<<set of beliefs>>
Doctrine is only of value if lived out
viewpoint or mind] and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”. It is what should be taught and followed, not what originates in human thoughts or is man-made ritual (Mt 15:2-9, 16:12; Act 17:19-21; Col 2:8,22; 2 Tim 3:15). We are not to nullify or set aside God’s Word for the sake of tradition, but correctly interpret the Scriptures as there are serious consequences for distorting the truth (Deut 4:1,2, 12:32; Mt 15:6; 2 Tim 2:15; Rev 22:18,19). Jesus declared, the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth (Jn 16:12,13). Paul said, “What you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me – put into practice” (Phil 4:9; 2 Tim 3:14). He practiced what he taught! By consistent and deliberate obedience to Scripture blessing will come (Josh 1:8). It is the practical outworking in our life that counts, not just the mental assent that this is right (Rom 2:13; Jas 1:21-25).
Scripture is to determine our beliefs
confirmed by His miraculous powers – as opposed to the religious leaders’ impotent teaching which brought bondage to their rules (Mt 7:28,29; Mk 1:27, 7:7-9). The early church believers were established in the faith by the Apostles teaching which they confirmed as being consistent with Christ’s teaching and the Scriptures (Act 2:42, 6:2,4, 17:11; Eph 3:5). Paul said, “What I preach doesn’t come from man but what I received from God by revelation I passed onto you” (1 Cor 11:23; Gal 1:11,12). He in turn instructed Timothy to remind others of, and reinforced good doctrine, which was based on Scripture (1 Tim 4:6,11,13,16; 2 Tim 4:3,4). We should not blindly and unquestionably accept all the teaching that we receive because many false teachers communicate things contrary to Scripture and so we must check out if it is the truth, which will always stand up to scrutiny (Jn 5:39; Act 17:11). There will be variances of belief in small areas where the teaching of Scripture is not specific, but in essentials there must be unity of belief, in non-essential matters the liberty of different opinions without judgment, and in all things love.
Heresy is holding to and teaching a very different viewpoint, particularly in a major area of belief, to what is clearly indicated in Scripture. Heresy deceives people into believing Satan’s lies and often leads them into cults. The elders have a responsibility to see that heresy does not enter the church.
A doctrinal statement is a condensed outline of the core beliefs held, such as the Apostles Creed. Most churches have a written doctrinal statement that outlines their stance on the important issues of the Christian faith.
The Bible's truth is to be our guide
(Mt 7:24-27; Eph 4:14; 1 Tim 6:3; Tit 1:9; Heb 13:9; 2 Pet 1:12). Divine truth (the basis of Biblical teaching) is given by God to produce God-like attributes in us, so our lifestyle comes into alignment with Christ’s teaching (Rom 6:17; Tit 2:1-10). The purpose of doctrine teaches the way of salvation, prepares believers for Christian living (what we believe determines our behaviour), and protects believers (and churches) from error.
It is our solemn responsibility to examine all teaching to determine if it is consistent with the Bible's direct instructions or principles (1 Thes 5:21; 1 Jn 4:1). Here are some factors to consider:
1/. Sound doctrine originates with God and is clearly and openly taught in the Bible; false doctrine originates from human reasoning or evil spirits. Jesus and Paul said what they taught was what God instructed them to teach for true doctrine begins with God who is true (Jn 7:16; Gal 1:11,12; Tit 1:2). In contrast false doctrine has been fabricated and inspired by Satan, the father of lies (Jn 8:44; Col 2:22; 1 Tim 4:1). Whatever does not come from God will ultimately fail.
2/. Sound doctrine is grounded in the authority contained within the Bible whereas false doctrine relies on sources outside the Bible. The Bible is God's inerrant and infallible authoritative self-revelation of Himself to humanity. There is a clear and necessary correlation between the origin and authority, between God and His Word. The early believers were commended for their careful assessment and accepted Paul's teaching as not from men but as the Word of God (Act 17:11; 1 Thes 2:13).
