I recently wrote an article that noted how doctrine is the lifeblood of the Christian life. In that article, I defined doctrine using the Greek word “didaskolos” which means “teaching.” Furthermore, I explained that “doctrine explains the ‘who’ and ‘what’ of Christianity.”
Doctrine: The fuel for discipleship
Now, since doctrine provides the lifeblood of the Christian life, it should follow that doctrine also provides the fuel for discipleship. Many people might ask why doctrine matters in relation to discipleship. The question at first may sound pious, even correct.
You might say, I just want to be a disciple.
My response would be, how can you be a disciple of Jesus without doctrine?
After all, it is a doctrinal statement to say you are a Christian because with that statement comes the biblical truth that you believe Jesus Christ is the only way to God (John 14:6) and only through Him can you be saved by believing in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1-10).
How does doctrine inform discipleship?
So if we agree that doctrine is essential to discipleship, the question now is, “How does doctrine inform discipleship?” To ask this question is to venture into the nitty gritty of the Christian life where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Before we go there, we must understand that even the Apostles struggled to know who Christ was and what He would do for them (this was before He bled, died, rose, ascended). Many Christians today struggle to understand that when they live their Christian lives as if what they believe doesn’t matter, they will be prone to being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine as Paul talks about in Ephesians 4:14.
What we believe must inform how we live.
When we view the Christian life in terms of how we live rather than from what we believe, we encounter a massive problem.
How will I live when severe trials come? When trials and difficulty come— and they always do—they reveal the strength or often lack thereof in our doctrinal understanding. If you are not grounded in what you believe of God in the Bible, then you will be so consumed with what you ought to do in your own strength. You will be consumed with “how I should live.” When difficulty comes to those who focus on “How will I live,” the response isn’t to lean in to God and trust His promises but rather to lean on our own strength, and grumble against Him.
Those who understand that sound biblical doctrine comes from God’s Word live the opposite way. They root their lives in sound doctrine for the purpose of weathering trials and hard times. It’s more about what they believe than it is about how they live. They first ask, “Who is my God?” not “How should I live?” Only when we have a high view of God and a high view of God’s Word can we persevere in Christ and live in a godly manner. It starts with him. Otherwise, we will be tossed by every wind of the latest and greatest fads to hit Christian bookstores, the Christian conference circuit, music scene, or what the most recent popular television preacher declares is truth.
Doctrine and discipleship give shape to what Christianity is all about.
They are the twin engines that propel the Christian and their ministry in the local church and beyond to strengthen the Church and advance the Gospel. When we emphasize doctrine to the exclusion of discipleship, we are teaching people to have a head full of knowledge without having their experience increasingly seen through a biblical worldview. Doctrine fuels discipleship, and together, both provide the fuel for the Christian’s life in Christ. Doctrine and discipleship give shape to the local church’s mission of seeking the lost and making disciples to the glory of God. Doctrine and discipleship fuel all ministry efforts because they propel biblical Christianity forward in a culture that is increasingly only interested in how it feels.
If you’d like to get started in learning more about Christian doctrine, you can start with BLB study resources or take a free theology course at the Blue Letter Bible Institute. You might want to take your small group through one of the available classes.