Question: I overheard a lady saying that she thinks we shouldn’t argue over doctrine, but we should instead just point people to Jesus. In other words, that [Christianity] is a personal relationship with God, and so the Scriptures mean different things to different people. How would you respond to that?
Response: It takes doctrine to “point people to Jesus.” Doctrine is teaching the rightly divided Scriptures (2 Tm 2:15). In her pointing people to Jesus, she may not realize it, but if she is correctly giving the Gospel, she is “arguing doctrine.” The elements of the Gospel are so important that the Lord inspired Paul to write, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal:1:8).
Doctrinal arguments can be wearying and can turn people away. Nevertheless, we still need doctrine—not meaning ongoing arguments, but as the only way to understand the faith. “Doctrine” is a “teaching.” The substantive teachings of Scripture are those giving us truth about God. “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
Indeed, not preaching correct doctrine is specifically prophesied to be a hallmark of the Last Days (2 Tm 4:3-4). The response of the believer is clearly given. “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine” (2 Tm 4:1-2).
The doctrine of the gospel is important because of who is at the center of the gospel. It is all about the Lord Jesus Christ and what He accomplished through his death, burial, and resurrection. Anything that makes Jesus secondary or teaches an unbiblical Jesus is not the gospel. Any message that ignores His death or minimizes sin is not the biblical gospel. In this age, the emphasis often is on a non-offensive, non-confrontational gospel, but such a gospel is disobedient to the command of Christ (Mt 28:19-20).
Furthermore, preaching the true Gospel is bound to offend at least some, as 1 Corinthians:1:23-24 says: “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”
Teaching sound doctrine is absolutely essential.