True Love is Built on Doctrine!

Here is another re-post .. this one from October, 2014:


“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.


True Love is Built on Doctrine! — 6 Comments

  1. I think, perhaps, not all Christians who reject doctrinal disputes are necessarily post modernist in their thinking, nor accepting of secular humanism or relativism. Many of these believing and devout Christians truly have a solid relationship with, and an intense love for their Lord and Savior, whom they seek to obey with all their hearts. Many of these folks know the core (doctrines) of the faith, never clinging to their works, but knowing it is the grace of God and the cross borne by Jesus which saves them. At the same time, many an earnest Christian knows how a multitude of denominations compete and claim “right doctrines” and dispute the interpretations of scripture and find verses to support their doctrines. Christians who have read the tumultuous history of the church, knowing the way disagreements have led to religious wars and bloodshed between Catholics and Protestants, and others, simply wonder if many who teach that they alone understand the word may be prideful, and may even be wrong in some cases. So the result is for many to do the best they can to be faithful to Our Lord, but to avoid the theology of inter-and intra-church warfare over doctrinal purity. Even as I worship as a committed Lutheran LCMS, I recognize that many doctrinal disagreements within and outside of our church body will continue on for many years, or until The Lord returns.

  2. Solid stuff. Thank-you. At a recent circuit retreat, we heard the personal testimonies of pastors who said they knew the correct doctrine but they wanted “more”. “I believed in Jesus, but I wanted to know Him”, one colleague stated. The “more” is outside of the Word, of doctrine. A husband says to his wife, Yes, we are married and faithful in our relationship, but I want something “more”. We would know the marriage is heading towards serious trouble. I think this hankering of something “more”, the ‘relationship’ with God without His Word, His saving doctrine just may be the root problem of Synod, indeed, the whole Church, tossed to and fro by every wind of (false) doctrine: therapeutical deism, political activism, church growth, worship emotionalism, “spiritualities”,etc., that is enthusiasms of all sorts. For instance, when we do not know “sound doctrine” any longer, and have had all sorts of ‘spiritual experiences’, and when there is a knock on the door: “Let me tell you about another gospel of Jesus, the Book of Mormon”, there is little defense nor witness to the two young men at the door, of the Cross and the Lord’s grace for sinners.

  3. Very good, Pr. Weber. And you pastors, ya’ll who are on teh 3-year series have a golden opportunity this coming Sunday. The “new” doctrine of Christ which He preaches in the Capernaum synagogue, which the people are amazed at, which has the authority to command the demon to get out (might we even say, to “expel” the demon and his evil, false doctrine?) isn’t “new” at all, but the Truth from the foundation of the world, the ancient Gospel of the crushing of the serpent’s head. It only *sounds* new (and objectionable?) to those who have had their ears filled with the religion of the Law. And remember, Gospel reductionism like Becker’s is nothing more than a “loose” way to live by the Law.

    And don’t forget to quote Klem Preus–or rather that dear old Lutheran lady he quoted in “The Fire and the Staff”: “Doctrine is life!”
    Doctrine matters. The doctrine of Christ is life. False doctrine is death.

  4. @John J Flanagan #2
    This is most certainly true–the disputes will continue, and people who have the doctrines “right” will fall into the sin of pride. But our task, every generation’s task, is to learn and to teach that the true Doctrine of Holy Scripture, the Doctrine of Christ is not pride, Our sin in relation to True Doctrine doesn’t not negate it’s Truth. All theology, all Doctrine is Christology. All True Doctrine will always remove (forgive!) our sin of pride, and teach us true faithful humility. It is *pride* that brings about false doctrine and death.

    Oh, and historically speaking–as far as I can tell, Confessional Lutherans have never taken up the sword to *force* folks into Confessional Lutheranism. We have only *defended* ourselves. Lutheranism is a relatively uniquely *unbloody* history. Schirer’s claims to the contrary. He was full of baloney. Hitler knew nothing of Luther.

  5. Excellent post!

    CFW Walther, True Visible Church, Thesis V:

    “It is God’s command that we teach pure doctrine. That cannot be done if we are silent about false doctrine. Error will creep in unnoticed if we don’t constantly testify against it. It is the duty of every Christian to help maintain pure doctrine, and that is why every Christian must continue to study this doctrine… Since, on the one hand, the cause of separation lies with the sects themselves, because they are the ones departing from the truth, and on the other hand, it is true love when we bear witness, all this should fill us with joyful courage to continue our witness and to grow in zeal.”

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