By Ronald E. Harper
Why is biblical doctrine so important? It is very important to know what you believe and what those beliefs are based upon. The Bible gives us several reasons to learn doctrinal principles. First of all, we are commanded to study the word of God. II Timothy 2:15 lets the believer know that we are to “study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth.” The shame spoken of here refers not only to our accountability before a sovereign God, but also before man. We are required to show forth the gospel of Christ in our everyday walk with Him. (Romans 5:5) I once saw a sign at a church that said, “Witness daily. Use words, if necessary.” This saying has been credited as having been said by Saint Francis of Assisi. The life of a true Christian is the only bible that most sinners will ever read. Does the life you live point others to Christ? Can they see Christ dwelling in you? Biblical doctrine is the way that we learn about salvation and the way to live in such a way that is pleasing to God.
Secondly, studying the Bible will lead to spiritual growth. In I Corinthians 3:1-2, the Apostle Paul tells the church in Corinth that he wanted to teach them higher spiritual truths; but they would have been unable to bear them because they had not yet learned the spiritual lessons required to learn the advanced lessons that he desired to teach them. He said, “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” In verse 1, Paul referred to the Christians at Corinth as “babes in Christ.” Just as physical children must be able to grow and learn, so must spiritual children. No baby has ever come into the world walking and talking. So it is with spiritual births. But that new baby is expected by all members of the family to grow, learn, and develop at a rate that is comparable to normalcy. A child that does not develop at a rate that is deemed to be “normal” is usually tested to see if there is a problem. If the child does not seem to be growing/developing at a “normal” rate, there is test that can be run to test hormones and thyroid levels. If a child has trouble hearing, there are audio screenings that can be done. If only it were that easy in the spiritual sense!! The only test we have to check the spiritual growth of a spiritual child is to watch them for spiritual fruit. But the best way to learn to walk and talk in the spirit is to read and study the Bible and the doctrines contained in it.
Another reason that is given in the Bible to study doctrine is so you will know what you believe in. If you know what you believe in, false teachers will not deceive you so easily. Jesus and the apostles taught us that there would be many false teachers and prophets in the world. First, Jesus told us in Matthew 7:15-16 that we are to “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. Do men gather grapes of thorn, or figs of thistles?” In I John 4:1, John said, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” In Ephesians 4:14, Paul admonishes the church of Ephesus “That we be henceforth no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” The apostle Paul fully understood the implications of the examples that he was using. He was used to traveling from port to port by sea. He understood that the winds could easily come and carry a ship off course. If a ship strayed off course, it would never make it to its destination. Also, when traveling by land, he knew that thieves would lie in wait for travelers on the roads and trails. These are the examples that Paul chose to use.
Paul also told the Colossian church in Colossians 2:5-8 several key points to consider. Note in verse five, he praises their order and the “stedfastness of your faith.” In verse six, he admonishes the church to walk in Jesus Christ. Then he tells them to be “rooted and built up in him.” The wording here implies a command to dig deeply into the doctrine of Christ and to build upon that doctrine as the only foundation. (See also I Corinthians 3:11.) Remember the parable of Jesus when He taught about the two men who built their houses. The house of the man who built upon the sand fell when the storms came and the winds blew. Jesus said “and great was the fall of it.” But, the storm could not move the house that was built upon the rock. (See Matthew 7:24-27.) The next thing that Paul told the Colossian church was to be established “in the faith as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” He commanded them to continue in that which they had been taught. No other doctrine would suffice for the true biblical, Christ-centered, apostolic teaching that had been taught by the apostles. Then came the dire warnings. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” In verse four of this same chapter, he told them to watch out “lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.” Look at what Paul had warned this church about. The first thing was philosophy, as opposed to apostolic teaching. As Christians, we must be on the lookout for what is truly biblical teaching and what is man’s opinions or ideas. The latter will not get you to heaven. The next warning was to watch out for vain deceit. Do not believe in a doctrine based on humanistic ideas. The teaching that we are all gods in our own rite is a lie from hell used to deceive people into trusting there own abilities and not to seek after a power outside of ourselves. The other vain teaching is that we are all going to make it because we are all good at heart or the children of a master creator. Do not believe these. They are not true. The apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church in Romans 3:10-11, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” The next warning of Paul refers to traditions of men. This has to be one of Satan’s favorite approaches to deceive people. It doesn’t matter what you have been taught in your past. It doesn’t matter what your parents, or even grandparents, have taught you. It will not matter to Christ on judgment day what church you went to or what denominational affiliation you belonged to while here on earth. The only doctrine that will stand on judgment day will be the biblical truths. Look at what Jesus told the religious leaders during His ministry here on earth in Matthew 15:1-3. “Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” The last pitfall to truth is the rudiments (elements) of this world. The world always tries to infiltrate the truths of God’s word and tries to cause compromises. Then he sums it all up when he said “and not after Christ.” The only way to follow biblical doctrines is to obey the teachings of Christ and “the apostles whom he had chosen” (Acts 1:2).
The Apostle Paul also prophesied to a young preacher named Timothy in II Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine: but after their own lust shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” He also tells Timothy in I Timothy 4:1-2, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, 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.” Some false teachers may not even know that what they are teaching is not the truth. They may have learned what was taught to them and are in turn teaching it to others as the truth. This is why it is so important to know what the Bible says and to study it. One cannot simply put faith in the teachings of a teacher or even a so-called minister of the word. You must listen carefully to what you are taught and compare it to the word of God. Some may mislead you on purpose, or by mistake, or even, as I said earlier, they may just be teaching you what they had been taught. Jesus made a reference to this when He was talking in Matthew 15:14. “Let them alone: They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” Dear friend, don’t blindly follow after doctrine just because it is being taught as truth. “Study to show thyself approved unto God.”
