Our Most Important Doctrine

2 John 9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.

Typically, whenever the word “doctrine” is brought up, the first few thoughts that comes to my mind are matters like marriage, divorce, remarriage; plan of salvation, the work of the church, and our worship (singing, Lord’s supper, prayer, preaching, contribution). There is no doubt in my mind that we strive to do our best to get all these points right. In some instances, there are disagreements over opinions regarding some of these matters. Some people will focus more heavily on some issues more so than others. This includes preachers by the way because let me give you an example. Most preachers are willing to preach about anything but sometimes preachers are more comfortable preaching on a particular subject more than others. Most gospel preachers can preach a sermon about baptism in their sleep but then there are some who shy away from other topics such as the qualifications of elders. Which subject is more important? In the grand scheme of everything, we need to get both right. We need to be willing to submit to the will of God in order to be saved (baptism) and at the same time, Christians need to consider their leaderships at their local churches. Both have strings attached to salvation. Baptism clearly is attached to salvation because we know it is at baptism that God washes away sins. What happens if ungodly, unqualified men are appointed as shepherds of the flock? They may end up “sinking the whole ship” with their heresy causing the whole flock to go astray. That is clearly a salvation issue!

Doctrine simply means teaching. The question is, why do we limit doctrinal issues to just those few categories listed above? We don’t all necessarily do it, but I have been guilty of being narrow-minded from time to time. I am sure at some point in our lives, we have all had moments where we considered some things as more important than others. Doctrinal issues versus non-doctrinal issues is how some may call it. Matters of opinion or liberties. This isn’t an exhaustive list but just some things to consider.

Ephesians 4:15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ

Colossians 3:8-10 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created Him

All these things are associated with loving our neighbor as ourselves, treating others the way we want to be treated, forgiving each other, seeking peace, showing mercy, and doing justice. These are all doctrine issues that have a direct impact on our salvation. If we do not love our neighbor, we are not obeying God.

Matthew 22:37-40 And he said to him, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love and mercy are at the heart of what it means to be servants of Christ and others. When we are not careful in considering our behavior and interactions with one another, we fail to see how important this issue really is. May I suggest that this is a doctrinal matter that is far superior to singing acapella, not having fellowship halls, not supporting human institutions, (insert your favorite doctrinal position here)? Allow me to put it another way…

We can worship God the “right way” all we want. But if we hate our brother, it doesn’t matter what all we get “right”.

1 John 3:14-15 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

1 John 4:20-21 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

The world is in darkness and needs the light of Christ. We need to love God and our neighbor. We also need to worship God in spirit and truth. We need to submit to God by accomplishing the work He has set forth for the church. We should be showing our children how to have healthy, godly relationships with others so that they make wise choices as they grow older and become interested in others. All these things are important but if we don’t do the first two, the rest of them are all for nothing.

The danger of not considering these truths causes us to speculate on issues that shouldn’t even be an issue. Paul warned Timothy to “teach no other doctrine, do not give heed to fables and endless genealogies which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith.” Doctrine that is not sound does not help us with our knowledge of God and it does not help us evangelize to those who are lost, nor does it help in edifying our brethren. Good doctrinal practice does quite the opposite of what bad doctrinal practices do. Good doctrinal teaching and understanding produces love, a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith (1 Timothy 1:5) We are having the same problem than what the first century Christians had. There are too many false teachers who fill their lessons with things that do not benefit the hearer.

I saw a statement that was too good to pass up but there was no author attached to it, but it said “Too many preachers speak in question marks. Too many fill their lessons with emotionally charged psychobabble which sounds good but lacks real substance. There must be a renewed emphasis on sound, doctrinal preaching in the church of our Lord. The church cannot thrive without it. Doctrine makes an eternal difference.”

-Lee Elkins