Doctrine and History: Do They Matter?

I mentioned yesterday that I’ve studied theology and history for 28 years, devoting a large amount of time to it. But are they really helpful for anything?

Where Theology and History Are Not Helpful

When you’re trying to build the church, whether that’s by making new Christians or by bringing Christians into the unity that they need to grow (Eph. 4:11-16), theology and history are not helpful. They are just things for Christians—who ought to be focusing on maintaining the unity that is created only by the Spirit of God (Eph. 4:3)—to argue, fight, and divide over.

When you’re building the church, there is one thing that matters. Although what I am about to write is going to sound like two or more things, it’s really just one: Christ.

Christ, the Gospel, and obeying the Gospel. That’s what matters. That’s what will create born-again people who have the Spirit of God and who, thus, can have unity and be the family of God.

2 Tim. 2:19, which to me is one of the most important verses in the Bible in the light of our modern problems with division and proper focus, says, "For the foundation of God stands firm: The Lord knows those who are his, and let those who name the name of Christ depart from iniquity."

On that foundation we can build.

That verse is part of a letter to Timothy about what he should be doing to establish the church in Ephesus while Paul is gone. Don’t lose focus, he’s telling Timothy. Theologians are always finding unimportant things to argue about (profane and vain babblings, 2 Tim. 2:16) in order to fulfill their lust for glory, money, and division (1 Tim. 6:3-5).

Yes, we lust for division. Don’t fool yourself. Not only is division a natural product of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21), but it’s a convenient way to dodge the emotionally painful task of working things out and getting along.

Sound Doctrine

Doctrine is important.

The problem is, we don’t know what doctrine is important.

When we think of doctrine, we think of all those things modern Christians divide over: real presence in the Eucharist, dunking vs. sprinkling, speaking in tongues, eternal security.

Paul exhorts Timothy and Titus to fight over doctrine, but he makes it clear that there is one doctrine he is concerned about: the doctrine according to godliness.

Both Timothy and Titus are exhorted to teach good works to the saints. Paul specifically tells Titus to teach the church to "be careful to maintain good works" (Tit. 3:8). A little earlier he told him that Jesus died to produce a people that are zealous for good works (Tit. 2:14).

In fact, in Titus 2, Paul does us a favor and defines sound doctrine.

Read it. (That link gives you 4 versions to choose from.) It verifies everything I’m saying.

Unity of Spirit as the Route to Sound Doctrine

We can’t come to good doctrine on our own, anyway!

Ephesians 4:3 tells us to diligently maintain the unity of the Spirit. That’s first and foremost.

If we can do that, speaking the truth to one another in love, then together we can come to "the unity of the faith" and avoid being tossed around by every doctrine that blows through (Eph. 4:13-14).

Spiritual unity first; doctrinal unity after.

John addresses this, too. He talks about people who are trying to seduce the church (1 Jn. 2:26). Then he says what to do about it.

What to do about it is not study the Bible and come to our own individual conclusions. What to do about it is together to be led by the anointing.

That’s what he says! We may not like it, and I assure you, Protestants don’t like it. Most of them, while telling me that they are going to trust in the Bible instead, reject the Bible’s answer for doctrinal error!

Both Ephesians 4 and 1 John 2 tell us to learn together by the guidance that comes from God from heaven. One talks about people as a gift from Jesus Christ speaking the truth to one another in love, and the other talks about the Anointing that comes from God and that leads us—together because all those yous in 1 Jn. 2:27 are plural—into what is "true and not a lie."

700 words. This is plenty long and plenty to chew on.

Tomorrow, when doctrine and history do matter.

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