People often cringe whenever the words doctrine or theology are mentioned. It is common for many believers in churches to believe that doctrine is not only dull and boring but not for them at all. It is also common for preachers to shun doctrine claiming they simply teach the word. This false dichotomy ignores Paul’s instructions to Timothy to teach sound doctrine when he says:
As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. (1 Timothy 1:3-4)
On the other hand, we have a group of overzealous Christians who have read some theological books and assume that being able to throw around theological jargon is equal to being spiritually healthy and theologically grounded. In throwing around jargon, this group exposes their pride and causes the untaught mind to shun doctrine altogether.
I do believe, however, that the lack of grounding in doctrine is the biggest reason our churches are shallow and suffer from spiritual malnutrition. It is also the reason false teachers have found fertile soil for their damning teachings. Cults and the prosperity gospel have swayed millions on the African continent because the true church of Christ is not holding on to sound doctrine, and they are not holding on because they do not know sound doctrine (Ephesians 4:13-16). This I believe begins in the pulpit. If the people in the pulpits are not consistently, deliberately and systematically teaching sound doctrine, the people in the pews will be aimless and shallow. And by teaching sound doctrine I am not talking about dry lectures without application but impressing the truth on people so that they live it out. So why is it important that every Christian knows what the Bible teaches?
DOCTRINE LEADS TO A DEEP RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
The health of any meaningful relationship in life depends on how much you know each other. A Christian cannot have a healthy growing relationship with God without a growing knowledge of God. Arthur Pink famously wrote in his book The Attributes of God “An unknown God can neither be trusted, served, nor worshiped. God is only truly known in the soul as we yield ourselves to Him, submit to His authority, and regulate all the details of our lives by His holy precepts and commandments."
Daniel proclaimed “the people that know their God shall be strong and do great exploits” (Daniel 11:32).
DOCTRINE UNITES THE CHURCH
The common claim is that truth/doctrine divides. And we are often encouraged to lay our doctrine aside and love one another. Such a claim cannot be further from the truth. The Scriptures teach the exact opposite. Biblical unity comes as a result of oneness in biblical doctrine. Separation will invariably come as a result of differences in the essential doctrines.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine,by human cunning,by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (Emphasis added; Ephesians 4:11-14)
DOCTRINE LEADS TO BIBLICAL WORSHIP
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! (Psalm 100)
The call to worship the Lord in this beautiful psalm is followed by a reason or explanation why we should worship the Lord, namely our knowledge of God! A proper knowledge of the majestic splendor, glorious power and unceasing loving-kindness of the Lord will lead you to extravagant, respectful knowledge of Him, meaning you do not enter His presence carelessly like your cousin’s bedroom nor do you approach Him in a lifeless dry manner. Unbiblical worship is a result of shallow doctrine.
DOCTRINE LEADS TO EVANGELISM AND MISSIONS
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
People who have a proper knowledge of God cannot help but testify of Him to everyone they come across. They will seek to teach the truth (doctrine) that they themselves have been taught. The major reason we do not share the gospel and plant churches is because we do not have a proper view of who God is and do not see the need for others to know Him.