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What is Doctrine?


This article is part one of our five-part "Doctrinally Faithful" Text-Driven Podcast and article series throughout the month of October.



There are certain words that you hear that often make a Christian cringe. One such word is “doctrine.” Often, I will hear a sigh come across my congregation when I mention the word doctrine. In some sense, we have been conditioned to think that topics like doctrine, theology, and biblical languages are reserved topics for the elite Christian. In that category of elite Christians, we place pastors, seminary professors, published authors, and maybe some longtime deacons.


What if I told you that doctrine is not a bad word? What if I told you that doctrine is an essential part of Christianity? You might be skeptical, but I hope you will at least give me an opportunity to explain why doctrine is important through this new series entitled, “Doctrinally Faithful.”


One of the goals that you need to have if you want to live a text-driven life is to be doctrinally faithful. I would submit to you that it is impossible to live a text-driven life and not have an understanding of doctrine. Doctrine and being text-driven go together.

Over the next several articles, we are going to look at four aspects of doctrine and relate them to living a text-driven life.


First, we are going to answer the question, “What is doctrine?” Before we begin to answer our first question, I want you to keep in mind our premise: to be text-driven you have to be doctrinally faithful. Are you ready to jump in?


The question before us for this article is, “What is Doctrine?” In some sense, this question is a question about definition. Likely, you have never had the term “doctrine” defined for you. My goal is to provide you with a definition of doctrine, explain why doctrine is important, and give you some examples of what is classified as doctrine.


What is the Definition of Doctrine?

The term doctrine is a biblical term. The Bible talks about doctrine. You will find that doctrine is taught in the Old Testament and New Testament. You will find positive references to doctrine and negative references to doctrine. In this section, we will look at the Old and New Testament understanding of doctrine. Also, we will see the positive and negative usage of doctrine in Scripture.


Old Testament Doctrine

The term “doctrine” is used in the Old Testament to identify a set curriculum of teaching. The teaching can be institutional or personal. For instance, the institutional use of the term doctrine is seen in Deuteronomy 32:2. In this passage, Moses is addressing the entire nation of Israel. His address or teaching is doctrine. Therefore, the content of his speech is doctrine. The personal usage of the term is recognized in Job 11:4. Job’s friend Zophar quotes Job as saying, “My doctrine is pure.” Therefore, in this reference, the doctrine is not seen as being done institutionally through a prophet to a nation, but rather doctrine is seen as a set curriculum applied personally.

The corpus of doctrine that is most notably recognized in the Old Testament is the Law. The foundational doctrine for behavior in the Old Testament comes from the books of the Torah, which are the books of the Law. In the Old Testament, the term doctrine is a set curriculum of instruction for a group of people (i.e. the nation of Israel) or a person.


New Testament Doctrine

The New Testament continues to use the term “doctrine” as a set of teaching; however, the term takes on a greater significance due to the creation of the church. There are two words that are used to express the idea of doctrine: didaskalia and didache. The concept of didaskalia is in reference to the act of teaching and the content of the teaching. The primary use of didaskalia is in the pastoral epistles, which would indicate the importance of doctrine for pastors of local churches.


The second term didache is used more frequently in the New Testament. Jesus’s teaching is referred to as doctrine in Matthew 7:28. The church is to follow doctrine according to Acts 2:42. Finally, new believers are responsible for learning doctrine through those whom God had given to the church for that function (1 Corinthians 12:28).


One reference we need to look at in the New Testament concerning doctrine is Romans 6:17. This passage says, “But thanks be to God, that you were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.” This passage is important for understanding doctrine because it speaks of a “standard” for doctrine. In technical terms, we refer to the standard of doctrine as being orthodox. When we say that something is orthodox we are saying that it is right. The topic of orthodoxy leads us into our second topic.


Why is Doctrine Important?

As stated earlier, the Bible talks about doctrine in a positive and negative way. There is right doctrine (orthodoxy) and wrong doctrine (heterodoxy). It is important that we are able to distinguish between orthodoxy and heterodoxy for the sake of our souls. Let me make two assertions for why right doctrine is important.


First, let’s look back again at Romans 6:17, which says, “But thanks be to God, that you were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.” You will notice that Paul’s thanksgiving to God is a direct result of God’s people following the right standard of doctrine. Our worship towards God is tied to right doctrine. I would submit to you that you cannot worship God rightly without right doctrine. So, right doctrine is important because it impacts our worship.


Second, right doctrine is important because it keeps us spiritually healthy. One of the adjectives for doctrine in Scripture is the term “sound.” Paul uses the term in Titus 2:1. Paul said, “Teach what accords with sound doctrine.” The Greek term that is translated “sound” in Titus 2:1 could also be translated as “healthy.” Paul is telling us that there is a doctrine that leads to health. One’s spiritual health will be identifiable by the steady diet of their doctrine. If you put into your life unhealthy doctrine, then the result will be an unhealthy spiritual life.


Now, this begs the question, “What is healthy doctrine?” Healthy doctrine is doctrine that accords with the testimony of Jesus (1 Timothy 6:3). Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation. He is the predicted snake crusher in Genesis 3, the suffering servant of Isaiah, the good shepherd in the Psalms, and the sacrificial lamb in the gospels. He is the foundation of the church and the loving bridegroom to His people. He is the reigning King seated upon the throne who is coming back again as explained in Revelation. All of Scripture is the testimony of Jesus–the Word. Therefore, healthy doctrine centers upon the person and work of Jesus as the Son of God.


What are Some Doctrines?

Having learned that the definition of doctrine is either the act of teaching or the curriculum of what one teaches, and having learned that right doctrine leads to worship and spiritual health, it is time to turn our attention to our final question. The final question of this article is, “What are some doctrines?”


In many ways, you can think of doctrine as the official teaching concerning any topic. For instance, you could ask a question like this–what does the church believe about gender? The answer that would be given would be doctrinal. In order to answer that question correctly, it would be important to not provide the church’s teaching, but instead to provide what the Bible says about the topic of gender. Therefore, doctrine is sharing what the Bible says about any topic. Here are some common doctrines. For instance, the doctrine of the church is called ecclesiology. The doctrine of God is called theology. The doctrine of man is called anthropology. The doctrine of salvation is called soteriology. The doctrine of End Times is called eschatology.


Remember, no matter what doctrine you are referencing, right doctrine matters in order to live text-driven lives.





To learn more in this series entitled "Doctrinally Faithful," listen to the Text-Driven Podcast at https://open.spotify.com/show/58S8Z1wSnubt8AVFkH3e1k.



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