If we mention the word doctrine to people, the first idea that pops into their head is probably one
of buttoned-down academics whiling away the hours of the day and night in aged, dusty, seminary
libraries. Doctrine is often conceived of as the milieu of theologians and seminary professors, not the
everyday Christian simply trying to live out his or her calling in Christ. But these contentions would be
wrong. Doctrine matters to the everyday Christian, because whether we realize it or not, doctrine is
what informs the path to redemption and the practice of our daily lives.
Doctrine was of central concern to our Lord Jesus who spoke precipitously about it in the gospels.
Doctrine was of chief importance to the writers of the New Testament who affirmed the need to
believe and teach sound doctrine as essential to carrying out the call of ministry. Doctrine mattered to
the Protestant Reformers who fought and died to recover and propagate the biblical doctrine of
salvation, which had nearly been lost in the medieval period. Rather than just fodder for discussion in
seminary lecture halls, we must see that doctrine is biblical, practical, and evangelical.
Doctrine is biblical. From the beginning to the end, the Scriptures are filled with doctrine. The Bible
alone tells us about what God is like, God’s purpose for man, the depravity of man, the way of
redemption, and the progress of the Christian life. Teaching these doctrines is what informs people of
the way to be saved, and how to live out the Christian life daily. I remember in my own life, shortly
after becoming a Christian, asking a friend, “I know I’ve been saved, but what do I do now?”
Thankfully, rather than being told to just relax and enjoy the blessing, I was directed to the Scriptures
which are sufficient to teach all matters of faith and practice. The Bible itself emphasizes the need for
doctrine by requiring that the leaders of the church be chosen on the basis of their ability to teach
sound doctrine (Titus 1:9), not self-help psychology, and by calling all Christians to contend for the
faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3-4).
Doctrine is practical. What governs the things we do, the places we go, the behaviors we practice,
and the attitudes we express? It is only doctrine as found in the word of God. True, unbelievers have
their own set of beliefs which guide their daily lives, but to attempt to live out the Christian life without
a thorough understanding of Christian doctrine is a fool’s errand. The emphasis in many churches
today is on the feelings we experience rather than on bringing our lives into alignment with the word
of God. When we bring a consumer mentality to our worship and our walk, we glorify self rather than
God who alone is worthy, and therefore short circuit the life transformation that sound biblical doctrine
is intended to produce.
Doctrine is evangelical. A right understanding of the desperate condition of all people as fallen
sinners is critical to redemption. The biblical doctrine of justification by grace through faith is the heart
of evangelical practice. Every person is born a sinner (Romans 5:17), an inherited condition from our
father Adam, and doomed for an eternity of condemnation and separation from God in a place called
hell (Romans 6:23). But the doctrine of justification by grace through faith reveals the hope of
deliverance from that destiny because God has chosen to show grace to those who repent of their sin
and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). By trusting in Christ, we receive not only
forgiveness of sin (Ephesians 1:7), making us morally neutral before God, but also the righteousness
of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21), the necessary condition for entrance into the kingdom of God (Hebrews
These doctrines which express the way of redemption are the heart of evangelical theology. To
dismiss them as unimportant is to reject the very means of grace God has provided. Doctrine matters.
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