While the word “doctrine” may not seem very exciting at first glance, nothing could be further from the truth.
Doctrine is simply the teaching we need to know from the historical events and literature we find in the Bible. God gave us Scripture to teach us certain things about him, what he has done, and what he continues to do in the world.
Far from being stale and boring, as some people claim it to be, sound doctrine helps us to know what we believe, why we believe it, and how you and I fit into God’s amazing story! Here are seven reasons why I love doctrine:
1. Doctrine explains why I can rest in the finished work of Christ.
I can read the Bible but still not fully understand why certain events happened in the biblical story or why God included certain books. Doctrine helps me to understand the problem—humanity’s guilty and sinful state—as well as God’s solution—his sending of his only begotten Son to live the perfectly obedient life on my behalf and be the perfect once-and-for-all sacrifice for my sin. Through doctrine I learn that all who trust in Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone shall be saved (Rom. 3:23; 5:12–21; Eph. 2:8–9).
Furthermore, if I don’t read all the “to-do’s” in the Bible in context, I might mistakenly think I am right with God by my own obedience and kind deeds. Doctrine helps me to know that I am only right with God based on the finished work of Christ. Doctrine also shows me why it is important for Christians to try with all their might to keep God’s commands as their rightful sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to their Savior.
2. Doctrine helps me understand how God is a relational God.
When I learn about the Trinity and how God is one in essence and three in persons, I can have confidence that God is not some stoic figure who made the world but doesn’t care for or love it. The love between the persons of the Trinity (Matt. 3:17; John 14:31; Gal. 4:6) overflows to God’s creation, even to the point that the Father gave his only begotten Son to accomplish salvation for fallen humans. Doctrine instructs me regarding the Holy Spirit’s work in salvation as he convicts people of their sin and conforms them to the image of Christ (Rom. 5:5).
3. Doctrine explains why I feel empty apart from God.
God made me for a purpose, and that purpose is to glorify him and enjoy him forever! This is why I can never feel fulfilled apart from him. God made me to have a joyful relationship with him, but I can’t apart from Christ because of God’s utter holiness and my guilt and indwelling sin. Even though we are different kinds of beings and I cannot reach up to God no matter how hard I try, he condescends to be in a loving relationship with me in Christ—and this is glorious!
4. Doctrine teaches me how to worship God.
Doctrine helps me to worship God with more joy, because I can better comprehend how Israel’s creed (“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one”) is true and at the same time recognize that the Father is God, Jesus is God, and the Holy Spirit is God (Psalm 139:7–8; John 10:30; 1 Cor. 8:6).
When I hear God’s Word rightly preached, partake in the Sacraments, pray, and sing songs of worship, doctrine explains to me that I am always approaching my heavenly Father in Jesus’ name (because of his work on my behalf) by the Holy Spirit (who indwells and sanctifies me).
5. Doctrine guides me in how to love God and my neighbor.
Because doctrine teaches me that my right standing before God is based on Christ’s work and not my own, I don’t have to view my good deeds as ways to make God love me better. I also don’t have to worry about being popular or esteemed before people. God already loves me fully in Christ, and that’s all the love any of us ever needs. I am God’s child, and my inheritance is secure. I can love God and my neighbor not based on a need to perform but rather out of tremendous gratitude for all God has done for me and as my rightful duty as his child. Doctrine reminds me that it is God’s will for me to grow in holiness and be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).
6. Doctrine teaches me that my hope is not in vain.
I don’t have to worry about whether or not the Bible is true. Through learning about the major covenants of the Bible and the amazing continuity of Scripture, I can only marvel that everything I read about in Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, and the rest of the books of the Bible is inextricably linked together by God’s promise in Christ. It seems impossible for so many different authors over such a long period of time to write sixty-six books that all point to God’s redemptive plan to redeem the world; yet, this is exactly what we find in the Bible, because the Holy Spirit inspired the authors (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21).
From Genesis 3:15, where God promises to send the Seed who will crush the head of the serpent, to Revelation 22, where I learn that the Lamb of God shall sit on God’s throne forever, God’s Word gives me knowledge of the hope that will never disappoint Christians; because this hope is based on the fact of the bodily resurrection of Christ, who shall return one day to consummate his kingdom (1 Cor. 15:12–28).
7. Doctrine helps me to pick up my cross and follow my King.
Because doctrine teaches me the great truths I need to know, I can pick up my cross and follow Christ (Matt. 16:24). I don’t need to be afraid—no matter what God allows in my life—because I know he has a plan and his plan is good. I know God is great as well as good, and I can trust him even when the world doesn’t seem to make sense. I don’t need to regret anything that I am leaving behind, because God has something far better for me than anything this world can ever offer: peace with him and everlasting life in his presence.
Don’t let anyone lead you to believe doctrine is unimportant, irrelevant, or confusing. We must always be diligent to seek out sound doctrinal teaching and learn how to distinguish biblical truth from error, just as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). Doctrine is delightful because it imparts the truth to us we need to know to have the joy, peace, and confidence in Christ that God wants us to enjoy!
I want to offer ten basic biblical truths that guide Christian responses on this question .