Strong Doctrine

“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.”
—Hebrews 5:14

DISCUSSIONS AMONG Christians often involve establishing what is more important—character building, or understanding doctrine, the teachings of God’s Word. To be properly balanced, both must be pursued.

Some lay great stress on the fact that to live right is the principal thing. Pious, righteous living is a necessary Christian endeavor. We have come to see that control and knowing standards of morality depends on our knowledge of God’s holiness and his glorious character which makes him bless all mankind. Unless we know God’s plan and his teachings, we imperfectly appreciate his character. Hence there is need of doctrine if we are to qualify as able “ambassadors for Christ.”—II Cor. 5:20

Oftentimes in our discussions of the truth of the Scriptures we may classify their teachings as the beginning principles of the doctrines of Christ, or the “milk of the Word” (I Pet. 2:2; Heb. 6:1), and the remainder of the doctrines as ‘meat.’ But when we desire to get more specific information as to the difference between these, we may find a great variety of answers, and to the conclusion that the ‘milk’ is merely the ‘Divine plan’ and the ‘meat’ a deeper understanding of complex matters.


In Hebrews 5:12 Paul speaks of “the first principles of the oracles of God.” In the next chapter he outlines just what those ‘first principles’ (fundamentals, or ‘milk’ as he calls them) consist of: “faith toward God;” “repentance,” implying that all are sinners; “baptism” (consecration); “resurrection,” which embraces the ransom; “eternal judgment,” referring to the millennial day of judgment or trial. The “doctrine … of laying on of hands” might be added to this listing if desired, but we realize that this was essential to the Early Church only. It was a means of establishing unquestionably the position of the apostles in the body.

Peter agreed with this outline when on the day of Pentecost he preached to the multitude as recorded in the second chapter of Acts. He no doubt preached with the view of awakening their faith in God. With this he proclaimed the resurrection (vss. 24-36) and also stated that through our Lord Jesus the people could obtain “remission of sins.”—vs. 38

His message contained an exhortation both to “repent, and be baptized,” and by referring to Joel’s prophecy which speaks of the “last days,” in which the Lord would pour out his Spirit upon all flesh (vs. 17), he was, in effect, declaring the day of judgment for the world. While no mention is made of the doctrine of ‘laying on of hands,’ the fact that they were enabled by the Holy Spirit to speak miraculously in tongues was an absolute demonstration of that very doctrine.

Another good example of what constituted the ‘milk’ of the Word comes through the ministry of Paul to such as were only at best able to appreciate the ‘first things’ of the Gospel. These were the Grecians, unbelievers, to whom he spoke on Mars’ Hill, which is recorded in Acts 17:22-32.

From verses 23 to 29 he explains beautifully the need for all to exercise faith in the true and living God. Paul omitted the direct mention of the term ‘baptism,’ deferring this until some would first recognize their need of justification which some apparently did; for the account indicates that “certain men clave unto him, and believed.” (vs. 34) However, in this remarkable discourse he strongly implies baptism by saying “that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him.”—vs. 27

Included in his dissertation is God’s command that “men everywhere … repent.” (vs. 30) He further explains the doctrine of judgment by pointing out that God “hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained,” and then he sums up his thoughts with the doctrine of the resurrection, maintaining that Jesus was “raised … from the dead” and that hence there would be a “resurrection of the dead.” (vss. 31,32) By not mentioning the doctrine of the ‘laying on of hands,’ it is apparent that this doctrine grew less important as the church became more established.


Singling out one of the five aforementioned doctrines, namely the doctrine of repentance, it might be helpful to divide it into three parts. First, it points to the original perfection that Adam possessed when created, of which Paul reminds us when he says: “The first man Adam was made a living [not a dying] soul.” (I Cor. 15:45) Second, it implies a fall from this perfection into sin, which fall came as a result of Adam’s disobedience to God’s commands. Thus Paul declares: “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.” (Rom. 5:19) Third, it makes clear that as a result of sin, death is the inevitable penalty. The dying process ends in death. The apostle writes, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) A full realization of these three factors constitutes the basis of repentance, which in turn should lead the honest heart to conversion.

Some students of the Bible feel that these three subdivisions of repentance should be added to the apostle’s list of ‘milk’ doctrines, and no doubt this could be done with scriptural authority. Thus by omitting ‘repentance’ as a ‘milk’ doctrine and replacing it with its three component subdivisions, and by adding the doctrines of ‘faith toward God,’ ‘baptism,’ ‘resurrection,’ and ‘judgment,’ we would have a total of seven doctrines which would constitute the “first principles of the oracles of God.” (Heb. 5:12) There is, of course, much entailed in these basic doctrines, but likewise much has been written in Studies in the Scriptures* to explain these doctrines, so we do not treat them here.

* Available at The Dawn Bible Students Association


A word of caution may fittingly be added here, lest some conclude that these ‘principles of the doctrines of Christ’ have little importance to more developed Christians. These are basic principles which will always be near to the hearts of those who love the Lord, and also they will always be given due consideration and meditation. They are to the Christian what addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are to the mathematician.

The mathematician will always need these basic elements of arithmetic no matter how advanced in the subject he may become, for they are essential in all mathematical calculations. Every mathematical problem needs to use these four basic factors of arithmetic, and higher mathematics such as algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus, must employ these fundamentals.

