THE PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE OF DOCTRINE

Biblical teaching, or doctrine, is not intended by God to stop with the enlightenment of the intellect. Enlightenment is a necessary first step, but truth is intended to impact the thinking, habits, and behaviors of its recipients.

Examples of this are abundant in Scripture (see for example Rom. 12: 1; 2 Pet. 3:11). It is the intended pattern of Scripture that understanding of truth should motivate application of truth. Always learning but never acknowledging the truth (2 Tim.3:7) is a description of the process of Christian thought short- circuiting at the mind and not getting to practical outworking. The writer of Hebrews tells us in Heb. 5:11-14 that Christian maturity comes through practicing biblical truth, not just by possessing the knowledge. James write that we are to be “doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).

It is a theological and practical error, however, to reverse the order and take an application of truth and build a doctrine from it. As an example, the application of self-denial for one person should not become a prescription of lifestyle for another. Romans 14 illustrates clarity in conviction and charity in extension of that conviction to others. Dogmatic practices without foundational truth become a system of religion without power.

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