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Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology


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(Gk. didaskalia [ 1 Timothy 1:10; 4:16; 6:3; Titus 1:9 ). The message includes historical facts, such as those regarding the events of the life of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:23 ). But it is deeper than biographical facts alone. As J. Gresham Machen pointed out years ago, Jesus' death is an integral historical fact but it is not doctrine. Jesus' death for sins (1 Corinthians 15:3 ) is doctrine. Doctrine, then, is scriptural teaching on theological truths.

Doctrine is indispensable to Christianity. Christianity does not exist without it. The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes the value and importance of sound doctrine, sound instruction (1 Timothy 6:3 ), and a pattern of sound teaching (2 Timothy 1:13-14 ). The apostles defended the faithful proclamation of the gospel (Galatians 1:8 ). They formulated Christian faith in doctrinal terms, then called for its preservation. They were adamant about the protection, appropriation, and propagation of doctrine because it contained the truth about Jesus Christ. Knowing the truth was and is the only way that a person can come to faith. So the apostles delivered a body of theological truth to the church (1 Corinthians 15:3 ). They encouraged believers to be faithful to that body of information they had heard and received in the beginning (1 John 2:7,24 , 26; 3:11 ), that "faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints' (Jude 3 ). Believers, in general, were instructed to guard the faith, that is, to stand firm in sound doctrine (2 Timothy 1:13-14 ). Pastors in particular were admonished to cleave to sound doctrine so that they could be good ministers of the gospel (1 Timothy 4:6 ).

The use of the term "doctrine" in Scripture is important for at least three reasons. First, it affirms that the primitive church was confessional. The first generation of believers confessed apostolic teaching about the significance of the life of Christ. They delivered a body of information that included facts about Christ with interpretation of their importance. Second, the use of the term reflects development of thought in the primitive church. Didaskalia [ Colossians 2:6 ). The apostle John developed three tests for discerning authentic spirituality: believing right doctrine (1 John 2:18-27 ), obedience to right doctrine (2:28-3:10), and giving expression to right doctrine with love (2:7-11). Faithful obedience and love, then, are not alternatives to sound doctrine. They are the fruit of right doctrine as it works itself out in the believer's character and relationships.

Sam Hamstra, Jr.

Bibliography . J. G. Machen, Christianity and Liberalism; D. F. Wells, No Place For Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology; TDNT, 2:160-63.

Copyright Statement
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516-6287.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.

Bibliography Information
Elwell, Walter A. Entry for 'Doctrine'. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. 1996.

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