Today we’re talking about having “Good Doctrine.” The word doctrine might give you “MEGO” (my eyes glaze over) syndrome but stick with me.
Doctrine is just one word we use to describe what the Bible teaches. So, if you care about truth, you care about doctrine. But you might still wonder, “Is biblical doctrine really that important?” Isn’t that something our pastor can worry about while I go about living, you know, a less nerdy, normal life? You might also be leery of doctrine because we live in such a squishy age when it comes to settling on truth. We think that settling on truth means being “closed-minded”. But, I like G.K. Chesteron on this point. He said, “the point of an open mind is the same as an open mouth. It’s meant to close on something solid.”
Doctrine isn’t “closed-minded.” It’s a way of closing on something solid. It’s not taking our rigid ideas and imposing them on God’s word. It’s like taking what God’s word says, summarizing it and treating like a map for life; a fountain for refreshment, and light on a dark road.
Consider a couple passages with me:
Titus 2:1, “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.”
A couple observations: First, notice that the Bible plainly tells us to care about sound doctrine. Good doctrine is God’s idea.
Second, notice that this doctrine is directly connected to how we live our lives. It’s not supposed to stay abstract and up in the clouds. Titus is told that sound doctrine informs how men are to be “sober-minded, dignified, faithful, loving and steadfast.” Show me men like this and I’ll show you doctrinal men.
You see: some people have a bad taste for doctrine because no one in their lives has connected their doctrine to the way they live. But, the Bible doesn’t view doctrine as something you can alienate from the way you live. It’s like faith and works. Doctrine teaches you what’s true so you know how to live.
One more Scriptural example (among the hundreds):
Ephesians 4:11-16, “11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Notice the connections between the underlined portions above. The world is not short on doctrine. There’s plenty of “doctrine” to go around and very few of them agree with each other. This results in a lot of folks being “tossed around” like gullible children…or like the singer from Spinal Tap who says, “I believe virtually everything I read.”
The alternative to being tossed around is to “speak the truth” of God in “love” so that the the church is able to “build itself up.” In other words, without good doctrine we won’t be a strong church. We’ll be tossed about by things like ‘Rona, poverty, hunger, job-loss, or relational strife. Our suffering will make us question everything rather than fall back on the rock of the truths God has revealed.
Let me give you a couple more illustrations in case I still haven’t convinced you.
Consider this quote from Millard Erickson:
“Theology is necessary because truth and experience are related. While some would deny or at least question this connection, in the long run the truth will affect our experience. A person who falls from the tenth story of a building may shout while passing each window on the way down, “I’m still doing fine,” and may mean it sincerely, but eventually the facts of the matter will catch up with the person’s experience.” (Christian Theology
In other words, you might not feel the importance of good doctrine now…but eventually your need for it is going to catch up to your experience. And you want to be prepared for that.
One more illustration from J.I. Packer:
““Knowing about God is crucially important for the living of our lives. As it would be cruel to an Amazonian tribesmen to fly him to London, put him down without explanation in Trafalgar Square and leave him, as one who knew nothing of English or England, to fend for himself, so we are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it .The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfold, as it were , with no sense of direction, and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.” (Knowing God)
I have loved this quote for years because of how compelling and simple it is. If this is God’s word then the only way to know how to live in it is to know what he thinks. And the only way to know what he thinks is to listen to what he teaches in his word.
“Knowing God” by J.I. Packer
“Systematic Theology” by Wayne Grudem or the condensed version “Bible Doctrine” (I have a copies of both if anyone wants to borrow them.)
“Sound Doctrine” by Bobby Jamieson
“The Ology” by Marty Machowski
“Everything a Child Should Know about God” by Kenneth N. Taylor