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Christian Beliefs, Teachings, Doctrines, Christian Living, Christian Ethics

Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them ...
is like a [wise] man which built a house, and digged deep, and laid the foundations on a rock:
and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it:
for it was founded upon a rock
(Luke 6:47-48)

Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
For other foundation can no man lay that is laid, which is Jesus Christ
(1 Corinthians 3:10b-11)

If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3)

Love and Doctrine: Either or Both?
True Love

Edited extracts from the book by Dusty Peterson & Elizabeth McDonald,
Alpha - the Unofficial Guide: Church, (2003), Part Four, Chapter 22

 

 

What Does Biblical Love Really Mean?

Is this a strange question to ask?  What we mean is: does our modern, western idea of love line up with God's view of love as shown by His actions in the Bible?  If not, then we need to get back in line with our Heavenly Father.


God's Love For Us

We all know so well the scriptures that speak of God loving the world so much that He put aside His glory and came to earth to die for us:

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16),

"But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8),

"Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us..." (1 Thessalonians 2:16a),

"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:9-10).


Loving God

A Christian's first love is for the Lord Who died for us:

"Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind" (Matthew 22:37),

"We love Him, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

We love God by obeying Him:

"If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him ... He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me" (John 14:23-24),

"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love, even as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:9-10),

"Jesus saith to Simon Peter, ... lovest thou me more than these?  He saith unto Him, yea, Lord ; thou knowest that I love thee.  He saith unto him, Feed my lambs..." (John 21:15-17),

"And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. ... whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him" (1 John 2:3-6),

"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments" (1 John 5:3).

And by fearing Him:

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of [i.e. fundamental to] wisdom" (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10),

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7),

"The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear Him" (Psalm 147:11).


Loving God's Name

We love, and are committed to the glory of, the Lord's Holy name.  The Lord is jealous for His Name (Ezekiel 39:25), and we are justified in His Name (1 Corinthians 6:11), so we love His Name and seek its honour:

"God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward His Name" (Hebrews 6:10).

The Psalmist said:

"I will bless thy Name for ever and ever"  and  "I will glorify thy Name for evermore" (Psalm 145:1-2; Psalm 86:12).


Loving God's Word

God's Word, the Bible, is the Truth.  We love the Truth because it honours His Word even more highly than His Name; and we are saved through the Truth.  If we love God's Word we will want to obey God's Word.  In order to obey God's Word we need to know His Word - its teachings or doctrines:

"I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name" (Psalm 138:2),

"But we are bound to give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: ... Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle" (2 Thessalonians 2:13-15),

"Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned ... from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be prefect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).


Loving Sound Doctrine

If the Lord's Name is being profaned, if His Honour is being threatened by any false teaching, then we will desire to address it.  It is unloving to our first love, the Lord Jesus, not to stand up for His Truth and expose the spirit behind false doctrines and those who promote them.

But if we don't know, or if we disregard, doctrine as being unimportant or unnecessary, then we can't heed the many Biblical warnings to beware false teachers/prophets and false doctrine, because we will have no grounds on which to know they are false.

Neither will we be able to obey the Scriptural injunctions to test the spirits, because with what will we test them, if not with (sound) doctrine?  Yes, we can ask the Holy Spirit to show us if something is true or false, but He wrote the Scriptures and will expect us to read and apply what He has already written therein (i.e. He expects us to know the true in order to detect the counterfeit), for the confirming of any lack of peace we may have in our spirit that something is wrong with what a teacher is teaching or a prophet is prophesying.


Loving the Brethren

We love God's People, His Bride.  The Lord Jesus Christ said:

"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:39b),

"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35),

"For this is the message that ye have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another" (1 John 3:11),

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another ... And this commandment have we from him, That he whom loveth God loveth his brother also" (1 John 4:11,21).

If anyone is leading the Lord's Bride astray, even from within, it is hard not to imagine the Bridegroom's anger and indignation.  And He expects us to be equally angry.

For example:

  • Elijah didn't hesitate to expose the false prophets who were leading astray the Old Testament Israelites in his day (1 Kings 18:20-40),
  • Was John the Baptist 'out of order' to call the apostate leaders of the New Testament Jews a "generation of vipers" (Matthew 3;1-10)?
  • Was Christ Himself unloving to accuse these same leaders of being "hypocrites", "vipers", "whited sepulchres", and "fools" (Matthew 23:1-6)?

Paul - on several occasions - found it necessary to address false doctrine:

  • He issued an extremely stinging rebuke of Elymas the sorcerer and false prophet (Acts 13:6-12),
  • He had some very harsh words for the Cretians and other "vain talkers" (Titus 1:9-16),
  • He did not mince his words concerning the "profane and vain babblings" of Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Timothy 2:14-18),
  • Neither did he shy away from describing Jannes and Jambres as "men of corrupt minds" and "reprobate" (2 Timothy 3:1-9).

