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

Don Stewart :: Why Is It Necessary to Study the Beliefs of Christianity?

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Why Is It Necessary to Study the Beliefs of Christianity?

Bible Basics – Question 8

It is extremely important for everyone to make a serious study of Christian doctrine or Christian teaching. This is necessary for a number of reasons. They include the following:

1. We All Have Intellectual Needs That Must Be Met

Since human beings are rational as well as emotional creatures, there is a need for a rational understanding of the things of God. To meet these intellectual needs, one must understand Christian doctrine. Jesus recognized this truth.

We read the following account in Matthew’s gospel of Jesus answering a question from an expert in the Jewish law. It says:

After Jesus had made the Sadducees look foolish, the Pharisees heard about it and got together. One of them was an expert in the Jewish Law. So he tried to test Jesus by asking, “Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?” Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:35-40 CEV)

Jesus summed up the entire Old Testament teaching in this manner: we are to love God with all of our being; this includes our minds. Consequently, we are not to stop thinking, or cease using our reasoning process when we investigate the claims of Jesus Christ.

2. The Bible Alone Give Answers to Our Ultimate Questions

All of us believe in something. A person will live their life according to what they believe. Life is basically a journey from time to eternity. Consequently, it makes a big difference whether one believes life is an aimless and meaningless experience, or that they believe there is a personal God who has a destiny for each of us beyond this life.

As long as humans think about the questions about God’s existence and the meaning of life, there will be a need to have the biblical answers to these questions.

Christian doctrine, or Christian teaching, will always be necessary as long as people want to know who they are, what life is all about, and what will happen to them when they die. A study of God’s Word will clearly answer these questions with finality; there is no other place to find authoritative answers.

3. We Need a Correct Definition of the Christian Faith

A study of Christian doctrine, or Christian teaching, is necessary in order to provide a correct definition of the Christian faith. Since God has revealed truths to the human race that we would not otherwise know, it is important that these truths are properly defined and understood. This can only come from a serious study of God’s Word.

John wrote the following to believers about the need to test the spirits:

My dear friends, do not trust every spirit, but tests the spirits, to see whether they are from God; for there are many false prophets about in the world. (1 John 4:1 REB)

The Message puts it this way:

My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world. (1 John 4:1 MsgB)

All claims need to be weighed and examined.

4. Faith and the Faith

There is something else. There is a difference between “faith,” and “the faith.” Faith is trust. It is our response to God. Faith is the instrument by which God’s divine revelation and blessings are grasped. The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. In the Book of Hebrews, it says the following:

And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 RSV)

“The” faith refers to the sum total of Christian teaching, the body of truth that has been once-and-for-all revealed to the world and entrusted to the believers. Jude wrote:

Dear friends, although I have been eager to write to you about our common salvation, I now feel compelled instead to write to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. (Jude 3 NET)

To the Galatians, Paul wrote about his own testimony. He reminded them how he previously persecuted those who believed in Jesus; those who held on to “the faith.”

Then I left for the regions of Syria and Cilicia. I was still unknown by sight to the Christian congregations in Judea; they had simply heard it said, ‘Our former persecutor is preaching the good news of the faith which once he tried to destroy,’ and they praised God for what had happened to me. (Galatians 1:20-24 REB)

Paul wrote about “one faith” to the church at Ephesus. He said:

[There is] one Lord, one faith, one baptism. (Ephesians 4:5 KJV)

It is important to understand “the faith” before one can exercise personal faith toward God. Getting our doctrine right helps getting everything else right. Living right begins with thinking right.

5. Believers Are Commanded to Defend the Christian Faith

Christian beliefs have been challenged. It is important to study Christian doctrine, or Christian teaching, in order to defend the faith against attack. Thus, one must know exactly what faith they are defending. Peter wrote to the believers and said:

But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. (1 Peter 3:15 NET)

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. (1 Peter 3:15 NLT)

Consequently, we find believers are commanded to know both what they believe about God and why they believe it. We are to understand the faith, and defend it from attack.

6. Believers Are to Promote the True Faith

Christianity is a missionary religion—it attempts to make converts. Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus commanded His disciples to do the following. Matthew writes:

When Jesus came near, he spoke to them. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations: Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to do everything I have commanded you. And remember that I am always with you until the end of time.” (Matthew 28:18-20 God’s Word)

In order to properly promote the faith and make disciples, it is essential that we understand what the faith is all about.

