “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines.” Jesus warned of “the doctrine of Balaam” and “the doctrine of the Nicolaitans” (Rev. 2:14-14. Cf. vs. 24), “the doctrines of men” (Matt. 15:9; Mk. 7:7; Col. 2:22) and “the doctrines of demons” (I Tim. 4:1). Truth sets us free (John 8:32). God urges us to note those who cause divisions contrary to “the doctrine which you learned” (Rom. 16:17).
5. There is No Substitute for the Good Knowledge of Bible Doctrine.
God desires to feed us to His Word, and we become spiritually malnourished when we do not graze in the pastures of His Word. We become imbalanced, anemic, confused, easily led astray, prone to doubt and backsliding. Some Christians do not recognize the hunger pangs they are suffering because they are not studying the Bible. Doctrine alone does not produce spiritual maturity, but there is no maturity without it. It is erroneous to say “I just want Christ, not doctrine.” Christology is the doctrine of Christ. Nor is it true that “Doctrine divides”. False doctrine divides; truth unites.
6. A Disciple is a Student.
The New Testament regularly uses the word MATHETES to describe the followers of Jesus. The word means “disciple, student, learner.” To be a good student, one must be teachable. He must admit that he does not know certain things (cf. I Cor. 8:2). This is a school from which nobody ever finally graduates, for there is always so much more to learn. God then wants us to learn enough so that we can teach others, who in turn will teach others (2 Tim. 2:2). We are to be able to teach out children, new converts, and answer the objections of unbelievers. But some Christians have not learned enough to be teachers, though they have been saved more than long enough. They need to be students again (Heb. 5:12). A student should strive to become a teacher.
7. All Christians Should Know What They Believe.
A new Christian naturally hungers to be taught, like a new baby hungers and thirsts for milk (I Pet. 2:2). Too many Christians outgrow this and think they know enough. All Christians should know Bible doctrine, not just the preachers and theologians. Ignorance is no virtue. God often says, “I do not want you to be ignorant” (Rom. 1:13, 11:25; I Cor. 1:8; I Thess. 4:14. Cf. 2 Pet. 3:8). Willful ignorance is sin (2 Pet. 3:5). There are no acceptable excuses, such as “I’m too busy, I’m not a great intellectual, It’s not that important, etc.” Every Christian can and should have a strategic grasp of the Bible and basic Christian doctrine.
8. God Gave Us Minds and Expects Us to Use Them.
A mind is a terrible thing to waste. God created us with minds as well as bodies, and commands us to use both to His glory (cf. Rom. 12:1-2). The first and greatest of all God’s commandments is: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). It is ingratitude, laziness and selfishness to use our minds in such a way that we neglect learning what God really wants us to know. He also gives Christians “the mind of Christ”, the indwelling Holy Spirit so that we can spiritually learn (I Cor. 2:16. Cf. Eph. 1:18). It is dangerous mysticism that tells us to turn our minds off and go by our feelings (cf. I Cor. 14:15).
9. God Gave Us Teachers to Teach Us the Bible.
Jesus Himself was a teacher, a rabbi, a theologian. God has given many lesser teachers as gifts to His Church, to teach and instruct them (e.g., Eph. 4:11). The word for teachers is DIDASKALOS, related to the word for doctrine. A teacher teaches doctrine; he is a doctor of doctrine. We are to learn from those teachers which God has given to us, and ignore “false teachers” who teach contrary to the Bible (2 Pet. 2:1). The teachers are not as important as what they teach. God gave us a Book of words to learn and teach, not a book of pictures to look at. Teachers are to teach Bible.
10. Doctrine Must Precede Practice.
Both are important, but must be in the proper order. They also must not be separated. Doctrine without practice is dry, stale and useless, producing only pride. Practice without a valid doctrinal foundation can be legalistic or mystical. The more we know, the better we can live to God. The indicative statements precede the imperative commands. We must be willing to learn and obey (John 7:17). And the more good Bible doctrine we know, the more our faith grows and the better we can love and worship our God.
RECOMMENDED READING: R.C. Sproul, ESSENTIAL TRUTHS OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH; J.I. Packer, CONCISE THEOLOGY; Louis Berkhof, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY; James Montgomery Boice, FOUNDATIONS OF THE CHRISTAIN FAITH; Charles Hodge, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY; Millard Erickson, CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY.