Creeds and Confessions part 4, Doctrine

Last week I began to show the evidence for why we have doctrine, confessions, and creeds. From here on out in this series I will be leading us into the Word of God itself to see how the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament teach us that we need to understand and believe doctrine. We need to formulate creeds. We need to confess the great doctrines of the faith. We need to create and instruct children and new believers by catechism. First things first; what does the Bible say about doctrine?  I will begin with doctrine this week, and then move on to the Biblical testimony about confessions and creeds next week.

The New Testament authors used the term teaching or indoctrinating to describe their preaching. The Greek word, didasko, means in most glossaries, “To teach.” However it always comes up in the context of preaching in the congregation. For example, most notably, in the Sermon on the Mount. Our Lord Jesus “indoctrinated/taught” the disciples (Mat 5:1-2). The act or manner of preaching was described by two words, kerusso: proclamation, or by didasko: indoctrinating (Matt 5:1-2, Acts 11:26, 2Thess 2:15, Acts 2:42, 4:2, 5:28). Also, the substance or subject matter of the Apostle’s and Jesus’ preaching was didasko: doctrinines or teachings (1Tim 4:13). The preachers themselves were often called “indoctrinators/teachers.” (Eph 4:11, Matt 12:38, 1Tim 2:7, 2Tim 1:11)

What does “indoctrinating/teaching” mean? It means they were indoctrinating the congregation. I know indoctrinating has some bad connotations, but it is appropriate here. It is sort of like the English word teaching. A teaching is a biblical doctrinal truth believed by the Church.

The act of teaching, in Biblical context, is the act of bringing to bear those truths upon the hearer. Thus sermons need to be practical. This practicality is called exhortation. It calls for a change in the hearer based on the sum and substance of the teaching-indoctrinating. So there are three parts of Christian preaching: indoctrinating (the act), doctrine (the subject matter), and exhortation (application to the particular people and place).

 These three come out most clearly when the Apostle Paul said to Timothy in, 1Timothy 4:13, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching [or: indoctrinating].” This is what always happened in the synagogue, they would read the scripture, and then bring out the main doctrinal theme of that passage, and then exhort the congregation based on that theme. Notice that is what Paul himself did in Acts (Acts 13:15). In Acts 14:21 Luke wrote that Paul and Barnabas were “proclaiming the Gospel,” which is the evangelistic doctrine. This is the main point.

The Apostle Paul not only gives us a model for how preaching should be done in the church service (i.e. Biblical, doctrinal, practical), but also teaches us the assumption of the New Testament is that the Bible has doctrinal themes in every paragraph which need to be brought out and brought to bear upon the Christian. Why is doctrine important I preaching? Doctrine is an integral point of preaching because if doctrine were missing, then sermons would have no subject matter, or if they did have a subject, it would be purely from the mind of the preacher, and not the Word of God.

The New Testament preachers assumed a system of doctrine in Scripture which they could proclaim in order to indoctrinate and exhort the believers. So, our quest for creedal formulation is a quest to understand that pattern of sound doctrine contained in scripture.  –Ben Rochester

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