There are three warnings to consider at this point, that the Bible makes to those who pervert the gospel of truth. In II Peter 3:16-18, Peter states, “they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also with the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” Read that warning carefully. Twisting the scriptures will lead to your own destruction. Peter’s warning was very simple. In verse 17, “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.” And in verse 18 came the instruction on how to avoid being deceived. “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” It always seems to come back to spiritual growth being the key, doesn’t it? Peter tells us to grow in grace and knowledge. It is extremely important to learn true biblical doctrine.
The second warning is in the Book of Revelation 22:18-19. In verse 18, we find “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” In verse 19, John continues “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Read that warning again. A person cannot change the word of God without serious consequences occurring in that person’s life.
The third warning is found in Galatians 1:8. “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” This warning was so stern that the Apostle Paul, in the very next verse rephrased it for clarity. “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.” Note the common line, “let him be accursed.” That is very serious. Just look at the definition of the word accursed, according to the American Heritage Dictionary. “1. Abominable; hateful: this accursed mud. 2. Being under a curse; doomed.” So, according to this verse, changing from the true apostolic doctrine or compromising with the world’s view or philosophies will bring a curse and doom upon your life. The Apostle Paul was an extremely educated writer. When Paul was on trial, in Acts 26:24, we find the following statement about Paul. “And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning cloth make thee mad.” Even then they knew he was a man of great learning. In very few cases, in the writings of Paul did he ever repeat himself. His writings were always short, concise addresses to the specific problems that were reported to him about the churches. This warning was so important to him, that he took the time to make sure it was clear. In verse six of the same chapter, Paul said that he was amazed that the church at Galatia was “so soon removed” “unto another gospel.” No wonder Paul was constantly telling the Colossian church, and Timothy, to continue in the doctrine.
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews said in Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised).” We are to hold on to the truths that we are taught without wavering. In Jude verse 3, Jude told the Christians why he was writing this epistle to them. “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.” In II Timothy 3:14, Paul said, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” There are two points to see in that verse of scripture. First, we are to continue in what we have learned and know to be the truth. The second point is to know whom we are learning from. You need to know that the person teaching you is teaching biblical truths and is anointed to teach them. Note Paul’s statement. “knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” Remember we are required to try the spirits to see whether they are of God and to watch for the fruits of truth!
Lastly, look at Psalms 1:1-3. “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law loth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Note the part of the third verse where it says, “a tree planted by the rivers of water.” In Paul’s letter to the Colossian church, he told them to “continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, which was preached to every creature which is under heaven.” (Colossians 1:23). Now, take a moment to look at I Corinthians 15:58. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye should not be “tossed to and fro” by “every wind of doctrine.” We should do as the Apostle Paul instructed. Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” (I Corinthians 16:13).
How Many Doctrines?
I must admit that it bothers me when I hear someone say to me, “It really doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere.” I believe it is possible to be sincere and be sincerely wrong. Or others may say, “It doesn’t matter what you call God. Some call him by different names like Allah or Buddah, but it is the same Supreme Being.” My answer is simply NO. God alone is God. “Hear, 0 Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deuteronomy 6:4). I can already hear what some of you are saying. “Man, you sure are narrow-minded!” I will admit to that. I am what some people would call narrow-minded. Subsequent to that admission, I would like to insert the following opinion. In today’s “politically correct” society, we are told to be tolerant. If it seems that a person cannot accept the mainstream agenda or propaganda, the offending person is labeled as narrow-minded or intolerant. But, isn’t that the narrow-minded view of the main stream? They seem to say that if we, as Christians, do not agree with them, then they label us. But, my question to the “main stream” would be: Why is it narrow-minded of me to refuse to be “open-minded” to your beliefs, yet you label my beliefs and become narrow-minded against my beliefs. Okay. Now, I’ll get off that “soap box.”
I may be considered as narrow-minded in the eyes of the world, but from what I have read in scripture, I seem to be in good company. Ephesians 4:5 states, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” This lets each reader of the word know that there is only one way, and Jesus told us it was through Him. Jesus said, in John 14:6, ” I am the way, the truth, the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by me.” Note the word “THE”- not just one of the ways. He said “THE way,” “THE truth,” and “THE life.” In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus said, Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Personally, I don’t care what the world’s majority tends to believe. I want to, and will, follow the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. Ephesians 2:20-22 says that we “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
Our doctrine should be built upon Jesus and the teachings of the apostles and prophets. No other formula for deriving doctrine is acceptable. In I Corinthians 3:11, Paul said, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Acts 4:12 tells us “neither is there salvation is any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” It may sound narrow-minded, but it is scriptural. There is only one way. It is through Jesus, not by Allah nor by Buddha.
Salvation will not be attained by our own deeds. In Ephesians 2:8-9, the Bible plainly states, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Jesus addressed this point in Matthew 7:21-23. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” As you can see, all of our righteousness will be as iniquities to Jesus on judgment day. In Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” In Romans 3:10, 23, the Bible lets us know that every one of us “has sinned and come short of the glory of God.” “There is none righteous, no, not one.”
So, in conclusion, there is only one way. There is only ONE name to call on for salvation. That name is JESUS. Works or deeds won’t buy our way to heaven. The only way is true, Bible-based salvation.
The above article “Biblical Doctrine” is excerpted from The Quest For True Apostolic Doctrine, which is written by Ronald E. Harper pages 1-11.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study and research purposes.