I’ve been studying a lot lately on the New Testament Church (found in the Book of Acts), what it was, what it is supposed to be, and how things got messed up along the way. I could probably take a million detours and that all-but-coveted “left turn at Albuquerque” and have a hundred different opinions.
But OPINIONS aren’t exactly what I’m after.
Everyone that knows me knows that I take my Bible seriously. Like… SUPER seriously. Like… if it’s IN there, it’s Truth, and if it’s not, don’t waste your breath on me, it won’t work.
So, I prayed about it and God led me to study out what the Word says about the standards for the church. In the Bible, that foundation is known as “doctrine.”
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches, deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Romans 16:17-18)
The word translated here as “doctrine” is the Greek word “Didache.” It means “that which is taught, teaching, doctrine.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines doctrine this way: “A belief or set of beliefs, especially political or religious ones, that are taught and accepted by a particular group…”
I love what William R. Newell said in his 1941 book, Romans Verse-by-Verse: “Mad dogs are shot; infectious diseases are quarantined; but evil teachers who would divide to their destruction and draw away the saints with teaching contrary to the doctrine of Christ and His Apostles are everywhere tolerated! How ghastly and ruinous is this false toleration! Let us take heed lest we “partake in the evil deed” of such evil workers!”
Newell also referenced 2 John 1:9-11, which says, “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. 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.”
Apparently, the doctrine was a big deal to those early disciples and Apostles! In fact, Paul had these heavy words for anyone who would dare preach ANY OTHER GOSPEL than the one they (the disciples and Apostles) had preached:
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8-9)
Wow. That’s a pretty sobering thought, huh? Even if an ANGEL preached another Gospel than the one they had preached, Paul said to let them be ACCURSED.
But what does that mean?
The Greek word is “anathema,” according to Strong’s G331. It means to be banned, excommunicated, and without hope of being redeemed. Pretty serious, no matter how you look at it. That’s how important the TRUE DOCTRINE was to them in the New Testament Church!
Tell me why, then, is it not more important to today’s average “Christian”?!?
While addressing Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:3-4, Paul said, “As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine. Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.”
Paul didn’t want people focusing on those things that created more questions than they answered, which is one way of reading this Scripture. “No other doctrine” edifies the way THIS DOCTRINE does!
Paul went on in the 6th chapter of 1 Timothy – against, using words so harsh he’d surely be ousted from the pulpit if he were preaching in 2021! – “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such, withdrawn thyself.” (1 Timothy 6:3-5)
Again, we see that “doting” on those things that create worthless questions leads to all kinds of distasteful things. Those people are destitute of the truth. And you have every God-given right to withdraw yourself from them.
The prophet Isaiah even spoke about doctrine, and more specifically, who would understand it… “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:” (Isaiah 28:9-10)
Paul was surely referring to this Scripture when he spoke to the Corinthians: “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)
Paul told these Corinthians outright, he had to talk to their flesh because they were babes in Christ and wouldn’t be able to understand the deeper, more spiritual things. And he knew that they were more fleshly than spiritual because of their jealously, strife, and divisions (boy, what does THAT sound like??).
In Hebrews, he repeated it, only to a different set of people: “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. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But 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 5:12-14).
Paul doesn’t mind drawing a line in the sand between those who are unskilled in the Word, as he calls it, and those who can discern both good and evil. Basically, he said, “Listen, you guys should be teaching this stuff yourself by now! But here you are, still needing a teacher to teach you the very first principles of faith!”
MANY were ASTONISHED at Jesus’ doctrine: Matthew 7:28; 22:33; Mark 1:22; 11:18; Luke 4:32. But Jesus told the multitudes clearly, “Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:16)
There is SO MUCH MORE to learn of Jesus’ doctrine throughout the Scriptures. If you want to know more, you can do a simple word study in the Book of Acts alone to see what the Church should look like. And when you do, it’s important to keep in mind that these disciples and Apostles are teaching exactly what Jesus taught them.
For there is no other doctrine.