The “D” word has fallen out of favor in some places. Some suggest that it cannot be preached and should only be discussed at the most arcane level. Instead we preach about love and acceptance, grace mercy, favor and the like. Doctrine is out of favor.
In some places, doctrine is seen as that which divides believers in Jesus Christ. I think the opposite. Doctrine is a crucial part of our knowledge. Jesus spoke volumes on doctrine. In fact all of the things mentioned above exist as doctrine in some way. So what exactly is doctrine and why should I care?
DID’-A- KAY is the word most commonly translated “doctrine” in the English Bible. It appears 30 times in the New Testament and is sometimes translated as “teachings” or “instruction.” This fits nicely with the use of the word in context. Doctrine is simply that which has been, is or should be taught. 2 Timothy 3:16 may be the classic use of the word when Paul tell Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching (doctrine)…” In his previous letter Paul reminded Timothy to give attention to doctrine as part of his ministry (1 Timothy 4:13) and to ensure that the doctrine he taught was good and not different from what he had been given (1 Timothy 1:3; 1 Timothy 1:10). Similar admonitions were given to Titus in Titus 1:9 and Titus 2:1.
Jesus warned about false doctrine. In Matthew 15:8-9 the Lord rebukes those who pretend to give him glory but in fact teach as “doctrines the commandments of men” (c.f. Isaiah 29:13). Jesus is not interested in teachings arising with sinful, fallible men. He desires pure teaching from above.
In the earliest days of the church, within weeks of Jesus’ ascension, the newly born church was growing rapidly. One of the reasons was the purity and correctness of the doctrine they taught. “And they devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching…” (Acts 2:42).
So we see that doctrine is simply teaching. We also see that doctrine can be good or bad, approved by the Lord or disapproved. But we also note that doctrine is important and must be taught. As servants of Jesus we cannot fail to teach what he has taught in the way that he taught it (c.f. Galatians 1:8-9).
Doctrine goes far beyond some teaching on how we worship. Doctrine goes to the very heart of who Jesus is, where he came from, what he does and what he will do for the faithful. Even the briefest instruction or claim about Jesus is doctrine. As such we ought love doctrine and its presentation.
Earlier we said that some believe doctrine divides people. It does. But doctrine is only divisive in the presence of arrogance or pride. None of us know all there is to know about the Lord and we all are moving toward the completeness. But so long as we study honestly and set aside our biases we come together in the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”(Jude 3).