Theological Doctrine: What It Is and Why It Matters
Theological doctrine is a term that may sound intimidating or abstract to some people, but it is actually very important and relevant for every Christian. Theological doctrine is simply the study of the revealed word of God and His attributes, including His triune nature and His work in the world. It refers to the essential theological truths that define and describe the message of Scripture, such as the nature and work of Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Why does theological doctrine matter? Because it helps us to know God better and to love Him more. Theology is not just a dry academic exercise, but a way of deepening our relationship with our Creator and Savior. Theology helps us to understand who God is, what He has done for us, and what He expects from us. Theology also helps us to discern between truth and error, and to defend our faith against false teachings or attacks. Theology equips us to live according to God’s will and to glorify Him in all that we do.
How can we learn theological doctrine? The primary source of theological doctrine is the Bible, which is God’s inspired and authoritative word. The Bible reveals God’s character, His plan of salvation, His commands, His promises, and His purposes for His people. The Bible is also the standard by which we test any other sources of theology, such as tradition, reason, experience, or culture. We can also learn theological doctrine from other Christians who have studied the Bible and have articulated its teachings in various ways, such as creeds, confessions, catechisms, books, articles, sermons, or podcasts. However, we should always compare what we hear or read with what the Bible says, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13).
Theological doctrine is not something that we can ignore or neglect as Christians. It is essential for our faith and practice. It is also a joy and a privilege to learn more about our great God and His wonderful works. As the psalmist said, “Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them” (Psalm 111:2).
Some of the main topics of theological doctrine that Christians should learn and understand are:
- God: Theology teaches us that God is one in essence and three in persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the doctrine of the Trinity, which is the core of Christian faith and worship. Theology also teaches us that God is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, holy, righteous, loving, gracious, faithful, and sovereign. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things, and the Redeemer and Judge of all people.
- Christ: Theology teaches us that Christ is the second person of the Trinity, who became incarnate in the flesh through the virgin birth. He is fully God and fully man, the only mediator between God and humanity. He lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead on the third day, ascended into heaven, and will come again to judge the living and the dead. He is the Lord and Savior of all who believe in Him.
- Holy Spirit: Theology teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. He is the Helper or Comforter who convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He regenerates, indwells, seals, fills, guides, teaches, empowers, gifts, and sanctifies all who belong to Christ. He is the Spirit of truth who bears witness to Christ and glorifies Him.
- Humanity: Theology teaches us that humanity was created in the image and likeness of God, to have fellowship with Him and to rule over His creation. However, humanity fell into sin through disobedience to God’s command, and became corrupted in every aspect of their being: mind, will, emotions, body, and spirit. As a result, humanity is alienated from God, under His wrath, and subject to death and judgment. Humanity can only be saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ.
- Salvation: Theology teaches us that salvation is God’s work of delivering us from our sin and its consequences, and restoring us to a right relationship with Him. Salvation is based on God’s love and mercy, not on our merit or works. Salvation is accomplished by Christ’s death and resurrection as our substitute and representative. Salvation is applied by the Holy Spirit through regeneration (new birth), justification (legal declaration of righteousness), adoption (membership in God’s family), sanctification (progressive growth in holiness), and glorification (final perfection in heaven). Salvation is received by faith alone in Christ alone.
- Church: Theology teaches us that the church is the community of all true believers in Christ throughout history and across the world. The church is also called the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, and the pillar and foundation of truth. The church has two main functions: worship (praising God and edifying one another) and witness (proclaiming the gospel and serving others). The church has two main ordinances: baptism (signifying our identification with Christ) and communion (signifying our participation in Christ’s death).
- Last Things: Theology teaches us that history is moving toward a final consummation when Christ will return visibly and bodily to establish His kingdom on earth. He will raise the dead, judge all people according to their deeds, reward His faithful servants, punish His enemies with eternal torment in hell, and create a new heaven and a new earth where He will dwell with His people forever in perfect peace and joy.
Theological doctrine is not only a matter of knowledge but also of application. We should not only learn theological doctrine but also live according to it. We should love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; love our neighbor as ourselves; obey God’s commands; repent of our sins; trust in His promises; pray without ceasing; study His word; fellowship with His people; share His gospel; serve His purposes; worship Him in spirit and truth; hope for His glory; and give Him thanks in all circumstances.