I’m the Doctrine Police.
Well, one of them, anyway. And while there aren’t too many of us, we are out there. And most people love to hate, or at least ignore, us. But, why? I mean, what’s there not to appreciate about what we do? I’m sure you’d love to answer that. You may even have reasons that are valid to one degree or another. However, I want to explain a few things to you that might make you think again about using this term in a derogatory way.
My point is simple. The Church (every last Christian) ought to appreciate men and women who police Christian doctrine even more than a city appreciates their local police force. I didn’t say like. I said appreciate. That may sound like a bold statement to you, but just think about it. Which is more important, physical safety or spiritual understanding? Which is more valuable, civil order or theological accuracy? If the answer to those two questions is not obvious, you need to hear this more than you thought. Please keep reading!
I confess, like many rookie cops, novice doctrine police can tend to behave rashly as they learn to determine the use of theological force when confronting civil unrest caused in a church by unbiblical teaching or when apprehending a doctrinal perpetrator. Yet, when it comes to the police officers in our cities, most are quick to realize that it can take some time to learn exactly how to handle the variety of things an officer faces on a regular basis. They understand it can take time to learn how to control their nerves while navigating hostile situations. I suppose there is a learning curve to everything, nevertheless, these examples are not irrelevant to the protection and service the discerning seek to provide. It remains, there are laws given that must be enforced, because there are people who break those laws, endangering and harming others.
But regardless of my inability to accurately represent the difficult duty of real life police officers (seeing as how I am not one myself), the fact is doctrine must be policed. Just as there is truth, there are lies and the teachers of those lies whose goal it is to steal, kill, and, destroy. As you may have gathered by now, doctrine, simply put, means the teaching or truth of Scripture. Every contradiction of these truths of Scripture is a transgression. Further, anyone with a record of teaching these contradictions is a transgressor. This means we are not spiritual traffic-cops or mere parking-lot security. (No offense. I'm very grateful for both.) This is nothing less than a code 10-31 - a crime in progress. (Scripture would actually describe it more as spiritual warfare, but alas, there is not a pejorative term associated with military personnel used to mock those who take doctrine "too" seriously.) Anyhow, the point being, that learning to confront and correct theological error with the level of boldness, patience, or urgency necessary based on a given situation can be difficult. so, give us some grace and consider what it is we are attempting to do in order to honor the Lord and to protect the Church.
Here are just 3 things you need to know about the DPD (Doctrine Police Department).
1. God has given us authority. That’s right, we are not a fictional or rogue force. God has gifted some in the church with the gift of discernment. It is described as “the discerning of spirits” in 1 Corinthians 12:10. In 1 John 4:1, John encourages everyone to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Here we see two important things. One, that discerning/testing (same Greek word) the “spirits” has everything to do with what is taught by teachers. Two, that there would be those with perhaps an extra measure of clarity and conviction on the issue who would speak up, leading the churches in testing every teaching. And we see two very important things in verses like 1 John 4:6, Hebrews 5:14, and Acts 17:11. First, we see discernment is the responsibility of every Christian. Just as every citizen should be as concerned with observing the law as those who enforce it, discernment in the Church only works when all Christians are serious about theology. And second, we see that discernment is something each Christian grows in. It is a muscle. While this growth is the work of the Holy Spirit, 1 Timothy 4:6-11 makes clear that those with the spiritual gift of discernment are called along side the Church to help train in understanding and godliness. And just like any trainer, coach, or officer, you don’t have to always like us, but you should at least appreciate us!
2. Lives are on the line. Still struggling to compare real life police officers with doctrinal police officers? Then, you are naïve and under estimate the danger of wrong belief. Our popular Church culture says much about showing love and doing good. And as long as we are allowing Scripture to define love and good, we can all agree! But, doing good isn’t nearly as important as believing rightly. While physical harm is a terrible thing, theological error is what leads to hell. And if the error isn’t quite as grave, it still misleads and confuses the Church, all the while dishonoring God. Scripture is filled with warnings and rebukes to both God’s people in Israel as well as several churches for adopting any degree of false belief. Preserving, or as Jude describes it in Jude 1:3, contending for the Faith saves lives. You will not appreciate either the service or protection offered by those with discernment in your families or churches, if you do not understand the lethal threat of false doctrine and even sub-Christian teaching. The Gospel of Jesus must be policed, lest some heresy enter in purporting to be Christian, that says you don’t have to repent of sins or believe in hell in order to be saved. These and other heresies exist and, as described in Galatians 1:7-8 and 2 Corinthians 11:4, are taught by men and women seeking to get rich and famous by creating false converts with a “different gospel.”
