The Importance of Doctrine


The True Biblical Concept of Love

The above diagram is taken from Worldwide Impact, May 1972, published by Campus Crusade for Christ and used by permission.

As believers we are often guilty of quibbling over foolish questions and arguments which can only engender strife rather than godly edifying which is by faith (see 1 Timothy 1:4; 6:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9; Philippians 2:14). Our desire should always be to build up and edify our fellow believers in the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:26; 8:1; etc.).

On the other hand, the above cartoon seems to imply the following attitude: "It doesn’t matter so much what you believe as long as you ‘love’ one another." The following quotation is taken from the same issue (Worldwide Impact, a Campus Crusade for Christ publication, May 1972) in which the above cartoon appeared:

We are to put aside the peripheral issues (that is, doctrinal issues) that divide us .... Men are reminded that the real issue is Jesus Christ, and that we are to love one another even if we do not agree theologically or philosophically (or doctrinally). I encourage you to apply this principle of LOVE and acceptance with all of your Christian friends, and help make Christ the real issue [emphasis and parentheses are mine].

This philosophy could perhaps be restated as follows: "It is sinful to divide the body of Christ on earth by separating ourselves from any Christian over any doctrinal or ecclesiastical issue. The mark of true orthodoxy is love, not doctrine. Therefore, if we truly love one another, we will not allow doctrines or ordinances to divide us...To win the world for Christ, we must bury our differences and proclaim the essential core of the gospel in a positive way."

Let us now test this philosophy by the Word of God (see 1 Thess. 5:21):

  1. What place did the Lord give to teaching (doctrine) in the Great Commission as given in Matthew 28:19-20? What exactly was to be the content of their teaching? Were they to be teaching only "essential" doctrines?

  2. Why was the early church unified and healthy (Acts 2:42)? Did they consider doctrine important? Remember, we must never have unity at the expense of truth.

  3. Did the Apostle Paul carry on a ministry of total indoctrination (Acts 20:26-31) or did he seek to avoid "offensive" doctrines?

  4. Consider this statement: "We are to put aside the PERIPHERAL ISSUES that divide us." Does the Bible contain any peripheral issues? Are there any nonessential doctrines in God’s Word? Is there any part of God’s Word that should not be boldly proclaimed (Acts 20:27)? We are to conform our lives to how much of God’s Word (Matthew 4:4)? Do we have the right to judge which parts of the Bible are important and which parts are not? According to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 how much of God’s Word is important and profitable for the believer?

  5. Consider again the cartoon at the beginning of this article. The Thessalonian believers were confused concerning the removal (rapture) of the church and the coming day of wrath—see 1 Thess. 4:13; 5:1-2; 2 Thess. 2:1-5. If these are not important matters, then why did the Lord direct Paul to write these letters? If these are merely "peripheral issues," then why did Paul take the time to teach the Thessalonian believers concerning these doctrines (see 2 Thess. 2:3-5 and note especially verse 5)? What was Paul’s desire for these believers? Did he want them to be ignorant concerning these matters (see 1 Thess. 4:13)?

  6. Was the Lord Jesus tolerant towards the Sadducees who differed from Him doctrinally concerning the resurrection (see Matt. 22:23-33 and note verse 29)? What was it that astonished the multitude (Matt. 22:33; cf. Matt. 7:28-29)?

  7. What is the characteristic of a true disciple (John 8:31-32)? When believers harmonize together according to truth, what effect will this have upon the world (John 13:35; 17:23)?

  8. How do we manifest and demonstrate our love for the Lord Jesus (John 14:21-24; 15:9-10; 1 John 2:3-6; 5:2-3 etc.)? How can a pastor demonstrate that he truly loves the Master (John 21:15-17; 1 Pet. 5:2; Acts 20:28)?

  9. Is God concerned about doctrinal purity (Tit. 2:7; 1 Tim. 1:3)? Should we be concerned when men deviate from sound doctrine (1 Tim. 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 2:16-18)?  How are we told to "convict the gainsayers" (Tit. 1:9)? Why should we reprove certain men sharply (Tit. 1:13)? What should be the measure of our speaking (Tit. 2:1)? What does Christ think of false doctrine in the church (Revelation 2:14-16)?

  10. Why did Christ give certain gifted men to the local church (Eph. 4:11-12)?  According to Ephesians 4:11-16 how is true Christian unity (Eph. 4:1-6) achieved and enjoyed? What is the great danger of neglecting doctrine (Eph. 4:14)? What is the relationship between truth and love (Eph. 4:15)? Consider carefully the unity of believers as described by Christ in John 17:22. Is there any doctrinal disagreement between God the Father and God the Son?

  11. If we truly love our fellow believers will we warn them about false doctrine and false teachers (Acts 20:29-31; Phil. 3:2; Col. 1:28; and see the example of Christ--Matt- 7:15-20; 16:6-12; 24:4-5; Luke 12:1,15)? If we truly love someone, will we exercise proper discipline (Heb. 12:6; Rev. 3:19; 2 Thess. 3:5-6,14-15)?

  12. According to the example of our Lord Jesus, if we truly love someone, will we tell them what they need to hear even if it offends and hurts them (Mark 10:21)? Can love and hate co-exist at the same time (Hebrews 1:9)? Was the Apostle Paul manifesting love when he wrote Galatians 1:8-9? What does love rejoice in (1 Cor. 13:6)? How should our love abound (Phil. 1:9-10)?

  13. If we really love people is it possible to reprove and rebuke them (2 Tim. 4:2)? Why do people turn to false teachers (2 Tim. 4:3)? When you reject the truth, what’s left (2 Tim. 4:4)?

  14. Did John, the Apostle of Love, minimize the importance of truth and doctrine (2 John verses 1-9)? How did John love Gaius (3 John 1)? What was John’s greatest joy (3 John verses 3 and 4)? For what should we earnestly contend (Jude 3)? How are we to love (1 John 3:18)?

  15. Read Revelation 22:18-19 and compare Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32 and Proverbs 30:6. IS DOCTRINE IMPORTANT?

[I am greatly indebted to Dr. John C. Whitcomb for some of the material used in this paper]


Doctrine is extremely important. Biblical love never minimizes the importance of Bible doctrine. If we truly love a person then we will desire that person to be totally indoctrinated in the truth of God from Genesis to Revelation, including every jot and tittle of God’s precious Revelation. True unity can never come at the expense of truth. In fact, true unity is only realized and enjoyed as believers harmonize together and function according to truth (Ephesians 4:11-16). The only basis for the enjoyment of true Christian unity (Ephesians 4:1-6) is a COMMON UNDERSTANDING OF AND OBEDIENCE TO THE WORD OF GOD. The ones who are hindering the cause of Christian unity are those who refuse to stand faithfully and obediently upon the written Word of God. When doctrine becomes the issue, truth must prevail!

At this point you should be able to Biblically evaluate the position as illustrated and presented at the beginning of this paper. "Prove all things (test by the Word of God), hold fast that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Proper application of these principles needs to be made with respect to such modern movements as PROMISE KEEPERS, ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together), etc. Much discernment is needed in these difficult and declining days. May we love and abide in the truth!

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