I love doctrine. Doctrine is simply the teaching of God or the teaching about God—the body of knowledge that he reveals to us through the Bible. I guess I’m one of those geekly people who loves to learn a new word and the big idea behind it. But I hope I do not love doctrine for doctrine’s sake. Rather, I strive to be a person who loves doctrine for God’s sake.
Today I want to give you 6 great reasons to study doctrine.
DOCTRINE LEADS TO LOVE
Doctrine leads to love—love for God that then overflows into love for others. 1 John 4:8 makes it plain: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” To know God is to know love; to know God is to equip yourself to act in love. Your love for God is limited by your knowledge of him, so that you can really only love him as far as you know him. As the depth of your knowledge grows, so too does the depth of your love. This is why the study of doctrine cannot be the pursuit of dry facts, but facts that lead to living knowledge of God and growing love for God. When you know doctrine, you prepare yourself to live in ways that express love to him and to others.
DOCTRINE LEADS TO HUMILITY
Second, doctrine leads to humility. A little while ago I saw a YouTube video of a man breaking the world record in deadlifting by lifting a nearly-unbelieveable 1,015 pounds. I know that if I tried to lift even a fraction of that amount I’d slip a disc and be in bed for a month. The distance between that person and myself makes me face my own weakness. And that is just a glimpse of what happens when you see God as he reveals himself. You see the infinite distance between his power and your weakness, between his holiness and your sinfulness, between his unchangeable nature and your fickleness. And as you see it, you are humbled. You cannot see God and be proud. You cannot know God and be arrogant. When you see God as he really is, you must be humbled by his sheer magnitude and you must be humbled by your inability to box him up, to understand him all the way. The greater your knowledge of God, the greater your humility.
DOCTRINE LEADS TO OBEDIENCE
Third, doctrine leads to obedience. And here is what I mean: Just like you can onlylove God as far as you know God, you can only obey God as far as you know God. As you get to know God more and deeper, you are able to obey him better. Think here of the Old Testament and how often God reminds the Israelites of who he is and on that basis commands their obedience. He does this again and again: “Here is who I am, here is what I have done, and therefore you owe me your obedience.” And think of the New Testament which constantly points to Jesus Christ and calls us to conformity to him. What you learn of God and what you learn about yourself through the Word of God leads you to live a life that honors him. Again, theology is not a cold pursuit of facts, but a red-hot pursuit of the living God, and it works itself out all over life.
DOCTRINE LEADS TO UNITY
Fourth, doctrine leads to unity. I once attended a church where I heard a pastor use that old phrase, “Doctrine divides.” He told the church that the path to unity was to hold a very low and basic level of doctrine, because he was convinced that knowledge would breed arrogance and division. But he was dead wrong and that church splintered because of lack of unity—a lack of unity that flowed directly from a lack of sound doctrine. Churches are bound together by the beliefs they share. Of course there will be certain minor variances in a church on lesser matters, but the greater the shared beliefs on the essentials, and the greater the emphasis on the essentials, the greater the degree of unity. In Ephesians 4 Paul talks about the way God gives leaders to churches and says they are given, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” He draws a clear connection between doctrine or spiritual growth and unity between believers.
DOCTRINE LEADS TO WORSHIP
Fifth, doctrine leads to worship. Doctrine is meant to amaze you with the sheer power and magnitude of God. It amazes you with the sheer sinfulness of mankind. It bewilders you with your own insignificance before God, and yet your sheer significance in his plan of redemption. It moves you with the incredible mercy of God as expressed in sending his Son to die for you. The more you know of God, the more you can worship God and the more you will want to worship God. What you learn of God should always motivate your worship. And again, the more you know of God, the warmer the heart behind your worship and the deeper the expression of your worship. It is at the end of his long theological reflection on God that Paul says, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways” (Romans 11:33). His knowledge of God led directly to worship of God.
DOCTRINE LEADS TO SAFETY
Finally, doctrine leads to safety. It protects the church. In Titus 1 Paul says an elder “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” When you know doctrine, you are able to rebuke anyone who wanders from it, and you are responsible for doing so. When you know doctrine, you are able to defend your church from those who would want to lead it astray. A church that cares little for doctrine, and a church without people who know and love doctrine, is a church that will necessarily be blown and swayed by every wind and wave of doctrine.