7. Christian Leaders Must Be Able to Teach Biblical Truth

Those who lead others are to have the ability to teach God’s truth. One cannot teach others—either adults or children—until they understand the truth for themselves.

Paul wrote that an overseer must be able to teach God’s Word. He said to Timothy:

The overseer then must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher. (1 Timothy 3:2 NET)

The translation, God’s Word, puts the verse this way:

A bishop must have a good reputation. He must have only one wife, be sober, use good judgment, be respectable, be hospitable, and be able to teach. (1 Timothy 3:2 God’s Word)

Leaders in the church must be able to teach others.

They Must Also Be Teachable

There is another nuance to this word. Leaders are to be teachable as well as apt to teach! This is crucial.

Teachers Are to Equip the Believers

To the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote about the necessity of teachers equipping other believers for the work of the ministry. He said:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-12 ESV)

The purpose of sound teaching is to make the believers ready to do the work of the ministry.

Paul wrote to Titus about the qualifications of a Christian leader. He said:

He must have a strong and steadfast belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with right teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong. (Titus 1:9 NLT)

Again, we have the emphasis that Christian leaders must be able to teach.

The Revised English Bible puts it this way:

He [the Christian leader] must keep firm hold of true doctrine, so that he may be well able to appeal to his hearers with sound teaching and to refute those who raise objections. (Titus 1:9 REB)

To be able to teach others in a proper way, one must first understand what they are teaching. God has provided the church with certain individuals who have the gift of teaching. We should take advantage of their gifts.

8. Christian Experience Must Be Based upon Sound Doctrine

Some people have an inadequate view of the study of Christian doctrine. They believe the Christian faith consists of how we live; it is not seriously thinking about what we believe. It is personal experience, not belief that is important.

However, Christian experience must be built upon a solid foundation. Experience does not produce truth; truth produces the Christian experience.

Paul emphasized this as he warned Timothy about false teachers and false teaching. He wrote:

If someone spreads false teachings and does not agree with sound words (that is, those of our Lord Jesus Christ) and with the teaching that accords with godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing, but has an unhealthy interest in controversies and verbal disputes. This gives rise to envy, dissension, slanders, evil suspicions. (1Timothy 6:3-4 NET)

The translation, God’s Word, puts it this way:

Whoever teaches false doctrine and doesn’t agree with the accurate words of our Lord Jesus Christ and godly teachings is a conceited person. He shows that he doesn’t understand anything. Rather, he has an unhealthy desire to argue and quarrel about words. This produces jealousy, rivalry, cursing, suspicion. (1 Timothy 6:3-4 God’s Word)

We again find the emphasis that our Christian lives must be based upon the solid foundation of God’s Word.

Some would like to make a distinction between intellectual knowledge and spiritual knowledge. They contend that the Bible is only interested in spiritual knowledge.

However, the Bible makes no such distinction between the intellectual and the spiritual. To the contrary, Scripture says that after His resurrection, Jesus opened the minds of His disciples so they would understand. Luke records the following:

Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures. (Luke 23:45 KJV)

Jesus wanted His disciples to clearly understand God’s written truth.

Thus, the Scripture does not present faith and knowledge as things that are opposed to each other. The believer grows in his or her faith in Jesus by gaining an understanding of Christian doctrine and then applying the truths in daily living.

This is another important reason for studying Christian beliefs. Of course, knowledge alone is not enough. One must certainly practice what they know to be true. However, correct doctrine is the basis for correct living.

The Example of Paul

The Apostle Paul is the primary example of one who can have great Bible knowledge and spiritual passion at the same time. His credentials were impeccable; as he himself acknowledged. He wrote the following to the Philippians:

For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee, as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. (Philippians 3:3-10 ESV)

This man, the Apostle Paul, with great intellectual credentials had a heart for the things of Christ like no other person. It illustrates the fact that one can have both the heart and the mind. It does not have to be either/or.

9. Wrong Ideas Will Appear If Christian Doctrine Is Not Studied

For those who reject the study of Christian doctrine, unhealthy and unbiblical ideas will appear. The only corrective to this is a proper understanding of what Christianity stands for. Paul stressed this in his letter to the Ephesians. He wrote:

So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes. (Ephesians 4:14 NET)

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. (Ephesians 4:14 NLT)

It is not possible to refute “false” doctrine unless we first have an understanding of “true” doctrine. The study of Christian theology, or Christian doctrine, is the best remedy against being deceived or blindly accepting what anyone teaches.

