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Written Word and Living Word
By David A. DePra
Biblical doctrine is God’s written revelation of the Truth. Doctrine tells us what the Truth is, how to live in it, and the reasons behind it. To put it another way, doctrine is a description of what we believe about God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Doctrines are not true simply because they are in the Bible. Rather, they are in the Bible because they are the Truth. This takes everything back to the Truth Himself. True doctrine rightly represents Jesus Christ. False doctrine misrepresents Him. And since the Bible rightly represents Jesus Christ – it was written of the Holy Spirit – then this means that the Bible is the written Truth of God.
God did not give His written Word as a substitute for Jesus Christ. Rather, He gave it as a written representation of Jesus, and His plan and purpose through Him. Thus, when we read the Bible, we are reading a written parallel to the Person. This is why everything in the Bible will always agree with the Person of Christ, and why the Person of Christ will never manifest in anyway that is out of harmony with the written Word.
But some Christians misunderstand this. Many feel that the revelation of Christ that God has for us today IS the Bible. No. The Bible is a description of that revelation. In other words, the Bible describes Jesus Christ. The Bible describes the Truth. And God uses that description in His revelation of Christ. But the Bible is not a Person – is not Christ. God wants to reveal to us a real Person – a living Christ. This is much different that simply reading a gospel, or coming to understand doctrines about Christ.
We see this more clearly once we realize that the early church did not have a New Testament, and that most of the converts were not all that familiar with the OT. Certainly the Gentiles were not. Yet they were saved, and came into knowledge of Jesus Christ. How? Through the revelation of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. This revelation, of course, was completely in harmony with scripture. But for the most part, these folks didn’t get it out of the Bible.
Furthermore, if you read John, chapters 14-16, you will find Jesus listings the things that the Comforter will do when He comes. The Bible is not mentioned. This is not because the Bible is unimportant. But the Holy Spirit did not come to reveal the Bible. He came to reveal Jesus. And the Bible itself says so!
The reason this is important is because there are many Christians today who think that if they know the Bible they know Christ. This is simply not true. For even if their understanding of the Bible is correct, they simply know ABOUT Christ. The only way to know Christ Himself is through a revelation of the Holy Spirit.
But then there are other people who think that they can by-pass scripture, and even ignore it, because experience is the guide. Wrong. Christianity IS an experience. It had better be! Being saved and born again and filled with the Holy Spirit had better be an actual experience, or those things aren’t real. But there will be no experience that is of God that is not found, or verified in scripture. Again we have a parallel. Christianity is an experience with Jesus Christ. But that experience is described in the Bible.
If you had a driver’s manual, and put in the time, you could study it, memorize it, and even teach it to others. You could actually do all of that and never see a car! Sure. You are learning information about a car, and about how to drive it. And all of that information may be the absolute truth – the correct facts. But can we see that it is not the same as actually driving? And that it will really do us little good until we get behind the wheel?
Well, the Bible is our manual for a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. But it is possible to memorize every verse in the Bible, and yet not be right with God. That is because knowing Jesus Christ is more than knowing facts about Him. Knowing Jesus is based on a moral relationship and accountability. So while it is good to know the Bible – it is ESSENTIAL – we must go on to do what it says. We must go on to experience what it describes. We must move forward into a relationship with it’s Author.
One clue to this is found in a verse from Acts. There is said that the first Christians, "continued in the apostle’s doctrine." Do we think that this was nothing more than them sitting around having a Bible study, memorizing the teachings of the apostles? No. They continued in the apostle’s doctrine, yes, by learning and verifying it from scripture, but by LIVING IT, and experiencing it. Chief among the apostle’s doctrine was the doctrine of Christ. They continued in that by living in a relationship with the Person.
Doctrine is not merely INFO. It is the life which emerges from that written word. In short, we have the epistles of the Bible. But we are to become LIVING EPISTLES. If we do, we will represent what those written words teach and describe. But that won’t be because we merely read those words. It will be because we believed them, obeyed them, and experienced what they teach.
Christianity did not emerge from a list of doctrines or teachings that Jesus handed out. No. Doctrines and teachings emerged from Christianity – from the experience of CHRIST IN US. The apostles and early Christians experienced the Son of God through the Holy Spirit, and this was written down. Much of it became the Bible. Much of it was formulated into doctrine.
From this, we can once again see that TRUE DOCTRINE rightly represents Jesus Christ. True doctrine emerges from true Christianity. In other words, the TRUTH tells the TRUTH about the TRUTH. And just as importantly, false doctrine emerges, not from Christianity, but from a aberration of it. ERROR tells lies about the Truth.
Jesus Christ is the Living Word of God. He is God’s mind in a Person – the Truth of God personified. The Bible is the written parallel to that. This is why the Bible is the final written authority for the Truth. It is why the Bible cannot be compromised. It is why we must discover, embraced, and obey Biblical doctrine. Doing so will lead us in a relationship with Christ. And a relationship with Christ will always point us back to the Bible as the written description.
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