“Take Heed unto the Doctrine”

“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.” —I Timothy 4:16

THE word “doctrine” simply means a teaching, instruction—or, that which is taught. Christian doctrine is the sum total of that which followers of the Lord Jesus know and speak of as “the truth,” as it is taught in the Bible.—John 3:32; 17:17; Gal. 2:5

These scripturally taught doctrines constitute the basis of the Christian’s faith. They would include the following:

The existence of a supreme intelligent Creator
The creation of man in God’s image
The fall and condemnation
The covenants
Satan as the prince of this present evil world The Redeemer
The high calling of the church to joint-heirship with Jesus
Justification by faith
The church’s share in the sin offering
The second presence of our Lord
The harvest, and the Chief Reaper
The Day of vengeance
The great company
The resurrection of Christ, the church, the Ancient Worthies, and the world of mankind
The kingdom of heaven, and Christ’s millennial reign Restitution
Day of Judgment
Second Death

Others might present a slightly different list.

Are doctrines important? Our Lord considered them to be. Most of the first thirty years of his life were spent in the study, consideration, and absorption of God’s instruction. Then he spent the last three and a half years living and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom. He spoke many parables, all touching on the importance of doctrine.

On one occasion he went up into a mountain and spoke to his disciples. Lovingly, and with much particularity, he indicated the qualities that must be attained by those who would aspire to be his followers. He concluded by saying: “Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”—Matt. 7:24-29

The apostles, too, considered the doctrines to be important. Paul cautioned the church against being blown about with every wind of doctrine and warned the Lord’s people that at the end of the age there would come seducing teachers. (Eph. 4:14; II Tim. 2:16; 3:13; 4:3) Since he cautions us against false doctrines, he clearly implies the importance of holding to the true doctrines.

Down through the centuries of the Gospel Age it is probable that relatively few saints were developed, for the true teachings of the Bible were choked and smothered under the weeds of error. And error does not justify, beget, or sanctify. It is our privilege to be living during the period of the Lord’s bright shining, when the Lord has sent his people meat in due season. It is a time when we have learned the truth of the apostle’s statement that all scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. The New English Bible renders this passage, “Every inspired scripture has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, or for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind.”—II Tim. 3:16

We sometimes hear it said concerning the Christian life that faith is the most important element; and it is true that Paul wrote, “Without faith it is impossible to please him.” (Heb. 11:6) Others suggest that love and character-building are what we should strive for; and indeed, the apostle tells us that love is the greatest thing. (I Cor. 13:13) Still others will suggest that service is the thing most pleasing to the Lord, quoting James’ statement that “faith without works is dead.”—James 2:20

The fact is that all of these are separate but essential qualities of that complete character which must be developed by each follower of the Lord if he would reach the full stature of a man in Christ Jesus. We cannot leave out faith; we cannot omit works of grace and service; and the Lord’s people must be motivated by love. But doctrine—the truth—is basic and fundamental to all the rest. For it is the truth, the teachings of God’s Word, directed by the Holy Spirit—the doctrines, if you please—that reveal to us the glorious character of our Heavenly Father and his loving plan of salvation for all humankind; that provide the basis for our faith; that admonish us to grow in the image of our Lord; that instruct us in our sacrificial service to the Lord, the truth, and the brethren; that keep alive, and bright, and shining, our glorious hope of being with the Lord in his righteous kingdom.

Thus, we have seen that we are first drawn to the Lord by our understanding and appreciation of his teachings and so are led to offer ourselves to the Heavenly Father in full consecration. (Luke 9:23) We are justified by a faith which is built on doctrine. (Rom. 5:1) We are begotten through the Word of truth—the teachings of our Lord and the apostles. (James 1:18) We are sanctified by the doctrines, the truth. (John 17:17) And finally, if we are faithful, we will be glorified by the transformation that is wrought in our hearts, our minds, and our lives by the same truth, the same doctrines.

Long ago Peter wrote: “His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.”—II Pet. 1:3,4

What do the doctrines do for us? Separately, and as a whole, they enhance and magnify our understanding, reverence, and appreciation of the Heavenly Father. His wisdom is manifested in his plans and purposes for mankind. His justice is shown in the condemnation of disobedient man. His love is indicated in the provision of a Redeemer for condemned and fallen mankind. His power is revealed in his marvelous creative works and in the resurrection of the dead. All the transcendent qualities of the great Creator are set forth in the doctrines.

And how greatly an understanding of these doctrines increases our love and reverence for the Heavenly Father! As we discern God’s infinite love and mercy and justice, and as our faith in him is thus enlarged, we are drawn little by little to the Lord, until we are at last led to offer ourselves to him in full consecration. All who are accepted of the Lord, he justifies; and these are begotten of the Holy Spirit to sonship, to a new nature. All this, by the teachings of the Scriptures, the doctrines!

