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Archive for May, 2017

I am not talking about the obvious dangers of false or bad doctrine, but the danger of sound doctrine, so you did read the title correctly. On the one extreme we have a broad group who believe that doctrine divides and who feel that under the heading of “True Christian Love” doctrinal differences should be set aside for the sake of unity. On the other extreme, there is a more rigid and dogmatic group, who’s whole identity is defined by their doctrinal purity and who’s unity depends on all adherents agreeing on all points of doctrine, which they believe justifies the label of “persona non-grata” for all other Christians, who don’t agree with them.

These thoughts and concerns have been a growing challenge in my own life, with a cupboard full of doctrinally correct T-shirts and a lengthy list of undesirables who did not agree with me doctrinally.

Apart from the armchair apologists’ (and avid internet searchers’) insistence on particular biblical interpretations, today we are also faced with the clamor to be politically correct on moral, social, gender and racial issues with the grayed lines of relativity between right and wrong fueling endless debate.

Two Central Issues

I have found that the simplest and yet most profound truths have been plainly declared in the opening chapters of Genesis, the very beginning of the Bible. It is here that I believe we find the heart of God on this thorny issue that has been the cause of brother murdering brother, both physically and spiritually for millennia, ever since Cain killed his brother Abel. Wars have been fought, Christians burnt at the stake, drowned, despised, defamed and rejected by fellow believers in the name of doctrinal purity throughout church history.

The Lord has drawn very specific attention to the two trees that “were in the midst of the garden”. These trees were central in the Garden of Eden and they remain central to everything that we are about today. I’m referring of course to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. While we have every reason to believe that these were physical trees with edible fruit, they obviously represent something far greater.

Absolutes

A simple and even superficial reading of the Bible will display an unambiguous declaration of God’s absolutes of good and evil. Therefore, the clearest, most accurate knowledge of good and evil can only be learned from God’s Word, the Bible. In fact, when Christians have their spiritual senses exercised by “use of the Word of God” they are able to (correctly) discern between good and evil, according to Hebrews 5:14. Simply put, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil represents the Bible or God’s Word and the sound doctrine it contains.

The Source of Everlasting life

Also in the midst of the garden was the Tree of Life, which represented the source of everlasting life. It is abundantly clear from Scripture and particularly the Gospel of John, that the Lord Jesus Himself is the giver of eternal life. The Tree of Life therefore represents the life that He alone can give. The metaphor in the Garden of Eden of a tree, of fruit and eating in order to obtain eternal life is clearly explained in John’s Gospel, by introducing us to another concept of the Bible (other than the knowledge of good and evil).  The Bible is not just the printed book, but it is a person, the Living Word, Jesus. The Lord Jesus further demonstrates and explains that like the five loaves that were broken and became sufficient to feed the five thousand and like the manna that fed the nation in the wilderness, He is that bread which we need to eat in order to have eternal life.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

The two trees in the garden represent the two aspects of the Bible, or two sides to the same coin – it is the source of the knowledge of good and evil but it is also the source of everlasting life. A sound knowledge of good and evil or a sound grasp of good doctrine requires careful study, but to consume the living bread requires a revelation which only the Holy Spirit can give us.

Subtle Danger

The danger of sound doctrine is that it is knowledge and knowledge puffs up. It is this pride that causes us to despise those who do not agree with us and it is this very pride in us that God resists. Therefore, a knowledge of sound doctrine could cause us to ‘slay’ our brother as Cain did to Abel and there is also every likelihood that God Himself will oppose us.

Jesus demonstrated this great truth when He joined two disciples walking to Emmaus, He explained to them how the whole Bible was in fact about Himself. If ever two people heard sound doctrine, it was that day, but it was only when Jesus opened their spiritual eyes that they grasped who He is and what the Scriptures really mean. If our sound doctrine does not lead us to a ever-growing revelation of Jesus that changes our attitude and behavior and makes us more Christ-like in our dealings with fellow Christians, we have only eaten of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and not the Tree of Life.

The Higher Purpose of Sound Doctrine

In summary, we need to be ‘good Bereans’ searching the Scriptures to see if these things are so because false doctrines are the order of the day. We need to be taught and to learn sound doctrine and be fully persuaded in our own minds but there is a higher calling. If we only know what is good and what is evil doctrinally, we will be inclined to use our superior doctrinal knowledge to condemn and reject others. Remember, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20) The only way to ‘eat of the Tree of Life’ is to allow the sound doctrine (the revelation of Jesus Christ throughout the whole Bible) to mold our perspectives, permeate our attitude and change our behavior towards others who embrace Christ as Savior. The greatest test of sound doctrine is whether it is producing the fruit of the Spirit in us.

Jesus did not say, “By their doctrine you will know them” but “By their fruit you will know them”.

Discernment goes beyond discerning whether the doctrine is right or wrong, true discernment also tests the spirit. Spiritual discernment of the heart rather than the obvious doctrinal misinterpretation is the mark of a spiritual person. May we all be elevated to the higher road of love without compromising sound doctrine.

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