Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 12, 1951
NUMBER 48, PAGE 6,11d

The Doctrine Of Christ

Robert F. Turner, Prescott, Arizona

Frequently we are told that we should "preach Christ, and leave the doctrinal issues alone." Perhaps the local denominations plan a union meeting, and advertise that they will refrain from discussing doctrine, but will just preach Christ. Sometimes members of the church will call to say that they plan to bring a visitor to services, and hope that a doctrinal sermon will not be preached. In such a case, even if doctrine meant what the caller thought, their being ashamed of their own doctrine is far from commendable.

In truth, however, the word doctrine is improperly used when its meaning is limited to "ordinances" or some "specific teaching, or tenet." New Testament writers use the word doctrine to include both moral principles, and ordinances, etc. While two Greek words are used, didacha and didaskalia, they are basically the same, and are used interchangeably so far as moral principle or specific teaching is concerned. The first means, "the act of teaching," while the second means, "the substance taught."

In I Tim. 1:9-f moral issues, such as murder, adultery, perjury, etc., are designated as "doctrine." In I Tim. 4:1-6, Paul warns Timothy of the coming apostasy, naming specific false doctrines that shall be taught, and tells Timothy, vs. 6, "If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou has attained." Urging the people to be honest, or warning them of the teaching of celibacy, both are doctrinal, and a "good minister" will preach both.

The preacher's relation to doctrine is seen in the above cited passage (I Tim. 4:1-6) and in II Tim. 4:1-5, where Timothy is charged to "exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." The elder's relation to doctrine, and obligation to doctrine, is seen in I Tim. 5:17, "Let the elders that rule well be counted of double honor, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine." Among their qualifications, Paul tells Titus the bishop must be able "by sound doctrine" both to exhort and convince the gainsayers. (Titus 1:7-9) And doctrine and salvation are interrelated in I Tim. 4:16, "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." Just to avoid a quibble, every passage used above is one which uses the word "didaskalia," "the substance taught."

Now let us examine some of the doctrine of Christ. Apparently the general public has been led to believe that Jesus did not give any specific teaching on anything. They apparently believe he spent all of his time healing the sick, and smothering the multitudes in some sort of sticky love, love, love. One time I read Matt. 23 to a fellow, and his mouth literally dropped open. He asked in astonishment, "Did Jesus say that?"

Matt. 16 records Jesus' doctrine concerning the church. The church was to be built on the fact of the Christ, proven in His resurrection. Jesus sets forth this doctrine here, and his apostles further instruct in that subject later in their writings. (Cf. I Cor. 3:11, Eph. 2, I Peter 2) Those who believe in Christ, and accept his doctrine, obey his commands are members of his church.

Christ states the ONENESS of his followers as he prays, John 17:20-f, "Neither pray I for these (apostles) alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." Paul, "through his word" taught the Ephesians to believe on Christ (Acts 19:1-f) and later wrote to them concerning this ONENESS of which Christ spoke. Eph. 4:3-6 "There is one body—." When we preach the ONE church, which belongs to Christ, we are preaching the doctrine of Christ. Even in preaching on the subject of discipline in this church, we preach the doctrine of Christ, and may use his own words, as recorded in Matt. 18:15-17, "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican."

Matt. 4:17 reads, "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." No one can read the words of Christ, as recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, without noting the multiple references to the coming kingdom. Mk. 9:1 and Matt. 16:28 specify the time as being within that present generation. The preacher who says; "I just don't know much about the kingdom question, nor do I care;" is blindly stumbling about. He cannot possibly "preach Christ" without preaching the kingdom, for this is a part of the doctrine of Christ. It is significant that when Philip "preached Christ" (Acts 8:5) "they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God —" (Acts 8:12)

For citizens of his kingdom. Christ instituted the memorial supper, the bread and the fruit of the vine, to represent the broken body and the blood of the New Testament. Luke 22:19-20, 29-30. Matt. 26:26-30. A sermon on the significance of the Lord's supper, and its proper use (I Cor. 11:23-f) is a doctrinal sermon, but it is a portion of the doctrine of Christ. We can, yea we must, warn of the judgment to come, and this too is a portion of the doctrine of Christ. Matt. 25:31-f.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT — baptism is also doctrine of Christ. To follow the popular trend—"no doctrine, just the teachings of Christ"—one might think Jesus had never dreamed of baptism. Yet the most casual reading of the gospel records will teach us that Christ was not only baptized himself, but his disciples baptized under his direction, and when he gave the great commission he said, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Matt. 28:19. Mark records it (16:16), "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." We see, therefore, even if we should be limited to the actual words of Christ, his doctrine would include the church, ONE church, discipline in the church, the kingdom, the Lord's Supper, judgment to come, and baptism. Furthermore, we cannot stop here.

The person who wishes to put some special emphasis on the words of Christ, as recorded in the gospel records, and to ignore the teachings of other N. T. writers, would do well to ponder these facts. These records were written, not by Christ, but by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. One must accept their word in order to know what Jesus said. If one accepts Luke's biography of Christ, why not accept Luke's history of the early church, the book of Acts? And if one accepts John's biography, perhaps some additional time can be spent studying John, chapters 14, 15 and 16. Here Jesus is reported as teaching that after the Holy Spirit has come upon the apostles they would remember all things he had spoken unto them; John 14:2526. With the special guidance of the Holy Spirit, they were to testify, to bear witness of Christ and his teachings. John 15:26-27.

Further than this, in John 16:12-12 we read, " I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all the 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." Clearly, it is a part of the doctrine of Christ, as spoken by Jesus himself, that we are to hear the teachings of his inspired witnesses concerning Paul, a later apostle, Jesus gave him a direct "endorsement." Jesus said, as recorded Acts 26:16-f, "But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; . . ." There are many other proofs that the whole New Testament is to be received with equal authority, but these few are given for the special consideration of those who would confine the doctrine of Christ to the red ink in a red-letter edition.

When people say, "I don't want to hear doctrine, just preach Christ!" they really mean they do not want to hear anything definite preached. They would like to believe that Christianity is a loosely arranged system of morals, easily adjusted to fit their own tastes. Anything definite, anything positive, anything that calls on them for individual sacrifice or action is taboo. They may hide beneath false definitions of Christ and doctrine, but if the truth were known, they do not want to be told what to do, not even if Christ does the telling. The sooner they can be jarred into a realization of their true condition, the better their chances of salvation.