Is it really all that important that Christians should know and study Christian theology (doctrines)? Isn’t it enough to simply love and follow Jesus Christ and love others? Many people are asking these questions because they want to know the biblical truth about the matter. However, there are some who are asking these questions simply to downplay the importance of sound doctrine with respect to the Christian faith and life. Many of them will say that, “We don’t need doctrine. We just need to be good people.” But is that really enough? Doesn’t the Bible expect and encourage Christians to study doctrine?
Lord willing, I plan to address these important questions from various interrelated perspectives over the next few weeks. In this first part, I will argue for the absolute necessity of doctrine in relation to the Christian faith and life. Here is my main argument: Because the Bible is a doctrinal Book, true Christianity must of necessity be doctrinal. It simply cannot be any other way! The Bible is a divinely inspired Book of doctrine concerning God. The Bible tells us “what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man”
The Apostle Peter writing in 1 Peter 3:15 admonishes Christians with these words, “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” In other words, Christians must strive not only to know what they believe but also why they believe it. This is the biblical expectation for all Christians. It would be impossible for anyone to obey 1 Peter 3:15 without engaging in a serious study of theology and Christian doctrine. Every Christian must devote himself to the study of all that God has revealed to us in the Bible.
Those who say that it is enough to simply “love and follow Jesus” apart from doctrine, do not fully understand what the Lord Jesus Christ meant when He gave us the summary of the Ten Commandments in the Gospels. In the first part of that summary which has to do with the Christian’s duty towards God, the Lord Jesus Christ says, “…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Many Christians seem to understand what it means to love God with their hearts, souls and strength. But very few understand what Jesus meant when He commanded us to love God with the mind as well. There are many ways to love God with our minds. We love Him with our minds by thinking pure thoughts or by meditating on His glorious attributes, or His works of creation and providence, etc. But central to loving God with the mind is one’s devotion to the study of His Word and all that it teaches (doctrine). I wonder how many Christians can say with total confidence that they truly love God with their minds.
Sadly, this is not taught in our churches today. What you often here in most churches today has very little if anything to do with challenging and encouraging Christians to get to know God by studying His Word. Christian doctrine is no longer taught in the churches today. Instead, we hear a lot about prosperity, health and wealth. Many uninformed Christians are being deceived by pastors (wolves) who have clothed themselves in “sheep’s clothing” and are preying on these poor souls. They always wear a big smile on their faces while they are robbing people of the little that they have in the Name of God. Instead of preaching the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), they deliberately distort the truth of God to fulfill their own ends. Instead of preaching the truth, they dress up lies to look like the Truth. They are busy saying to their congregations, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:13-14).
The Christian who disciplines himself to study God’s Word and all that is contained in it will be safeguarded from the onslaught of these merciless “men of God” preachers who are in essence messengers of Satan. Doctrine is absolutely vital to the well-being of every Christian and of the Church of Jesus Christ. Christianity without doctrine is like a tree without roots. While it may seem to flourish for a while, it is doomed to wither and die a natural death. Christianity without doctrine is like a house without a foundation. It may be big, beautiful and strong from the outside. But at its very core, it is nothing. With just the slightest storm, it is swept away and no more.
The divinely inspired writings of the apostles, underscore to us the absolute importance of doctrine to the Christian faith and life. If you examine the letters of the Apostle Paul for example, you will notice that in all of his writings, he deals with doctrinal issues consistently and as a matter of first importance. To illustrate this point, let’s consider his letter to the Ephesians. Paul spends the first three chapters (chapters 1-3) dealing with the doctrinal issues before he begins talking about the practical issues in the last three chapters of the book (chapters 4-6). In a similar way, in his letter to the Romans, he spends the first eleven chapters (chapters 1-11) dealing with doctrinal matters before dealing with the practical matters in the last five chapters of the book (chapters 12-16). The books of Galatians, Colossians and all his other books show the same pattern by intention (not by accident). There is a very important lesson for us in this pattern: doctrine matters! Every Christian must therefore strive by the grace of God to get deeply acquainted with the doctrines given to us by God’s inspiration in His Holy Word. The Christian who disciplines himself to study Christian doctrine is like a master builder who builds his house on a rocky foundation. His house shall weather the storms (no matter how strong) when they come. The Christian who understands Christian doctrine will be more enabled to detect erroneous teachings when they arise in the church to their benefit of his/her own soul and to the glory of God.