In my address to the congregation at the January Congregational Meeting, which is recorded in the 2015 Annual Report, I stressed the importance of doctrine, or teachings. I encourage you to read it again. Many people view Christian doctrine as simply a field of study for theologically trained people. They think that it is mostly irrelevant to our Christian lives, and is not really necessary for the laity to study. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We need it. There is nothing more applicable to our lives than Christian doctrine, which has as its center and circumference Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of our sins.
First of all, doctrine isn’t such an abstract thing that you’re not familiar with. Everyone makes doctrinal statements. “Jesus died for all people” and “Everyone is going to heaven” are both common doctrinal statements, but the first is correct and the second is false doctrine. We hold dear to our hearts the first doctrinal statement and we refute the second one because it is a lie.
In my address to the congregation, I gave two reasons for the importance of doctrine. The first was that biblical doctrine is true, and the second was that biblical doctrine saves and comforts us. I’ve been thinking a lot about confirmation class and adult instruction classes lately, about its purpose in relation to the importance we place on doctrine as a congregation. Considering these things, I have two additional reasons for its importance. First is that doctrine is the basis of our precious unity that we have, and secondly because a basic knowledge of doctrine allows us to partake of Holy Communion in a worthy manner. Those are major reasons for our instruction classes. But in order to preserve the unity of doctrine in the congregation and to continue to receive the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner, shouldn’t each of us continue to refresh ourselves in the basics of biblical doctrine. It’s not just for confirmation students and new members to know, is it?
We, even I, can never graduate from learning the Bible or the Bible’s basic doctrines set forth in Luther’s Small Catechism. Luther himself said, “I must still read and study the Catechism daily, yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and I do it gladly.”
So we go first to Scripture, but we can also go to the catechism, and to good theological books to continue to learn and grow in the knowledge of God’s Word. (I’d be happy to recommend books to you!) One great place to continue learning and growing in God’s Word is Bible Class. It is an enjoyable time together learning God’s Word. Learning most certainly occurs in the Divine Service, but its primary goal and purpose is different. Its main focus isn’t teaching, but rather the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness of sins for the salvation of sinners. To illustrate the difference, one thing I try to remember in my sermon writing is to preach the gospel, not preach about the gospel.
Anyway, in upcoming newsletters, either in the main article or perhaps as a supplement, I will be summarizing the Catechism, explaining it, showing how it is relevant to our lives, how it prepares us for the proper reception of the Sacrament of the Altar, and also how awesome doctrine is!
Oh, and Pentecost is soon to arrive! While I put doctrine before your eyes and in your ears and in your minds, the Holy Spirit is the true Teacher who puts doctrine in your hearts to believe it and to hold it dear! Praise God the Holy Spirit for His work for us and in us! And may He continue to do His good work in us until the day of Jesus Christ. Amen.