Doctrine, Who Needs it?

Doctrine is an unpopular word these days. Comparatively few Christians wish to discuss doctrine. The buzz word of this generation is experience. As the 'charismatic wave' sweeps country after country, these or similar all-to-familiar words will be heard:

"I've been baptised in the Holy Spirit and you haven't. So don't talk to me about doctrine, because I know. The Holy Spirit teaches me all I need to know about doctrine. He shows me what is right and what is wrong. It's experience that counts, not obsolete doctrine."

This article is not attempting to dismiss another's experience. Rather it is an attempt to set the record straight on the vital issue of DOCTRINE. What is doctrine anyway? The Oxford Dictionary defines the word 'doctrine' as:

'a principle or set of principles and beliefs held by a religious, political or other group.'

Strange as it may seem Jesus Christ only taught doctrine. In fact all religious instruction, of whatever faith, is based on 'doctrine,' on a 'set of principles.' I'm sure no religious leader worthy of his position would advocate abandoning religious principles - doctrine! But what is sound doctrine?

The answer is: Sound doctrine is the unique set of religious principles which originated from the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. Sound doctrine, in short, is the set of principles by which the Almighty lives. They form an integral part of His character; and He alone has the right to define them. True believers may subsequently adopt and teach those sacred principles, but only the Almighty has the authority to define them: because they originated in Him.
When Jesus Christ, came to earth he confirmed this fact. He practised and taught his Father's doctrines - nothing else! All his sermons were based on the 'religious principles' he had learned from his heavenly Father. They were not his own ideas: they were his Father's. Listen to the Saviour's own testimony:

John 7:16 "Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me."

John 12:49-50 "For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak."

The Saviour's famous Sermon on the Mount is an example of his Father's doctrine.

Matthew 7:28 "And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine."

Why is Doctrine so Important?
The answer is: because the Lord's principles motivate all His actions and laws. They give us insight into His plans and methods. Consequently when you study divine law, you are also studying the motivating principles and will of the Almighty God! You are studying eternal principles which uphold and govern the present and the future universe. No subject could possibly compare with the study of divine law: because it is the study of God's own will and character.

Sad to say, the self-worshipping human mind thought it could do better than the Almighty. It began to conceive doctrines of its own. In this article these are called man-made doctrines. Yes, believe it or not, man set about to design his own doctrines, principles, laws and standards of morality. It wasn't long before the church joined in and jettisoned long established Biblical principles (doctrines) handed down by the prophets and Apostles of old. The church adopted the 'doctrines of men:' and to each incoming doctrine it gave a Christian title. Let me list a few of the doctrines the church adopted from heathenism.

* Mother and Child Worship: This began in ancient Babylon and spread to the ends of the earth.
* Christmas: This popular festival came directly from paganism.
* Infant Baptism: Nowhere in the scriptures will you find infants being baptised. Jesus Christ was baptised at the age of 30 years! In scripture infants are dedicated, adults baptised.
* The Rosary: Another practice adopted from paganism.
* The Sign of the Cross: "The same sign of the cross that Rome now worships was used in the Babylonian Mysteries, was applied by Paganism to the same magic purposes, was honoured with the same honours. That which is now called the Christian cross was originally no Christian emblem at all, but the mystic Tau of the Chaldeans and Egyptians - the true original form of the letter T - the initial of the name Tammuz." (The Two Babylons (page 197). This informative book is published by PARTRIDGE and Co. 4 Soho Square, London UK)

These are a few of the man-made doctrines the fallen church adopted as it jettisoned the sacred doctrines of the Almighty God. It is quite impossible to tell the catastrophic effect this action has already had on the human race. Church leaders thought that by accommodating pagan ideas and doctrine it would attract souls to its fold. It certainly did: but millions in the church are still in darkness as far as the truth is concerned. Who knows how many - or few - of these teeming millions will make it to the Kingdom of Heaven! The result of this tragic policy is that the world is in moral darkness and almost on the point of self-destruction. The church has rejected the living waters of the Lord's truth and embraced paganism instead. This is the underlying cause of humanity's problems: and this is why most worship - in and out of the church - is vain and futile! One might compare the 'doctrines of men' to spiritual contraceptives. They not only stifle life, but their long term effect is 'virtual impotency' in every sector of human society. Hearken to the Saviour's words in Mark 7:7 concerning the doctrines of men.

"Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."

What does this verse mean for this generation? It means this: if we attempt to worship the Creator in a way that He has not authorised, no matter how popular or exciting that way may happen to be, our worship is vain, worthless and a total waste of time. We may dance around in Baal-like frenzy, we may beat the air, laugh, sing, shout, clap our hands or collapse in ecstatic delirium: but we will accomplish nothing of any value, no matter how feverishly we work at it. Because the fact is, 'worship that is not based on genuine faith and obedience to the commandments of God is vain, futile and worthless worship!' That is what the Scriptures teach!

