True Love is Built on Doctrine!

“We have a relationship with Jesus. We are not interested in doctrine.” This talk is heard so frequently it has taken on an air of truth. But are such words true? Can we have a relationship with Jesus or with anyone apart from words, apart from doctrine? The word “doctrine” is a Greek loan word brought into English. Simply translated “doctrine” means, “teaching.” What is taught is no more than the data and facts that arise from Holy Scripture which is where Jesus speaks to us.

People claiming to have a relationship with Jesus apart from teaching, apart from doctrine have fallen for the postmodern belief that truth is a human construct employed in the pursuit of power and hence, truth is relative. Such thinking is not new at all. It is pursued by all false teachers who promote their wares. Adam and Eve were mesmerized under the spell of thinking they could have a relationship with God all-the-while not keeping his doctrine, his Words, i.e., doctrine:

 “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen 2:16-17).

Sadly, our first parents were the first to fall under the spell thinking one can have a relationship with God while not holding to doctrine—to what God has said. When we do not hold to doctrine the resultant relationship is sadly one of death. Human “relationships” in marriage quickly fall apart when one of the spouses does not hold, treasure, observe, or follow the words/doctrine of the other. Every marriage counselor and pastor who has worked with troubled marital relationships will attest to this sad truth. How much more does the heavenly relationship die when we, Christ’s bride, seek to have a relationship with Jesus irrespective of what he has said! Whenever one claims to have a relationship with Jesus apart from his doctrine it is a red flag that the relationship is on or heading towards rocky shoals.

As flowers bloom in the springtime every Christmas season (and Easter) we see secularists tearing down and slandering the Faith under the pretense of reporting the latest scholarly findings. Lately promulgated in the media is the news that Jesus had a wife. Never mind the fact that such spurious documents were not written by eye-witnesses of Christ’s life. These documents were written centuries after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and by followers of Gnosticism which denies the Trinity and the two natures of Christ.

Such beliefs and many others like them do not develop overnight in a vacuum. They grow and mature in an environment that says doctrine does not matter and what does matter is having a “relationship” with Jesus. The written Word is seen by many as nothing but a shackle inhibiting the leading of the spirit.

True love is a relationship built on doctrine—never apart from this lovely gift. When a man and woman meet the “chemistry” is invigorated when in their conversation they find they hold certain facts or data—can you say doctrine?—in common. Aware they hold certain things/data in common they are drawn closer to each other. Consumers of on-line dating sites freely admit they are drawn to those with whom they share common data and facts for upon this doctrine a relationship blossoms. Where the doctrine (data and facts) becomes ill-advised the relationship takes a turn toward separation.

This is why Jesus has given the Church and specifically his under shepherds—pastors—the responsibility of speaking and teaching the life of Christ to people. In sermons, Bible Study, Confirmation Class—when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise… you shall teach them to your neighbor (Dt 11:19). The Holy Spirit says that doctrine saves, that is, brings people to a relationship with Jesus with these words, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim 4:16). In John 8 we see that one has a relationship with Jesus though and only through doctrine: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,” (Jn 8:31). It is when we abide in Jesus’ doctrine—his Word—that we have a relationship with him, not apart from his doctrine.

Jesus also warns us against those who would seek to have a relationship with him that is not founded on doctrine. In other words, you can’t have a relationship with Jesus while falsifying or ignoring doctrine—that is, what Jesus said. Hear these words from our Lord,

 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” (Mt 7:15-16).

The fruit by which we recognize false and conversely true prophets is not their lifestyle or good works. Like me I am sure you have met many non-Christians who truly are nice people who excel at the good works of kindness, gentleness, patience and other such virtues. Should we think Jesus meant us to understand that false and true prophets are detected by their behavior—their good works—we have inadvertently veered into works’ righteousness which was the theology of the Medieval Church and is what Roman Catholicism teaches to this day. Then Jesus is no different from Buddha, Mohammed, Joseph Smith etc., who, standing on the sidelines coaches us towards salvation.

False prophets as well as true ones are detected and determined by the doctrinal facts and data they proclaim and teach. These doctrinal facts and data are communicated in Law – Gospel preaching as the Holy Spirit always is carried along in and through the sound waves of pure teaching.