10. The Bible Is Not Anti-Doctrine

The Bible does not promote an anti-doctrine or anti-study attitude. It does not give the impression that serious study is unnecessary for the average believer or that discussion of biblical topics will hinder spiritual growth. To the contrary, spiritual growth comes from understanding and applying Christian truth.

A correct knowledge of what the Bible teaches on a particular subject will safeguard against error. Jesus chided the religious leaders of His day for their ignorance of the Scripture and the power of God. Matthew records the following:

But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29 RSV)

Paul warned the Galatians about the possibility of following after another gospel. He put it this way:

I can’t believe your fickleness-how easily you have turned traitor to him who called you by the grace of Christ by embracing a variant message? It is not a minor variant, you know; it is completely other, an alien message, a no-message, a lie about God. Those who are provoking this agitation among you are turning the Message of Christ on its head. Let me be blunt: If one of us-even if an angel from heaven!—were to preach something other than what we preached originally, let him be cursed. I said it once; I’ll say it again; If anyone, regardless of reputation or credentials preaches something other than what you received originally; let him be cursed. (Galatians 1:6-9 MsgB)

The Apostle Paul also warned Timothy about the time when people would not accept true, or sound, doctrine. He wrote:

I solemnly call on you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge those who are living and those who are dead. I do this because Christ Jesus will come to rule [the world]. Be ready to spread the word whether or not the time is right. Point out errors, warn people, and encourage them. Be very patient when you teach. A time will come when people will not listen to accurate teachings. Instead, they will follow their own desires and surround themselves with teachers who tell them what they want to hear. People will refuse to listen to the truth and turn to myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4 God’s Word)

Doctrinal error can lead to all types of problems. A correct view of what the Bible teaches exposes false views about God. The correct view only comes through serious study of Scripture.

11. New Teachings Will Always Arise

We must appreciate the fact that there will always be new teachings that arise. Knowing what the Bible says about a particular topic will allow the student to respond effectively to these new teachings. If the new teaching does not conform to that which has been previously revealed, then it should be rejected. However, one must first know what the Scripture says, and this only comes through studying the Bible.

12. Heresy and Orthodoxy Defined

At this point, we should introduce the terms, “heresy,” and, “orthodoxy.” The word, “heresy” is used by believers to indicate false doctrine. This is teaching that is contrary to what God has revealed in His Word. True doctrine is often called, “orthodoxy.”

Orthodoxy refers to the beliefs of the historic Christian faith as has been affirmed by the great creeds or belief statements. Study of the Scripture helps the believer know the difference between heretical teachings and orthodox teachings.

13. Studying the Scripture Aids in the Development of Christian Character

Studying biblical teachings can help develop Christian character. When a person strongly believes something, he or she will attempt to live what they believe. As people develop convictions as to what the Bible teaches on a subject, their character will begin to conform to those beliefs. While it is more important to live the Christian life than to merely know what the Bible teaches, there would be no basis for Christian experience without the teaching of the Bible.

The Apostle Paul wanted to see an increase of the knowledge of the truth in believers. This increase would help them live godly lives. He wrote to Titus:

From Paul, a slave of God and apostle of Jesus Christ, to further the faith of God’s chosen ones and the knowledge of the truth that is in keeping with godliness. (Titus 1:1 NET)

Paul also wrote to Titus:

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. (Titus 2:1 ESV)

Healthy beliefs should result in healthy living. Paul prayed that the churches would increase in their knowledge:

I pray that your love will keep on growing and that you will fully know and understand how to make the right choices. Then you will still be pure and innocent when Christ returns. And until that day, Jesus Christ will keep you busy doing good deeds that bring glory and praise to God. (Philippians 1:9-11 CEV)

Paul wrote to the Colossians about the same truth:

For this reason we also, from the day we heard, have not ceased praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects. (Colossians 1:9-10 NET)

Paul spoke of doctrine bringing about the obedience of faith. He wrote the following to the church at Rome:

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith?to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27 ESV)

Therefore, in the Scripture, Christian doctrine is linked to Christian character. It is necessary for believers to have sound doctrine in order to live godly lives.

