There is a growing trend in today’s churches in regards to making doctrine secondary to keeping the peace in the pews. They believe doctrine is divisive, and it is thankfully, so it is just pitched out the back door and replaced with a “let’s just love Jesus” gospel. But loving Jesus is only good in as much you know which Jesus to love. The Jesus of the Bible, or the jesus of our own making.
Doctrine is the gear that makes our faith turn and those gears must run in unison and consistently. If they do not, the machine grinds to a halt and loses the ability to perform the function it was designed for. Imagine Big Ben, that enormous clock in London, just sitting there with no gears to turn its hands. From a distance, it would provide you with a nice landmark to look at and a pretty backdrop for some tourist photos, but it’s deaf and dumb without its gears to tell you the time. A gospel with no sense of the doctrines of hell, heaven, imputed righteousness, sanctification, justification, sin, the fall, and so on is no gospel at all. It’s an empty shell that’s nice to look at and is pleasing to hear with Jesus loving us and all, but it’s got no power to tell us the time of the condition of our souls before a Holy and Just God that will one day judge us all. It’s a dog with no bark or bite.
Doctrine will divide, yes. Look what it did to the Lord. He knew He was going to be a stumbling block that many would trip over. The people, especially the self righteous, hated His teaching so much they would do anything (and they did) to just shut Him up. Doctrine martyred the apostles and countless of disciples and believers thereafter. Men and women gave their lives to protect it. They believed it as Truth and they preached it boldly because they understood that through the foolishness of that preaching, souls would be changed for time and eternity.
But doctrine without love is just a hammer. If used without love, you’re just a resounding gong. It’s been an awakening in my own life to understand that all the head knowledge in the world will do you no good with the means to deliver it and teach it. You can preach hell till the cows come home, but if preached unreasonably without the use of the Law, Hell is unreasonable and the people will see you as unloving and harsh. But if I, in love and care, slowly turn on the lights of their knowledge of their sin before a Holy God, then suddenly punishment seems more reasonable and the remedy is more desired. It’s balance…it’s a tough balance.
Eph. 4:14 tells us,essentially, if you know the real article, you will not be led astray. But that means work. That means getting into your Bible and understanding what it says. It’s understanding what those gears look like and how they are supposed to function as a greater whole.
There is so much today that looks and feels and tastes like the real gospel, but if you don’t know the real article, you’ve got a false god. And that is a god that cannot save.