When the pure preaching of the Word comes forth the ever present Holy Spirit elicits a trusting relationship with him who speaks these words; that is, Christ (Lk 10:17).

  • When the right administration of the Sacrament of Baptism is conducted with the doctrine of water and the Triune name the recipient is brought into a loving and eternal relationship with Jesus who, incidentally, is the one baptizing us!
  • A most loving and forgiving relationship is fostered when the data of the Words of Institution along with the facts of bread and wine are employed. With such facts a relationship of forgiveness, mercy, love, and trust are strengthened with Jesus who comes to us in, with, and under the bread and wine.

The whole tenor and theme of Scripture is that of the indissoluble unity between having a relationship with the living and Triune God in and through doctrine, i.e. keeping his Word. Two verses will be elicited.

  • “Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father who sent me.” (Jn 14:23-24).
  • “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away” (Jn 16:1).

So, away with misleading talk which says one can have a “relationship” with Jesus apart from doctrine—apart from Jesus’ Words. Instead, rejoice and be glad in the gift of doctrine which Jesus gives. For in the gift of pure doctrine given us by Jesus we have a loving relationship with the risen Lord!

In Christ,

Pastor Weber

 

About Pastor Karl Weber

Karl has been serving St. Paul’s Richville LC and St. John’s, Ottertail, MN since Labor Day, 2004. He was raised in the Roman Church receiving his BA from Fordham University. Before going to seminary he was a computer programmer in Minneapolis. He served as a short term missionary in Guatemala and Kenya, East Africa. He spent time as a member of the ELCA and studied two years at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN pursing his M. Div. before transferring to the LCMS for theological reasons and continuing his studies at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne. He was ordained in 1991 and earned his D. Min. in May 2002 from the same institution. He has contributed study notes to The Lutheran Study Bible. He enjoys deer hunting, going to the gym, swimming, and reading. He is married to Mary and has five wonderful children.

Comments

True Love is Built on Doctrine! — 34 Comments

  1. Indeed, Pr. Weber.

    As we often discuss in our parish, one cannot separate the Word of God written (Holy Scripture,) from the Word of God Incarnate (Jesus Christ.)

    Thanks for the article.

  2. Good article.  I would only add that elsewhere when we (including myself) engage in grinding scorn and tiresome ridicule among ourselves we do little to constructively promote this fine doctrine among the public.

    “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (‭John‬ ‭13‬:‭35)

    “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”  (‭Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭20‬)

  3. I do not think knowkedge of doctrines is as important as the fundamental relationship with Jesus, as simply expressed in John3:16, which tells us of our need for Our Savior….why? We are sinners saved by grace alone, and the Bible itself is clear in the basic tenets of the faith…or doctrines, if you will. The average Christian who loves The Lord and knows the reason Christ came, and humbly stands beneath the cross….looks at the doctrines of the multitude of denominations claiming to hold true doctrines….and scratches his or her head in amazement. Let the theologians debate it, and while I prefer Lutheranism, I rely on the Bible’s simplicity in many verses to guide my understanding. In the end, I believe God is less concerned with man’s doctrinal distinctives than He is with the condition of the human heart. And yes…I expect some people would like to debate this continually, and so it will be until The Lord returns and clears the air concerning the deep issues of doctrine which have separated the churches for millennia.

  4. John Rixe :
    Good article.  I would only add that elsewhere when we (including myself) engage in grinding scorn and tiresome ridicule among ourselves we do little to constructively promote this fine doctrine among the public.
    “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (‭John‬ ‭13‬:‭35)
    “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”  (‭Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭20‬)

    Great observation. So true. So true, as is the comment by John J. Flanagan.

  5. John J Flanagan :
    need for Our Savior(…) We are sinners saved by grace alone

    What you are citing here is actually doctrine – more specifically, it is that piece of doctrine which it is peculiar for the Lutheran tradition to conscientiously strive to hold in the forefront and preserve in its clarity and purity- as opposed to those traditions who, in one way or another, introduce the sinner’s own contribution into the equation as a condition for his or her salvation, whether it be in the form of good works, commitment and determination, an emotional experience of “love for Jesus”, or our own firm choice and decision, and prefer preaching and teaching about the sinner’s own contribution to the preaching and teaching of our need for a Saviour, and that we are saved by grace alone …

    John J Flanagan :
    In the end, I believe God is less concerned with man’s doctrinal distinctives than He is with the condition of the human heart.

