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Is doctrine a Dirty Word?

Rev. Philip Harrelson

Doctrine, n. -- A body of principles in a system of beliefs. A doctrine is what the whole

Bible teaches about a particular topic or subject.

The above definition may seem a bit stiff, as most dictionary definitions do. But
the definition of our “body of principles” and “system of beliefs” is found in an unstiff
Book—the Bible. They are plainly laid out and narrowly defined. It is the Word of God
we go to for the discovery of doctrinal truths for no other source is one with the Truth.
Jesus said, “I am. . . the truth” (John 14:6).

Doctrine encompasses but is not limited to the following:

• The Doctrine of God

• The Doctrine of Salvation (Soteriology)
• The Doctrine of Christ
• The Doctrine of Satan
• The Doctrine of the Church
• The Doctrine of Man
• The Doctrine of Sin
• The Doctrine of Eschatology (Prophecy)

There also must be an understanding that each of these areas can have
components that can become even more specific. As with the doctrine of salvation, one
can obviously include such elements as: repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, heaven,
holiness, etc.

The word “doctrine” appears fifty-one times in 50 verses throughout the Word of
God. From this list there are several things observed about the concept of doctrine:

• It is Refreshing -- Dt.32:2 My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall

distill as the dew.
• It is Pure -- Job 11:4 For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure.
• It is to be Observed -- Proverbs 4:2 For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not
my law.
• It is to be embraced early in life -- Isaiah 28:9 Whom shall he teach knowledge?
and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the
milk, and drawn from the breasts.
• It has Authority -- Mark 1:22 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he
taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. (Mk. 1:27; Luke 4:32)
• It is Ordained by God -- John 7:16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is
not mine, but his that sent me.
• It is to be taught continuously -- Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the
apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
• It has the power to break the chains of sin -- Romans 6:17 But God be thanked,
that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of
doctrine which was delivered you.
• There is only one true Biblical doctrine -- 1 Timothy 1:3 As I besought thee to
abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some
that they teach no other doctrine,
• The Church is to constantly preserve and teach doctrine -- 1 Timothy 4:13 Till I
come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
• Scripture is the source for doctrine -- 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by
inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction in righteousness:
• Doctrine is to be preached -- 2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season,
out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
• There is a 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; (Titus 1:9; 2:1)
• It is to be adorned -- Titus 2:10 Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that
they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.
• It has different components -- Hebrews 6:1-2 Therefore leaving the principles of
the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of
repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 6:2 Of the doctrine of
baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal
• There is an error in doctrine that is not God-centered -- Revelation 2:14 But I
have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of
Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to
eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
• There are winds of doctrine that deceive others -- Revelation 2:15 So hast thou
also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. (Rev. 2:24)

The word “doctrine” comes from the Greek word didaskalia which means
“teaching.” It refers both to the act of teaching and to what is taught (the teaching). The
word Torah or Law in Hebrew also means “teaching.” Therefore, the “law of the Lord”
means basically the “teaching of the Lord.” The suffix ology means a branch or body of
learning. Thus, biology refers to a body of learning about organic life. Theology refers
to learning or teaching about God. Thus theology and doctrine mean basically the same

The word didaskalia appears in the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus)
some sixteen times. This word indicates that the systematic exposition of the Word of
God is in order. It could mean that a person could be taught individually, in a small group
setting, or in the setting of a church. The real emphasis is that the man of God must be
constantly sowing the good seed of the Word into the lives of those around him.

Among Biblical scholars, there are two branches of theology. One is known as
biblical theology and the other as systematic theology. Both must be based upon the
Bible and both are essential to a solid understanding of the Scriptures.
Biblical theology places an emphasis on history. Biblical theology deals with
how the historical frameworks of the Old and New Testaments influence their teachings.
Every teaching of the Bible came into a particular historical situation and how the
message from God was particularly suited to the needs of the people in that situation.
Biblical theology could more properly be called the historical theology of the Old
Testament and the historical theology of the New Testament.

Systematic theology emphasizes systems of thought. Systematic theologians try

to take all the teachings of a particular subject and put them together to give a full picture
of that subject. Generally, the subject will be taken from it’s first mention in Scripture
and correlated in a sequential manner, so that the topic is formed as it follows a course
through Scripture. The course can either follow a chronological system or follow through
consecutive Scripture sequence (i.e. from OT to NT).

The Advantages of Studying Doctrine

When we study the Word of God there are several considerations that we should
remember. David Bernard states the following in Doctrines of the Bible (p. 28):

When studying the Bible, we should keep in mind several points:

(1) Illumination of the Spirit is necessary,

(2) The Bible is basically plain and meant to be understood,
(3) Scripture interprets Scripture,
(4) Truth is revealed progressively from Old to New Testament,
(5) The Bible presents a unified theology,
(6) No doctrine stands on one passage alone or is hidden in obscure
(7) The Bible is accommodated to the human mind (but not to error),
(8) Each passage has one primary meaning but can have many

We can have confidence that God has revealed, preserved, and transmitted His
Word to us today and that we can understand it. His Word is the Bible.

In addition to these points, there are several advantages that come with the serious
study of Doctrine.

1. The study of Doctrine will keep us from spiritual error. It is important to seek out
and pursue the tenets of faith expressed by the Bible. If the true core of Apostolic
Doctrine is lost, then all that is dear to the Apostolic Pentecostals will soon follow.
Take Heed Unto Thyself and to the Doctrine. . .

1 Timothy 4:1-5 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from
the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy;
having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to
abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which
believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it
be received with thanksgiving: 5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
1 Timothy 4:13-16 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14
Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the
hands of the presbytery. 15 Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy
profiting may appear to all. 16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them:
for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

2 Timothy 4:1-4 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge
the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season,
out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 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; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth,
and shall be turned unto fables.

2. Doctrine will help to settle our lives. There is an “academic” responsibility for us
not only to be aware of the doctrine but to learn and know how to give a ready
answer (1 Peter 3:15).

Ephesians 4:14-16 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about
with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in
wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is
the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that
which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part,
maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

3. Doctrine will help to acquaint us with the details of God’s eternal plans.

Concerning the History of Israel -- 1 Corinthians 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye
should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;

Concerning the Restoration of Israel -- Romans 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should
be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is
happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.

Concerning Spiritual Gifts -- 1 Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I
would not have you ignorant.

Concerning The Rapture -- 1 Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant,
brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no

Concerning the Destruction of the Earth -- 2 Peter 3:8-10 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this
one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering
to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the
day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a
great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are
therein shall be burned up.

4. Doctrine will afford to us the approval of God. When we become mature saints of
God, there is a greater hunger for the Word. The more that we hunger for the Word,
the more disciplined that our study of the Bible will become.
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be
ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

5. Doctrine provides a clear Biblical basis for our foundational beliefs. Our
theology must be explicitly based on the Word of God. When one attempts to factor
in extra-biblical literature (i.e. – The Early Church fathers, creeds, etc.) the potential
for spiritual error greatly increases. Therefore, all Scripture is profitable for doctrine.
We must adapt the pattern of the Bereans who carefully pursued the evidence found
within Scripture.

Acts 17:10-11 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who
coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in
Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the
Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

6. Doctrine provides a clear explanation of the Word of God. The study of doctrine
is not intended to result in confusion and frustration and fill one’s life with
uncertainty and doubt. Once we allow the Word of God to have the final say on
issues, our hearts can remain at rest. One can understand that the New Birth is
essential, that baptism is essential, that tongues are still the initial evidence of the
New Birth, that the gifts of the Spirit are still in the New Testament church, and that
we can have hope in a Rapture that will remove a waiting church from this world.

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.

7. Doctrine can be applied to our daily lives in a sense of godly and righteous living.
Theology is to be lived, sung, and prayed. The entire Word of God brings
applicational truth to our lives. The more we know about God, His Word, about His
plan for man, the more we are able to trust, worship, and more readily obey Him.

1 Timothy 6:3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words
of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;