Doctrine, Of God or Man?
Is Doctrine from God or Man?
What is the relationship of the church and the believer to doctrine. All too often I hear people talk about doctrine as being unbiblical and divisive. It is “man made teachings that cause division and disunity” in the church and thus they should be avoided at all costs. For example, in a phone conversation I had recently with a customer representative, he indicated that he was a Christian attending a non-denominational church and that he did get into denominations and their doctrines. In fact he did not see much use for doctrines and felt they were for the most part counterproductive. In response I asked him if he could define what a doctrine is. He couldn’t. This is so common of so many Christians I come across. They are against it but they really do not know what it is or why they are against it. They are just parroting what ecumenical minded preachers and leaders have told them. To understand what doctrine is and whether it is good or bad we must turn to the only authority, the Bible.
The word “doctrine” is used 59 times in the New Testament. When one considers that the word means “teaching of truth” then one must add the 159 places where the New Testament speaks of teaching or instruction. In other words, over 208 times in the New Testament God address the matter of teaching the truth or “doctrine.” To put it simply, any truth about God that is expressed by the Bible is doctrine. The gospel message is doctrine. The virgin birth is doctrine. The Trinity is doctrine. The Coming of the Lord and the Resurrection is doctrine. If we really think doctrine is wrong and ungodly then we must get rid of all the Scriptures, all 66 books because they are all doctrine. From the first word of Genesis to the last word of Revelation, all are doctrinal truth. Do away with doctrine and there will be no creation, no God, no miracles and most importantly, no salvation from sin. It is impossible to have a Christian faith without some degree of doctrine! Even those who say they do not believe in doctrine are making a doctrinal statement every time they express that view.
Now that we have defined what doctrine is, let us take it to the next level and see what God says about doctrine.
1) Not all doctrine is truth. There are those who claim to speak and teach the truths of God’s Word who in reality do not. Let me give some examples
a. The Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus day taught the “doctrines of men” as if they were the doctrines of God. Jesus quotes Isaiah to prove His point.
Mt 15:6-9, “then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"
b. This problem of false doctrine, the teaching of the ideas and opinions of men as if they were from God continued on into the Church Age as well. The Apostles warn the church many times to watch out for false prophets and teachers, speaking lies as if they were speaking the Word of God Himself.
Col 2:20-23, “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations — "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using — according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”
1 Ti 4:1-4, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.”
2 Ti 4:3-5, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Heb 13:9. “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines.”
2 Pet 2:1-3, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.”
1 Jn 4:1-3, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
2) Sound or true doctrine is necessary for the spiritual growth of the believer. Without submitting to the teaching and application of the truth or doctrine of God’s Word we will remain spiritual babies or carnal Christians. We will be little or no use to God and probably will be a hindrance to His work. The following references are a few of the many passages that teach this fact.
Eph 4:11-15, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
1 Ti 4:13-16, “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”
2 Ti 3:16-17, “ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Heb 5:12-14, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
3) Sound or true doctrine is necessary for the spiritual growth and purity of the congregation of believers. The doctrinal convictions of a congregation need to be recorded and required of every member. Without a doctrinal statement, the church will waver in its doctrine and will eventually die. This is where many mainline churches find themselves today. They still have the doctrines on the books but they gave up holding to them years ago. Therefore they are the dead shell of what had been a Bible believing and practicing church.
In light of what the Word of God says, doctrine is beneficial and necessary for the Christian walk. It is not a negative thing in God’s eyes but a positive thing. It is absolutely necessary for faith to exist and to grow. Then why are there so many different doctrines held by so many different denominations that keep Church’s and Christians from being united?
The answer is really quite simple. Though all churches are based on doctrine, not all doctrines held by churches are the doctrines of God. Many doctrines held by churches are the product of man and their traditions rather than the teaching of God’s Word. Some of these doctrinal differences and are minor matters that really do not make effect the Faith. For example, the Grace Brethren believe in baptizing people three times forward whereas the Baptist do it one time backwards. This doctrinal difference should not stand in the way Baptists and Grace Brethrens worshipping together. However, many of the mainline denominations have abandoned the idea that Jesus was God who became a man. We call it the doctrine of the deity of Christ. It would be difficult for those who hold to the deity of Christ to worship with those who deny it. This doctrine rests at the very core of our salvation and what one believes regarding this matter can mean the difference between heaven and hell. John brings this out in first epistle when he writes,
1 Jn 4:2-3, “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”
John indicates that those who do not be believe in the deity of Christ represent the spirit of Antichrist and are not the children of God.
How then do we measure whether a doctrine is of God or of man. The answer is pretty simple. Does the doctrine held by a church or individual agree with what the Bible says or does it disagree. In other words, the doctrine of a biblical church will reflect what was given by our Lord and His disciples as found in the 66 books of the Bible. If any doctrine is not found in the Bible, has been added since the NT was completed or contradicts what the Bible says, it is not of God Note the following verses:
Rom. 16:17-18, “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.”
Gal 1:8-9, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”
1 Ti 6:3-5, “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.”
2 Ti 2:2, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also”
2 Jn 9-11, “ Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”
Let me share a couple more examples of common doctrines that do not line up with the Scriptures. One is infant baptism. No where in all of the Bible is it ever mentioned that an infant was baptized. Water baptism always follows after salvation has taken place. Another false doctrine is the belief that one can loose their salvation and have to be saved all over again. The writer of Hebrew says:
Heb 6:4-6, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.”
Clearly from this verse that if one could loose their salvation then they would be lost to hell for all eternity.
Yes doctrine is important. We should know what the doctrines of a church are before we attend and join it. Likewise, we need to immerse ourselves in the doctrines of Scripture so that we might grow and become complete as Christians. As Paul wrote, God hates it when His children vacillate back and forth regarding doctrines.
Eph 4:11-15, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — “
How important is doctrine in your church? How important is doctrinal preaching and teaching from the pulpit in your church? How important is doctrinal teaching to you as a believer? God wants us to grow up in Him through sound doctrine.