    Now, that also would be a doctrinal statement. It reflects other-than-biblical and other-than-lutheran doctrine – but it is a doctrinal statement, nonetheless.

    John Rixe is right, too, of course. But that is a different matter …

  6. @John J Flanagan #4
    Hmmm, I think doctrine, knowledge of Jesus, a “sacrificial heart”, etc., they all go together, at various times, they surface as a dominant player.

    If doctrine falters, we lose the ability to bring a right knowledge of God to one another.

    If doctrine dominates way too much and we soon forget to keep a love of Christ in our heart, we live in the Law portion, then we become a Pharisee

    Hey, as BJS has always said (I do believe) , this is a challenge of a right interpretation of Law and Gospel.

    But if you look at Torah, it took 5 books to lay out to all of us a right knowledge of God, and what God demands of a Holy people. Yes, perhaps tons of law and regulations to some, but this is the love of God, to show us who He is and what He is, Holy and Righteous.

    Yet, sprinkled throughout, we then get the Gospel front and center, He sent a mediator to atone for us “stiff necked” people. But you all know that.

    Without doctrine, yes, we lose the right knowledge of understanding a right relationship with God. My two cents.

  7. Knowledge and doctrine are way more important than the flip ‘relationship with Jesus’ crowd feels. (because for them it is always/only feelings) What waxen nose Jesus do they have a relationship with?

    “But who do you say I am?” (What am I?, What do I tell you?, etc.)

    Matthew 16:15

  8. @Jason #8
    I agree with you on the importance of “knowledge and doctrine” to some degree, but I do not agree about the “flip relationship with Jesus crowd” which you denigrate. Why? Simply put, given the temperamental differences between individuals, emotional and psychological, we must recognize that some are less studious, less able to grasp difficult theological matters, and we must remember that believers span all ages, from children to adults, including those with disabilities of mind, those with little education, those who struggle with concentration, those whose minds are impacted by Alzheimer’s, physical infirmities, mental illness…..the child of God may often be far apart from the deep thinkers of the church. I remember visiting a street chapel storefront church in an urban area many years ago, and as I sat and listened to the pastor speak, a young homeless man known in the area entered the chapel. He parked his bicycle outside, with bags of empty bottle returns attached. He was dirty by any standards, and also appeared to have some mental issues. When we sang the hymns during the service, he sang “Jesus loves me” with the loudest voice in the room, with so much enthusiasm, with a winning smile and all present could not fail to notice….this castaway of life belonged heart and soul to his Savior. Each of us should remember that for such people the Kingdom of God had come in the person of Jesus. This young man could not discuss doctrines….but he lived them, and God placed him next to me on that day to teach me humility.

  9. @John J Flanagan #9
    Not knowing enough about this young man to pronounce any judgement whatsoever as to what he believed, and whether or not he really “lived” the doctrines you are so certain he could not discuss: “Jesus loved me, and He died Heaven’s gate to open wide” – that is doctrine – and further doctrine will either flow from it and correspond to it, or disregard or deny it and go against it.

    Furthermore, I think you will find all sorts of “temperamental differences between individuals, emotional and psychological” also among those who embrace the biblical doctrines usually referred to as “Lutheran”, “including those with disabilities of mind, those with little education, those who struggle with concentration, those whose minds are impacted by Alzheimer’s, physical infirmities, mental illness …”

    And nowhere in the Gospels, nor in the writings of the Apostles have I found any statements to the effect that in case of “temperamental differences between individuals, emotional and psychological” we are free to disregard that which is taught …

  10. @John J Flanagan #9
    Whoa, doctrine is knowledge to teach, knowledge of God; yes, a right knowledge to teach and bring God to all people.

    But I pray no one here ever said doctrine is the saving part of the relationship we have with God.

    Your relationship began at the font, with the Grace of God poured out. It continues at the Holy Table, where Christ so graciously gives, it happens on you knees when you confess and are forgiven in Absolution. It stays when you get old and gray and forget everything.

    Doctrine teaches this, but if you flunk a test on it; you do not lose your relationship with Jesus.

    So sing away “Jesus loves me this I know”, and remember the next part? “For the Bible tells me so.” And doctrine opens it up.

    And so some BJS do not bust me, relationship (as doctrine teaches) begins solely with God, by the Holy Spirit.

  11. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #11

    That’s enthusiasm. God works through means. God works through His Word. The Word is teaching. Your relationship with God is and always will be mediated by His Word, which is teaching. Faith holds on to a promise, and the promise has cognitive content.

    The grace of God is poured out in Baptism because the Word is connected with the water, and that teaching Word is what faith clings to. At the altar, words are spoken. In absolution, words are spoken. To dissociate doctrine from any of the means of grace or from your relationship with God is to dissociate the Word from the means of grace and from your relationship with God, and that is enthusiasm

    Good article, Pastor Weber. One correction: doctrina is Latin, not Greek (which is didaskalia).

  12. “But I pray no one here ever said doctrine is the saving part of the relationship we have with God.”

    Pastor Prentice, how does your statement correspond with:

    1 Timothy 4:16New King James Version (NKJV)

    16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

    If you’re saying that we are not saved because we have the right doctrine(as though having the right doctrine is a work through which we accomplish our own righteousness, then I would agree. It does seem to me that we are saved by doctrine. The basic doctrine that we are condemned sinners saved by Christ dying to pay for our sin is the doctrine by which the Holy Spirit brings people to faith. Baptism IS mere water if a church(i.e. Mormons)deny the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity. The Lord’s Supper is not the True Body and Blood of Christ if the church denies the Scriptural doctrine with regard to the Lord’s Supper. Would you agree? Please understand, my question is not framed so much as a challenge to your statement, but rather a request for a clarification. Thanks, Alan

  13. The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
    Psalm 25:14-15

    Is the question intended to question whether one can have or should seek to have a “relationship” with Christ?

  14. Though not using the word, isn’t John 15 all about relationships?  Example:

    As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (‭John‬ ‭15‬:‭9-10‬)

    Thanks

    Here is the link

    //steadfastlutherans.org/?p=33708

  15. John Rixe :
    Though not using the word, isn’t John 15 all about relationships?

    If memory serves me, that discussion was really about the word – about actually relating as opposed to having “relationship” – in a manner somewhat similar to how this discussion is about relating to the Word and works of God as opposed to having feelings for something, whatever it may be, to which one refers as “Jesus’.

  16. They accuse us of offending against love…We are surely prepared to observe peace and love with all men, provided they leave the doctrine of faith perfect and sound for us. If we cannot obtain this, it is useless for them to demand love from us. A curse on a love that is observed at the expense of the doctrine of faith, to which every thing must yield–love, and apostle, an angel from heaven, etc.!

    Martin Luther
    LW 27:38.

  17. @John J Flanagan #4

    How about this for a breakdown between Jn. 3:16 and the need for the knowledge of doctrine? (Any capitalizations I use are only for emphasis and not to yell).

    Before we even approach the passage…
    1st) We have to know something about the inspiration of Holy Scripture, lest we act like the “Jesus Seminar” folks and decide this word isn’t actually Scripture. DOCTRINAL KNOWLEDGE NEEDED – INSPIRATION.

    2nd) The fact that Jesus is saying this means we should know something about Christology too. We don’t want to assume that Jesus is only God (like ancient Gnostics did) or only man (like modern secularists), but that He is true God and true Man in one person. DOCTRINAL KNOWLEDGE NEEDED – CHRISTOLOGY.

    Getting into the text
    3rd) “For GOD” – Which God? DOCTRINAL KNOWLEDGE NEEDED – TRINITY

    4th) “Loved the WORLD” – Which world? Some pretend world? One’s own personal world? DOCTRINAL KNOWLEDGE NEEDED – CREATION

    5th) “in this way- He GAVE His only-begotten Son” – This giving of the Son needs some doctrinal explanation. One does not automatically understand from this passage what this means. But you do once the doctrine is taught. DOCTRINAL KNOWLEDGE NEEDED – INCARNATION, VICARIOUS ATONEMENT

    6) “that whoever believes in Him” – DOCTRINAL KNOWLEDGE NEEDED – JUSTIFICATION, and in a secondary sense, the MEANS OF GRACE by which this Word is given so that belief may be fostered and continue. Likewise, where there is the means of grace, the OFFICE OF THE MINISTRY and the HOLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH are also to be found, the one giving and the other receiving this grace, by which faith is fostered.

