Love wants to know more
Firstly, if you love someone, you want to know everything about them. If a young man meets a girl and falls in love, he’ll want to find out all sorts of things about her – what sort of family she’s from, which school she went to, what her hobbies are, whether she’s had other boyfriends, whether she prefers Indian or Chinese food … And if we love God, we’ll want to know all about Him – about His nature, His character, His purposes, His commandments; about the work He’s doing in the world, about His work in saving people, about His plans for the future. In other words we’ll want to study ‘doctrine’.
Belief Shapes your Life
Secondly, what you believe will shape your spiritual life. It’s obvious isn’t it? The way you think about God will affect the way you relate to God. If you don’t believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, you can’t believe that God is eternally love. It’s the doctrine of the Trinity that gives us confidence to believe that love is in the very nature of God. Again, if you believe that God is only in control when good things happen, you can’t trust Him in the times when everything goes wrong. It’s the doctrine of God’s total sovereignty that enables us to say in the darkest hour, ‘I don’t know why this has happened but I know You planned it, and that You planned it for my good’.
As said above, studying doctrine is finding out the truth about God. And we need to do that so that we can relate to the God who’s really there, not the God we imagine him to be.
Belief Affects Action
But thirdly, we need to study doctrine, because without it we won’t understand the world in which we live. Or to put it differently, we won’t know how to live in the world. A friend whose husband is suffering with a crippling and painful illness asks you whether you think euthanasia is wrong, and if so, why. Or somebody asks you why the Bible is against homosexuality. You’re not going to be able to answer those questions in any consistent way unless you understand the doctrine of Man as the image of God. And so it goes for many other “normal” issues of life: child rearing, discipline, social relationships and the Church, especially in the light of man’s fallen state and sinful nature. A thorough knowledge of Biblical doctrine will give you the tools to sort out all the practical problems of living in this complex fallen world – even in matters where the Bible doesn’t speak directly.
Doctrine Gives Answers
Lastly, a study of doctrine will help us with what to say to the unsaved people we meet. Peter tells us that we must … be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter3:15). We have to be competent to answer questions. So what do you say when someone asks ‘How can God allow a tsunami to sweep away scores of thousands of people?’ Or your child that says, ‘I’ve tried to become a Christian but it didn’t work?’ You’ll need a very clear grasp then of just what saving faith is, and how it relates to the human will, and where assurance fits in.
Well, if I gave you a test on Bible doctrines, how would you do? OK? Do you think you could answer all the questions above without much difficulty? That’s good! But remember, that would only scratch the surface. It would take a thousand lifetimes to explore all that God has revealed about Himself in Scripture. It will take all eternity to explore God Himself in the world where we’ll need no Bible. Keep growing, keep learning, keep thinking. Another quote from Peter:
Keep Growing and Learning
‘You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.’ (2 Peter 3:17–18).
And what about those of you who would struggle with certain doctrines? Well I can’t blame you. But don’t give up. Go and listen to some sermons again. You may find that they make more sense second time through, when you’re at home and the children have gone to bed. Read some good books. But remember, we don’t expect God to reveal new truth to us now. But we do expect Him to illuminate the truth that He’s already revealed in Scripture.