James wrote, “Of his own will begat he us with the Word of truth.” (James 1:18) What is the Word of truth? It is the sum total of all God’s teachings. And as the truth opens up in all its beauty to the spirit-begotten eyes of the “new creature,” the process of sanctification is begun in the beholder! “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth.”—John 17:17

Consider the doctrine of the ransom, the beauty and logic of which Paul so clearly sets forth when he shows that “as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous.” (Rom. 5:19) How it stirs our appreciation of the Heavenly Father’s wisdom! And his justice, and his mercy!

The laying down of His life in sacrifice by Him who was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, on behalf of the sinful world of mankind—how this excites and increases our love for our Lord Jesus; how it constrains us to walk more faithfully and humbly in his steps, bearing his reproach, sharing his sufferings!

The long-heralded, long-awaited second presence of our Lord, the harvest of the Gospel Age, the presence of the Chief Reaper—how that knowledge stimulates us to labor together with him in the reaping work, while it is yet day!

The hope of the early establishment of the kingdom, when sickness, sorrow, sin, and death will be abolished, and everlasting, happy life will be the lot of all the willing and obedient—how our understanding of that grand and glorious event persuades us to patient endurance in the narrow way!

The promise of restitution for the whole world, of joint-heirship in the kingdom for the blessing of all the families of the earth; the hope of being with the Lord and seeing him as he is—how this lifts us up and urges on to faithfulness!

Thus, we find that it is our right comprehension of all these precious truths that fires us with determination to take up our cross and follow in our Master’s steps, in the sure knowledge that if we suffer with him, we shall indeed be glorified together. (Rom. 8:17) The power and force and beauty of these teachings fill our hearts, control our thinking, and shape our lives. They instruct us in our service to the Lord. They guide us in prosperity. They sustain us in tribulation.

The doctrines are the touchstones and guideposts to our spiritual growth, our character development, and our activity and service. If we misread, or fail to understand the guidepost, we may be led down wrong paths. We may be engaging in the wrong tasks. Our faith may be undermined.

What was the difference between Saul of Tarsus and Paul the apostle? Both had the same fleshly body. Both wore the same clothes. They had the same zeal, courage, determination, and intelligence, the same intense desire to serve God, the same noble birth. The difference was that Saul lacked a proper understanding of God’s plans and purposes as revealed in the Scriptures; he failed to recognize the Messiah, while the spirit-begotten Paul, by the Lord’s grace, possessed a clear knowledge of God’s plans and purposes.

Saul had the same faculties, the same qualities as Paul; but in Paul these qualities were channeled in the right direction by his proper understanding. And what a mighty difference this understanding wrought in his life! And in the life and development of the church!

In the nominal Christian communities today there are many sincere people like Saul who are stumbling down the unlighted path of error. Hell-fire, the trinity, the mass, immortality of the soul—these do not beget one to the spirit nature, for error does not beget.

Many in the same assemblies rate their favor with the Heavenly Father by the abundance of their temporal possessions or by their freedom from sickness and trials. Contrariwise, those who see the privilege of following in the steps of the Lord not only expect to have trials, testings, and suffering but also understand their purpose, and, indeed, the need for them. Without this appreciation of the need for chastening and disciplining and testing, our faith might sometimes fail us. But the Lord’s people know that suffering and trials are not indications that the Lord Is displeased with us or that he is not dealing with us. Rather, these trials may well be strong evidence of his love and care for us. “What son is he whom the Father chasteneth not?” (Heb. 12:7) We know all this simply because, by God’s grace, we have been given an understanding of the Word of truth—its teachings, its doctrines.

Similarly, while the world shudders and trembles at looking after the things coming to pass in the earth today, the Lord’s people lift up their heads and rejoice; for those same events which cause fear to fill the hearts of mankind are to us the evidence that the Lord is present and that the kingdom reign for the blessing of those same fearful ones of the world is near, even at the doors.

How important, then, are these doctrines, these truths of the Bible? They are of the utmost importance! Because it is our understanding and heart-appreciation of these truths that controls our Christian lives and determines our everlasting destiny. Our every judgment and decision and act is made according to the measure of our appreciation of these doctrines.

Notice how clearly the Apostle Peter lays the matter before us: “Unto us are given exceeding great and precious promises, that by [understanding and acting on] these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” (II Pet. 1:4) A promise by the Lord is a commitment by the Lord. If we are to reap the benefit of that wonderful promise, we must understand the promise. And we must also understand the cost.

How we react to these exceeding great and precious promises is an individual matter. Paul wrote: “I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones; wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest. … If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.”—I Cor. 3:10

In proportion as we truly understand and fully appreciate these wonderful truths of the Scriptures, we will earnestly endeavor to hold forth the pure Word of truth, the whole Gospel of God. We will strive to make ourselves worthy of our vocation, growing in grace and the fruits of the spirit. We will build one another up in the most holy faith. We will engage in the harvest work, while it is yet day. We will seek, in every way, to serve the Lord, the truth, and the brethren, as we daily keep our sacrifice on the altar, praying for the establishment of the kingdom, which is so near. We will strive to grow in love and patience and holiness and humility, to be made daily more and more in the image of our Lord, remembering that:

“He that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the Word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit.”—Matt. 13:23

Dawn Bible Students Association
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