Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What Is Doctrine?

We often hear preachers and teachers talk about doctrine - that they teach it; that  it divides; that is harmful to building a "good, soul-winning church", and sundry other cliches.  But, just what is doctrine, exactly?  I don't mean what did your favorite guru tell you it was; I mean what saith the scripture concerning this matter of doctrine?  Let us look:

Deuteronomy 32:2 My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass:

Heeding the law of first mention, we see that doctrine is first and foremost God's speech; or words.

Job 11:1-4 Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said, Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full of talk be justified? Should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed? For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in thine eyes. 

Again, we see in this passage that the doctrine is again equated with words and speech.  One more for witness' sake:

Proverbs 4:1-2 Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.

Goes without saying here as well: doctrine is heard and it is law.  Laws are written in words.

In general we can say then that any person accurately teaching the words (that's individual words, not a general message) of holy scripture is teaching and or preaching doctrine.  However...

Isaiah 28:9 Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.

This verse says God will teach doctrine to those that are weaned from the milk.  Strange...  Now let's add these verses to the mix:

1 Peter 2:2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
1 Corinthians 3:1-2 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

There then must be a division in scripture between milk and meat.  And therefore, there are some things God will not reveal to the Christian who has not been weaned from the milk of the word.  So just what is the milk of the word?  What are these "easy" doctrines that God expects you to know before he will give you the "deep things?"

Hebrews 5:12-14 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Using this passage in Hebrews we see that meat is prepared for those that have used and had made themselves ready by reason of use in the scripture.  Moving on in Hebrews we read:

Hebrews 6:1-3 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit.

We see here that the Paul calls this list of topics principles and foundational; and they need to move on past these things.  Make no mistake, there is a doctrinal application to Hebrews (hence the name of the book) concerning these specific doctrines as applied to OT Judaism.  However, there is also a NT application for all of these doctrines in this dispensation.  Therefore we can make application and say the milk you need to be weaned from could be said to be: 1. Repentance  2. Faith  3. Baptisms (there is more than 1)  4. Laying on of hands or gifts  5. Resurrections (there is more than 1)  6. Judgment (there is more than 1).

Are you aware of the different baptisms, judgments, and resurrections (quick, grab your Scofield and read the notes!)?  How many deacons in independent baptist churches can biblically define "repentance?"

Knowing Paul fed the Corinthians milk, and so taking a cursory overview of those topics written therein we see: judgment seat of Christ, leaven in the body, not fornicating, lawsuits, marriage & divorce, idolatrous knowledge, providing for ministers, spiritual gifts, charity, the gospel of the grace of God, resurrections, and collections to name a few.  With a few additions, this list has lots of parallel from Hebrews.

We can safely conclude that if you are not settled in these basic, milky doctrines, God will not reveal the deep things or the meat to you.  You will be stuck in the land of the Corinthian's and the Galatian's: carnality (what Bible college did you go to?), heresy (only the local baptist church is the bride of Christ), man worship (Dr. So and So's campus is so big), the covering of sin (You're hurting the cause of Christ my publicizing this small misstep at an otherwise such a fine church), and legalism (we have standards, you know!).

The problem with the average independent baptist church, is most of their people will never learn most of these foundational doctrines and will never progress past these, and so, will forever be stuck in a church that is a mile wide and an inch deep.  Or as Dr. Sam Gipp put it in his book For His Pleasure, "babies birthing babies."

Don't you want your children to grow up?  Why don't you think God wants you to do the same?


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