Doctrine has become a controversial word these days. Comparatively few Christians wish to discuss the dreaded topic of doctrine. It may not be “politically correct.” Perhaps it is because so many are unsure of themselves. Many, who do not even know the Scriptures, are unwilling to look into them to see what the Bible really says.
The word “doctrine” is not something to be feared or avoided. Doctrine simply means a “teaching,” or that which is taught by a religion or political party.
The word comes from the Latin doctrina, meaning a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings, especially when used in a religious sense. We derive our word “doctor” from this word. The Greek word didache [διδαχη did-akh-ay’] is translated “doctrine” 51 times, and “doctrines” five times in the kjv.
It is unfortunate that doctrine has been made out to be “the bad guy” in many Christian circles today. A sure way to cloud true doctrine is to bury it in false doctrine. Some view the word “doctrine” as almost a “curse” word. “Doctrine divides,” they parrot. “Don’t get into a doctrinal discussion, or you’ll get into an argument.” It would be difficult, indeed, to get them to sit down at a table with open Bibles and discuss various teachings of the Bible. People, by nature, do not want to change—they want to believe what they want to believe.
Perhaps the most frustrating challenge a Christian faces is trying to teach the Gospel to a person who has a closed mind. All too often we meet a person with an attitude that shouts, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up!” In other words, “It does not matter whether or not what you say is true, I am going to believe and do what I want.” Or, “What would my friends or family think if I suddenly change my beliefs?” Some appear to have minds like concrete—all mixed up and permanently set. You can point to many Scriptures; you can provide examples from the New Testament; you can quote the very words of Jesus, yet such a person will remain unmoved. Such an attitude would be almost humorous if it were not so sad. We need to understand this is the way of the world, so learn not to be discouraged. It is a true saying regarding the devil, “… that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.”
Strangely, many people do not know or even want to know what their own church teaches! Theirs is more of a “Christian” fellowship group. Instead of being taught sound doctrine, they would rather have their church, priest, pastor, or teacher provide them with music, meals, or entertaining stories. They would rather be told how Jesus loves them, that all they have to do is say the sinner’s prayer and be assured they are saved now and forever as long as they pay, pray, stay, and obey. “Teach us s-m-o-o-t-h things,” they say (Isaiah 30:10). Preach love. Preach Christ and Him crucified… but don’t talk doctrine to me.”
And yes, it is true; Bible doctrine does divide. Correct doctrine divides truth from error! Many were astounded at Christ’s doctrine: “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine (Matthew 7:28; 22:33; Mark 1:22; 11:18; Luke 4:32; John 7:16).
Christ said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34–38, kjv throughout). This is because following true biblical doctrine will set you apart from commonly believed teachings about God and the Bible. It might even set you apart from the false teachings of your congregation.
The buzzwords of this generation are experience, feeling, and perception. “If it feels good, do it” is the criteria. “If it tastes good, eat it. If you feel like it, say it.” However, the Bible teaches, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. (Proverbs 14:12;16:25).
For example, as the “charismatic wave” sweeps over country after country, these or similar words are often parroted: “I’ve been baptized in the Holy Ghost and you haven’t.I have spoken in tongues, and you haven’t. So don’t talk to me about doctrine, because Iknow! I’ve been under the power of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost teaches me all I need to know about doctrine. He shows me what is right and what is wrong. It’s experience that counts, not some outdated doctrine.”
It’s time we set the record straight on the vital issue of doctrine! Let’s talk about doctrine.
Why Is Doctrine So Important?
Doctrine is indispensable to Christianity. True Christianity cannot exist without it. The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes the value and importance of sound doctrine, sound instruction (1 Timothy 6:3), and a pattern of sound teaching (2 Timothy 1:13–14). The apostles defended the faithful proclamation of the Gospel (Galatians 1:8). They coached Christian faith in doctrinal terms, then called for its preservation.
God asks through the prophet Isaiah, “Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:9–10).
Your Bible reveals there are the doctrines of Christ (Hebrews 6:1) and doctrines of devils (1 Timothy 4:1). In other words, there are true doctrines and false doctrines!
