The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:1, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” And Colossians 3:14 seems to indicate that love is the supreme virtue that binds all the other ones together. Love indeed is supremely important because Jesus Himself said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” As important as love is, doctrine and truth are also important. It is popular today to focus entirely on love and act as though truth or doctrine does not matter much, but we need both love and truth to be healthy, well-balanced Christians.
What is doctrine? Our word doctrine comes from the Latin doctrina, and it literally means teaching or instruction. In a Christian context, doctrine is the body or system of teachings taught by Jesus and the Apostles as laid out in the Bible.
In 1 Timothy 4:16, the Apostle Paul warned his young protege, Timothy, “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.” In 2 Timothy 4:3, Paul brings up the subject of doctrine again to Timothy, “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; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”
So first, we see that doctrine saves us from deception and false teaching. True teaching gives life. Jesus said in John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Jesus had much to say about false teachers. When we know sound doctrine, we can spot false doctrine pretty quickly. Conversely, if we are ignorant of the truth, we can be easily led astray.
Doctrine stabilizes us and gives our belief system structure. Ephesians 4:13-14 talks about becoming mature in Christ so that we won’t be like children “carried about with every wind of doctrine.” A skyscraper needs a strong frame of steel in order to support its weight and withstand high winds. Doctrine is like that steel framework in our lives. It gives us stability and support. Chuck Swindoll once gave a great illustration about the balance between truth and love. He said love is like a river and truth is like the banks of the river. If there were no banks the river would overflow and cause damage and destruction.
It is also important that we know sound doctrine so we can pass it on to the next generation. The Apostle John said in 3 John 1:4, ““I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” John was talking about his spiritual children (Gaius), but I think the application can certainly be made to our literal descendants. If we do not know sound doctrine, how can we pass it on?
Back in 1 Corinthians 13:6, Paul says that love “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.” Part of loving is loving the truth. And how can you love something that you don’t know? Doctrine may not be popular these days, but it is vitally important. Doctrine does indeed matter. But like Paul said in Ephesians 4:15, we need to speak “the truth in love.” If we aren’t loving when we teach and share our doctrine, few will want to hear it.