The reason we do and say the things we do and say as Christians is because we believe as true certain teachings (doctrines) concerning our faith. For example:
- How we worship God.
- How we feel about death and life after death.
- What motivates our effort to control our various human impulses, etc.
These are based squarely on the instructions or "doctrines" we believe come from God contained in the Bible. Many times, however, we tend to deal more with the end result (actions/habits/attitudes) created by doctrine than the actual doctrine itself.
This book was written in order to examine the reasons we, as Christians, live as we do by studying seven major doctrines upon which our faith and practice are built.
Before we begin to examine these doctrines, however, I would like to mention several reasons why such a study is important.
Jesus Commanded It
19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
- Matthew 28:19-20
Jesus says that part of the process of making disciples is to teach them the words of Christ and encourage them to obey them. We study the doctrines of the Bible to understand God's purpose in sending Christ and Christ's purpose in sending the Apostles. Major Christian doctrine is another way of saying, "the teachings of Christ."
There is Much False Teaching
There were many early warnings that the method Satan would use to destroy the church and the faith of many was through the teaching of false doctrine.
17Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
- Romans 16:17-18
There were many who purposefully taught false things to confuse or trap the brethren. How are we to "test" if we do not know?
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
- I John 4:1
Test the spirits.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires
- II Timothy 4:3
People often want to hear what pleases them, instead of the truth.
16But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, 17and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.
- II Timothy 2:16-18
False teachers spread false information about existing facts in order to produce confusion.
28Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.
- Acts 20:28-30
Even church leaders will be guilty of this sin, by ignorance or malice.
We need to study doctrine so we can know the difference between correct doctrine and false doctrine. Jesus said that the best way to examine teaching is to compare it to His own words because it will be His word that will judge in the end.
He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.
- John 12:48
False Doctrine Causes Problems
It divided the church
3If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.
- I Timothy 6:3-5
People will align with different teachers and there will be fighting among the brethren over false teaching
It makes prisoners of false ideas
But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.
- Galatians 2:4
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
- Colossians 2:8
6For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
- II Timothy 3:6-7
In each instance Paul refers to Christians who are made slaves of some form of religious tradition, authority or practice that is based on false teaching, and whose only purpose is to enslave those Christians who may not know the truth. Knowing the truth, knowing correct doctrine makes you free and protects the church from division caused by false teachers.
Results of Correct Doctrine
There are not only negative reasons for studying doctrine, there are also great benefits that come from knowing the major doctrines of the Bible.
Correct doctrine leads to salvation
14You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
- II Timothy 3:14-15
You cannot be saved properly without knowing the true and correct doctrine about salvation.
Equips one to serve God
16All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
- II Timothy 3:16-17
We are saved so we can serve the living God, and correct doctrine teaches us how to please and serve Him.
Transforms us into the image of Christ
But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
- I Timothy 1:5
Knowing the words of Christ and sowing them correctly into our hearts will produce a Christ-like heart, a Christian character, a change that will honor God and provide true witness to others. Without true doctrine we cannot know God, come to Christ or be sure of our salvation.
Outline of this book
There are many instructions or "doctrines" that the Bible teaches, but the title of this book is "Understanding Your Religion: Seven Major Doctrines that Define Christianity", so I have tried to select the doctrines that best represent the entire instruction given in the Bible. In other words, these are the doctrines that cover the Bible from start to finish and into which other doctrines fit.
There are seven:
- Doctrine of Inspiration of the Bible
- Doctrine of the Deity of Christ
- Doctrine of Original Goodness
- Doctrine of the Fall of Man
- Doctrine of Restoration
- Doctrine of the Kingdom
- Doctrine of the Second Coming
If you are familiar with these doctrines, you will be familiar with the sub-teachings that are generated by these, and you will be much more knowledgeable about why and how you are to practice the Christian faith.