My sister is currently slogging her way through her medical rotations as she learns her way to a medical degree that she might be able to legally practice medicine and be declared, “Doctor.” Doctors pursue medicine for a variety of different reasons but all have, at least to some degree, a desire to see people healed from their ailments. The common theme in the Hippocratic Oath is that doctors take an oath to do their best to heal, comfort, and give people the best life possible in regard to their physical and mental well-being. This is common ground among doctors. Anyone who calls themselves “doctor” should be in agreement with the general principles of the Hippocratic Oath. This is what makes a doctor a doctor.
Similarly, as Christians, we all stand in common ground on our “hippocratic oath.” “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.” (See Deuteronomy 6:5, 10:12, Joshua 22:5, Matthew 22:37, Mark 10:30, Luke 10:27)
We call it “The Great Commandment.” Anyone who calls themselves a Christian or disciple or follower of Jesus should be in agreement on this.
Throughout history, and especially in recent years, many Christians have wanted to neglect sound doctrine. Doctrine literally means “that which is taught.” Doctrine, they claim, just divides us. Doctrine, some murmur, has been used to oppress people. And so they come away with a statement like, “I just need to love God and love people; that’s it.” “I don’t need doctrine to distract me from God.” Such statements are probably full of good intentions and it is true that some have made doctrine more important than the One doctrine teaches us about. HOWEVER…
…Such statements are erroneous, deeply misleading, damaging and contrary to what one might think, actually prevent us from loving God and loving others. Think about a doctor. A doctor might say, “I don’t need doctrine, I just need to love and heal people.” But how could a doctor truly heal people, and therefore love them, unless they had good medical doctrine? Doctors read and study for years, learning about endoplasmic reticulum, how Methylprednisolone interacts with the presence of Candidiasis, or creating a route tree for an accurate prognostication of a Myocardial infarction.
If a doctor is going to love people, they MUST have good doctrine. No medical doctrine or bad medical doctrine is disastrous. Imagine a doctor claiming they could truly heal people without having any knowledge of how the body works, drugs interact with each other, or how to predict outcomes of a disease. Not only would they not heal anyone, they probably would do more damage trying to do something rather than just doing nothing.
Likewise, how exactly would a Christian know what it actually means to truly LOVE God and love others unless they have studied what God has taught us about such things (doctrine)? They woudn’t.
Titus 1:9 “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
Not only are we commanded to hold firm to the word, in such a way that we can teach sound doctrine, but it is a command to rebuke people who contradict it.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good”
We are commanded to examine the truths of scripture so that we have sound doctrine and only believe what is good, that is, what is in line with Scripture.
Jeremiah 9:24 “but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD”
How could one possibly know and understand (the words are deeply intimate words that communicate a true depth and knowledge about God and who He truly is in all His ways, “DNA” and actions) unless they have studied to know who God is? Doctrine is just putting down in sensical order what we can know about God, who He is, what He does, who we are, and how we respond to Him.
Timothy 4:6, 16 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Not holding to good doctrine will make a shipwreck of your faith. Doctrine does in itself not save us. Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But even salvation and faith assumes an understanding and foundation of good doctrine. For without good doctrine how would be know we are sinners in need of a Savior? How would we know of a Savior and who this Savior is? How could we know whether God wants us to be saved? Once saved, how could we know how we ought to live?
Many Christians today neglect doctrine to their own detriment. They make a mockery of God and His Kingdom. We have a name for a person practicing medicine without basing their practice on good doctrine…they’re called “quacks.” Don’t be a quack. Be a disciple. One who truly knows and understands God and is able to love Him with all their heart, soul, strength and MIND. Jesus said we will be set free, when we know the truth (John 8:32).
We must be truth-seekers so that we can live it out. Love the Lord with your mind. Hold fast to good, sound doctrine.