3/. Sound doctrine is consistent throughout the whole of Scripture, while false doctrine is inconsistent with some parts of Scripture. The writers of the NT warned against "diverse and strange teachings" (1 Tim 1:3, 6:3; Heb 13:9). Doctrine must always be compared to the established and accepted body of truth, and verifiable by those thoroughly conversant with the whole of Scripture who can identify and refute what is false. As there is no contradiction in the infallible mind of God, there can be none in His revelation. 'Scripture interprets Scripture' is a wise motto to be guided by. What it teaches in one place, it cannot refute in another or be treated in isolation. Related verses will give a richer and fuller understanding. In contrast false doctrine is often based on a single verse or idea taken out of context to support the wrong viewpoint that can't be substantiated by or withstand the scrutiny of the whole Bible.
4/. Sound doctrine is essential for robust and balanced spiritual growth whereas false doctrine leads to a skewed and weak belief system because it focuses on only certain parts of the Bible that supports its warped beliefs to the exclusion of others. Timothy had accumulated a thorough knowledge of God and His Word and so because he was spiritually healthy and strong was ably suited to instruct others (1 Tim 4:6). Timothy's constant nourishment in sound doctrine from the Word of God made him a "man of God" with "sincere faith" (1 Tim 6:11; 2 Tim 1:5). Paul said he had not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful for all Scripture is useful and beneficial (Act 20:27; 2 Tim 3:16,17). On the other hand, false doctrines make those who follow those beliefs, unbalanced, immature and ignorant of the full revealed revelation of God that He has made available; depending on the deficiency the adherents may not even be Christians at all.
5/. Sound doctrine has value for godly living whereas false doctrines are often embraced to justify unholy and selfish lifestyles that dishonour God. Truth is not isolated from reality but always has implications in life; it should influence our minds and be outworked in purposeful living, teaching us to live as God requires (Tit 2:1, 3:8). It equips us to do those things that are good for our neighbour and bring glory to God. Sound or healthy doctrine and teaching must be accepted and followed, while false doctrine must be decisively rejected (2 Tim 1:13; Tit 1:9).
An unbiblical or false doctrine is any teaching that stands opposed to the Bible's clear teaching. Some examples are: many paths lead to God (disproved Jn 14:6); we can earn salvation (refuted by Eph 2:8,9); the cheap gospel that says there doesn't need to be a change in our lifestyle after salvation (this is contrary to Rom 6:1-4); the denial of hell (Jesus taught this is a real place Mt 10:28, 25:46). An extra-biblical doctrine is a teaching not directly taught in the Bible. (For example, the observance of Lent or national holidays are a matter of personal conviction Rom 14:5). Biblically based doctrine involves a principle but not directly taught in the Bible. (While smoking is not mentioned in the Bible it is to be avoided when considering 1 Cor 6:19,20). Biblical doctrines are those teachings explicitly taught in Scripture. These include teaching about the Bible's credibility, God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, angels, man, sin, salvation, the church and future events. Obviously, these and other categories of doctrine have numerous aspects. We are to be conversant in the whole revealed will of God, and try to live by it (Act 20:27).
Serious problems arise when people confuse these categories. For example, teaching that the virgin birth is an optional doctrine is to reject a core teaching of the Bible. When a person's opinions and preferences are given as much importance as the Bible is an example of extra-biblical doctrine. We are to speak clearly and firmly when Scripture is plain, yet in extra-biblical matters we must be careful to avoid inflexibility and intolerance. In essential areas of doctrine (those specifically mentioned in the Bible) there should be agreement, in the unclear issues these are considered non-essential and allows for a diversity of viewpoints and practices. There are different interpretations and resulting practices about issues that are not directly addressed in Scripture. This calls for tolerance and liberty expressed with love.
Some of the suspect doctrines that have emerged are propagated by the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), the Word of Faith and Social Justice teachings.
See also: apostle’s creed, Bible, controversial issues, creed, cults, deception, division, error, essential, false teachers, foundational truths, heresy, interpretation, Kingdom now theology, New Apostolic Reformation, non-negotiable, Social Justice, teaching, tradition, truth, Word of Faith.