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All the Doctrines of the Bible
By Herbert Lockyer
ZondervanCopyright © 1988 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHow To Study Christian Doctrine
By way of introduction it may prove profitable to deal with the study of doctrine as a whole. The word itself is from doctrina, which is derived from docco, meaning "to teach," and denotes both the act of teaching and the subject taught. Doctor is associated with the same word and is equivalent to teacher, as indicated in the Revised Version of Luke 2:46; 5:17; Acts 5:34.
The Biblical usage of the term is interesting to trace. In the Old Testament we have the Hebrew words Lekah, meaning "what is received," "the matter or message taught" (Deuteronomy 32:2; Job 11:4; Proverbs 4:2; Isaiah 29:24); Shemuah, meaning "what is heard" (Isaiah 28:9); Musar, meaning "discipline" (Jeremiah 10: 8). "The discipline of unreal gods is wood -is like themselves, destitute of true moral force." In the New Testament we have Didarkalia, implying "the art of teaching" (I Timothy 4:13-16; 5:17; II Timothy 3: 10-16); and "what is taught" (Matthew 15:9; II Timothy 4:3); Didache, which is always translated "teaching" (Romans 16: 1; R.V. margin). We have the "act of teaching" (Mark 4:2; Acts 2:42) and "what is taught" (John 7:14-17; Romans 2:24). It would seem as if the meaning of the word varied as the Church developed the content of its experience into a system of thought, and came to regard such as an integral part of saving faith. The teachers of doctrine and what they taught can be classified thus:
The doctrines of the Pharisees, upon which they set great value, were a fairly compact and definite body of teaching, and comprised fixed traditions, like the Talmud. Handed down from one generation of teachers to another, these humanly conceived doctrines were revered by the religious rulers of our Lord's day. Christ Himself rejected them (Matthew 15:9; 16:12; Mark 7:7).
In contrast with the Pharisaic system, the teaching of Christ was unconventional, occasional, discursive and unsystematic. It derived its power from His personality, character and works, more than from His words. Thus the learned doctors or teachers were astonished at it, and fought it (Matthew 7:28; 22:33; Mark 1:22,27; Luke 4:32). It is profitable to trace through the four gospels, all Jesus taught about the doctrines of the Holy Spirit, faith, prayer, baptism, Satan, sin, etc.
In the early days of the church, the apostles gathered the salient features of Christ's teaching and proclaimed them abroad. The so-called "apostles' doctrine" (Acts 2:42) consisted of three parts-
That Jesus was the Christ (Acts 3:13-18).
That He rose from the dead (Acts 1:22; 2:24,32).
That salvation was by faith in His name (Acts 2:38; 3:16; 4:12).
These outstanding truths were combined with the Hebrew faith as based upon Old Testament revelation and presented in consecutive fashion by Peter and Stephen (Acts 2:14-26; 5:29-32; 7:2-53). What need there is, in these days of modern thought, to return to the pure, apostolic doctrine which, when preached, had far-reaching results!
It was left to the Apostle Paul, however, to produce a more thorough co-ordination of Christian facts. Types of his doctrinal statements can be found in his speeches at Antioch (Acts 13:16-41), at Lystra (Acts 14:15-17) and at Athens (Acts 17: 22-31). These inspired utterances reveal a doctrinal system centering around the Resurrection of Christ, and form the burden of Paul's masterly epistles.
While Paul systematized various aspects of Christian truth, there was not much effort to impose doctrine by authority, on the Church as a whole. In the pastoral and general epistles, the repeated emphasis is upon "sound" or "healthy" doctrine (I Timothy 1:10; 6:3; II Timothy 1:13; 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1), and upon "good doctrine" (I Timothy 4:6). These phrases imply that a body of teaching had emerged which could be generally accepted and serve as a standard of orthodoxy. Thus the faith gradually became a body of truth, "once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).
The old Roman formula, known as The Apostles' Creed, is the oldest Christian creed extant, and is so called because it has been ascribed to the apostles themselves. It is supposed to be a statement of truth representing what Christ and His apostles taught, and reads:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church (Note: not the Roman Catholic Church-catholic here meaning universal) the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
Within the organized church of today there are many formulas of systematized truth, each denomination having its own creed or expression of belief to which members must subscribe. The believer's standard of authority, however, is the Word of God. Concerning all doctrines, the rule of Ridley the Martyr must be our guide-
"In these matters I am so fearful that I dare not speak further, yea, almost none otherwise than the text doth, as it were, lead me by the hand."
We must only hold the truth agreeing with "the law and the testimony."
