By Julia Chapman
At the Charismatic Evangelical Leadership Conference hosted by Kenneth Copeland, in January 2014, Bishop Tony Palmer of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, brought a video message to the group from Pope Francis. Palmer’s message there was a declaration that the Reformation protest has ended. He cited John 17 and Jesus’ final prayer, that His people be one as He was one with the Father. Palmer declared, “God will sort out all our doctrines when we get upstairs.” In many ways Palmer’s message shamed Protestants by intimating that they’ve been clinging to a grudge for 500 years. “I have come to understand that diversity is divine; it’s division that is diabolic,” he announced.
Doctrine out of Vogue
Doctrine seems to be out of vogue as far as some are concerned. From the international to the township association level, many ecumenical meetings discourage discussions on doctrine. Those who dare to focus on the importance of doctrine are treated as doctrine doters and seem to be denied credibility in an era of love. In this “enlightened” age, it is implied that we are all just to love one another, as though discussing doctrines is never a loving thing to do. The flow of logic seems to be that love is the main thing. God is love. We are all worshiping God; so, let’s let the rest go and accept one another in Christian love. It sounds good. It sounds irrefutable. But is that all there is to it? Are we now to do away with doctrine, going with the flow of the times?
What is Doctrine, Anyway?
The word translated as “doctrine” in the Bible is from Greek words that mean teachings. The teachings are important. They mattered in the time that Jesus Christ walked this earth, and they still mean something in our time. Second Timothy 3 and verse 16 indicates that one of the purposes of Scripture is for doctrine. “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 furnished unto all good works.”
Beyond being ready for service to the Lord, Biblical doctrine is to be passed on to others. Jesus instructed His disciples with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching (didaskō) them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” That is our command, to go forward and study the Bible, instructing disciples as they follow the Savior. We need to remain respectful of the beliefs of others, but a strict “live and let live” ideology is not supportable by Scripture. We are admonished to instruct others “in season, and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2-3), according to doctrine.
Good Doctrine, Bad Doctrine
Doctrine matters because the Bible indicates several times that there is good and bad doctrine. As Christ’s followers, we are warned against erroneous doctrine such as the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Saducees (Matthew 16:12), the doctrine of Balaam (Revelation 2:14), and the doctrine of the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:15). The “doctrine of Christ” is another description for “sound doctrine.” In Romans 16:17 we are counseled to reject doctrine which deviates from that of Christ’s, specifically doctrine which causes division, and offenses, leading others to stumble and fall. We also must not become cozy with, but turn away from those who teach such.
God wants us to grow and mature in our understanding of His teachings (or doctrine) and to be solid to stand against deceptions. The example given is not to be “tossed to and fro, by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). We are to stand firm by abiding in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Paul counseled young Timothy, “Give yourself wholly and completely to true doctrine” (I Timothy 4:15-16). The best way to avoid the deceptions of counterfeit doctrine is to be familiar with the truth. The Bereans were a group that were highly commended in Scripture. Acts 17:11 says of them, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
Be eager to test all you hear by the filter of God’s Word, finding truth to set yourself in a firm path of following Jesus. Follow Jesus’ command to lead those near you to do likewise. So, I am saying, dote on doctrine and don’t let anyone deny you in it.