And what of the rest of the Bible describing what else we are to believe and how we are to live this life as children of God, should all of that be policed as well? What’s the threat, really, if we are already saved? Christ Himself warned us in Matthew 24:24 that our enemy would love nothing more that to deceive even (if possible) the elect. In Galatians 5:24, Paul has some incredibly strong words for those who were trying to mislead the Church. While our works reveal that we have saving faith, as we read about in James 2:14-19, our theological beliefs are the well-spring of those religious behaviors. Sound doctrine ought to matter to all Christians, because a greater understanding of Scripture is how we gain a deeper knowledge of God, who He is and all He has done in glorious detail. Sound doctrine should matter to us all, because it is by the Word of God the Holy Spirit sanctifies us, making us into the image of Christ. It is Scripture, accurately understood, that practically instructs us in holiness, that we would live a life most pleasing to God and most deserving of His eternal reward. Paul gives a warning regarding this in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, saying, “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” So, while we cannot lose our salvation, we should desire to take great care as to how we live after we have been saved. And it is the truth of authoritative Scripture that is intended to continually shape every point of our theological understanding and direct every aspect our lives.
3. There really are bad guys. Many of us are oblivious to the daily attacks on our city or our country. If we only knew what all our local PDs went through to serve and protect our cities, we would be that much more grateful for them. That said, as oblivious as we might be much of the time, we aren’t ignorant enough to believe that there isn’t a threat. We hope to never encounter them personally, but we know for a fact that there are bad guys in our cities. Spiritually speaking, the threat is more real, more dangerous, more deadly. Yet, much of the Church is hard-pressed to believe or behave as if there are those who, whether intentionally or incidentally, cause lethal theological harm. This is foolish and willful blindness. Our spiritual enemy is the ring-leader and he employs legions of angelic and human messengers who, according to 2 Corinthians 11:13-14, disguise themselves as messengers of light in order to deceive God’s people. They may be camouflaged to the world, but the Church ought to easily identify them with the proper use of Scripture and the proper appreciation of those with the gift of discernment. First, Scripture gives us a warning. In 2 Peter 2:1, we are reminded in no unclear terms that there will always be false teachers seeking to influence the Church and that our enemy’s ultimate objective is theological deception and his weapon of choice is a lie. He would much rather possess someone’s thoughts than their body. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 describes this battle for truth as Spiritual warfare. Next, Scripture helps us know how to spot them. Jesus, in Matthew 7:15-20, encourages us to consider the lifestyle and the spiritual fruit of such false teachers. Not only are we to compare their words to what God has revealed in His Word, as the Berean’s did in Acts 17:11 as well as the Church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:2, but many times their lives will also be very revealing.
Do not despise discernment. Don't dismiss the price paid by so many in Church historically to protect and fight for the truth that we now appreciate. Take, for instance, the Roman Catholic church, its gross perversion of biblical Christianity and the numerous martyrs who boldly held the line on doctrine during the great reformation in order to preserve our current protestant Christian Faith. Make no mistake, there are bad guys. Some are deceptive, being undoubtedly demon-possessed and filled with love and lust for the things of this world. Others are themselves deceived. While we should have more grace with one group than the other, the effects can be largely the same. Both the demonic and the deceived are guilty of misleading Christ’s sheep. See Matthew 18:6 for a sobering caution to anyone who “causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble/sin.” Hint: There is a millstone and a large body of water involved. The intended audience for many of the strongest warnings concerning doctrine is repeatedly the teacher and elder/pastor (same Greek word). However, the entire Bible has this same tone about those who thwart or otherwise twist the truth of God’s Word and severe action by the Christian is both modeled, even commanded. Actions such as, calling them out publicly (Matthew 12:34-35), warning others of them (Matthew 7:15, Romans 16:17, 2 Timothy 4:3-6, Hebrews 13:8-9), rebuking them (1 Timothy 4:2), refuting them (Titus 1:9), not supporting them by showing hospitality (2 John 1:9-11), avoiding them (Romans 16:17), and silencing them (Titus 1:11).
There is more we’d love for you to understand about us. Things like, we know we are not perfect, we are always hiring, and more! But the most important is that we do what we do out of love. We defend the biblical Gospel and sound doctrine, because we love God and His Word. And believe it or not, but we confront and correct the false teacher and the misled believer alike, because we desire Christ’s very best for His Church. We simply can not love God or the Body of Christ without working to preserve the truth that leads to freedom, understanding, and holiness, found only in the Bible, in the form of doctrines.