Many Christians have become distracted by what they know as ‘doctrine’. Many people believe that the way to heaven is by correctly interpreted Biblical truth. Churches split and new denominations emerge, based on different ideas of what is correct doctrine.
Doctrine has a strange power to subvert people’s hearts. While they may believe in love, truth and noble things which make up our Christian walk, they will quickly violate those things when they meet someone who doesn’t agree with their doctrine. Worse still, if someone contends with them about their interpretation of some doctrinal point, Christians can be known to become vigorous in their opposition of each other.
The notion of loving our enemies goes out the window for some people. It is as if they worship their ‘doctrine’ not the Lord. It is as if they believe their doctrine will save them, not the blood of Christ.
The general concept of ‘doctrine’ which is taken as gospel by Christians, theologians and Bible students today, is that doctrine is “accurate interpretation of Bible truth”. Some of the dictionary definitions for the word ‘doctrine’ give us: a belief (or system of beliefs) accepted as authoritative by some group or school; a belief or teaching of the Church; a body of instruction which expresses the Church’s faith.
The Bible, however, gives a much richer dimension to ‘doctrine’ than our didactic concepts allow. We think of doctrine as subject matter which is taught, as in a class lesson. We may then ask that the body of truth be ascribed to, examined in a test, faithfully repeated to us, or the like.
However, the use of the term doctrine in the New Testament was linked much more to lifestyle and actions than to a set of beliefs written in a book.
New Testament Doctrine
Consider this quote from Paul’s letter to his associate Titus.
“But speak the things which become sound doctrine” Titus 2:1
That instruction, if given to today’s Christians, might lead to the preparation of a study course or a sermon series on right beliefs. We might explain how our set of beliefs differs from those of another branch of Christendom, and sell our audience on the superior correctness of our particular interpretations and doctrinal perspectives.
But before we get too carried away on that endeavour, let’s see what Paul was really asking Titus to do.
“But speak the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becomes holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things” Titus 2:1-3
Paul’s reference to “sound doctrine” was not about a set of beliefs but practical Christian living. It mentions the correct behaviour of aged men and aged women. It goes on in the following verses in Titus 2 to discuss young women, young men and servants. Sound doctrine did not lead to a theology exam, but could be seen in the way of life of those who had it.
That’s radically different to the concept of ‘doctrine’ which has dominated the Christian mindset for centuries. And if you take that perspective and apply it to the many other verses which mention doctrine a different picture emerges, than that of theological exactitude.
Consider these examples…
“In all things showing yourself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing un-corruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.” Titus 2:7,8
“And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority he even commands the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” Mark 1:27
“Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.” Acts 13:12
Theology and Doctrine
Many years ago I was required to study a book titled “All the Doctrines of the Bible”. However that book did not have any doctrine about aged men or aged women, young men or servants. It had no doctrine of casting our demons (see Mark 1:27,28) or calling blindness onto a man who opposed the gospel (Acts 13:10-12).
How could a book be titled ALL the doctrines when it clearly leaves out things which the Bible describes as ‘doctrine’? The reason is that our church world has become besotted with theology and superimposed that concept over the meaning of the word doctrine.
Knowledge puffs people up (1Corinthians 8:1) and so when people have knowledge of theology they want to elevate the status of their mental powers, giving themselves credits that they do not deserve. Paul would not have looked at the Theology test scores of his followers, but at their lifestyle. Yet today we take note of Bible college grades and not the evidence seen in a person’s life. What fools we have become!!!
Doctrine is not accurate interpretation of Bible truth, but proving the truth of what you believe by your lifestyle. When Jesus broke the power of a demon (Mark 1: 21-27) the people marveled at His doctrine. The action proved the power of the truth that Jesus taught. Sound Doctrine is action not theology. Your doctrine is seen in your actions not in your test results.
Live Your Sound Doctrine
If you cannot live the things you have studied then you only have empty head knowledge. If you live with Christ or Paul as your example you will have sound doctrine, even if you can’t pass a theology exam. Get real about what the Bible is talking about.
We are not saved by our correct answers to theological questions. We are saved by faith. Then that faith is to be seen in our lifestyle as we bring forth fruits which prove that we have repented. We become a new creature and live differently from the worldly way we once lived. We do not love the world any more and we don’t love any of the things in the world any more. We die to self, crucify our flesh, take up our cross, love not our lives to the death, and let God’s kingdom be established over our whole lives.
If you are a theology student then watch out. You may well become seduced by the foolish idea that your head knowledge counts for something, when it is nothing but ego feeding knowledge that puffs you up. You will not get to heaven by what your brain cells do, but by what your heart, mind, soul and strength are committed to.