Should We Fight Over Doctrine?

Dr Pierre Coovert

This is our fifth, and last, article on shocking things I have heard from Baptist pulpits. The subject in this article is “Should we fight over doctrine?”

To answer this question we must first know what doctrine is. Websters 1828 dictionary defines doctrine as follows: “In a general sense, whatever is taught. Hence, a principle or position in any science; whatever is laid down as true by an instructor or master.”

We must also know what is meant by the word “fight.” Referring to Websters again we find that to fight is to strive or contend for victory.

As Christians, our Master is the Lord Jesus Christ. To us, doctrine is whatever He has laid down as true. Our Lord has given us His doctrine in the Scriptures. One of the principles that He has given us is to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 1:3)

When we see “the faith” used in this kind of context it means the system of doctrine as delivered to the saints in the New Testament. In other words, “the faith” is the doctrine we believe and teach. It was given to us once for all in the Holy Scriptures.

“Fight” means to strive or contend for victory and our goal as servants of God is to have victory over Satan and his false teachers. How can we do this without contending (fighting) for “the faith?” I could end this article right here and we would have the answer to our question but there is more that needs to be said.

Before I get into some other thoughts on fighting for doctrine, here are twenty verses that show the importance of doctrine.

  1. The early churches continued in the apostles’ doctrine – Acts 2:42

  2. The apostles filled Jerusalem with their doctrine – Acts 5:28

  3. The truly converted will obey from the heart sound doctrine – Romans 6:17

  4. We are to separate from those who teach unsound doctrine – Romans 16:17

  5. We are to take care to have sound doctrine – Ephesians 4:14

  6. We are to teach no other doctrine but sound doctrine – I Timothy 1:3

  7. Our conduct and fellowship is to be guided by sound doctrine – I Timothy 1:10

  8. Preachers are to feed upon sound doctrine – I Timothy 4:6

  9. Preachers are to give attendance to sound doctrine – I Timothy 4:13

  10. Preachers are to take heed to, and continue in sound doctrine – I Timothy 4:16

  11. Preachers who labor in sound doctrine are worthy of double honor – I Timothy 5:17

  12. We are to live so as not open God’s name and doctrine to blasphemy – I Timothy 6:1

  13. We are to separate from those who do not hold sound doctrine – I Timothy 6:3

  14. The first profitable thing in the Scriptures is sound doctrine – II Timothy 3:16

  15. We are to preach with longsuffering and doctrine – II Timothy 4:1

  16. The time will come when the people won’t want sound doctrine – II Timothy 4:2

  17. False teachers are corrected by sound doctrine – Titus 1:9

  18. We are to speak things which become sound doctrine – Titus 2:1

  19. We are to show uncorruptness in doctrine – Titus 2:7

  20. Those who do not abide in the doctrine of Christ do not have God – II John 1:9

  21. We are not to wish those well who do not abide in the doctrine of Christ – II John 1:10.

Without doctrine we have nothing to follow, nothing to teach, and nothing to preach. Putting aside doctrine that is said to be “nonessential” is dangerous. Who decides which doctrine is essential and which is not?

Paul tells us to put on the whole armor of God in Ephesians Chapter six. Armor is for protection in battle (in a fight). Just read the whole passage and see if it doesn’t sound like we are to be ready to fight for the things of God, which would include doctrine.

In 1 Timothy 1:18 Timothy was commanded to “war a good warfare.” In 2 Timothy 2:2-4 Timothy is called a soldier and is charged to pass on what he had learned to faithful men and therefore to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 Paul says that we do not war after the flesh, but that we have weapons that are not carnal, but mighty through God.

So, we are to wear armor, our pastors are to war a good warfare, they are also to pass on sound doctrine to faithful men as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, and we have mighty weapons through God, and some say we are not to fight over doctrine???

Soldiers are fighting men and wars are fights. If we are not to fight over doctrine, what are we to fight over? Some would say “against the Devil.” Of course our battle is against the Devil, but how does the Devil work. He works by corrupting the Word of God (Genesis 3:1-5, 2 Corinthians 2:17). 1 Timothy 4:1 says that some will depart from the faith (biblical doctrine) and give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.

Is the doctrine of how a person is save important enough to fight for? I think most would agree that it is. All would agree that we don’t have the right to change this, but many have. I am not going to get into detail on the various doctrines taught on this subject. One simple example should suffice. Is baptism required for salvation? The Ethiopian eunuch should be enough to settle this issue. Philip told the eunuch that he could be baptized if he believed with all his heart (Acts 8:36-37).

Baptists have stood and fought, not with a sword of steel, but with the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, over this issue since the second century. Many were put to death for their stand. And now some now tell us that baptism is a “nonessential doctrine.?”

My Bible still says “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) If it is all profitable for these four things, it is all worth fighting for.

The answer to our question in this article is, Yes we should fight over doctrine. We must use the Word of God, not the opinions of men.

It must be remembered that there is a proper way to fight. We should contend against false doctrinewith grace. (2 Timothy 3:15)

None of us is perfect. When we contend for the faith we should always be alert to see if we have something wrong in what we believe. If it can be shown from the Scriptures that we are in error we should be ready and willing to change. We must also remember that some things in Scripture are not as clear as we might like. In those cases we must be willing to allow the other party to hold his position. If this is the attitude of both sides then peace can be achieved.

Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved