A gracEmail subscriber asks whether gospel and doctrine are the same. If they are different, in what way, and how are they related?
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The Bible does not separate doctrine from gospel, but it certainly distinguishes between them (1 Tim. 1:10-11). The gospel is the good news of what God has done for us in Christ. Doctrine is divine instruction on how to live in response to what God has done. The English words “doctor” and “doctrine” share the same root. In earlier English, a “doctor” was a teacher and “doctrine” was the content taught. Even today, doctor’s degrees (Ph.D., Ed.D., M.D., J.D. and others) presumably equip one to teach aspiring professionals. The King James expression “sound doctrine” means “healthy teaching” — instruction that produces spiritual health and wholeness, as opposed to teaching that results in spiritual sickness, weakness and retardation.
Healthy doctrine grows out of the gospel and is consistent with it. It produces pure love, a good conscience and sincere faith (1 Tim. 1:5). Unhealthy teaching produces conceit, a morbid interest in controversy and disputes about words. It results in envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions and constant friction (1 Tim. 6:3-5). The “sound” teacher does not need to be rude or frantic — healthy teaching engenders calmness and respect.
Unfortunately, much of what passes as “sound doctrine” among quarrelsome and sectarian religionists is neither healthy teaching, nor is it any part of the good news. The true gospel frees us from the power of such teachers, and invites us to learn from Jesus — who is the way, the truth and the life. The gospel is the good news of our salvation. Godly doctrine is instruction in righteous living for those who have heard and believed the gospel.