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Excerpt from the book The Principles of the Doctrine of Christ

Lesson 1:

The Doctrine of Christ

Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ,
hath not God. (2 John 1:9)

 

Ever since God blessed Adam and Eve, saying, "Be fruitful, and multiply," the Lord has promised man a fruitful life in exchange for his obedience. Being "fruitful in every good work" is one of the blessings of living in harmony with God.

Colossians 1:10:
That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God...

Living in harmony with God is an on-going affair achieved through conscientious pursuit. A fruitful life does not occur by happenstance; it is, if you will, the difference between singing on key and merely talking. It requires training, effort, and discipline.

For Christians, each waking moment presents two distinct opportunities. We can use the time in a way that will glorify God and enhance our lives, or we can squander it away in meaningless activity. Jesus made known these options in one of his great "I AM" statements:

John 15:5:
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Here is our menu of choice: we can bring forth much fruit or nothing at all. To bring forth much fruit, we must abide in Christ. Conversely we can live according to our own rules, thereby producing nothing of lasting significance or value.

Of course, the Lord’s promise of "much fruit" is only a blessing because the fruit is good. Quantity is nothing without quality. Not all fruit is pleasing to God or beneficial to man.

Isaiah 3:10–11:
Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.

All men bear fruit, though all fruit is not good.

Luke 6:45:
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

And for good or bad, all men are known by their fruits.

Matthew 7:16–18:
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

The good fruit of the good tree is the fruit of the Spirit, manifestations of holiness that spring forth from the vine of Christ.

Galatians 5:22–23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

The fruit of the Spirit overrule the selfish desires of carnal man. He who bears the fruit of the Spirit glorifies God and makes the world a better place. This is the privilege and duty of every true disciple of Christ.

John 15:8:
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

Every benevolent religion under heaven exists to attain love, joy, and peace. No sane person can deny the desirability of such fruit. But despite the myriad of alternative ways that have been proposed to achieve such an end, the only way to bear the fruit of the Spirit is to be grafted into the spiritual vine. We must abide in Christ.

John 15:4:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

To abide in Christ is to abide in his love. We abide in his love when we keep his commandments.

John 15:10:
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

To keep the Lord’s commandments is to hear and do his sayings. Jesus likened keeping his commandments to building a house upon a sure foundation:

Luke 6:47–48:
Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.

The strongest edifice will collapse if the ground beneath it gives way. This is the danger of building a house without a proper foundation.

v. 49:
But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.

Building your life on a strong foundation starts with hearing the Word of God. The more you hear, the more you can believe.

Romans 10:17:
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

But even a fool can quote words of wisdom. We must obey the Word, lest we forsake what we learned.

James 1:22–24:
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

The Word of God is like food; it does us no good if we only look at it. In order to serve its purpose, food must be ingested into our innermost being. The Word of God that we have both heard and obeyed is the engrafted word that will change our lives and save our souls.

James 1:21:
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

OUR ROCK, FOUNDATION, AND CHIEF CORNERSTONE

Too many Christians are more concerned with the attractiveness of their doctrinal house than the surety of the ground upon which it is built. Wisdom dictates that our doctrine be founded on the bedrock of truth. If not, it will collapse.

Psalm 11:3:
If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?

A system of belief that is only superficially biblical is unreliable and unsustainable. Unstable doctrines produce unstable souls. A strong foundation is anchored in solid rock. As Christians, our rock is Christ.

2 Samuel 22:2:
And he said, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer....

Recalling the Jews’ exodus from Egypt, Paul wrote, "They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ" (1 Cor. 10:4). That Jesus is our rock is beautifully expressed in the hymn "The Solid Rock" by Edward Mote and William Bradbury:

"On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand."

God Almighty is the Father of life; he is the invisible wisdom, love and power behind all creation. In truth we know very little about him. Our minds are too small to perceive him as he is. In his kindness, God condescends to show himself to us in ways we can understand, comparing himself to things of this earth and ultimately, through the veil of his Son Jesus. But like a massive iceberg jutting out of the northern seas, the little we perceive of God is only an inkling of all that he is. He is God and his ways "passeth all understanding" (Phil. 4:7). Suffice to say, there is none like him.

Deuteronomy 32:4:
He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.

Jesus is God’s revelation of himself to mankind. Jesus is the invisible God made visible, the Word of God made flesh. God is the LORD. Jesus is my Lord.

