What is doctrine and why is it important?

And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. ~Jesus Christ~ (John 8:32)

Recently in our study of 1 John we have come across the vital importance of correct doctrine. But what is doctrine and why is it so important?

Simply put, doctrine is the sum total of what the Bible teaches on any given subject and comes from the New Testament word didaskalia which is often translated teaching, instruction or doctrine.

In total the New Testament explicitly commends sound doctrine to us 28 times! (ex. 1 Tim 4:13, 16; 2 Tim 4:2-3; Tit1:9).

According to Jesus accuracy in belief is important because correct belief leads to spiritual life and incorrect belief leads to spiritual death. This is at the heart of the importance of doctrine.

Primary doctrinal areas lead to spiritual death, however, secondary and tertiary areas, while still important to pursue truth in, may have varying degrees of harmful impact upon the health and effectiveness of the Church and one’s spiritual life, whilst still allowing for someone to be considered a Christian.

However, lest I give the wrong impression, knowing the truth is not all about propositional truths or doctrine. Ultimately Jesus uses this word truth as a play on words to refer to Himself (Jn 14:6). Ultimately we come to know God the Father through a correct knowledge of the Truth, Jesus God’s only Son. Propositional truths are meant to point us to a relational (and factual) knowledge of Jesus that leads to eternal life.

Therefore, doctrine is not a bore but an exciting adventure of discovery about God and His ways. It helps us overcome wrong ideas that are harmful to either one’s salvation or a hindrance to their spiritual life and the life of the Church. Its study helps us make better Christian decisions, answer people’s questions about our Faith (i.e. be more effective in evangelism), develop a greater Christian confidence, and it helps us grow to become healthier and more robust Christians because we have a solid diet.

By growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (which includes doctrine!) may we all be built up into the most Holy Faith (2 Pet 3:18; Jude 20).

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris