Vol.XVII No.IX Pg.3
November 1980

Disposition And Doctrine

Dan S. Shipley

A right standing with God involves both disposition and doctrine. Even though some would emphasize one to the neglect of the other, both are absolutely vital to acceptable service. As Joshua says in his farewell address, "Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and IN truth..." (Josh. 24:14). Here, sincerity connotes right disposition and truth is right doctrine. Man must provide the one; God the other. Only the Lord has the authority to tell men what they must believe and do to be right (saved). This He does for us in the gospel (or, as it is termed in 2 Jn. 9, the "doctrine of Christ"). This "word of the truth of the gospel" (Col. 1:5) is the exclusive pattern for God-approved religion. In fact, fellowship with the Father and Son is possible on no other basis (2 Jn. 9).

For this reason none can be too careful about establishing just what is and is not right doctrine — and it is here that we see the great need for right disposition. As someone has wisely noted, "Life is governed by esteemed values". It is one thing to say the gospel is precious and powerful; it is quite another thing as to whether one esteems it so. The man, for instance, who is as readily disposed to receive the doctrines of men as those of Christ, simply does not love the truth (2Thss. 2:10). And the same is true of those who say it makes no difference what one believes in religion. To such a disposition, doctrine is of little importance. On the other hand, the honest and good heart values truth above all else. It hungers and thirsts for that righteousness which is according to truth.

Its continual ambition is to know, to do, and to be right! — and to encourage a similar disposition in others. Such an attitude ideally complements the doctrine of Christ.

Further, because the good heart wants to know what is right, it is also a discerning heart. Recognizing God's precepts concerning all things to be right (Ps. 119:128), it measures all things thereby. By thusly "proving all things", the good heart can identify and hold fast to that which is good (1Thss. 5:21). Obviously, that which is not truth is not good and must so be regarded and discarded by the faithful. To hold fast that which only seems right and good is but another expression of a wrong disposition. One other thing in this connection — the honest heart never seeks to "prove" anything for the purpose of merely justifying self or condemning others.

That means that right disposition is important in teaching doctrine too. He who teaches truth with a spiteful and belligerent spirit is likely to hinder its reception. It does little good to speak the truth if the truth does not influence our speaking. When it does we will be speaking the truth in love, Eph. 4:15. Since love is kind and longsuffering (1 Cor. 13), such should be evidenced in our teaching. Too, Paul tells Timothy to "reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering..." (2 Tim. 4:2). In teaching the lost we must learn to suffer long with their pride, prejudice and ignorance, as did our Saviour — and as others have with us. May we handle truth with good hearts!