The Importance of Studying Doctrine

“I don’t need theology. Just give me Jesus!” “No creed but Christ.” “Deeds, not creeds.” These are common sentiments, but are they biblical?

When people repeat sayings like “Christianity is a life, not a doctrine,” they are either buying into a cultural distaste for claims to absolute truth or pushing back on what they see as a dry, academic approach to the Bible.

Such statements reveal a misunderstanding of what doctrine is. Doctrine is simply a set of accepted beliefs held by a particular group. Biblical doctrine defines the parameters of Christian teaching on a given topic, such as God, sin, salvation, etc.

To study doctrine is to learn essential theological truths for the purpose of embracing them in our lives.

We see in Scripture that we are nourished by doctrine in order to be good ministers of Christ (1 Timothy 4:6), that we must hold on to what we have been taught (Titus 1:9), and that we should avoid those who promote incorrect doctrine (Romans 16:17).

The Bible makes plain the importance of adhering to sound teaching. But how can we be faithful to that which we are not familiar?

In order to live according to the tenets of the faith we must be aware of what they are!

The Danger of Forgetting Doctrine

If we view the Christian life as one of merely loving Jesus and loving others, at the expense of understanding theological truths, we are ill-equipped to guard the doctrine that has been handed down to us.

Consider this recently published survey from Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research. It found that of Protestant Evangelicals, 11% strongly agree that Jesus was the first creature created by God, 17% believe that the Father is “more divine” than Jesus, and 35% believe the Holy Spirit to be a spiritual force rather than a personal being.

That such basic elements of the Christian faith could be misunderstood by significant portions of Christians displays a shocking ignorance of biblical doctrine.

Also, since these specific issues were “settled” by early church councils such as at Nicea in 325 AD, we see also a disconnect between today’s Christians and the historical roots of Christianity.

It’s doubtful that those in the survey even realize that these are heretical beliefs. Having a firm grasp of correct doctrine prevents us from adopting false doctrine.

Doctrinal study grounds our morality in the truth of Scripture and enables us to live God-honoring lives. It also allows us to articulate our beliefs in a consistent and biblical manner.

Studying doctrine allows us to live out the Christian faith with clarity, confidence, and consistency.Tweet That

Studying doctrine allows us to live out the Christian faith with clarity, confidence, and consistency.

Yes, doctrinal truths are often presented with unfamiliar and complicated terminology. Even so,  it is important to take the time to understand what the Bible teaches about salvation (Soteriology), Christ (Christology), the church (Ecclesiology) and other essential doctrines.

These topics are not reserved for the academically minded. These truths have been entrusted to all believers and we have a responsibility to understand and preserve them.

Where to Start

Ready to begin studying Christian doctrine? Review historical statements and summaries of Christian beliefs, such as the Apostle’s Creed. This will help you learn concise, historical statements of the faith.

To dig deeper, consider studying the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. A confession is simply a summary of orthodox doctrine, and here you will find teaching and Scripture references on a wide range of issues from a Reformed Theological perspective.

Additionally, it is helpful to begin using a catechism. (No, catechisms aren’t only for Roman Catholics!) A catechism teaches doctrinal positions in a question and answer format.

These are great for both children and adults. The New City Catechism and London Baptist Catechism are both very helpful and help guide your theological studies.

One last note of advice: While creeds, confessions, and systematic theologies are indispensable resources, we should recognize that they are intended to summarize and present the truths of the Bible.

Our theological studies must always begin with, and be checked against, the authority of Scripture.

Our theological studies must always begin with, and be checked against, the authority of Scripture.

So how should you proceed? Get a hold of some of these recommended resources. Study the Scriptures and consult the knowledge of others. Pray that God would give you wisdom.

And last, but not least, always be conforming your theological beliefs to the Bible’s teaching.

Recommended Resources:

Articles in this series:

  1. I totally agree when you said that learning the doctrine helps a person lead a good life since you will know how to honor God. With that in mind, I will be joining a bible study group with my whole family since I want my children to grow with a good character. This is important since the world nowadays can be very chaotic.

  2. I’m pretty late to responding to this article, but I would also offer that the book of Ephesians is a good reference for studying doctrine. It touches on pretty much every major church doctrine in some way.

    4:13-14 in particular emphasizes the importance of doctrine: “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.”

    One of the measures of our maturity in Christ is our knowledge of Christ and in context it also mentions the need of doctrine to maintain unity in Christ. Think about all of the divisions between various denominations that are caused by unsound doctrine.

  3. Thank you for this article. The attributes of God: sovereignty, grace, mercy, and love are throughout the entire Scriptures. Many believe that the way of salvation (sola fide, sola gratia) is New Testament theology. This is mainly because they are unfamiliar with the Old Testament where God’s covenants originated. Covenant theology is at the root of Reformed Theology.

    R.C. Sproul recently commented: “Reformed theologians self-consciously see the doctrine of God as informing the whole scope of Christian theology. That’s one of the reasons why Calvinists tend to focus so much on the Old Testament. We turn to the Old Testament because it’s one of the most important sources that you find anywhere in the universe on the nature and character of God. Reformed Christians tend to take the Old Testament very seriously because it’s such a vivid revelation of the majesty of God.” Again, thanks for a great article. Angelina

    1. The attributes of God are definitely important doctrines for every believer to be familiar with. Not only is it important for developing sound theology, it also increases our understanding of and love for God. Thanks for sharing the quote!

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