Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Doctrine + Duty

It sometimes helps to have a simple guideline whenever we open our Bibles. The Bible dwells on two prominent subjects in all 66 of its books. The subjects are (1) how we can know God, and (2) how we can walk with God. Every passage of Scripture focuses on one or the other subject. Every time you turn to a passage of Scripture, it is either primarily proclamation or exhortation, kerygma or didache, theology or practice, dogmatics or ethics, doctrine or duty. For example, the special ethics of Romans 12-15 are connected to the previous doctrinal chapters in Romans 1-11. Likewise, in the book of Ephesians, Paul moves from indicative to imperative in 4:1 with the solemn transition, "Therefore, I urge you ... to conduct yourselves as those who are worthy of the calling to which you were called." The movement from doctrine to duty is an essential part of the gospel. Before God demands anything from us, he grants us his grace and salvation. Obedience and discipleship are a consequence of justification rather than its precondition. 

This truth is a decisive mark of Paul's ethical teaching and distinguishes it from mere moral instruction based on merely human values. The "works" we can do as believers are "fruits" to be borne. Good works are a privilege Christians enjoy, not a burden they must bear.

The entire Bible is like this. Either it is talking about the ways of God or our walk with God. It concerns what we believe about him and how we can grow in our relationship with him. The Bible is both a theologian's textbook and a backpacker's travel guide. It's for thinkers and doers. It's a doctrinal book that drips with practicality. Someone has put it this way: "If you say you believe that you should, then why do you behave like you shouldn't?" That's a great question!

Have wonderful evening.