February 20, 2009

The Purpose of Doctrine: Knowing God

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:3

One of the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith is that those who believe in Jesus Christ will not come into condemnation but have eternal life. The essence of eternal life is this: to know God and to commune with him. The gospel is the means by which we are reconciled to God, and the end is that we can fellowship with him for eternity. At the heart of our Christian life should be a desire to come to an ever deeper knowledge of God as he reveals himself to us (since God is infinite, it can be said that we will never stop increasing in our knowledge of him).

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 2 Peter 1:2-3

Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD." Jeremiah 9:23-24

This is the point of theology ("study of God") and doctrine in their pure form. There are two dangers when approaching theology. On one side, you have those whose study of the Bible and theology is purely an intellectual pursuit. They know much in the way of doctrine, but little in the way of communion with God. On the other side, you have those who would prefer that the words theology and doctrine were never used, but that the focus stay solely on building a relationship with Jesus. The danger here is that without doctrine and theology, it becomes difficult to answer the question, "Which Jesus?"

We engage in study of God as he has revealed himself in the Bible, so that we may know who he is and worship him. We formulate (or adopt) doctrinal statements to flesh out and clarify what the Bible reveals about who he is. All of this is for the purpose of fellowship with him and with one another in truth. 

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—  that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:1-3

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