by Steve Klein
via The Bulletin of the Church of Christ at New Georgia, August 26, 2007
This past week, I noticed that the sign in front of the Presbyterian Church in Rogersville said, "Love God. Love others. The rest is doctrine." The message was plain. Loving God and loving others are essential things, but doctrine is not essential. In other words, it doesn't matter what you believe or teach, as long as you love God and love others. This sentiment, implied in the message on the church sign, reflects what a lot of religious people in America believe.
Now I am second to no one in my conviction that loving God and loving others are the greatest commandments. Jesus Himself said so explicitly (Matthew 22:37-39). If we get those things right, we will get everything else right as well, because "on these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:40). However, when doctrine is relegated to the status of non-essential, unimportant and not relevant to man's salvation, there is a lack of understanding concerning the nature of love! If a person really understood what it means to love God and others, he would know that believing and teaching sound doctrine is an essential part of loving God and others.
In John 7:16, Jesus said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me." Now if doctrine is unimportant, why would Jesus bother to inform us that the Source of His doctrine was His heavenly Father? Does anyone really believe that Jesus could have taught any doctrine He pleased and still laid claim to being God's loving and obedient Son? His love for God bound Him to teach His doctrine.
- Obeying the right doctrine frees us from sin. The Romans obeyed a specific form of doctrine in order to be freed from sin. "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness" (Romans 6:17-18).
- Teaching the wrong doctrine invalidates our worship. In Matthew 15:9 Jesus said, "And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." The fact that so many denominational groups teach as doctrines the commandments of men no doubt explains why they want to convince us that doctrine is unimportant. Most denominational groups must get everything from the names of their denominations, organizational structure, manner of worship, titles of church leaders, and programs of work from men because they sure can't find them in the Bible.
- Following the wrong doctrine results in departing from the faith. "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (I Timothy 4:1).
- Whoever does not stick with the doctrine of Christ, does not have God. "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son" (II John 9).
To summarize, following the right doctrine frees us from sin, but having the wrong doctrine makes our worship useless, causes us to depart from the faith and separates us from God.
What attitude will we have toward doctrine if we love God? If we love others, how concerned will we be about teaching them only doctrine that is correct and sound? The apostle Paul told Timothy to "charge some that they teach no other doctrine" (I Timothy 1:3). Maybe Paul didn't understand that doctrine was unimportant. Or maybe, Paul loved God and man so much that he wanted only the one true doctrine to be taught.