Should you care about Doctrine?

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine…” (Titus 2:1).

Doctrine is probably not a word you’ve used in the last several weeks, and it is not likely a word you intended on using anytime soon. However, doctrine is more familiar to you that you might realize.

The word “doctrine” means “teaching,” or “principles,” or maybe even “creed.” Your doctrine is the stuff you have learned and now believe as true and useful for life. Your doctrines might include mathematic rules, guidelines for logical reasoning, and truisms that keep you on the right track. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is an example of a doctrinal truism. We know that apples aren’t magic, but eating an appropriate amount of fruits and vegetables will help us be healthier.

Christian doctrines are summary statements of what the Bible teaches. Christian doctrine, when it is sound, is faithful to the Bible and useful for Christian living. While many people might see the study of doctrine as a dry exercise reserved for some intellectual bookworms, it is actually the life-blood of a healthy local church.

Pastors are to teach sound doctrine, every Christian is to learn sound doctrine, and every Christian is responsible to pass sound doctrine on to those who are coming after them. In so doing, Christians will live faithfully to the glory of God.

Scripture Alone

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Everyone believes something, and everyone acts according to their true beliefs. What is the most important thing in your life? What is your highest goal? What will happen to you after you die? Your answers to questions like these form your core beliefs, and your life will reflect what you really believe (not what you merely say you believe).

With this in mind, a very important question to ask about what you believe and do is, “Why?” Why do you believe this and not that? Why do you invest yourself here and not there?

Sola Scriptura (or Scripture Alone) is the doctrine (or teaching) which affirms that Scripture alone is God’s perfect and sufficient word to humanity. This means there is an objective and unchanging answer to the biggest “why” questions of life. Christians throughout history have understood that God’s word alone is the infallible rule of faith and practice (beliefs and actions). We praise and thank God for His sure and trustworthy word.

Do you Believe?

Belief is a funny word. “I believe it might rain today.” “I believe in God.” “Just believe!”

“I believe it might rain today.”

“I believe in God.”

“Just believe!”

 

 

All three of these uses of the word ‘believe’ are fairly common among our culture, and yet none of them actually line up with the way Christians ‘believe’ Jesus Christ or ‘believe’ the Gospel, which is the message of Jesus’ person and work.

It might be helpful to understand two important things about belief. 1) belief is powerless by itself, and 2) belief must be genuine to count at all.

Belief itself is powerless. For example, a person may believe a chair is solid, comfortable, and functional, but believing such things does not make them so. The chair may or may not be able to live up to the person’s belief. This helps us understand the powerlessness of belief. If our belief is placed in a powerful object, then it is well-placed, but our belief does not make the object powerful.

Additionally, our belief must be genuine. To put it another way, it must pass from mere affirmation to personal trust. Using the chair analogy again, one may believe and say all kinds of nice things about a chair, but he or she truly believes the chair when he or she sits down on it. That is when belief becomes genuine.

Therefore, genuine belief in a worthy object is what it means to be a Christian.

God became a man in Jesus Christ; He lived the obedient life God requires of all humans and earned the blessings of God. Though Jesus was morally perfect (sinless), He was counted as the worst sinner of all time – taking upon Himself the disobedience, immorality, and sin of all those who would believe in Him. After Jesus died, He was resurrected from the dead, and He forevermore shall be the immortal God/man.

Because Jesus Christ has done all this, and because He is capable of rescuing guilty sinners from the penalty they deserve, then we may believe Him and enter into the peace and rest that this worthy object brings. Place your genuine belief (trust) in this Savior, and He will most assuredly demonstrate Himself to be powerful beyond measure.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (1 John 5:1).

Marriage: You Live What You Really Believe

While some Christians might be tempted to create a false divide between theology (perceived as sacred) and practice (perceived as secular or at least unrelated), that simply does not work. There is no such thing as a secular-sacred divide! Theology always affects practice. As a smart guy might say, “Orthodoxy produces orthopraxy,” which simply means that right belief will lead to right living. This is true of every area of life, and it is especially true in regards to marriage.

What a person really believes about marriage will always play out in their marital relationship. If a man really believes that he is only obligated to his wife as long as she stays in good physical shape, then he will eventually demonstrate this belief by leaving or looking elsewhere (adultery, pornography, etc.). If a woman really believes that she is only obligated to her husband as long as he provides an acceptable lifestyle, then she will eventually demonstrate this belief by looking elsewhere too. These are just two examples, but one could list many. The point is, what a person truly believes will affect how they live.

The Bible argues that marriage is instituted and regulated by God (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:3-12; 1 Cor. 7:1-16; Eph. 5:22-33). In fact, the Bible demands that all people everywhere honor God’s design and regulations for marriage (Heb. 13:4). This more than implies that Christians are not the only ones who are responsible before God to live according to a particular standard of belief about marriage. Furthermore, it is the Christian’s duty and privilege to live as an example of such right belief, no matter what is going on in the world around them. 

You live what you really believe, and the world around you is watching…

Keep your conduct among the [non-believers] honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God (1 Peter 2:12).