Critical Theological Doctrines
Back to basics. Doctrine and theology matter. All doctrine and theological issues matter, however some could be categorized as critical to one’s salvation. To have confidence that we are secure in our salvation, we ought to be aware of these doctrines and make sure we are in correct alignment with them.
Let's start with some definitions:
Critical – of great importance, vital
Theology – the study of God
Doctrine – a belief or set of beliefs
People will often say, “I am a person of faith.”
Ok…that doesn’t say a whole lot.
· Faith in what?
· Faith in whom?
· What kind of faith do you possess?
Many years ago, undoubtedly someone would have said the following, “I have faith. My faith is in a man named Jim Jones. And I believe what he says about himself. I’m going to follow him to a place called Jonestown and drink some Kool-Aid with a bunch of other people who believe the same way I do. I am a person of faith!”
That’s some bad faith right there.
It is not good enough to simply have faith. We must open that up and explore what it means when someone says that they have faith. Even if someone will say, “My faith is strong.” That’s not necessarily a good thing, see the example above.
It is not the strength of your faith that is paramount. It is the object of your faith which is truly important. Faith is only as good as the one in whom the faith is placed. We must have what I would call an informed faith.
Our faith should be based upon what we know.
· It’s not a feeling based faith.
· It’s not a certain vibe that we sense.
· It’s not a burning in the bosom.
· It’s not superstitious.
In addition, we shouldn’t just believe what our parents believe, or worse simply pull our faith out of thin air. It needs to be grounded in truth.
So, if it’s true that our faith is based upon what we know, then of course we should ask the question – what informs our faith? Where do we go for truth? From where are we getting our information?
If you are a Christian, I would hope your answer is the Bible. The Bible should be the ultimate standard of truth for the Christian.
So, let’s ask this question: What are the doctrines found in the Bible, that are absolutely critical (vital, essential) for us to believe in order to be saved from our sins?
To answer that question, I think the Scriptures themselves declare for us what is critical and what isn't. For example, the Bible will say "Unless you believe this...you cannot be saved.” That is the standard that I will use as we move forward.
I have listed four very broad categories. Much more could be said about each one, and I think it’s important to state that there are tangential doctrines that are somehow tied to these four, but for the sake of clarity and conciseness, I will list these four.
1. God - Who is God?
There is only one God who exists in three persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is known as the Trinity, and it is an essential doctrine. If we aren't worshiping the one true and living God, we are by definition, idolaters.
1a. The Deity of Christ
The Bible teaches that Jesus is God. The apostle John shows us just how important it is to believe that Jesus is God in the flesh.
“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
Jesus said that if you do not believe "that I am," you will die in your sins. The word “He” is not found in the Greek text; this is marked by the italics in English. In Greek I am is 'ego eimi,' which means 'I am.' These are the same words used later in that same chapter in John 8:58, where Jesus says "…before Abraham was born, I am." The text tells us in the next verse that the Jews, when hearing those words, picked up stones to throw at Jesus because He was claiming the divine title found in Exodus 3.
Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
Exodus 3:13, 14
Dr. James White from Alpha and Omega Ministries says the following, "Jesus here gives us the content and object of saving faith - the Jews standing about Him during this conversation most assuredly would not have denied that He was a man - but that was not sufficient for faith. Some had just recently proclaimed Him as Messiah - but that was not sufficient for faith. Some might hail Him as a prophet or a miracle worker, blessed by God - but that was not sufficient for faith. Some today say He was a great moral teacher and philosopher - but that is not sufficient for faith. Some call Him "a god" or a great angel - but that is not sufficient for faith. No, Jesus Himself laid down the line - unless one believes Him for whom He says He is - the ego eimi - one will die in one's sins. There is no salvation in a false Christ. If we are to be united with Christ to have eternal life, then we must be united with the true Christ, not a false representation. It is out of love that Christ uttered John 8:24. We would do well to heed His words."
2. Salvation – How are we saved?
We are saved by grace through faith. What if someone believes that they are saved by some combination of faith and works? Is that just heretical teaching (false teaching), or is it damnable heresy (false teaching that if believed, condemns an individual)?
Read what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians:
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
3. The Resurrection – Did Jesus rise from the grave?
Belief in the resurrection of Christ is an essential. Paul wrote to the Corinthians the following:
Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
1 Corinthians 15:12-19
4. The Gospel - What is the gospel?
If someone believes, or preaches, another gospel, he cannot be saved.
The gospel is laid out for us by the Apostle Paul in the following verses:
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
1 Corinthians 15:1-4
Here's why this is so critical:
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! Galatians 1:6-9
If you find yourself out of alignment with these biblical doctrines, I would sincerely ask you to examine what you believe. There is so much at stake. Please don’t simply take my word for it by relying solely on this blog post to make that determination. Dive deep. Open up the Scriptures, read for yourself. Read what I have cited here in its own context. I make mistakes. Did I miss something? Do you agree…disagree? I certainly don’t claim to have this all figured out; I’m open for dialogue because I desire to learn too.
This post is simply an attempt to bring to your attention something that I think is often neglected in the church – that is the fact that theology matters. Please make sure yours is grounded in truth.