The Development Of Doctrines In The Bible
Doctrine development – To understand the development of doctrine, it is necessary to understand two major concepts: progressive revelation, and how the church developed its theology.
Progressive Revelation: It means that God worked over time, with different persons and through different means, to reveal Himself and His truth in the bible. A clear indication of this in the scripture is found in Hebrew 1:1-3 as well as 1 Peter 1:10-12. Because of this we often weigh the later portions of the scripture more heavily regarding doctrine, for they provide the fuller explanation of many teachings. However, later biblical writers sometimes presuppose certain well-developed knowledge on the part of their readers and so do not state the assumed knowledge. In such cases, earlier portions of the scripture may give us a fuller understanding of certain aspect of doctrine.
Theological development in the church has been necessary because of the occasional and systematical nature of the New Testament writings. The bible contains enough truth for the establishment of clear, coherent doctrine, but it rarely presents that truth in a systematic teaching. Therefore, the people in the church have necessarily and appropriately contributed thought and organization as the truths of the bible have been expressed and extended within their own historical and intellectual setting.
The Practical Importance Of Doctrine
Biblical teaching or doctrine, is not intended by God to stop with the enlightenment of the intellect. Enlightenment is a necessary first step, but truth is intended to impact the thinking, habits, and behavior of its recipients.
Examples of this are abundant in scripture (see for example Romans 12:1, 2 Peter 3:11). It is the intended pattern of the scripture that understanding of truth should motivate application of truth. Always learning but never acknowledging the truth (2 Timothy 3:7) is a description of the process of Christian thought short-circuiting at the mind and not getting to practical outworking. The writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 5:11-14 that Christian maturity comes through practicing biblical truth, not just by possessing the knowledge. James writes that we are to be “doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).
It is a theological and practical error, however, to reverse the order and take an application of truth and build a doctrine from it. As an example, the application of self-denial for one person should not become a prescription of lifestyle for another. Romans 14 illustrates clarity in conviction and charity in extension of that conviction to others. Dogmatic practices without foundational truth become a system of religion without power.
Culled from New King James Bible (Nelson Study Bible)
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