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The Essential of Sound Doctrine
By David A. DePra
The Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God. Consequently, it is the written
Truth. But ask: WHY is the Bible the written Truth? Well, because it was written
by the Truth Himself. In other words, the Bible is a written revelation that God
has given of Himself. It therefore contains only Truth. This is quite
elementary. But it is vital to see that the Bible is the Truth -- yes, because
of what it contains -- but more so because of WHO inspired it.
What I say that the Bible teaches is what I am saying God has revealed about Himself. In other words, the DOCTRINES I form from the Bible are nothing short of what I say God has revealed about Himself. Again, this is quite elementary. But notice what it really means: It means that my doctrines represent God. They go back to Him. Whatever I teach in doctrinal form is my presentation of who God is, what He is like, and of His plan and purpose. In short, doctrines are more than just academic theology. They are more than just representative of my religious beliefs. My doctrines actually represent God Himself.
Now, from this we see the definitions of true and false doctrine. It is a fact that true doctrine IS true because the Bible teaches it. It is likewise a fact that false doctrine is false because it contradicts the Bible. But since the Bible itself is the written revelation of God, then the doctrines I form from the Bible are what I say are the revelation of God. In short, my doctrines must be taken back to God yes, verified by the Bible but ultimately all doctrine must be taken back to God Himself to the KIND OF GOD being revealed. To put it in the simplest terms, true doctrine tells the Truth about God. False doctrine lies about Him. The Bible is the written verification.
This is what the Bible itself teaches. Jesus said, "I am the Truth." And the Bible also states, "Thy Word is Truth." Yet there is only ONE Truth so we are here talking about the SAME Truth. Thus, we have a written revelation of God that is the Truth. And we have God Himself who is the Truth. The written Word of God will always agree fully with the Living Truth who is a Person. The written Word is a perfect representation of Him His nature, character, purpose, and identity. But the written Word is not the Person. It reveals the Person in written form.
If we had no Bible, but had only Christ Himself within, the revelation of Christ that would be unfolded to us would nevertheless fully agree with the Bible. Truth is Truth. There is only ONE Truth. Jesus is the Living Word. The Bible is the written Word. The two always agree. Thank God for the Bible. But thank God for Jesus Christ! He is our Living Lord and Savior. The Bible tells us about it.
Now, it is here that we see the essential of true doctrine. True doctrine tells the Truth about God teaches His nature, character, plan and purpose, and just as vital, true doctrine tells us how to live and how to walk in the Truth. False doctrine lies about these things and consequently leads us to walk in error. But again this is not merely a matter of walking according to certain principles. Rather, it is a matter of walking with GOD HIMSELF. True doctrine directs us to walk with the one true God. False doctrine directs us to walk with a false God.
Anyone can read the Bible and tell you what it SAYS. But only God, through His Spirit, can reveal what the Bible MEANS by what it says in other words, only God call tell you what He means by what He inspires. Do we actually think that God has left it up to us to muster up the brain power to figure out the Truth? People have tried to do this. It always ends in error usually arrogant, destructive error. Truth comes by revelation it comes by the revelation of Jesus Christ, verified by scripture. But it is entirely possible for people to muster up, "truth," not through revelation, but through their imagination. And then it is possible to simply READ INTO the Bible what they think. This is how people create God in their own image, and then they can find Bible verses to supposedly prove their point.
If you read the Bible you will find that a continual theme in the NT is that we might KNOW God through His Son. Read Ephesians 1:16 and the following verses. This was a prayer of Paul for the church and therefore reflects Gods desire for His people. God wants us to know the Truth. Knowing the Truth is more than merely knowing the theology of the Bible. True theology will agree with Jesus Christ because there is only ONE Truth. But God wants us not only to know what He has written about Himself, He wants us to know HIM. In short, it is one thing to learn teaching about Christ. It is another to learn Christ.
There are many examples out there to prove the essential of Truth. From time to time you hear of parents who let their kids die because they believe it is wrong to seek medical attention. Is this terrible error merely the product of a bad interpretation of the Bible? Well, that bad interpretation is included in the problem -- people can have Bible verses to, "prove," almost anything. But really, the problem in such a tragic situation is an awful picture of God Himself. That awful picture of God is why they make the Bible mean what they say it means. These people have a concept of God that has brought them to believe such error. They have a false picture of God. And because they do, everything they believe and do is governed by it. This false picture of God even interprets the Bible for them.
There are other examples. The Roman Catholic Church used to teach that it was a sin to eat meat on Friday. If you ate meat on Friday even once, and died before you made it to confession, you would go straight to hell. Is this merely a problem of bad theology? No, much more. This is a problem of a false knowledge of God. The KIND OF GOD that would send people to hell for eating meat on Friday is a much different KIND OF GOD than the true God of scripture. Yet those who believed such error were not only controlled and affected by this false picture of God, but they read it right into the Bible and formed doctrines from it. Again what kind of God are we talking about here? That is the question. The theology and doctrines are merely the outcome of this.
What we believe about God and His Plan and purpose is represented by our doctrine -- and that doctrine is a reflection of what we believe is revealed in the written Word. The God of all love and grace is a DIFFERENT KIND of God than the god of fear and condemnation. The god of obedience and holiness is a DIFFERENT KIND of God than the god of license. The God of freedom is a DIFFERENT KIND of God then the god of legalism and fear. Our doctrines reflect the nature and character of God. That is why they must be the Truth.
Today error continues. There are people who believe it is always Gods will to make you rich. Others believe it is always God will to heal. Or never to heal. There are those who teach that it does not matter how you live. And there are those who live under the fear or self-righteousness of legalism. Behind every one of these teachings are Bible verses. Behind every one of them is a religious system. But they are in error because they lie about God Himself. They contradict the Person of Jesus Christ.
So why is sound doctrine essential? Because doctrine tells us about God. Doctrine directs us as to how to walk with Him. True doctrine tells the Truth about God. False doctrine lies about God. We are talking about Truth vs. error; light vs. darkness; freedom vs. deception. If the Truth sets us free, then clearly, error keeps us in prison. That is the importance of what we are dealing with in this matter.
Thankfully, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit Gods own Spirit, the Spirit of TRUTH would continually guide us into all Truth. Sure. Again there is only ONE Truth because there is only ONE God. The Spirit of Truth can reveal only Truth! And since we have this promise, we can be sure that if we mean business with God that HE will always take the initiative to reveal to us the Truth in Christ. He is the initiator. But we must respond with an open heart. An open heart does not shape the Truth to fit us, or to fit our religious system. An open heart is one that allows God to shape us in accordance with Himself.
Howbeit when the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you. (John 16:13-15)
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