What Good Is Doctrine?

Imagine we suddenly find ourselves in a foreign land where we neither know the customs nor the language. We feel frightened and alone. As time passes, we discover someone who speaks our language and volunteers to be our guide and companion as we seek to understand our new reality.
An understanding of this scenario can help us answer the question, “what good is doctrine?” As we seek to determine the truth God would have us follow, we must first find truth. Second, we must then test its validity (1 John 4:1). Third, if we have found it worthy, study and absorb its message so it can guide us to heaven. Scripture, we learn, is absolute truth that cannot be denied.
What would be the purpose of securing a guide?
First, the guide would serve the function of education. We would stay by the guide as he leads us through the daily tasks required of us, such as shopping and securing a place to live and work. We would follow their directions explicitly because they know more about the culture than we do.
When we send a young person to the store, we send a list so they will have guidelines in what to purchase. Likewise, God left us guidelines so we would know his message and intent for our lives and salvation. He understands far better than we do what is needed to live a good, healthy life, find forgiveness of our sins, and obtain a home in heaven. We can find confidence in his knowledge. As Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68, NKJV).
Paul wrote, “But you have carefully followed my doctrine” (2 Timothy 3:10a). The phrase “carefully followed” literally means “to accompany” and in this context means, “to follow faithfully, to conform to one’s self.”/1
For example, we find in Scripture that God wants us to worship him. We continue to read and see the pattern to follow so we can discover how he desires to be worshiped. We “follow carefully” the plan he has given us. As we continue to study and discover what a Christian should be in word and deed, we conform oneself to Christ as our model.
Second, the guide would serve the purpose of elucidation. In other words, the guide would make things clearer to us as they explain the things we encounter in our new world. Likewise, Scripture makes the path to God clearer, since Christ is the “light of the world” and the path is clearly marked (John 8:12; 14:6). However, as our guide is making things clearer, deceivers are there to distort and hide the truth. Paul says, “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).
In 2 Timothy 3:14, Paul says we are to “continue in the things which we have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom we have learned them.” Our guide cannot lie so he is always perfectly dependable (Titus 1:2). “Assured of” refers to that which is “worthy of trust.”/2
Third, the guide would serve the purpose of emulation. Emulation refers to the imitation of someone we deem worthy. Jesus said on many occasions, “follow me.” Paul said several times, in one form or another, “imitate me.” The guide would be the local expert. Likewise, Jesus is our guide, model, interpreter, and companion because he knows perfectly the world we live in. Let us always stay close to him as he leads us to life everlasting.
1/ Joseph Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 484.
2/ Ibid, 514.

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Richard lives in Florence, Alabama and is married to Deirdre. They have three daughters. He is an avid reader, devoted writer and lover of history and research. He is the author of "The Most Important Question" and is working on more books.

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