Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
In my last article I pointed out the fact that back-biting, and looking out for number one, have become, I should say “are” normal. Mankind, after all, is definitely prone to looking out for number one.
I heard Brother Hal Bekemyer (a fellow contributor here on Supply of Grace) on the Grace Life Podcast a few days ago talking about the extremes within Grace churches.
One extreme is that if one focuses on love, he then becomes wishy-washy regarding doctrine, and vice-versa. Yet, in the Apostle Paul’s “Love Chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13, he straight out points out the fact that without charity you are nothing but sounding brass, and tinkling cymbals. Add to that without charity one is actually “nothing.” Your greatest endeavors – feeding the poor, and personal asceticism, profit nothing.
In his largely doctrinal dissertation (an understatement, indeed) regarding these works, without charity, Paul said:
Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)
You see, the Believer is indeed “dead with Christ.” His works do not gain any brownie points whatsoever with God. Earlier in Colossians 2, verse 10, Paul stated that the Believer IS “complete in Christ!’ One is to reckon himself “dead to sin,” and “alive to Christ”(Romans 6:11). He is not under any requirement to obey the religious ordinances of men. Those ordinances, so often veiled in apparent wisdom and false humility, are those things which create a “religious spirit,” void of charity toward others.
Having correct doctrine, without love is every bit as harmful as having love without correct doctrine. Personally, I would rather see, in the church, Bible based doctrine than a church based on love alone – without doctrine. At least the one in the Scriptures, hopefully will glean from, and grow in, those very same Scriptures. …for correction…
The Christian has an apparent conundrum.
Do we focus on doctrine? Or, do we focus on love? The answer is YES!
Doctrine is the basis for love.
Let’s do some inductive reasoning together. Who is the author of Bible doctrine? If you said Augustine, Calvin, or any other so called theological figurehead, you have fouled out already, and are sitting on the bench! Sadly, many do place all of their doctrinal eggs into one theological basket, rather than the Word OF God itself? The author of doctrine is the Lord Himself.
The written Word of God was given by the inspiration of God Himself. It is “God breathed:” (Notice that the believer is thoroughly, or completely, furnished UNTO good works, rather than by those good works.)
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 perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Paul’s pastoral letters to Timothy, and Titus emphasize doctrine – doctrine which comes through the Scriptures:
If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. These things command and teach. (1 Timothy 4:6-11)
Love is the basis for doctrine.
It’s pretty simple:
God is not only the basis of love.
He is love!
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. (1 John 4:7-11)
Love is a wonderful fruit, not the root, which comes from doctrine. Genuine love, one for another, is rooted in the love of God, and should shine forth through the very grace of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
As Bible believing Christians we need to always remember God’s love toward us in reconciling us to Himself through the death of His Son! How often do we forget this! In this dispensation, God has commended Himself toward us. He has literally introduced Himself through His grace, and mercy, displayed through His Son. Oh, the matchless grace of Jesus! In other dispensations He has His dealings through His Holy Nation, Israel. Let us remember this “Age of Grace” that we are in.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Let me end on this short note. Israel will be saved, based on the love of God. He will cause His tiny nation to be the greatest nation on the earth – when Jesus Christ returns to establish His Kingdom (Deuteronomy 28:13)
The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer. (Isaiah 54:6-8)
Let us remember the Gospel of our salvation. Believing, and understanding this essential doctrine, brought about by the love of God, through the Word of God, will cause our doctrine to grow stronger, and will also cause our love to grow stronger. The two are not mutually exclusive!
Bob Picard, Pastor, God’s Grace Bible Church, Millbury, Massachusetts