The Truth About Doctrine

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March 22, 2022

1 Peter 3:18-22 NIV

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

CONSIDER THIS

Our text for the past several days ends with the Doctrine of the Ascension, but it begins with the Doctrine of the Atonement. We would be remiss not to regard it. 

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

Let’s begin with a word about the nature of doctrine. Doctrine gets a bad wrap. It gets portrayed as flat, fixed, and even fossilized truth. Nothing could be further from the truth. Doctrine is revelatory truth which has been crystallized, like a many faceted diamond, into the brilliance of a refracted clarity. Doctrine never replaces Scripture, but it collects and collates these sacred texts into dynamic exhibits of revealed truth. Think of doctrine as a theological art gallery. Doctrine presents Scripture as a series of theological works of art. 

This first letter of Peter alone is filled with all sorts of theological insight around the doctrine of atonement. Chapter 1 verse 2 references the sprinkling of Jesus blood. In verse 19 we are told we were not redeemed perishable things but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. Then in chapter 2 verse 24 we get this master stroke:

’He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’ 

These texts give us the primary colors of the biblical doctrine of atonement. I have heard it described as at-one-ment; the bringing together of things that were divided into one again. 

For you were like sheep going astray but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 

Today’s text speaks it as plain as day. 

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

For all the great goodness of doctrine, there are at least two major pitfalls. One the one hand, we substitute doctrine for our experience and on the other, we substitute our experience for our doctrine.

Part of the problem with doctrine is how over the years it has become like the Cliff Notes on the Bible. It’s like trying to reduce a movie to a series of still images. The Bible is like an epic movie series. Doctrines are like select scenes from the movie put into still images. The images only have meaning if you have seen the movie, but if you have seen the movie, they hold enormous significance. 

Our doctrine, though, cannot be confused for for our experience. Doctrine helps us understand and interpret our experience, but too often, it has been a substitute. We ask people to accept a set of doctrines when we need to be helping them to encounter and experience Jesus Christ. Doctrine does not save people. Only Jesus does that. 

Then there is the peril of substituting our experience for our doctrine, or worse, defining our doctrine according to our experience. The deception of sin has shipwrecked many souls on the shoals of changing our doctrine to accommodate our broken human condition. 

There is a supreme irony in the interplay of these two scenarios. Because we have been willing to allow an approach to doctrine that settles for mere acceptance instead of pressing on toward personal experience, we have perpetrated an approach to personal experience (whatever it may be) that elevates it to its own doctrine. In other words, the Truth has been exchanged for “my truth” and “your truth.” 

I’ll leave it in that perilous ponderous place today. 

THE PRAYER

Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Holy Spirit, inspire in me a love for the glorious doctrine of our God. More than that, lead me into the experience of the truth. And save me from the futility of trying to define the truth according to my experience. Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen.  

THE QUESTION

So what is your experience of atonement? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

P.S.  365/365 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve been taught and I believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one can come to the Father except through Him. I also know and believe that Satan, the enemy of our souls is never going to give up his attempt to deceive me into straying off that path as long as I have breath. I along with all other believers have been called to share that message with as many who are willing to accept it.

  2. Jesus made reparations
    To atone
    For the wrong
    I’ve done
    And to attune
    My heart to God.
    Now, filled with awe,
    I walk along with Him
    Enjoying His presence
    As He directs, empowers,
    And comforts me
    Throughout the day.

  3. The Heidelberg Catechism and a very modern book expanding on it that engaged my intellect to the point that I knew without a doubt that I would have to be stupid indeed not to accept what God is offering through the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ! I have been living in the fall out of that realization ever since; It was a victory that came with a price!

    On the other side of it, the Bible started making a whole lot more “sense” because I knew without a doubt that I had been unfolded into God’s ongoing story of salvation and redemption.

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