“You will watch a generation of Christians – of Christians – set the Bible aside in an attempt to become more like Jesus. And stunningly it will sound completely plausible. This will be perhaps the cleverest of all the devil’s schemes in your generation. Sacrifice the truth for love’s sake. And you will rise or fall based upon whether you will sacrifice one for the other. Will you have the courage to live in the tension of both truth and love?”
– Beth Moore
Doctrine is somewhat of a no-no word among Christians today. “It divides!” “We just need to work on our love for one another!” “It doesn’t even matter, so what’s the big deal?” People say these things as though doctrine and love are on opposing sides. They seem to think that the truth is only worth effort and discussion if everybody is right. Or at least if everyone is happy and “unified.”
Let me just say, I don’t have to agree with you to love you. Heck, I can be mad at you for disagreeing with me, and still love you! I can even love you if we disagree on the Bible.
I know, it’s shocking, right?
But really, some things that I have heard Christians say are, “We need to focus more on unity, not doctrine,” “We shouldn’t burden new believers with doctrine,” or, “Just love Jesus.” While these hold good advice, except the second one, we can practice them while choosing truth. Doctrine matters too. And if we really love each other, we will be able to seek and discuss truth without ending the discussion in hatred. We may get frustrated, but we can choose not to hate each other nor to sin against another in anger.
Why does doctrine matter? What even is it?
Doctrine is simply a belief held. And it matters because the New Testament tells us it does.
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
1 Timothy 4:16
1 Timothy contains many warnings against false teachers and false doctrines. Paul wouldn’t warn us about holding fast to the truth if it simply didn’t matter.
Holding the truth does not mean we abandon love. It means we walk in both.
Don’t get me wrong- I’m not saying that this is something I’ve perfected. I fail in this concept all the time. Sometimes my argumentative side wins, and sometimes my timidness about the truth wins. But I do understand that we need to incorporate truth and love into our lives, relationships, and churches. It is something that I am working on, and I would encourage the rest of the church to work on it too. I’m not perfect, and that is why I must seek the truth. That is why we all must cling to the truth.
Which brings me to my next point. What is truth? As Christians we know that the Bible is truth. But there are so many “interpretations” of what the Bible means out there. Possibly one of the most difficult things for us as human beings is to put aside our own preconceived notions of what the Bible means, and read it to see what it actually says. If what is said and what is taught to you don’t match, figure out why. Sometimes Scripture appears contradictory, but upon further study is shown to not be at all. But a lot of the time verses are taken out of context to be made to say what is not there. The bottom line is to always, always, go back to the Bible. Figure out who the verse is written to. Figure out what passages are written specifically to us as the Church. Don’t insert “Church” into the place of recipient when it’s not there.
Cling to the truth. Hold fast to the faith. Read the Bible as it is, not as you wish it was. I guarantee that what it says is far better than what anyone can want it to say. We all fail, and we all end up being wrong. This is something that’s tough for me to accept, because one of the things that upsets me the most is being wrong. But that is why we keep seeking. We keep reading the Bible as it is. When something is confusing, we look into the context, those it is written to or for, and we consult other translations. We pray about it, and we read it again. And we reason. God created logic, it’s not contrary to the Bible to apply common sense and logic to it.
In the end, know what you believe. Learn the truth about God and His grace in the Bible. There is such a thing as mystery, but God has revealed enough in His word that we do not need to use mystery as an excuse for a clear contradiction. If there’s a contradiction, the reading or the doctrine is wrong.
It is true, perhaps, that young believers need not immediately be burdened with the writings of Christian theologians about long-lasting doctrinal arguments. To grow, we need a foundation. Be founded on the Rock, on the gospel. Start there. Know the truth of God’s gift, extended freely to all. Teach truth.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
I’m not a Bible scholar. Not in a formal sense anyway. I study the Bible, and I love it, but I do not go to seminary. I know there are many highly intellectual people debating the “deep mysteries” of the Bible, and I realize there are more qualified people you could be reading right now. But I do know this- Jesus called fishermen to be his disciples. Tax collectors. Ordinary people ended up leaders in the church of the New Testament. I’m not saying I’m worthy of that, or to be compared with them. I’m simply a girl urging my fellow believers to study. To learn. To grow, and not be satisfied merely with what others tell you to believe, but to be satisfied with what the Bible says. If that lines up with those people, great! If not, trust God’s word. God reveals truth to those willing to see it and hear it. We need to seek it in the Bible.
In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”
Luke 10: 21
Scripture can be understood when we seek it through the Spirit and the understanding He gives. We seek for truth through wisdom from God, not man. And He imparts it to us freely.
Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, not ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”-
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thought of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom, but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
1 Corinthians 2:8-13
So in all these things, choose grace. Give grace to your fellow believers, and love them enough to learn together and seek truth. Accept the grace that God extends to you, and fall more in love with Him and the gospel daily.
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
The truth will set you free. This is why it matters.