By Lillie McCutcheon
Jesus was a strong “doctrinal preacher.” From his inaugural text, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:17), to the consummation of his ministry in Pilate’s judgment hall when he said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), our Lord proclaimed doctrine. The kingdom was a choice theme, and numerous parables depict its spiritual nature in contrast to a materialistic or political dominion. Repeatedly, the Gospels record, “The people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt 7:28–29*).
Our Lord’s criterion for building his church was not sensationalism., emotionalism, or high-pressure technique. He proclaimed powerful doctrinal concepts of the divine Trinity. Sin and humanity’s depraved nature were vividly exposed. He heralded the power of the blood for atonement and sanctifying grace. His miracles affirmed the power of divine healing. The foundation of the church was firmly established on the doctrinal base of our Lord’s divinity. Jesus expounded the immortality of the soul and resurrection of the body. The Lord’s return, righteous judgment, and future rewards of heaven or hell constituted integral topics of his doctrine.
The master builder did not entice followers with promises of an easy religion, but rather challenged them with a cross. He plainly said, “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine” (John 7:16–17).
The disciples followed the Lord’s example and became doctrinal preachers. It was said of them, “Ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine” (Acts 5:28). Of the first-century church it is written, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:42).
Paul, the pioneer apostle who established the church all over the known world of his day, placed major emphasis on doctrine. He advised the Christians in Rome, writing, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom 16:17).
Timothy was instructed with the words, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Tim 4:16).
The survival of the church throughout the centuries must be attributed to building upon sound doctrine. Historical records give evidence that the church prevailed in spite of dungeon, fire, sword, persecution, and death because endurance is the fruit of strong indoctrination.
Paul was careful to warn that doctrine must be balanced with love. He advised the Ephesian church, saying, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Eph 4:14–15).
As faith must be balanced with works, so doctrine must be counterpoised with love. What the bone structure is to the physical body, doctrine is to the church. However, doctrine alone can be a skeleton without the sinews of the muscles of love and the breath of the Spirit.
Congregations without doctrinal instruction are like ships sailing without a compass. Confusion, insecurity, and division are the plagues that impede the spiritual growth and progress of the people without the teaching of sound doctrine. The church of the twentieth century would do well to remember, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine” (2 Tim 3:16).
The second century of the reformation movement will be written only as we revive, proclaim, and practice the doctrine of the New Testament.
The late Lillie McCutcheon was a beloved, longtime pastor and evangelist in the Church of God. Article originally published in the October 5, 1980, issue of Vital Christianity. Republished by permission. *All excerpts of Scripture taken from the King James Version.
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