Our grandson Nathan completed the Explores Course (8 core modules plus 3 optional ones on Church History) through George Whitefield College. He made a short video explaining what this meant to him in preparation for secular university. You are welcome to view it on Youtube. For an eighteen year old, he hits the nail on its head. Unless you have more than a Sunday School and Church Biblical education, you will sink as a Christian at a secular university. Ray Potgieter, a professor at the University of the North West, said that the statistic of Christians going to university in the USA show that most lose their faith in the first year! This is alarming and must be true throughout the world.
John Bradford (1510–1555) was the martyr who dared to die for doctrine. He stressed sound scriptural doctrine, which could refute the claims of papal supremacy and the mass–’the horriblest and most detestable device that ever the devil brought out by man’. ‘I trust you … will see that our doctrine is true, and therefore dare and desire to abide the light and all men’s looking on.’ ‘Us … they may burn … but our cause, religion and doctrine, which we confess, they shall never be able to vanquish, and put away’. Now listen to this–he said: ‘Let a man go to the grammar school of faith and repentance, before he goes to the university of election and predestination.’ George Whitefield says: ‘A bare head-knowledge of sounds words availeth nothing.’
John Bradford might have fought the Church of Rome, but he got it right that one needs to first enjoy God’s grace in salvation before drinking in doctrine. Whitefield got it right saying having head knowledge (an academic understanding of doctrine) without being saved is useless. It won’t help you get into heaven! So, the process of learning for the believer is to first have the assurance of salvation by grace. Once salvation is cemented, genuine and real, then the believer is to learn doctrine! You have most likely heard people say: ‘Doctrine divides.’ Normally, this is said by those who want to ignore or even reject Biblical doctrines. All they want is to have all ‘believers’ to be happy in union with them, following any persuasion that pushes Biblical Christian doctrine out the door. The sad matter here is that this is the introduction into following cultic beliefs. This is where people say things that cannot be found in the Bible, claiming, ‘God understands’. However, the truth is that doctrine does divide. It divides truth from error.
Now here’s the thing … once you are saved by grace through faith, you need to grow in Bible Doctrines. The word ‘doctrine’ comes from a Latin word ‘doctrina’, which means teaching or instruction. What needs to be taught or learnt? Doctrine is a systematic study of all the information in the Bible about a specific topic. It could be all the Bible has to say about God as triune, the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mankind, Salvation, the Church, the End Times, spiritual gifts, the Bible itself … there are something like 30 main doctrines. Then, there is Biblical theology, which is a study of what the whole Bible says about the Lord Jesus as the main theme running from start to finish (Genesis to Revelation). These are what need to be taught. Now you can see why doctrine divides!
1Ti 4:15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Your ‘life’ and ‘doctrine’ are like twins because what you believe (doctrine) will affect your behaviour (life). Then the purpose of doctrine that influences life has an eternal effect on your soul and those you share the gospel with. Those who hear the gospel from you check out your lifestyle (behaviour) and evaluate your message by your conduct. Allow me to say that, in most cases, healthy Biblical doctrines result in healthy Biblical morals, ethics and behaviour.
Expanding on these twins, ‘doctrine and lifestyle’ … once you are saved and start growing in Biblical doctrines, God’s truth shapes you in the mind, shaping your will, your feelings, your desires, your attitudes and your choices. In turn, as these influence your general behaviour, you find yourself growing in holiness and blamelessness. You start putting off not only the obvious sin, but even those things that might be questionable or borderline sins. You find a greater desire to pray and read the Bible. You tend to watch your thought pattern, your language and your conduct, not just in front of others but more so before God. There is a yearning to conform more and more to the likeness of the Lord Jesus. Healthy doctrine spurs on a desire and passion to walk in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus. The other matter to expand on is how your life, that has been influenced by Biblical Doctrine, reveals the life of Jesus in you to those you associate with. You might not be perfect (like me, far from it!), but Jesus shines in you, and those around you see you are different. That is a testimony of a changed life demonstrating what the Lord Jesus does when He comes and dwells in your heart. But this all starts once you are saved and you grow in the knowledge of God through being diligent in Biblical doctrines.
Dear God, examine my heart. Is it truly Yours? If not, graciously save my soul … and then Lord, help me to study Your Word, learning Biblical doctrines that can shape my life before You and man, for Christ’s sake. Amen.