“Okay, Pastor Win, lay it all on the table — you preach a lot about doctrine, you teach the Confirmation students a lot about doctrine, you write books about doctrine, and you debate with people over what doctrines are right and what doctrines are wrong — is it really that important? Doesn’t doctrine just divide the church into camps and keep us fighting with each other instead of uniting to work together for good? Wouldn’t it just be easier to focus on what we all agree on rather than drawing lines in the sand?”
I must confess, it would be much easier to just focus on what we all agree on and just affirm that if you love Jesus you must be okay. Humanly, it would be far easier if we could just all get along and be one big happy body. A lot of those people whose doctrine I reject as in error are friends of mine and I care deeply about them. Even furthermore, some of the people whose views I claim are heretical are really nice people and I like them a lot — some are even family members, my own family members. But easier isn’t always right. In fact, easy is often the pathway that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13). And that is not what we are called to as the Church.
Here’s the thing. Biblically, my most basic job as a pastor is to train you, the church, so that you are equipped for he work of ministry and to build up the body to “mature manhood” (Ephesians 4:11-13). What does that look like practically? Paul goes on to say that a mature church is not “tossed to and fro” by every wind of doctrine, human cunning, and deceitful schemes (Ephesians 4:14). In fact, Paul writes that the only way a church finds itself built up in love (Ephesians 4:16) is if we grow into this mature manhood.
Now, in the world around us, doctrines abound, some good — mostly bad. Doctrine is taught to us in school (from preschool up), on television, in movies, on the internet, on billboards, and on the radio as we drive down the road. Some of the bad doctrines even proclaim themselves to be Christian.
So, how will we decipher good from bad so that we are not tossed to and fro? The only way it can be done is by teaching good doctrine. And how do we identify good doctrine? We must measure it by the teaching of the Scriptures — the scriptures alone and the scriptures as a whole. How often I have corrected people on doctrine with the words, “That sounds nice, but that is not what the Bible teaches…” It is not meant to be mean or contentious (okay, maybe a little contentious, but never mean), it is just meant to get us back to our only rule for faith and practice: the Bible.
Yes, there are things that we all agree on — “do unto others as you would have them do to you” or “do not steal.” But then again, both the Mormons and the Muslims I have known over the years would pretty much attest to these things too yet their souls are destined for the fires of Hell. I don’t know about you, but the seriousness of that statement weighs on me. Further, there are people in our families, in our communities, and in our circles of influence that are destined for Hell unless they repent and believe, and all the while, we are happily singing, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come!” There seems to me a certain disparity in that reality if we are not actively pointing these people toward Christ. Yet, how will we point people such as this to what is true if we do not know what is true in the first place?
Paul writes that the church is to be a pillar and buttress of truth (1 Timothy 3:15). How can we do that unless we are first grounded solidly in the truth of God’s word? How can we do that unless we ground ourselves solidly in Biblical doctrine? How can we do that if the teachers of the church do not commit themselves to teach Biblical doctrine and the members of the church do not commit themselves to studying it? Remember, the purpose of the church is not to make her people feel good while going unnoticed by the community. The purpose of the church is to tear down the strongholds of hell in our midst and the weapon of our warfare is the Word of God — we must train in it.