a belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a church, political party, or other group.“the doctrine of predestination”
It is commonly reported that the great evangelist George Whitfield once had the following conversation with a coal miner in Cornwall, England. The conversation apparently started when the preacher asked the man what he believed about his Faith and The Bible:
“Oh, he said, “I believe what my church believes.”
Whitfield then inquired, “And what does your church believe?”
“Well,” he answered, “The church believes what I believe.”
Seeing that he was getting nowhere, Whitefield then asked, “What do you both believe?”
“We both believe the same thing.”
The question arises: Does doctrine really matter? Ask a range of Christians that question and you will get as many answers as people you ask.
On one side of the spectrum are believers who are totally doctrinally driven. These folks think every single doctrinal point is an essential one and that failure to believe their way, even on the smallest point, renders one either not a Christian, or a substandard one.
On the other hand, there are believers who consider nothing doctrinally important enough to stand by as fast and true. These folks would say, just believe in Jesus, and nothing else matters. Also, what we see in this camp is a growing disdain for doctrine in general as the refuge for those who just don’t believe in Jesus enough.
And, somewhere in the middle we have what is probably the correct view. What, precisely, is the correct view? Well, beats me! I will, however, share just a few of my humble thoughts on the matter. Where do I fall on the issue? Well, the work I am part of has a Doctrinal Statement which is 22 statements long, and I believe every single one of them represents truth as taught in the Bible. Here is a funny thing; even though we have spelled out 22 separate points of doctrine we believe to be essential. there is still room within those 22 points to not agree on everything. Sigh right? Suffice it to say that I believe correct doctrine is very, very important.
So, here we go with my thoughts on this matter. I understand not everybody will agree with all I say here, but that’s okay too.
So, does doctrine really matter that much?
Some doctrines are necessary to even be saved. The Bible is quite clear about the way of salvation. It clearly states that we are all born depraved sinners, and that salvation comes only by God’s grace through our faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. It clearly states that to be born again, we must all repent of our sin and have faith in Jesus Christ. It just as clearly states that nothing we can ever do contributes to our salvation; in other words, we cannot and do not work our way into God’s favor and earn our way to Heaven. Understanding that particular Biblical doctrine is absolutely necessary for salvation and rescue from eternal separation from God. If anybody believes anything other than salvation by grace through faith, then he or she is not trusting totally in the Lord Jesus Christ for his or her salvation, and it is very likely that he or she is, in fact, not actually saved.
Some doctrines provide so much support for the Doctrine of Salvation that disbelieving them brings into question the entire plan of redemption. What might these include?
The Genesis account of Creation and the fall of man
The Doctrine of the Trinity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit
The Deity of Jesus Christ
The literal, bodily resurrection of jesus Christ
The Bible as the inspired, inerrant Word of God.
As non believers, we will be judged for our lack of belief. Believers, on the other hand, will be evaluated for the content our belief as well. Time and time again, we see direction from God to study, be discerning, and to become wise. The following Scriptures tell us this: Psalm 51:6, Psalm 119:66, Proverbs 2:2-6, Proverbs 4:7, Colossians 1:9, Colossians 2:3. Of course, the two following should come immediately to mind:
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
Doctrine matters because the people who teach damnable false doctrines are very busy, and very knowledgeable. If we don’t know the truth, we cannot defend our faith against untruth or even protect ourselves from untruth. Simply summed up, some things are true and some things are not true. And many times two things cannot be true at the same time. For instance we teach, and the Bible clearly says, that salvation is 100% by Grace through faith and that no works or effort of our own adds to or completes salvation. Many religions and even “Christian” denominations teach that salvation requires works on our part, or that we have to do certain things to become or remain saved. Obviously, both of these statements cannot be true at the same time! In addition, there are religions out there masquerading as Christian teaching falsehoods about the Nature and person of Jesus Christ. These folks are very busy, and very well versed in their heresies.
If we don’t know the truth, we cannot effectively evangelize the world. Every believer reading this is an evangelist. That role is not restricted to preachers, teachers, pastors or members of the “visitation committee” Every man and woman saved by the Grace of God is responsible to spread the Gospel to the people they touch in the world. That is made clear in Jesus’ final words before He ascended to Heaven. We call it The Great Commission and it is repeated here.
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
The dilemma is clear; if we don’t understand certain doctrinal points, how can we teach the truth of them to a lost and dying world?
So, what about all of the OTHER stuff?
And friends, brothers, and sisters there is TONS of other stuff! There are literally thousands of doctrinal issues which Christians have studied, debated about, and divided over for 2000 years. Does that stuff really matter? Well…yes…and…no. Want to sprinkle rather than immerse? I may say you are wrong, but who cares? Want to speak in tongues? I may say you are wrong, but who cares? Want the ladies to preach? I may say you are wrong, but who cares? Think communion in a church is open to everyone? I may say you are wrong, but who cares?
Does that mean you are lost and I am saved? Does it mean I am lost and you are saved? Of course not! Does it mean that you and I cannot exist peacefully together as Brothers and Sisters in Christ? Of course not! Now, does that mean we are going to start a church or mission work together? Nah, probably not. Am I going to come preach in your pulpit, or you in mine(I’m not a preacher, so that is just an expression by the way)? Nah, probably not.
Amos told us the following:
Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
There are divergent views of many things that are found in God’s Word. We are human, and we are not infallible or all knowing. Many things are not clear as to exact meaning in God’s Word, and our humanity means we will on occasion look at them differently. The essentials seem clear, while the non essentials may not be. We can still live together as Brothers and Sisters In Christ despite these differences.