Doctrine: The Neglected Blessing of the Church

Doctrine: The Neglected Blessing of the Church

by Dr. David Sampson on October 29, 2019

I recently read a post that presented two arguments concerning Christianity. The people who wrote the article are good people who love the Lord, and this is by no means a personal attack on their ministry or relationship with Christ. They serve the Lord diligently with a sincere heart of worship. However, I do not concur with the premise of the article. First, they argued—it’s not the believer’s place to indoctrinate people with what their attending church says is right. Their second argument stated—I don’t care what denomination you are, and God doesn’t either … And if we agree Jesus Christ is the way to Heaven … does the other stuff matter?

Are those statements true to Scripture? Is it correct that God doesn’t care what religious denomination you choose? Are we to assume that all religious thought leads to the path of salvation? Is it wrong for believers in a local church to embrace a doctrinal faith and practice and disciple others with those truths? Are we to believe that the “other stuff” outside the teaching of salvation in Christ-like—the end-time events of Revelation, church discipline, spiritual leadership, the ordinances of the church, spiritual gifts, sanctity of life, biblical marriage, and the dynamic of the family, etc., is just other stuff that really doesn’t matter?

In this article, I will argue that all the truths presented in the Bible are important (John 14:23, John 15:7, and Romans 15:4). I want to look to the objective facts of Scripture and not personal feelings to understand what God’s thoughts are concerning their premise.

The word indoctrination is defined as the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically. Therefore, if a local church of believers should not indoctrinate, then what should they be doing? The Apostle Paul repeatedly spoke of indoctrination:

  • Titus 1:9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
  • Titus 2:1 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:
  • 2 Timothy 4:3 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;

Looking closer, the word “sound” – is from the Greek, {hygiaínō} hoog-ee-ah’-ee-no. The word means to have sound health, i.e. be well (in body); figuratively, to be uncorrupt. The word “doctrine” means teaching. Together, “sound doctrine” means “healthy teaching.” Thus, healthy teaching is derived from the proper exposition of Scripture that is called doctrine.

Dr. Walter Elwell contends that doctrine is essential to the church:

Doctrine is indispensable to Christianity. Christianity does not exist without it. The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes the value and importance of sound doctrine, sound instruction (1 Tim. 6:3), and a pattern of sound teaching (2 Tim. 1:13–14). The apostles defended the faithful proclamation of the gospel (Gal. 1:8). They formulated Christian faith in doctrinal terms, then called for its preservation. They were adamant about the protection, appropriation, and propagation of doctrine because it contained the truth about Jesus Christ.[1]

Each time the Apostle Paul uses the phrase “sound doctrine” he is talking about healthy, doctrinal teaching. The systematic and theological teaching of Scripture brings spiritual health to the body of Christ. Spiritual health is another way of describing spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:15 and II Peter 3:18). The mature Christian will be a healthy believer with a spiritually guarded mind centered on Christ. Dr. John MacArthur said, “An unguarded mind, even of a believer, is subject to deceit, misunderstanding, and confusion, which inevitably produce false doctrine and sinful living.”[2]  Therefore, I will argue doctrinal teaching is necessary in the local church and is unquestionably mandated by Scripture. Paul instructed Timothy to engage attendees with indoctrination. He said: Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine (1 Timothy 4:13).

Note the three words: reading, exhortation, and doctrine.

  1. We are to read the Word within the Church.
  2. We are to expound the Word within the Church.
  3. We are to instruct out of the Word within the Church.

The receiving of eternal salvation from Christ is contingent upon hearing “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (II Thessalonians 2:13-14). One writer stated, “Sound doctrine is important because what we believe affects what we do. Behavior is an extension of theology, and there is a direct correlation between what we think and how we act.”[3] I say, Amen!

Furthermore, I believe God does care about what denomination you associate with, and we should not underestimate what God does through them. I agree with Dr. Ed Stetzer, who stated, “In my view, denominations are certainly not the answer to the world’s ills, nor are they our last and only hope. But a denominational structure can be a valuable tool for the church to use in her mission.”[4] The hope of the world is not denominations; the hope of the world is Jesus Christ.

A balanced view is needed—we must understand no one theological perspective or denomination contains the whole of scriptural truth. However, we must also recognize that not all denominations present the clear theological teachings of the gospel and the biblical mission of the church. Religious denominations like Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses contend to be Christian, but their aberrant, heretical, teachings are contrary to traditional biblical Christianity.

To say God doesn’t care about denominations is disingenuous. God cares about unity, missions, and the integrity of biblical teaching, and a denomination can facilitate those things. Paul said in Ephesians 4:3 “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Denominations can provide a spiritual unity for believers in several ways:

  1. A united goal in the mission of the church.
  2. A like-mindedness in reaching others with the gospel.
  3. A mutual agreement in the worship of Christ.
  4. A collective agreement on a body of truth to disciple others.
  5. A commonality for people to fellowship around the Word of God.
  6. A corporate gathering of believers for encouraging one another.
  7. A unity of mission held together by the diversity of spiritually gifted people.
  8. A shared recognition of biblical spiritual leadership.

Being a part of a biblical denomination provides a unity of thought, practice, worship, mission, and fellowship. However, Christians must maintain their devotion to Scripture over their denomination. Furthermore, their understanding of Scripture should not give way to a critical spirit towards those who maintain a different ministry style. I have found that most people argue over style as opposed to substance. Again, to say that God doesn’t care about being a part of a biblical denomination and we should not indoctrinate is certainly disingenuous.


Missional Until He Comes,
Dr. David Sampson
Titus 1:3


[1] Elwell, W. A., & Elwell, W. A. (1996). Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed.). Baker reference library; Logos Library System. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (94). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Got Questions Ministries, Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2002–2013).

 [4] Ed Stetzer, “Life in Those Old Bones,” Christianity Today (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today International, 2010), 26.

Tags: church, doctrine, christian living, ecclesiology

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