    7) “should not perish” – DOCTRINAL KNOWLEDGE NEEDED – ORIGINAL SIN, LAW AND GOSPEL

    8) “but have everlasting life” – DOCTRINAL KNOWLEDGE NEEDED – ESCHATOLOGY

    So it really does no good to say all we need is Jn. 3:16 and no doctrine. You’re not going to get far reading Jn. 3:16 if you don’t have true doctrine.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  18. @Elizabeth Peters #12
    Enthusiasm??????? I think you missed the point.

    You said:
    To dissociate doctrine from any of the means of grace or from your relationship with God is to dissociate the Word from the means of grace and from your relationship with God, and that is enthusiasm.

    I don’t think I can begin to correct your logic. You have good points, but you missed mine. But that is OK.

    Doctrine is NOT the relationship. Apples and oranges. Is a bit of “works righteousness” coming out?

    Remember Reformation.

  19. @Alan L. #13
    16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

    ESV version, “to the teaching.”

    Is this not Paul talking to Timothy. And does Paul not “teach” properly? And does Paul not rebuke false teaching, false doctrine? Paul teaches, proclaims proper doctrine about who? Christ crucified.

    False doctrine can sway and corrupt. Or call it false teaching.

    Hmmm, sort of like saying, “does Paul save?” Remember, he talked about that. Jesus saves.

    And yes, Mrs. Peters, through the Word, whether spoken, preached, read, proclaimed, united with (water).

  20. “I believe…” That was in large Olde English script on the front of the T-shirt.

    On the back it said, “I believe I’ll have another beer.”

    This illustrates clearly how belief/trust/faith is meaningless without an object.

    So is relationship meaningless without doctrine. (Remember, doctrine is equivalent to what God teaches in His Word.)

  21. @Elizabeth Peters #12
    More I think about it. I AM enthusiastic about God and His Word, the means of Grace, good doctrine (proper teaching), the LCMS (having a tough go of late), the Confessions, the Bible, Sacraments, etc.

    So yes, praise be I have enthusiasm about what great gifts the Holy Spirit works through the Word.

    Hmmm, and I have no “inner light” that got it all started.

  22. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #26

    When I speak of doctrine without any qualifier, I’m talking about the teaching of God expressed in the Scriptures and repeated in the Confessions. I do not refer to the doctrines of men without saying so.

    “In other words, God was using Christ to restore his relationship with humanity. He didn’t hold people’s faults against them, and he has given us this message of restored relationships to tell others.” (II Corinthians 5:19, God’s Word)

    We’re good — sort of. You say, “the LCMS (having a tough go of late).” What does this mean?

    Whenever I find myself in that mood, I soon have another epiphany, where they again convince me from Scripture. Hang in there, Brother!

  23. ilk
    Pronoun. Represents a group of items of the same type. Has a connotation of the typed group being of bad or questionable character.
    Don’t get involved with those of that ilk.

    But you weren’t using “ilk” that way — you meant new Christians of the type who subscribe to Scripture as exposed in the Confessions, right? 🙂

  24. @Ted Crandall #29
    Don’t get involved with those of that ilk.

    As someone said, as long as they identify themselves as LCMS, those of that ilk represent the synod (to at least some people), too. Unfortunately, no matter how murky the picture they paint of us, we can’t seem to divest ourselves of them.
    Or persuade them that true Lutheran doctrine is the better choice.

  25. helen :As someone said, as long as they identify themselves as LCMS, those of that ilk represent the synod…

    Yes… And those who identify themselves as Lutheran represent the Lutheran faith.

    I can’t tell you how often I have to explain that we don’t ordain lesbians…

  26. “When the pure preaching of the Word comes forth the ever present Holy Spirit elicits a trusting relationship with him who speaks these words; that is, Christ.”

    Does the seed that is sown always bear such fruit? Matthew 13:1-23

    Even in Jesus’ day, many did not receive what He said. His words did not elicit “a trusting relationship” but derision and hatred.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.