The importance of doctrinal study cannot be over-emphasized. In these days of developing apostasy and perverted doctrines, it is essential to ponder prayerfully the great doctrines of the Bible. Among necessary rules that must be observed as the student endeavors to systematize truth, mention can be made of the following-
1. Gather all your necessary material. Once the subject has been chosen, a comprehensive concordance should be used to gather all the Scriptures having to do with it. On this point Angus, in his Bible Handbook has this to say: "To gather doctrinal truth from Scripture, we bring all the passages that refer to the same subject; whether they be doctrines, precepts, promises or examples; impartially compare them; restrict the expressions of one passage by those of another; and explain the whole consistently (for example, verses dealing with the word "perfect," Matthew 5:48 by others like I John 1: 8). When the proposition which we derive from such complete collection of the passages embodies all they contain, and no more, it may then be regarded as a general Scripture truth."
2. Trace the progress of doctrine. Truth should be classified according to the Old and New Testaments. As the Church is not the subject of Old Testament teaching, Christian doctrine must be sought for in the New Testament. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit, for example, while mentioned in the Old Testament, is only there as a partial revelation. Christ never takes the Holy Spirit from any child of His (Psalm 51:11 with John 14:16, 17).
The New is in the Old concealed; The Old is in the New revealed.
3. Balance one doctrine by another. One doctrine must be held consistently with another. To neglect this rule means that we become like a cake not turned (Hosea 7:8); overdone on the one side, underdone on the other. The doctrine of election must be balanced by the doctrine of free grace. Repentance, faith and obedience are the gifts of God (John 15:5; Acts 5: 31; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 1:29; 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2). Does this mean that men are guiltless if they do not repent, believe and obey? The guilt of impenitence is charged upon man (Matthew 11:20,21; Revelation 16:9). Unbelief is declared to be a sin and the ground of condemnation (John 3:18; 16:9). Men are exhorted to repent (Mark 1:15), and believe and obey (Matthew 3:2; Luke 13:3).
4. State Biblical doctrines in Scripture language. In describing the august themes of the Bible, all scientific and high-sounding phraseology should be avoided. The Authorized Version of the Bible offers us the purest English to be found in any literature, and one cannot do better than saturate the memory with its exact language. Consult, however, The Amplified Bible." Modernism would have us adopt softened words for sin, regeneration, hell. Such language, we are told, is antiquated. Forcible terms like blood, grace and salvation are going out of fashion in some quarters, and "words which man's wisdom teacheth" (I Corinthians 2:13) are being substituted for "the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth."
5. Combine doctrine with practice. Right thinking should lead to right living. What is the use of a correct creed without a correct character? Scriptural doctrines should result in scriptural holiness. There is an inseparable connection between doctrine and duty; precept and practice. Discovered truth must be applied to life. It is only thus that a doctrine becomes a dynamic.
6. General principles to observe. Make no subject a matter of necessary faith which is not a matter of revelation.
Let there be a suspense of judgment until the Word of God itself decides. Bias, away from Scripture, results in fancy and imagination.
Accept the same relative prominence of a doctrine that the Bible gives it. The Second Advent is the most prominent truth in the New Testament, and should be prominent in our witness.
When a doctrine is important and necessary, Scripture will be found to be full and clear. If a theme is not complete and clear, it is not in itself important, or the full knowledge of it is unattainable in our present state (I Corinthians 13:9-12).
The Bible never contradicts itself. Those who reject it as a divine revelation have much to say about apparent contradictions. But "the law of the Lord is perfect," and what appears to be contradictory, disappears when we "compare spiritual things with spiritual" (I Corinthians 2:13).
With this introduction before us, let us now give ourselves to an understanding of those vital doctrines so precious to the hearts of those who accept the Bible in its totality as the inspired revelation of God to man. The following doctrines are sometimes spoken of as "theology," a term meaning knowledge of God and of divine truths. Doctrine is teaching as deduced from Scripture. Dogma is the teaching authoritatively laid down by the church, and when contrary to Biblical doctrine, must be rejected.
Chapter TwoThe Doctrine of a Divine Revelation
One's attitude toward the Scriptures determines his ability to understand and appreciate the august doctrines they proclaim. If the divine inspiration and veracity of the Bible are rejected, then any system of truth it contains cannot be relied upon. If "every Scripture" is not "inspired of God" (II Timothy 3:16 R.V.), how can we accept as authoritative the cardinal Christian truths it presents? For example, conversion would be impossible if the Bible were not perfect. "The law of the Lord is perfect," and therefore able to "convert the soul" (Psalm 19:7). Thus every one born anew by the Spirit of God is a fresh evidence of the perfection of Holy Writ. Modernism is destitute of soul-winning, simply because it teaches the imperfection of the Word of God.
Before approaching the majestic truths of the Scriptures, then, it is imperative to understand their claims to divine inspiration, infallibility and integrity. If, as we believe, "all Scripture (not some of it) is given by inspiration of God," and is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," how can we be complete and "throughly furnished unto all good works" (II Timothy 3:16,17), unless we know how to rightly divide the word of truth (II Timothy 2: 15)? As we face heresy, speculation and ignorance, we must be sure of our ground.
Excerpted from All the Doctrines of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer Copyright © 1988 by Zondervan . Excerpted by permission.
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