What is Doctrine?
The very basic definition of doctrine is “a belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a church, political party, or other group.” For the purposes of our study let us also add another descriptor to this definition. Not only is doctrine a set of beliefs held by a church, but it is also a set of beliefs held over a significant period of time. In other words, doctrine is not merely a set of beliefs developed regarding a particular event or modern occurrence, but rather doctrine is the very foundational beliefs that define the church, political party or other group.
The Apostle Paul warned us in Ephesians 4:14, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”
If we are prone to change and modify our doctrine with every new age we are also likely to be deceived and moved away from the teachings of scripture. Therefore, let us define doctrine for our purposes as, “a set of beliefs held by a church over a significant period of time and as supported by scripture.”
Doesn’t having a Doctrine require a Hierarchy?
It seems somewhat natural to assume that if a group of churches, spread across the country and sometimes the world, are going to have a unified set of beliefs that are held to across time and distance that there must also be some authority in place to enforce that doctrine. In fact the Southern Baptist Convention issued a new stance on missionaries who speak in tongues on May 15 and the Pope is consistently stating the overall view of the Catholic church on many different matters.
As natural and necessary as this may seem, the Primitive Baptist do not have such a hierarchy. There is no national board, group of governing ministers, and national publications that control what the Primitive Baptist Church teaches. Despite this, one could travel east to west across the country attending a different Primitive Baptist Church each Sunday and hear the same doctrine preached each time.
So how is this possible? The only way it is possible is that the doctrine be founded in the teachings of the scriptures. When that is the case there is no need for governing boards or national publications to inform the church of what to teach because the Holy Bible is the guideline that is followed. Notice the words recorded in Matthew chapter fifteen verse nine, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” The Lord is not pleased by teachings created by men, but expects his people to follow the teachings set out in His Word.
How do I know what is the Doctrine of the Primitive Baptist Church?
This question can often be very frustrating for many believers. While the lack of hierarchy or national publications setting down the beliefs is a sign of following the scriptures and being led by the Holy Spirit it can also be a difficulty for those trying to understand more about the church.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, or know someone that is, the best place to turn is to the Articles of Faith document for your home church. Almost all Primitive Baptist Churches have an Articles of Faith document and while this document is unique to each church you will find many similarities in these documents between churches as they express the core doctrines of the church at large. The Articles of Faith document will give you statements of doctrine and scriptures to support them for further study.
Along with this, never be afraid to ask ministers questions. Matters of doctrine don’t often get expressed in a compact and straightforward manner from the pulpit. Take time to email, talk, and generally discuss items with your pastor or another minister to learn items of doctrine in more depth.
Doctrine is a set of beliefs held and taught by the church over a significant period of time.
Doctrine should be founded in the scriptures and not in the decisions, teachings, and writings of a group of leaders of a church.
Read your church’s Articles of Faith document to find succinct expressions of the doctrine of the Primitive Baptist Church.