THE PURPOSE OF DOCTRINE
Now that we’ve looked at the importance and overall purpose of doctrine, I want to unpack three specific ways in which it impacts our everyday life.
1. Every doctrine provides an explanation
We wouldn’t be able to fully understand the implications of the fall of Adam and Eve, the calling of Abraham, the righteous life of Jesus, the cross, the empty tomb, the ascension, the establishment of the church and so forth if it weren’t for the explanatory doctrines of God’s Word.
Through doctrine, God helps us to understand how we have acted in sin and how he has responded in grace. We are not saved by the doctrine, but by the historical things God has willingly and graciously done on our behalf. Doctrine explains those things to us so we can admit our need, reach out for God’s help, and move forward in a new and better way.
2. Every doctrine is a shorthand.
Every doctrine you’ll come across in Scripture provides a shorthand for things God knows are vital for us to know and understand. It allows us to summarize vast amounts of content and historical activity in one word.
For example, the doctrine of justification captures the nature of God’s character (completely holy and intolerant of sin), humanity’s need (rescue from total depravity), and God’s response to (wrath against sin) and provision for (the sacrifice of Jesus Christ) that need.
We can now substitute the term “justification” for the entire story of all the things God did to secure our position as his children.
3. Every doctrine provides a means to an end.
It’s very important to remind ourselves that the doctrines of the Bible were never intended to be an end in themselves, but rather, a means to an end.
The doctrines God has revealed have a greater purpose than to give you a big theological brain, and they’re meant to provide more for you than just an outline and a theological confession.
Doctrine is meant to be a means to an end, and the end is a transformed life.
THORN BUSHES AND CYPRESS TREES
Perhaps the best word picture for what the doctrines of the Bible were intended to do for us and in us is found in Isaiah 55:10-13. The prophet equates the truths in the Bible being like rain or snow that falls and waters the earth.
Read what Isaiah writes:
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
“For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
God, in his Word, and Jesus Christ, during his earthly ministry, used a lot of word pictures to reveal spiritual truths in physical terms. But, when you read this passage, you have to admit that this is one of the strangest physical word pictures in all of the Bible.
I’m no botanist, but I’m pretty sure that if I had a thorn bush in my backyard, rain would produce a bigger thorn bush, not a cypress tree. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a well-watered brier magically morphing into a myrtle.
What is God, through the prophet, trying to communicate by stretching our botanical understanding? What is this bizarre metaphor telling us about what God intends the truths (doctrines) of his Word to produce?
DOCTRINE RESULTS IN TRANSFORMATION
This strange word picture is meant to drive us to one conclusion: The doctrines found in the Word of God are not just designed to increase information, but rather produce radical, organic transformation. You see, the plants that are being watered don’t become bigger plants; they become an entirely different plant altogether!
God’s plan is for the rain of biblical doctrine to fall on us and change us. We won’t become better renditions of ourselves, but entirely different, spiritually. God uses doctrine as a means to turn angry people into peacemakers, greedy people into givers, demanding people into servants, lustful people into pure people, faithless people into believers, proud people into humble people, rebels into obedient people, and idolaters into worshipers of the one true God.
This is why doctrine should never be reserved only for the brains of our academic theologians in seminary. Is it important for our smartest thinkers to unpack them for us? Of course, but these big doctrines have real life implications. They’re meant to turn you inside out and turn your world upside down. God’s intention is that nothing in their path would ever be the same again.
When you properly understand the doctrines contained in Scripture, they’ll transform your identity, reshape your relationships and redirect your finances. Your calendar, your words, your hobbies and your leisure will look different. You won’t think about your past and your future in the same way you once did, and you’ll look at the present through an entirely different grid.
Doctrine is a beautiful gift, supplied by a God of amazing grace. They’re not burdensome, life-constricting beliefs; they impart new life and new freedom. They’re the ecosystem in which the garden of personal transformation grows.
I hope you’re as excited as I am to start unpacking the doctrines found in Scripture!
This resource is from Paul Tripp Ministries. For additional resources, visit www.paultripp.com. Used with permission.