Our English word doctrine is generally only used at church and Christian schools, but the word only means “to teach.” In 1 Tim. 1:3, Paul wrote, “As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine.” Paul had instructed that no one teaches differently than that which had been already given. In fact, 1 Tim. 6:3 states, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness.” It is here where Paul defines the difference between teaching another doctrine (heterodidaskaleo) and doctrine (didaskalia) being sound or healthy words. Healthy teachings is that of our Lord Jesus Christ and which promotes godliness. Now, without these words, “He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.” (1 Tim. 6:4-5). This is strong language by Paul because there are many people who really believe that doctrine does not matter and that everything is just left up to feelings or interpretation. I guess they have not read 1 Timothy nor do they see that Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to warn others to not teach any other doctrine. Therefore, we must be concerned with doctrine because Christian doctrine must be based upon the Scriptures of God.
Paul therefore continues with Timothy encouraging him in 1 Tim. 4:13, 16, “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine . . . Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” The attention that Paul gives here is to ourselves and to our teaching in that it will benefit us as well as others. Therefore, we must give attention to our doctrine by taking the time to read it and understand.
Now, do you know what you believe and why you believe it? We should know and it should be based upon the doctrine of Christ. But, oftentimes, the word “doctrine” is looked at in a negative way and some churches are greatly opposed to advanced Biblical educations because someone went down the wrong road who stopped preaching the truth. Other Christians have gone so far as to say that too much knowledge is incompatible with Christianity. But, what did Paul mean when he said, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15)? How can one be eager, zealous and diligent in God’s Word if they have only read certain passages, neglecting the rest of that which God gave to mankind?
Now, when it comes to teaching and preaching doctrine, Paul was warning Timothy in 1 Timothy 3 about how people would turn away, never coming to the knowledge of the truth, and how they would be deceived, and that the Scriptures makes one complete. Then Paul said this, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (1 Tim. 4:1-4).
In today’s preaching and teaching, it is sad that a preacher will preach a sermon with only one verse or that a teacher will make guesses as to what the Bible says, never basing what needs to be said on Scripture: book, chapter, verse. What we preach, what we say, must be on what God has written. John the Baptist got his head cut off for preaching healthy doctrine. James the son of Zebedee got his head cut off for teaching healthy doctrine. Sometimes people will not listen to sound doctrine, but what we still must preach, is sound doctrine. However, there needs to be proper balance as a proclaimer of truth if we are to teach other because there are some diligent Christians who, all they can do, is attack different doctrine. Every sermon, bulletin article, every discussion is focused on which person is doing something wrong and they call this defending the Truth. This is why some get sick of hearing about doctrine. Yet, there are others who never want to talk about doctrine and this is an overreaction. Alas, people go from one extreme to another like a pendulum which never seems to land in the middle.
We need to have a balance like Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim. 4:1-4. Now make no mistake, there comes a time when we have to warn others about false doctrine. Otherwise, people could lose their soul. Paul indeed told the church in Rom. 16:17, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” But at the same time, if people do not see the Bible as the infallible, inspired Word of God, if we cannot show people that the Bible is more than a common book, then people will not see the Bible as the revelation of God to man and therefore, it becomes extremely difficult to teach. We need the Gospel to speak! We need the power of God’s Word to shine out to a lost and dying world. You know, God’s word is already big enough to sort through without people putting their own stuff into it. Imagine how much easier it would be if we teach and preach the simplicity of the Gospel and let His word speak clearly to the people.