Doctrine is the Biblical system that is used to teach God’s will for our lives. It is often found in the Bible, but wait, let us allow the Author of the Word to describe it to us:
16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. – 2 Timothy 3:16
The word “doctrine” is found 45 times in the New Testament, used by Jesus Himself and then by the four gospel writers, and Paul. Paul uses the word 21 times, and this stresses the importance of sound and Biblical teaching.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Paul writes two very personal letters to Timothy to prepare him to continue Paul’s work once he is no longer on the scene. Paul knew at the time of writing that it was only a matter of time before he would be killed. He urges Timothy to hang on to his faith despite the desperate times that were coming. He writes to Timothy that:
- All scripture – this means the entire Bible and not just the parts we like
- is given by inspiration of God, – the Word is divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit
- and is profitable for – it is useful:
- for doctrine, – allowing us to understand the doctrines or teachings it contains
- for reproof, – to counter errors and heresies
- for correction, – to lead us back to the truth after being deceived by sin
- instruction in righteousness: – to show and teach us to lead faithful lives
- That the man of God – Christian believers and teachers of the Word
- may be perfect, – may attain perfect insight
- thoroughly furnished unto all good works. – may be totally prepared to do good
Why understanding doctrine is important
Doctrine allows us to understand what the Bible really teaches, how to teach it to others, and how to remain faithful to God's word, rather than rely on the vain babblings of false teachers. When you understand the message of the Bible, then anything else will come over as false.
The major themes of the Bible
Systematic Theology is the classification of the themes of the Bible and the doctrine associated with each part. When read and studied with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God opens up in the heart of the believer and nothing will be too difficult to understand. In his exhaustive work, Lessons in Systematic Theology, writer Henry Thiessen defines the major themes of the Bible as follows:
- Definition and existence of God – As taken from the Word without being diluted or changed by man.
- Non-Christian world views – Why whatever non-Christian world views teach, is false.
- The scriptures as an embodiment of Divine revelation – God progressively reveals Himself and Hios plan for man.
- The genuineness, credibility and canonicity of the Bible – The Bible is true in every respect; is credible because God's infinite wisdom is the driving force, and only what is contained in the 66 books that form the Bible is to be accepted, believed and studied.
- In inspiration of scripture – The authority of the Bible is the Holy Spirit.
- The nature of God
- Essence and attributes – What is God like?
- Unity and Trinity – The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, operating as a single unit, and never in isolation.
- The decrees of God – What God has decided that stands firm and will not be changed.
- The works of God
- In creation
- In His sovereign rule
- The origin, nature, fall and classification of the angels – Where did the angels come from; what are they like; and what categories of angels are there?
- The work and the destiny of the angels – What are they tasked to do and what is their destiny?
- The origin and original character of man – How was Adam created and what was he like?
- The unity and permanent constitution of man – The three aspects that define man: body, soul, and spirit.
- Background and problems
- The fall of man – What happened that caused man to fall?
- Fact and immediate consequences
- Imputation and racial consequences
- The nature and final consequences of sin
- The purpose, plan and method of God
- The person of Jesus Christ and the historical views and preincarnate state
- The humiliation of Jesus Christ – Leaving Heaven to show us the way on the Earth.
- The two natures and character of Christ – Perfectly God and perfectly man
- The work of Jesus Christ
- The work of the Holy Spirit
- Election and Vocation – Chosen because of God's omniscience.
- Conversion – The process of converting from sinner to saint.
- Justification – Justified because of our position in Christ.
- Regeneration – The regeneration of the spirit of man.
- Union with Jesus Christ and vocation – We are in Christ and are called to serve.
- Sanctification – The process of being made holy.
- Perseverance – Running the race to the end.
- The means of grace – The grace we received but never deserved.
- Definition and founding of the church – Why the church is necessary.
- The manner of the founding and the organisation – How the church started.
- The ordinances of the church – How the church operates.
- The mission and destiny of the church – The task the church has now and in the future.
- Personal eschatology and the importance of the second coming of Jesus Christ
- The nature of the second coming and the purpose of His coming in the air
- The nature of His coming to the Earth
- The time of His coming
- The resurrections
- The judgements
- The millennium
- The final state