The Mind of Christ in His Word: Part 2 (7)
But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus… Ephesians 4.20, 21
The standard of sound doctrine
There is one measure, one standard of sound doctrine which we must always keep in mind as we take up the study of this subject: sound doctrine brings us to Jesus and shapes us into His image.
A strong soul – heart, mind, and conscience – is devoted above all to knowing Jesus and increasing in Him. Whatever we study of doctrine, in whatever format or context, our studies will not be complete until they bring us before Jesus, to see, know, love, and serve Him with all our soul and strength.
Jesus, after all, is the very truth of God (Jn. 14.6). He embodies all the promises of God’s Word (2 Cor. 1.20), and all the teaching of Scripture is ultimately about Him (Jn. 5.39). Jesus is the wisdom of God (Col. 2.3); He is the hope of glory for which we have been redeemed (Rom. 5.1, 2; Col. 1.27); the knowledge of Jesus is eternal life (Jn. 17.3); and Jesus shows us the path of true discipleship along which we hope sound doctrine will lead us (1 Jn. 2.1-6).
Thus, any doctrine which does not lead us to Jesus, improve our contemplation of Jesus, help us in understanding the work of Jesus, and equip us to love and follow Jesus, is either false doctrine or incomplete doctrine at best. And any study of sound doctrine which does not set out and proceed along a course determined, like those ancient Greeks, to “see Jesus” will lead either to doctrinal let-down and doctrinal revulsion or doctrinal smugness and self-righteousness in due course.
Paul says that the truth of God is in Jesus Christ. We are only learning truth – we are only learning sound doctrine – when we are putting off our old selves and being clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, so that, increasingly, His image, the reality of His resurrected life, shines through us to the world in all our words and deeds (Eph. 4.17-24; 2 Cor. 3.12-18; 1 Cor. 10.31).
As reading and studying the Bible intends to shape us into the image of Jesus Christ, so also with the study of sound doctrine. Doctrine should edify and delight us because, when it is sound, it brings us into the presence of Jesus Christ, Who is making all things new in our lives.
Studying sound doctrine then, far from being a merely intellectual exercise, or something dry and irrelevant to life’s daily grind, or even something to puff up our spiritual arrogance, is a highly devotional activity. Through the study of sound doctrine, we seek to gain a clearer vision of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to behold and engage the glory revealed in His wonderful face (2 Cor. 4.6; cf. Rev.1). We want sound doctrine to bind us more closely to Jesus and to help in us in setting Him always before us (Ps. 16.8).
Sound doctrine exalts Christ as the beloved Son of the Father, the Upholder of the cosmos, the Redeemer of the lost, the Shepherd and Sanctifier of His flock, the Keeper of the Lord’s chosen, the Friend Who sticks closer than a brother, and the King of kings and Lord of lords. The true measure, and the highest standard, for all our doctrinal studies must be the extent to which such studies show us Jesus and engage us with Him, so that we know, love, and serve Him more fully, and are becoming consistently more like Him.
So, if you’re experiencing a bit of doctrinal let-down, or even doctrinal revulsion, these days, don’t despair. Rather, take heart! Don’t let someone lure you away from the idea of doctrine per se, as if somehow doctrine were unnecessary or optional. Doctrine is unavoidable, as we have seen; but only sound doctrine will lead us to a closer walk with Jesus Christ.
Set your mind on Christ and the things that are above (Col. 3.1-3), then pursue sound doctrine as a powerful means of sharpening your focus on the Lord of glory, strengthening your ties with Him, adding to your reasons to thank and praise Him, and transforming you, from glory to glory, to be more like Him.
So if you’re resolved to take up the study of sound doctrine and to shake off the lingering symptoms of doctrinal revulsion, make sure that the course of study you plot has Jesus in the thick and focus of it all. Don’t just read and study to gain knowledge; read and study to gain more of Jesus Christ.
Doctrine matters. And sound doctrine, that helps us grow in Jesus Christ, matters supremely.
Let the love of Christ constrain you to seek more of His Presence, promise, power, favor, and fruit through the disciplined and careful study of sound doctrine; and tell any who would make light of your determination to shake off their doctrinal revulsion and join you.
Doctrine can renew your mind – and your soul and all your life – in our Lord Jesus Christ, as you learn Him through your studies, and live for Him by whatever you are learning.
1. What do we mean by saying that doctrine, when it is sound, brings us to Jesus?
2. From what you have learned about sound doctrine, do you think this is something that believers should let go? Why or why not?
3. How can believers encourage one another in seeking Jesus through all their studies in Scripture and sound doctrine? How might we benefit from so doing?
Next steps – Preparation: Find someone to be a study partner with you as you take up the study of sound doctrine. Learn together, and encourage one another to learn Jesus through all your studies.
T. M. Moore
This might be a good time to review our ReVision series on “Winds of Doctrine.” You can download all the studies in that series by clicking here.
All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here. Check out our newest feature, Readings from the Celtic Revival (click here).
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.