And Jude, also, said it was "needful" for him to write to the brethren to exhort them to "earnestly contend for the faith" against "ungodly men" who would pervert the truth and lead them astray (Jude 1:3-4).

All of these men - and of course Christ Himself - loved the brethren.

Thus, if we see and of God's People being led away from the truth into false doctrine, is it really incompatible with love to attempt to warn them of what the Word says about false apostles and false teachers and false prophets?

And if a brother is deceived into believing false teaching or false prophecies and we see them heading down that dead-end, does love demand that we leave him in his error?  Would we not want him to warn us if we were misled into believing unbiblical doctrine?

Does loving our brother mean never rebuking or confronting his false thinking/doctrine?  The Lord rebuked Peter (Matthew 16:23), as also did Paul (Galatians 2:11-14).

Does loving our brother mean never distancing one's self from him if he won't heed warnings to obey the Word - for his own sake?  Paul taught the church at Thessalonica to do this very thing (2 Thessalonians 3:6-16).

But how can we address error if we have no care for doctrine?

"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21),

"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Timothy 4:2),

"Holding fast the faithful word as [ye] have been taught, that [ye] may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers" (Titus 1:9).

We must understand that the Christian life is not just a pleasant pastime, or a game; it is a deadly spiritual war against an extremely powerful and cunning foe.  Yes, Christ defeated the enemy on the cross, but Satan has not yet been sent to his place (Matthew 25:41b; Revelation 20:10).  For the time being, God allows him a certain freedom, and it is vital that we not forget this.  We in the West often treat the Church like a social club - but its true purpose is infinitely more serious.  Teaching, and adhering to, sound doctrine is a fundamental component of the believer's walk.  We cannot deal negligently with such a responsibility.

So in this way are we to love the brethren - even being prepared to lay down our lives for them.


God Changeth Not

In addition to the well-known scriptures given at the start of this article, and to gain a truly biblical view of love - as well as a biblical idea of God's priorities - we do need to consider the following:

  • God is love, yet there were several occasions during the journey to the Promised Land when people who disobeyed God's commandments and followed other ways were destroyed by the Lord (e.g. in Number 11:31-34; 16:19-35; 21:5-7),
  • God is love, yet when two men tried to worship Him in a way which brought attention to themselves rather than to God, He immediately sent down fire which killed them both (Leviticus 10:1-3),
  • God is love, yet when He was not approached in a properly fearful way by Uzza, He instantly killed him (1 Chronicles 13:7-12; 2 Samuel 6:1-11).

Some folk may say that these examples are all in the Old Testament; and it is true that we are currently enjoying the "year of favour", but the point about the Lord's character still stands and is hopefully made here.  God does not change:

"For I am the LORD, I change not" (Malachi 3:6a),

"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).

God was love in the Old Testament days too.

And in the New Testament?  Remember, that when Ananias and Sapphira tried to lie - just once - to the Holy Spirit, God destroyed them both very swiftly.  Note that the effect of God's swift judgement upon them was that "multitudes" of believers were "added to the Lord" (Acts 5:1-11).  (See also Acts 12:21-24 - where Herod was killed by God for not giving God the glory when he received praise.)

The Bible also prophesies that the Lord will not deal lightly with either unbelievers or apostasy when He returns:

"I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.  For the day of vengeance is in mine heart ... And I will tread down the people of mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth" (Isaiah 63:3-6),

"And I saw heaven opened, and beheld a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war.  His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself.  And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.  And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horsed, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.  And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God..." (Revelation 19:11ff).

Do we still have a treacly view of love?  Love is not a fuzzy or sentimental feeling.  It does not tolerate compromise, and it does not equal truth (or unity either) outside of sound biblical doctrine.  We are not biblically loving the brethren by being slack about doctrine or error or false ways for the sake of so-called love.  Love is not compatible with ignoring false beliefs or teachings amongst those in our fellowships.

Rather, true, biblical, godly love fears the Lord God, obeys His commands, seeks the spiritual welfare and maturity of each other, and promotes and protects purity of doctrine - all achieved through adhering to the Word of God:

"And now I beseech thee ... that we love one another.  And this is love, that we walk after His commandments.  This is the commandment, that, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it" (2 John 1:5-6)

Hence, Paul's encouragement that each believer, by:

"...speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:15).

 

Elizabeth McDonald
November 2015

 

 

Thus saith the LORD,
Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way,
and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls
(Jeremiah 6:16)

 

 

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Elizabeth McDonald     https://www.bayith.org     bayith@blueyonder.co.uk