Easy Believism vs. The Doctrine!
Modern Christianity often attempts to remove the absolutes of the scriptures. What I call easy believism seems to be the hallmark of many churches in this day. What do the scriptures reveal regarding this vital subject? What is doctrine? And what exactly is the Apostles Doctrine? Doesn’t doctrine tend to divide people? Can’t we all just follow the leading of the Holy Spirit? One fact is certain, and that is the 1st Century Church continued steadfastly in the Apostles Doctrine.
Many Christians tend to shy away from any discussion of doctrine. First off what exactly is doctrine? Well, it’s simple! Doctrine is simply a body of principles presented for acceptance of belief. In other words, it’s something that is taught; a teaching. No one can escape doctrine. Everyone, whether they know it or not, believes and practices some type of doctrine. And that doctrine may be true, or it may be false. The early church experienced explosive growth because of the apostle’s doctrine.
Acts 2:41-42 (KJV) – “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
Did you catch that? Three thousand people (souls) gladly received the words of Peter, the Apostle in one day. And notice what they did with that word: they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread (eating), and prayer. That word stedfastly indicates that these new believers did not waiver or deviate from the word that was delivered to them by one of the Apostles (Peter). The Apostles agreed on the vital importance of doctrine. The following scriptures record the Apostle Paul’s advice to a young minister by the name of Timothy:
1 Timothy 4:12-16 (KJV) “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”
Notice in the verses above Paul’s emphasis on “doctrine” and the “word.” And it wasn’t any ole doctrine but “the doctrine.” Paul also advises Timothy to give “attendance to reading” implying that Timothy should study the holy scriptures for himself. Paul concludes his advice to Timothy by saying that continuing in “the doctrine” (teaching) will save not only Timothy but those who hear Timothy. That’s a very powerful concept don’t you think?
Doctrine – the Foundation of the Church
Psalm 11:3 declares that “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” In other words, to have right standing before God, we must have a true and solid foundation. In the physical world a house that is built on a weak or shaky foundation will not last. Likewise, in the spiritual realm the only things that will last, and have permanent lasting results, are those principles that are built on truth. Scriptural truth becomes the basis or foundation for our spiritual house. The Word of God is the basis for all truth! John 17: 17 declares “thy word is truth.”
The Apostles Doctrine – Essential for Truth
The Apostles were the only men that had a truly intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. They sat at His feet for three and a half years. Just before His ascension, Jesus gave the Apostles perfect understanding of the Scriptures.
Luke 24:44-49 (KJV) “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”
What is vital to understand, is that the Apostles, and only the Apostles, had an understanding of Old Testament scriptures that no one else ever had. It was Jesus Himself that personally opened their understanding of the scriptures. And therein lies the key to correct scriptural interpretation. The Master Himself opened up their understanding of the scriptures. This special relationship qualified them to author and establish all of the doctrinal foundations of the Church. These essential truths would be the foundation upon which the true Church would be built on. Therefore any attempt to change or minimize the teachings of the Apostles is a grave error.
How To Know Truth from Error
Is there a full proof way to know truth from error? Is there a litmus test of sorts that we can apply to a Church’s teachings (doctrine)? In the marketplace of ideas and teachings how in the world can we ever be sure that what we are being taught is God’s truth? The scripture itself reveals how we can know truth from error. Paul writing to the Galatians tells us just how to know truth from error:
Galatians 1:6-9 (KJV) “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
Paul the Apostle was as serious as he could be with the saints in the Galatian church. Why? Because they had already started to waiver from the doctrine that they had been taught by the Apostles. In this scripture what Paul is doing is pronouncing a death warrant upon anyone, including the Apostles, who would change or pervert the teaching (doctrine) that the Galatians had been given. Paul’s’ use of the word “accursed” shows the true seriousness of the matter. Because “accursed” literally translated means “eternally damned”!
Well, so far we’ve heard from Peter and Paul regarding the importance of doctrine. What about John the Apostle? Did he agree with Peter and Paul? You can bet he did!
1 John 4:6 (KJV) “We (the Apostles) are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”
Wow! John doesn’t mince his worlds. John is coming out just as strong in his admonition. And John does it by making three important doctrinal points:
- The Apostles were of God.
- Hearing the teaching of the Apostles was equal to hearing God.
- The difference between truth and error is established: To teach what the Apostles taught….is truth; to teach anything different….is error!
Doctrine – Vitally Important
The Apostles agreed. Doctrine is vital to salvation and righteousness. The doctrine of the Apostles needs to be taught and cherished. Paul continues to warn Timothy is the following scriptures:
2 Timothy 3:16 (KJV) “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”
2 Timothy 4:2-4 (KJV) “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season;reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
Jude, the Apostle, echoes the sentiments of Peter, Paul and John, in his epistle:
Jude 3 (KJV) “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith, which was once delivered unto the saints.”
Doctrine – Worth Fighting For!
The truth of God’s word is built on the teachings of Jesus Christ which were handed down to His Apostles. Any intellectually honest investigation of the scriptures will conclude that the Apostles doctrine is the very foundation that the truth was built upon. It’s no wonder that Satan attempts to minimize the importance and value of sound doctrine. The seed of doubt is planted with the words “Yea, hath God said…?” The attack on Apostolic doctrine goes something like this: “What or who are you committed to? Jesus Christ or to some doctrine that’s taught at your Church?”
The scriptures reveal that you can’t be committed to Jesus Christ without being committed to the Biblical “Doctrine of Christ.” And not just any “Doctrine of Christ” but the doctrine (teachings) as they were set forth in the Gospel accounts. The doctrine that was practiced and taught by the faithful Apostles of Jesus Christ of the 1st century A.D.! The foundation of the New Testament Church was the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone.
Ephesians 2:19-22 (KJV) “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners,but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
John 7:17 (KJV) “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”
John 17:20 (KJV) “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;”
In this world of confusion and shifting sands it’s comforting to know that God’s Word is solid and unchangeable. Twelve men sat at the feet of Jesus Christ for a three and a half years. They followed the Master wherever He went. They learned of Him and had their understanding opened up like no one else. What they received from Jesus Christ they delivered to their world of the 1st century. Their letters, known as epistles, became the foundation of Church. We can know truth from error. Anyone who teaches and preaches what the Apostles taught and preached has the truth of God.
Anyone who deviates from the teachings of the Apostles are in error. Those who gladly heard the words of the Apostles in the 1st century continued steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine. What the scriptures reveal is that to hear the teachings of the Apostles is to hear the very words of Jesus Christ. They didn’t waiver or vary the teachings that they had received from the only men who walked and talked with the Lord Jesus Christ. Christians of today must heed Paul’s warning: we must continue in the doctrine and in doing so we will save both ourselves and those that hear us.
Related Articles: Salvation – The Gospel