False doctrine always leads to sin; and more often than not to sexual sin.
Indeed that is the very reason why Satan works so hard at getting mankind to adopt falsehood. But the Lord hates false doctrine. Therefore, no matter how attractive or exciting false doctrine may appear, it must be put out of our lives. Only then will we be able to stand in the Day of Judgement.

Revelation 2:6 "But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate."

Who are the Nicolaitans? According to the Westminster Dictionary of the Bible (page 427) they were:

"A party or sect in the churches of Ephesus and Pergamos whose practice and doctrine are severely censured. Following the doctrine of Balaam, they taught that Christians were free to eat things offered to idols and to commit the excesses of heathenism, (Rev.2:6, 14,15), contrary to the command issued by the apostolic council held at Jerusalem A.D. 50 (Acts 15:29)... A sect of Nicolaitans existed among the Gnostics of the 3rd century. They too taught the freedom of the flesh ..."

In other words, the Nicolaitans introduced 'sexual freedom' into their worship. Their 'man-made doctrines,' initially inspired by the false prophet Balaam, appeared quite harmless at first: but it wasn't long before they were involved in illegal sexual acts which accompanied the worship of BAAL...The Pagan God of Fertility. Let me repeat: false doctrine always leads to sin, especially sexual sin!

The Saviour taught sound doctrine
; that is, the spiritual principles he learned from his Heavenly Father. Never did he conceive a doctrine of his own: though he often needed to magnify, explain and demonstrate his Father's doctrines and the laws based on them. Here is proof of this astonishing fact.

John 7:16 "Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me."
John 8:28 "Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things."

The Key to Understanding Sound Doctrine
Sound doctrine is best understood by the obedient; by those who really want to do the Father's will. You have absolutely no chance whatsoever of appreciating the value of true spiritual principles and divine law if you blatantly practice sin or do not wish to give it up. Only the obedient understand the Father's will. (Daniel 12:10)

John 7:17 "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."

Devils are evil angels who have revolted against the Almighty.
They are spirit beings and they posses enormous powers. In the distant past millions of evil angels rejected the Lord's authority and His laws. Ever since, they have done their utmost to ruin His creation and frustrate His work. The Holy Spirit warns us about the increased activity of evil spirits (devils) in the days just prior to the return of Jesus Christ to earth.

1 Timothy 4:1 "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils" ...
3: Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

One such doctrine of devils is 'enforced celibacy.' Another is to 'forbid eating meat.' (verse 3). These two doctrines are widespread in pagan lands, where they originated. They are classified in scripture as the 'doctrines of devils.' Sad to say the Christian church adopted these two doctrines. The tragic consequences of this adoption continues to this day in communities around the world.

We are commanded to preach sound doctrine. The world is perishing because of a lack of sound doctrine; those divine principles which teach us how to regulate our behaviour. The popular church has departed from the doctrines of the Bible and are now wallowing in the unclean doctrines of men and angels. Because of this, sin in its myriad forms is smothering the life out of billions of souls! We dare not remain silent; even if it means upsetting some readers, a reaction we deeply regret.

* Jesus taught sound doctrine

Mark 1:22 "And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes."

Mark 12:38 "And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces,"

* The Apostles taught sound doctrine

Acts 5:28 "Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us."

Acts 13:12 "Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord."

Acts 17:19 "And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?"

* Scriptural advice concerning doctrine

1 Timothy 1:3 "As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,"

1 Timothy 4:6 "If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained."

1 Timothy 4:13 "Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine ..."

v16 "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee."

1 Timothy 5:17 "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine."

1 Timothy 6:1 "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed."

2 Timothy 3:16 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:"

Titus 1:9 "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers."

Titus 2:1 "But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:"

2 John 1:9 "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son."

2 John 1:10 "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:"

Revelation 2:14 "But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication."

2 Timothy 4:2-3 "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;"


* Sound doctrine is a set of moral principles which comes from the Almighty God of Israel. It forms the basis of His character, His will and His law.

* Jesus Christ always taught sound doctrine; which he received from His heavenly Father. He never introduced a single doctrine of his own: but always magnified his Father's laws in order that mankind would appreciate their meaning.

* Sad to say the Christian church set aside the doctrines of the Almighty and adopted in their place the 'doctrines of men and angels' (Christmas, Easter, Ash Wednesday, relic/idol worship, celibacy of the priesthood etc.).

* Teaching and living by the 'doctrines of men' results in vain, futile and worthless worship. Believers may delude themselves and each other; but we cannot delude the Almighty. The Saviour's warning was: 'Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted will be rooted up.' This applies to all false doctrine, be it of men or angels.

* The Bible admonishes us to live by sound doctrine:- the principles of the Lord in heaven.

* If you really wish to understand the will of the Almighty you must begin to obey His commandments: which are simply the divine definitions of His own principles.

* You may have had some extremely exciting experiences. I'll not doubt them. But if you are relying on personal experiences instead of the Word of God, then you are in for a big surprise on the coming Day of Judgement.

by: David B Loughran
February 1996
Stewarton Bible School, Stewarton, Scotland

Return to the Protestant Apologetics and Theology page