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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Bible Basics: An Introduction to Christian Beliefs

Don Stewart :: What Is a Major Doctrine? What Is a Minor Doctrine?

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What Is a Major Doctrine? What Is a Minor Doctrine?

Bible Basics – Question 15

Often Christians talk about the major doctrines and the minor doctrines of the faith. What do these terms mean? How can one decide between what is a major belief of the faith and one that is minor?

What Is the Basis for Deciding What Is Major and What Is Minor?

There are usually a couple of reasons given as to why some people divide the Scripture between major doctrines and minor doctrines. They are as follows:

There Are Essential Doctrines and Non-Essentials Doctrines

Usually when people speak about the major and minor doctrines of Scripture they are referring to those beliefs that are the most important (major) and those which have less importance (minor). Some believers categorize major doctrines as the essentials of the faith, while minor doctrines would be considered non-essentials.

For example, the Deity of Jesus Christ—the teaching that Jesus Christ is actually God—would constitute a major doctrine. Also in this category would be the doctrine of the authority of the Bible.

An example of a minor doctrine would be the way in which a person is baptized in water after they believe in Jesus Christ. The Person of Christ and the authority of Scripture are of utmost importance while the particular way in which a person receives water baptism is not that crucial.

The Bible Emphasizes the Major Doctrines

As one studies the Bible, it becomes apparent that some topics receive more emphasis than others. The relative importance of each teaching of Scripture can be discovered by the amount of emphasis the Bible gives it. This is another way in which people separate major and minor doctrines.

Important Observations Concerning Major and Minor Doctrines

There are a few observations that should be made when we speak of major doctrines and minor doctrines. They include the following:

1. The Distinction Is Not Scriptural Between Major and Minor Doctrines

First, the Bible makes no distinction between major doctrines and minor doctrines. Any division that is made is not found in Scripture. While Scripture may emphasize some doctrines more than others, it nowhere places them into categories of major and minor, or essential and non-essential.

2. There Are Differences of Opinion as to What Fits into Each Category

Second, it is not possible to fit all biblical doctrines into two neat categories. There are some doctrines that certain people would place in the major doctrine category, while others would put it in the minor doctrine category. An example would be the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. Some would consider this as an essential belief, while others would consider it to be relatively minor when compared to other teachings.

Admittedly, there are some doctrines that are essential to the Christian faith while others are not as crucial. However, there are also a number of doctrines that can be placed in either category and thus should not be labeled either major or minor.

3. We Should Study Everything That God Has Revealed

The Scripture makes it clear that we should study the entire counsel of God. The Apostle Paul said the following to the believers in Ephesus:

For I did not hold back from announcing to you the whole purpose of God. (Acts 20:27 NET)

The Revised English Bible says:

I have disclosed to you the whole purpose of God. (Acts 20:27 REB)

Everything that God has revealed in His Word is important and should be faithfully studied and taught.

Jesus told His disciples to teach all nations:

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NLT)

Everything that God has revealed has been revealed for a definite purpose. Therefore, we ought to study everything in Scripture.

4. We Are to Pass on All of the Teachings of Christ to Others

There is more. Believers are to pass on all of the teachings of Jesus Christ. The Book of Acts speaks of the things that Jesus began to do and to teach. It says:

I wrote the former account, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after he had given orders by the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. (Acts 1:1-2 NET)

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

Dear Theophilus: In my first book I told you about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he ascended to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions from the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:1-2 NLT)

Jesus’ ministry was not finished when He ascended to heaven. Therefore, the teachings of Christ are not limited to the four gospels. They would include the entire New Testament.

Conclusion: the Entire Bible Should Be Examined

Therefore, the entire Bible should be studied. In his letter, Peter spoke about the teachings of the prophets (Old Testament), as well as the teachings of Jesus (the four gospels), and those of the apostles (the Book of Acts and the New Testament letters). He stated it this way:

This is now the second letter that I have written to you, beloved, and in both of them I have aroused your sincere mind by way of reminder; that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles. (2 Peter 3:1-2 RSV)

John records that Jesus Christ gave the teachings in the Book of Revelation personally to him. The Book of Revelation begins by saying:

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must happen very soon. He made it clear by sending his angel to his servant John, who then testified to everything that he saw concerning the word of God and the testimony about Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy aloud, and blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it, because the time is near. (Revelation 1:1-3 NET)

Consequently, everything recorded in Scripture should be studied and taught. The degree of importance of each doctrine will be discovered by the emphasis that the Bible gives it.

Summary – Question 15
What Is a Major Doctrine? What Is a Minor Doctrine?

People often make the distinction between the major and minor doctrines of Scripture. Yet, the Bible does not do this. It does not make any such distinction.

In addition, there is no consensus of opinion about what constitutes a major doctrine and what constitutes a minor doctrine. There are a number of beliefs that some Christians would hold crucial to the faith while others would not consider these beliefs to be that vital.

While there are some doctrines that are more important than others, the Bible instructs us to teach all that Jesus taught and commanded. This would include the entire New Testament.

Peter emphasized the teachings of the prophets (Old Testament), Jesus (the four gospels), and the apostles (the remainder of the New Testament). These divisions make up the entire Bible. All of Scripture should be diligently studied.

It is not wrong to emphasize certain essential beliefs, but one must be very careful not to neglect other teachings.

The key is to place the same amount of emphasis on a particular teaching that the Scripture itself places.

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