14. The Study of Scripture Is Commanded by God

Finally, there are passages in Scripture that directly and indirectly command the believer to know God’s truth. Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day:

You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me. (John 5:39 RSV)

Jesus recognized that the religious leaders did search the Scripture. While He disagreed with them on many issues, He did not condemn them for searching the Scripture. To the contrary, Jesus emphasized that the Scriptures spoke of Him; He is the main theme of the Old Testament!

In a number of places, the apostle Paul wrote about the importance of teaching the Word of God. For example, he wrote the following to the Colossians:

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (Colossians 1:27-28 ESV)

Paul encouraged Timothy to study the Scripture. He wrote:

Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately. (2 Timothy 2:15 NET)

The New King James Version translates it as follows:

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV)

Studying Christian beliefs is not optional; it is a command for all believers.

Some Final Thoughts about the Need for Christian Doctrine

With the above truths in mind, we can make some final observations on the importance of Christian doctrine. They are as follows:

Observation 1: Christian Doctrine Is Not Uninteresting or Irrelevant

The study of Christian doctrine should not be uninteresting and it is certainly not irrelevant. Nowhere does Scripture encourage ignorance. Some feel it is a matter of pride that they are ignorant of Christian doctrine. They believe the study of Christian beliefs consists of things that are remote from real life experiences.

However, Christian doctrine is important. Scripture emphasizes the necessity of the understanding of Christian belief. Paul wrote:

And that is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return. (2 Timothy 1:12 NLT)

The Revised Standard Version translates the verse as follows:

And therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. (2 Timothy 1:12 RSV)

Paul knew what and why he believed; he was not ashamed of his beliefs. These beliefs guided his daily conduct.

Observation 2: Studying Christian Doctrine Is a Lifelong Task

The study of Christian doctrine is indeed a lifelong task. No one will ever come to the place where his or her study is complete. There are always new things to learn; new truths to discover. At the end of his life, the Apostle Paul could say the following:

All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, so that somehow I also may be raised to life. (Philippians 3:10-11 CEV)

There will always be more to learn. We will never come to the place where we no longer need to study. Learning about Jesus Christ is an ongoing process.

Observation 3: All Believers Should Make a Serious Effort to Study Christian Doctrine

Therefore, with these above facts in mind, the student should make a serious effort to learn what the Christian faith stands for. There is much to be gained from such a study. In doing so, the student should not merely rely on what others have said, but do their own personal study of Scripture. The benefits are unending.

Summary – Question 8
Why Is It Necessary to Study the Beliefs of Christianity?

The study of Christian doctrine is necessary for a number of reasons. We can note the following:

To begin with, human beings have intellectual needs that must be met. A study of the Scripture can meet these intellectual needs. Jesus commanded us to love the Lord with our mind. We should obey His command and study that which God has revealed.

In addition, every human being asks the same questions about their origin, purpose, and destiny. Answers are needed for these ultimate questions. These answers are only found in Scripture. A correct definition of the Christian faith is likewise necessary. This can only come about from a study of Bible doctrine. The Christian faith needs to be defended. Consequently, it is important to know what should be defended, and what should not. This can only come about from an understanding of what the Bible teaches.

Christianity is a missionary religion. It is crucial to understand the faith that is being promoted. Wrong ideas will appear if there is no sound biblical teaching. For Christian leaders, it is absolutely necessary that they be able to teach.

It is also important to understand there is no distinction between intellectual and spiritual knowledge. All knowledge about God is important. Christian behavior must be based upon sound teaching. We have to first know the rules before we can obey them.

Correct understanding of biblical truth will also safeguard the believer against doctrinal errors. Sound doctrine provides a basis to evaluate new teaching that will arise. In addition, sound doctrine is the basis for the development of Christian character. Finally, the study of Scripture is commanded by God—it is not an option for believers.

Studying Christian doctrine should not be something that is boring, and clearly it is not irrelevant. Thus, studying the Scripture should be a lifelong task for all believers.

For these reasons, a study of Christian doctrine is absolutely necessary. All believers should make a serious effort to know Christian doctrine.

Does the Bible Attempt to Teach Specific Truths about God That People Have to Obey? ← Prior Section
Why Is a System of Christian Doctrine Needed? Next Section →
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