Studying true doctrine is nothing less than a study of the law, mind, and character of God Himself. We are to put on the very mind—teaching, doctrine—of Christ Himself (Philippians 2:5; 1 Corinthians 2:16). That is, we are to learn to think and act as Jesus Christ thinks and acts.
Turn to 1 Timothy, chapter four, verses one through four in your own Bible. It reads, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly [distinctly], that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.”
A few more man-made beliefs or doctrines we see dividing Christians today include the rapture and the timing of the rapture, young-earth vs. old-earth creationism, charismatic vs. non-charismatic, premillennialism vs. amillennialism, speaking in tongues, women preachers, eating in a restaurant on the Sabbath, Sabbath verses Sunday, the world’s holidays vs. God’s holy days, “soul-sleep” vs. the immortal soul, when is one born again, did Mary have other children, who, what, is the devil, is Jesus merely a created being, is Jesus God, is God a trinity, or a divine family, and many more.
These are all doctrines held by various professing Christian groups!
The doctrines of the Church of God International are summed up in our “Statement of Beliefs,” and are taken from the Bible itself. Send for your free copy of our Statement of Beliefs today. Our beliefs are explained in capsulated form and are backed up by many, many scriptures. You may wish to copy or chain reference them in your own Bible. The Bible alone is God’s written revelation to man, not feelings, not tradition, not doctrinal creeds of men! No doctrine is based on a single scripture. “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:10). Be sure to request our free booklet, How to Study Your Bible for the rules of Bible study and information on how to mark your Bible.
Bible doctrine is so important that the apostle Paul warned, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel [or any other doctrine or teaching]: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert [change] the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel [teaching] unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed”(Galatians 1:6–9). Isaiah 8:20 tells us, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” 2 John 10 confirms, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.”
Teachers who attempt to siphon off some of God’s people must first open the door of their minds. They often come under the guise of “new understanding,” “new truth,” conviviality, and ecumenism. Political correctness has conditioned the majority of people to defend this supposed “open-mindedness” by saying we should not “judge” others but should have a spirit of “love” and “be more Christ-like,” etc. The basic idea is that we should seek fellowship among various groups and compromise—i.e., by ignoring differences in doctrine and practice, by putting everything we believe “on the table.” Beware! Do not become so “open-minded” that your brains fall out!
The Deadly Dangers of False Doctrine
Let’s test our memories:
Has anyone followed the case of Andrea Yates—the woman who drowned her five children in a bathtub because it was “God’s will?” The foundational issue she was grappling with was a false understanding—false doctrine!—of who and what God is! She stated that her desire was to kill her children so they would be kept from falling into Satan’s hands if they grew up, and to punish herself for being a bad mother. What else would cause this if not false doctrine—a falseunderstanding of God?
Or take the case of Jim Warren Jones, leader of the Peoples Temple Christian Church-Disciples of Christ. On the evening of November 18, 1978, in Guyana, Jones ordered his congregation to drink a concoction of cyanide-laced, grape-flavored Kool-Aid. In all, 918 people died, including 276 children. It was the greatest single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster until the events of September 11, 2001. What was the basic error? False belief! False doctrine!
Or the case of Marshall Applewhite Jr. of the Heaven’s Gate group, who led 38 of his followers to wear purple clothing and eat the poisoned purple pudding of death! He preached that suicide would allow them to leave their bodily “containers” and enter an alien spacecraft hidden behind the Hale-Bopp comet. Again, the culprit is misinformation—false doctrine!
Or take the case of mother Eve: She listened to the subtle voice of the serpent and was persuaded to take of the forbidden fruit. Why? Because she listened to the devil’s lie. He promised her additional benefits. She gave way to false doctrine!
Christ warned repeatedly about false teachers, false prophets, and false doctrine:
Matthew 24:5: “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” In verse 11, He said, “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.”
Also Matthew 24:24: “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” How? By lies—by false doctrine!
Yet again, Christ warned His followers, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15).