Similarly, the Christian will always have in mind the first principles which he has learned in the school of Christ, and will find them essential factors in all his thoughts and studies. We leave these principles only in the sense that once we comprehend them, we should be persuaded fully of their value and importance and not need continually to call them in question or to survey them in doubt. If we continue in uncertainty of these ‘first principles,’ how could we go on to perfection, unto “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”? (Eph. 4:13) We could make no further progress than the mathematician who became uncertain of his addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.


Having singled out the ‘milk’ doctrines into five, or seven, items, then it is not difficult to point to that which constitutes the “strong meat.”(Heb. 5:14) It would of necessity have to be the remainder of the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” (Jude 3) the glorious Divine plan of the ages, including the Second Presence of Christ. It is true that types, shadows, parables, etc., were all written for our learning, but they do not in themselves constitute the ‘meat’ of God’s Word. They are fittingly added to help the truth-hungry clearly to comprehend the outline of God’s purposes. They merely illustrate and picture to our minds that which is otherwise clearly stated or taught elsewhere in the scriptures, aiding us to grasp their import.

We can be sure that ‘strong meat’ is not speculative interpretation; but rather, it is clear and positive teachings of God’s Word. Paul admonishes us against striving “about words to no profit,” and exhorts us to “shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.”—II Tim. 2:14,16


An example of doctrine reaching beyond what might be termed the ‘milk’ of the Word is seen in an experience of Paul. We recall the narrative concerning Paul and Barnabas upon their return from a missionary tour which was to serve both Jews and Gentiles, and how they reported their success to the congregation that had sponsored their journey’s expenses. Together, the church and their missionaries rejoiced in their mutual service for the truth, and they were especially glad to hear that the door of faith was open to the Gentiles.

Certain brethren, Hebrews by birth, came from Jerusalem, the headquarters of the church. They perceived that the Gentile Christians ignored circumcision, raising a great commotion, claiming that it was essential to salvation. The minds of many were disturbed, and for a time a division in the church seemed probable. But better counsels prevailed and the beloved brethren, Paul and Barnabas, were sent to Jerusalem as a committee to confer with the apostles and elders there. The fact that circumcision was not necessary to Christian believers apparently was ‘strong meat’ to some Judaizing Jews and was causing them difficulty because of their immaturity as Christians.

The decision of the council was not reached through an unveiling of some great scriptural mystery, or by making known the meaning of some of the Bible’s symbolic language. Plain scriptural evidence was brought forth by the apostles which led to the conclusion that the yoke of the Law was unnecessary for Christians. When they had reached this decision, they wrote it out and sent it forth at the hands of Judas, Silas, Paul, and Barnabas, thus making sure that the matter would be made clear to all.—Acts 15:22


The doctrines of the truth may be broad, deep, and long, but they are likewise clear and concise and need only diligent study and “newness” of mind (Rom. 6:4;12:2) in order to comprehend them. For this reason Paul chided the Hebrew brethren, saying: “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.” (Heb. 5:12) Their failure to understand the ‘first principles’ was due to a neglect of study and application of their minds to the Scriptures, and not because the doctrines were too difficult to comprehend. They had no justifiable reason for their lack of development because the apostle never shunned to declare “all the counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27) He no doubt had declared all needful doctrine to them and for the time they had been acquainted with the message, they should have been not only able to understand it, but also to explain it to others.

Those who have developed into maturity as Christians and who by experience are able to “discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14), will not find themselves carried away “with every wind of doctrine;” for they will know after due consideration, that “if they speak not according to this Word [the law and testimony of God], it is because there is no light in them.” (Eph. 4:14; Isa. 8:20) Their experience in handling the Word will enable them to discern quickly what is backed with a ‘thus saith the Lord’ and what is merely conjecture and idle fancy mixed with a smattering of ill-chosen scriptures. The spiritually mature will not only understand and keep God’s commandments and teachings, but additionally, will find that “his commandments are not grievous.” (I John 5:3) Further, they will not be among those who say, “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” Nor will the Master ever need to ask of these, “Doth this [saying or teaching] offend you?”—John 6:60,61

In this time of harvest, many have come to a knowledge of present truth and have found their spiritual appetites sharpening more and more for a deeper and clearer understanding of it. They love the ‘strong meat,’ and take delight in masticating it. But even here there is danger in this spiritual feasting.


We know that an understanding of doctrine is not the Christian goal, but merely a means to an end. It enables us to reach the Christian maturity which our Heavenly Father is looking for in his people—a maturity of character. It is the knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures that enable the man of God to be “Complete, equipped for every good work.” (II Tim. 3:17, Revised Standard Version) God caused them to be written for our profit and instruction, and without them we would be unprepared for the Christian warfare.

It was just such a maturity of character that enabled Peter, who noted that Paul wrote in his epistle of “some things hard to be understood,” to forego pressing an untimely interpretation of Paul’s difficult writings. Some, “unlearned and unstable” in the Word could not forego this urge, and hence they wrested these and other scriptures “unto their own destruction.” (II Pet. 3:16) It was such largeness of heart that enabled Paul to rejoice that Christ was preached, even though some preached “Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction” to his bonds. In the face of such antagonism he could say, “Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” (Phil. 1:16,18) And again, it was such advanced development that enabled Stephen to pray for those who stoned him—even Saul, who later became the Apostle Paul. While unjustly committed to death, he loved his enemies, and could pray, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”—Acts 7:60

Christian maturity becomes essential for all who would comply with Paul’s parting charge to faithful Timothy: “Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. … But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (II Tim. 4:1,2,5) By doing so, Timothy would never “turn away” “from the truth.”—vs. 4

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