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Understanding the Doctrines of Christ

by Bro. Nathan and Sis. Michelle Barth

What is doctrine? Noah Webster said, “The doctrines of the gospel are the principles or truths taught by Christ and his apostles.”[1] Doctrine is also defined as teachings, instruction, a primary system of belief, or true principles. A Christian is a follower of Christ and accepts Him as the Master of Christianity. Thus, believers of Christ understand and accept His teachings and principles, which are contained in the Bible, collectively comprising His doctrines.

A Christian should know and understand the doctrines of Christ because they are essential to becoming and remaining an established Christian. How can one be an effective follower of Christ and not understand His teachings? To find God, one must come through Christ. John 14:6 says, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” It makes sense that if Jesus is the way to God, that the devil, (the enemy of our soul) would strive to cause as much confusion about Christ as possible. Not understanding Christ and His teachings is a huge roadblock to reaching God. John 7:16-17, “Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” This is also why Christ warned his disciples in Matthew 24:4-5 regarding deception: “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” The same forces that were trying to deceive in Jesus’ day, are still deceiving today.

The enemy of our soul is still trying to confuse people regarding the teachings of Christ. However, there is less of a chance for a person that has a God-called pastor to be deceived. God has appointed offices in the Body of Christ to help us understand the doctrine. The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:13-15 that this is why Christ,

“…gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 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. But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”

Christ made provisions when he created His Church so that no one must be deceived by false teachings. The biblical way for a person to avoid being deceived is to walk in all the light that God shines on their pathway. John 12:35 says, “Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.” Two very strong defenses against deception are personal humility and having a sincere desire to know the true doctrines of Christ. The Bible says in James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 4:6 says, “… God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” A person with a genuine desire, not to be merely religious, but to serve God with humility and reverence will be able to avoid deception. An insincere religious experience opens the soul up to pride and limits how far a person is willing and able to go to please God.

Some may feel that because they know a lot of Bible facts that they understand the doctrines of Christ. However, there is a vast difference between knowing Bible facts and knowing Bible truths. For example, one Bible fact is that Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. This is found in Genesis 3:1-6. A Bible truth is that a person must be born again if they want to enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:3-7). One could potentially be a Bible scholar when it comes to Bible trivia, or facts, but still not have a deep understanding of the doctrines of Jesus Christ. There are some people that have knowledge of the Word of God but they don’t fully understand doctrine. 2 Timothy 3:7, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” If the Jewish scholars of Jesus’ day had really understood their Bible, they would have recognized Jesus as the Messiah. Their actions, however, proved that, while well-versed in the Old Testament scriptures, they did not understand the prophesy they contained.

The prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah 28:9, “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk…” The best way for a person to understand the doctrines of Christ is to have the Spirit of Christ. If a person doesn’t have the Spirit, there are some things they will never fully understand. 1 Corinthians 2:9-14 says, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Without having the Spirit of God to teach, a person could fall into the category described in 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.” A person who has been born again and received the Spirit of God will have that Spirit to help them understand the deep doctrines of Christ. As a person grows spiritually, they will have an increasing understanding of Christ’s doctrines.

The doctrines of Christ are what feed living souls. A soul that is alive spiritually will be hungry for the knowledge and truth of God’s Word. Christ says He is “the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world”(John 6:51).

When doctrine is preached, it waters the spiritual man. Deuteronomy 31:1-2 says, “Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. 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.” The preached doctrine helps us to see that the works of God are flawless. Verse four of the same chapter says, “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” Also, Proverbs 4:1-2 tells us, “Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.”

Some avoid doctrine because it can be controversial, but what does the Word of God say? In Titus 1:9 it says, “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” Also, in 1 Timothy 4:16 it says, “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.” How did the early Church grow? In Acts 2:42 and 47, it says, “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. The end result of the labors of these devoted souls is recorded in Acts 16:5, “And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.” The early Christians knew what they believed, why they believed it and were willing to die for it. They didn’t avoid the teachings that were highly controversial, but sought after what was true, accepted it and lived it, regardless of consequence. The doctrines of Christ are what defines Christianity and are the basis for the Christian life. While some discount doctrine, the true Christian knows that what they believe and accept is a matter of spiritual life and death. The doctrine a person chooses to believe is not a simple decision, but one with eternal implications. It is important to seek to know and understand the doctrine of Christ with a heart that is willing to walk in all the light that is revealed. Humility will allow God to show us the difference between truth and error. This approach will greatly reduce the very real threat of spiritual deception. If you seek to understand the doctrines of Christ, unafraid to pursue them and unashamed to live them, God will give you a deep understanding of them.

[1] An American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1828, The Foundation for American Christian Education