The Doctrine of Christ

by Bryant Evans on August 21, 2011

In 2 John 9, the King James translation says,

“Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.”

Other mainline translations replace doctrine with teaching which is acceptable. But notice the importance of having the correct doctrine in place. Proper doctrine brings a relationship with both Jesus and his Father. This is, no doubt, a part of walking in the light which John mentioned earlier in 1st John 1:7

“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

It is inconceivable that a Christian could claim fellowship with Jesus and at the same time deny that he was actually the Son of God but that was precisely the problem John was addressing. There were some in John’s day who denied that the Son of God had actually come in the flesh. They were part of a group known as Gnostics who held that fleshly things were evil while spiritual things were pure. Therefore, they would not accept Jesus because he was born of flesh (Luke 2:7).

This “Gnostic heresy” was also attacked powerfully by Paul in his writings. Why? Because it struck at the heart of the gospel message, i.e. God became flesh and dwelt among men (John 1:14). While the Gnostics are generally unheard of today there are some pseudo-Christian groups that deny the Sonship of Jesus so we should always be prepared to defend his deity.

But another question worthy of our consideration is the actual meaning of the term “doctrine of Christ.” Should this be limited solely to the teaching about Christ himself?  Was John only concerned about Jesus’ deity?  Could this phrase have a broader meaning too? It seems so.

A.T. Robertson, a noted American Greek language Scholar and a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville in the late 19th century offered this analysis in his Word Pictures in the New Testament,” a respected, standard scholarly resource:”

“Not the teaching about Christ, but that of Christ which is the standard of Christian teaching as the walk of Christ is the standard for the Christian’s walk…This struggle goes on always among those who approach the study of Christ. Is he a “landmark” merely or is he our goal and pattern? Progress we all desire, but progress toward Christ, not away from him.”

It is the teaching that flows from Christ; that comes from him.  Jesus promised that his teachings would flow through his apostles (Matthew 16:19; John 16:13). In the days following Pentecost, the Bible says the new Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42, “doctrine” in NKJV). It was this doctrine, coming from Christ through the Holy Spirit, that led the church through its earliest days. It is this same doctrine that will lead the church today. It is this same doctrine upon which all men can and must stand.  Its purity has not been polluted by assemblies, synods, presbyteries, councils and conventions.  We can know, and practice, the same doctrine the first Christians were devoted to.

Ask yourself, does my denomination practice the apostles’ doctrine? Have we drifted beyond Christ? Does our worship mirror the worship of the original Christians? If not, what should you do?


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