Psalm 110:1:
The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

In the same way, Jesus is my rock. The Almighty is the God of the rock.

2 Samuel 22:47:
The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation.

Can you separate fire from heat? Can you separate water from wetness? Such is the futility of trying to separate the Father from his Son. Jesus is God "manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16). "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," said Jesus to his disciples (John 14:9); "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). Just as doubting Thomas realized, Jesus is "my Lord and my God" (John 20:28). He is my rock.

In addition, Jesus is the foundation and cornerstone built upon the bedrock of truth.

Isaiah 28:16:
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.

He is the foundation of true spiritual doctrine.

1 Corinthians 3:11:
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Even on a solid foundation, you can build a crooked house. That is the reason for the cornerstone, the first stone of the outer walls of the house. The cornerstone is exactly placed so that all subsequent stones can be aligned to it.

Jesus Christ is the "chief corner stone" of the "holy temple of God" (Eph. 2:20). He is the corner stone of holy Christian doctrine. Any doctrine that does not have Jesus as its cornerstone will be askew. He is the Word.

John 1:14:
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

The Word of God is rooted in eternal truth and grounded upon an everlasting foundation. Those who abide in truth will be "rooted and grounded" as well.

Ephesians 3:17–19:
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

A tree’s roots grow downward even as its limbs grow upward; it is rooted and built up. Likewise, when Jesus Christ is the rock, the foundation, and the corner stone of our personal religion, our lives will be "rooted and built up in him."

Colossians 2:6–7:
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST

It is self-evident that the Word of God is the doctrine of God. However, the Word of God is better characterized as the doctrine of Christ. Our heavenly Father is not the subject of his Word; that honor belongs to his Son. The redemptive work of Jesus Christ is the theme of every book of the Bible. Every sacrifice in the Old Testament, every ordinance and law was "a shadow of good things to come" in Christ (Heb. 10:1). Every precept of the New Testament helps us walk in the shadow of his cross. You cannot separate the doctrine of God from the doctrine of Christ. Any system of belief that is not rooted, grounded, and built up in Jesus Christ is patently false.

2 John 1:9:
Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.

Furthermore, no Christian is to welcome into his home or bid fair journey to anyone who promotes a doctrine contrary to the doctrine of Christ, lest God hold them both accountable for participating in an evil deed.

vv. 10–11:
If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

Consider the magnitude of what we have just read! Anyone who does not abide in the doctrine of Christ "hath not God." Anyone who even wishes well to someone promoting a contrary doctrine is a partaker in "evil." Do we need any further exhortation to compel us to learn all we can about the doctrine of Christ?

Before we can abide in the doctrine of Christ, we must first know it. Thankfully, the path of discovery is clearly marked. The principles of the doctrine of Christ are plainly listed in the sixth chapter of Hebrews:

Hebrews 6:1–2:
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

The principles of the doctrine of Christ are also called "the first principles of the oracles of God."

Hebrews 5:12:
For 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; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

Shocking as this may be to those Christians who are unschooled in these concepts, these principles are considered the "milk" of the Word of God – prerequisite knowledge to any Bible teacher. These six principles are the foundation of true doctrine and proper Christian living:

1. Repentance from Dead Works
2. Faith toward God
3. The Doctrine of Baptisms
4. The Doctrine of Laying on of Hands
5. The Doctrine of Resurrection from the Dead
6. The Doctrine of Eternal Judgment

Once we are rooted and grounded in the six principles of the doctrine of Christ, we are ready to "go on unto perfection." This is the aim of the cross, Christian discipleship and all biblical education – that each one of us may stand before God "perfect in Christ Jesus."

Colossians 1:28:
Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:

To be "perfect in Christ Jesus" is to reach your full potential. Such perfection is possible because God’s way is perfect.

Psalm 18:30:
As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.

He makes our way perfect.

v. 32:
It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.

And he will bring to perfection all that is in our lives.

Psalm 138:8:
The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.

This perfection is a work of the Spirit and not of the flesh:

Galatians 3:3:
Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

Nevertheless we must do our part. Spiritual growth is the result of cooperation between God and man. In order to reach this perfection our lives must be immersed in the doctrine, reproof, and correction of the Word of truth.

2 Timothy 3:16–17:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

As we grow in understanding of THE PRINCIPLES OF THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST, our lives will be rooted and grounded in a true foundation. As we master these principles, we will see Christ – and therefore the entire Bible – as never before.