Some friends and I are going through the Mars Hill Doctrine sermon series. Thus far it’s been really great and we’re all learning a lot about the finer points of Christian belief. But do any of those finer points matter? Some people, even inside the Church likely think such things as the Trinity, Revelation, Creation, etc. are a waste of time. Why not spend our time doing more important things? It seems as though I’ve had a lot of conversations recently that center around what the Bible says about certain doctrinal issues (the source of morals, the virgin birth, etc). Is all that a waste of time? Are those finer points of Christianity important?
I think so. In his letter to Timothy, Paul tells him to watch his life and his doctrine. He is essentially putting them on equal footing. He’s telling us that what we believe is just as important as what we do. After all, don’t our beliefs guide our actions?
In 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, God through Paul says, “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” How are we to do this if we do not first know what is good and what is evil? I realize some things are obviously evil and some things are obviously good, but there are other issues that must be thought through carefully and critically.
In John 8:44, Jesus teaches that Satan is the father of lies and that lies are Satan’s native language. If we do know not know what the truth is–that is, if our doctrine is not grounded in Scripture–Satan can easily guide us off track. He’s been doing it for a while now, ya know? That’s why it’s important for Christians to read the Bible, connect with other Christians, and pray (pray especially for wisdom). It’s hard to watch your doctrine closely if you don’t know what your doctrine is, right? If a compass does not know which way is North, it will not serve as a very reliable guide.
The next part is to take this knowledge and use it to guide our lives. Just as a working compass is useless if you do not use it, head knowledge is pointless if it is not put into practice. That’s why Paul says to watch your life and doctrine closely. The two complete one another because doctrine is proven right by being put into practice. Jesus himself said, in Matthew 11:19, that “wisdom is proved right by her actions.” This means that as we incorporate wise doctrine into our lives, it will demonstrate itself to be true.
Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Perhaps I’m going out on a limb here, but I think this can also apply to our doctrine. If we do not examine our doctrine, it’s likely we will not find it worth living. We must take ownership of our beliefs, make them our own, and then put them into practice.