Doctrine

The Hebrew word for doctrine means "to take, receive, seize"; then it means that which is received mentally: instruction. The Greek has a whole family of words relating to our topic: one means that which is taught; another refers to the one doing the teaching, the doctor or master; the verb form simply means to instruct or indoctrinate. The word doctrine appears fifty-two times in scripture, good evidence of its importance. Strikingly, when we read of doctrines in the plural the reference is always to strange doctrines, the doctrines of men, or the doctrines of devils. False doctrines are legion and contradictory, but true doctrine is one, for it has its unity in Jesus Christ. 

The doctrine of God drops from heaven as rain (Deut. 32:2), it is pure and good (Job 11:4). The people were amazed at the teaching of Jesus, saying, "What thing is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority commandeth he . . ." (Mark 1:27). But Jesus did not teach new doctrine; it was not his but the Father's, and it agreed with the teaching of Moses (John 7:16–19). The children of God obey from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered unto them (Rom. 6:17). Since all scripture is given by inspiration of God, it has the primary profit of giving us doctrine (2 Tim. 3:16). Adding to the peril of the times in which we live is the fact that men "will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers; having itching ears" (2 Tim. 4:3). The purpose of God in giving ministers to the church is "that henceforth we be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine . . ." (Eph. 4:14). Of such central importance is the truth that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is come in the flesh that the denial of this is antichrist, and "if there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed" (2 John 10). 

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The Importance of Doctrine

Doctrine is not highly regarded anymore. In many evangelical churches there is such ignorance of doctrine that even the fundamentals of Christianity are not well understood. Even in churches that remain faithful in their teaching and preaching, there is often little interest in learning and understanding doctrine. The youth are, for the most part, bored by it, and their elders are content with a superficial knowledge of the doctrines of the Reformed faith.

Very often the symptom of this lack of doctrine is a constant agitation for more “practical” preaching and teaching along with a greater emphasis on liturgy and on the other parts of the worship service until the sermon is all but squeezed out. On the part of the preachers themselves, one finds less and less biblical exposition and more and more illustration, storytelling, and entertainment.

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Is the gospel part of the law?

“What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone” (Romans 9:30-32).

In this text the issue is righteousness. The Israelites who sought righteousness by obedience to the law never achieved it. But the Gentiles who sought it by faith in Christ did, for Christ alone attained to the law’s requirement of righteousness, imputing that righteousness to his children by faith.

—Read more in the article 'Is the gospel part of the law?' by Rev. Cory Griess in the upcoming June 2018 issue of the Standard Bearer.

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Is the law part of the gospel?

I remember being quite confused for a long time by the question that titles this article. I remember being further confused by statements made by Protestant Reformed authors, such as the following: “In fact, Scripture makes clear that the law is gospel, for it has the power to convert the soul, to make wise the simple, and to enlighten the eyes.” And, “The law is gospel. If anyone doubts it, let him read Psalm 19 and Psalm 119.” And, “For Calvin and Calvinism, with regard to the elect believer law is an aspect of gospel.” How can this be? The law requires perfect obedience for us to be justified, an obedience of which we are not capable. That is not good news! On the other hand, the gospel proclaims that Christ’s perfect obedience (not our own obedience to the law) justifies us. That is good news! So how can an orthodox theologian say the law is the gospel? They are opposites!

—Read more in the upcoming article ‘Is the law part of the gospel?’ by Rev. Cory Griess in the upcoming May 15, 2018 issue of the Standard Bearer.

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