"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « Romans 10:9 | Main | The 18 on whom the tower in Siloam fell »

    "Don't give me doctrine, I just want to follow Jesus"

    When someone says, "Don't give me doctrine, I just want to follow Jesus", what they are really saying is "give me law, not gospel. Give me more imperatives and less indicatives. I just want something practical." But how is this any different than Mormons or theological liberals? Fact is, we need a Savior, not just a moral example.

    You could not have believed the gospel of Jesus Christ without knowing its contents. You did not just follow a generic Jesus. To be saved you understood that you had no self righteousness of your own and you trusted in Christ's finished work... which included His living the life you should have lived and dying the death you deserved. This is doctrine. The idea of simply "following Jesus" is requiring more demands of the law because you are looking for Jesus to tell you something you can do. But you need the gospel, not merely law, to be saved or to grow in grace. Indeed following Jesus springs out of a renewed heart. As Christians we only follow Jesus when we know Who we are following and as such we need to preach the gospel to ourselves daily.

    The Spirit first first brings an elect soul face to face with God’s holy Law, for “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). It condemns and curses him because it demands perfect obedience in thought, word, and deed. Next, the Spirit brings before the soul the precious Gospel where the law's demands are perfectly met by Jesus Christ. The Spirit so works in his heart that He appears to him to be the most glorious object in the world; and so rests entirely upon His finished work.

    No one is suggesting that we have right doctrine but do not follow Jesus, but the imperatives (Commands) always spring from indicatives (what Jesus has done). Look at Ephesians for example. The first 3 chapters are pure doctrine... - "this is what Jesus has done for you". Chapter four (4) then says THEREFORE, "live like this". But the opposite is not true Biblically... right doctrine does NOT flow out of right living.

    To those who squirm at the word "doctrine" it simply means "teaching" - the Bible is full of teaching from start to finish. It does not matter if your church never used the word. Your eyes were opened an you believed because the Holy Spirit gave you understanding of the gospel and the teaching or doctrine in the Bible that Jesus is not just a moral example, but a Savior. You could not have been saved unless you FIRST understood the doctrine about these teachings about what Jesus did for you . You could not have been saved simply by saying "I am going to obey Jesus".... that is moralism --- and no one is saved by obeying the moral commands of Jesus. They will damn you if you trust in them.

    But anticipating your criticisms, let me also declare that a simple reciting of doctrine without a changed heart has no value. Having pride is how good your doctrine is would mean that they have not yet grasped the most basic doctrine that we are saved by grace ALONE. Such a tragic misapplication of the doctrine we have learned denies Christ because it is trusting in something else (how good ones doctrine is). but again, the opposite is most often true in this day and age ... that many people will say, "I don't want doctrine at all, I just want to follow Jesus." This is to want only instruction for practical living by giving them law.... and to shun the teaching of the gospel altogether. This is the root of all cults and heresy.

    Most of the people who say "I don't want doctrine" are usually the same people would say in the same breath "just give me something practical from the Bible"- and what they mean by this is that they want instructions about WHAT TO DO... rather than hear about what God has done for them in Christ. The phrase 'Jesus follower' places the focus on my following and the moral imperatives of Jesus. "Theological Liberals" and Mormons are characterized by their sermons on moral instruction - not the priority of Jesus as God the Savior. While people in the above cults all say they want to follow the Bible, but look closely because they only want the LAW part of the bible because that is practical for me. They don't want to hear about the gospel part of it because it is doctrinal and, more importantly, it strips us of all hope in ourselves and places our hope in Another.

    Posted by John on September 10, 2011 01:43 PM


    Of course, the real problem is that "I just want to follow Jesus" IS a doctrine. No one functions without doctrine.

    "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children." (Oseas 4:6)

    The knowledge of God is crucial for salvation, that's why doctrine matters!

    You assume that, 'When someone says, "Don't give me doctrine, I just want to follow Jesus", what they are really saying is "give me law, not gospel.'

    From personal experience, that's just not true. It can mean a whole range of things: a godly irritation with "foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law"; a frustration with the impenetrable jargon some (especially systematic) theologians can use to hide Jesus behind abstract concepts; a conviction that Jesus meant it when he said, "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." and therefore wants to obey him in order to know him.

    Surely you need more to go on before you make your diagnosis!

    Simon Day

    Apart from grace and apart from understanding what Jesus has accomplished for us, to "follow Jesus" is largely empty.

    Is justification a one time declaration or a life-long process? Or to put it another way, is our right standing before God based on the Person and work of Jesus Christ alone or is it maintained together with Christ by the whole life lived?

    A large number of pastors in the evangelical church now answer that justification is "a process" which is essentially a denial of the sufficiency of Jesus Christ alone. So the Jesus they are following is not the picture of Jesus in the Scripture. A List of dos and don'ts is not the gospel so "following Jesus" often ends up looking just like following Islam or any other works-based religion. The same moralistic sermons preached in a Christian church could have been preached at a synagogue or mosque. What makes the sermon Christian?

    Following Jesus, obeying Jesus is a critical part of the Christian faith, but obedience MUST be grounded in the indicatives (the facts of what Jesus has done for me), which is doctrinal, not the imperatives (the commands).

    It is very frustrating to try to navigate through all the theological labyrinths out there. I am a minister in Jamaica, I bring the Gospel to the poor, I preach the Gospel in the streets, and there are hundreds of churches all over all of which claim to have a perfect doctrinal statement while disagreeing with another church saying the same thing. Simply amazing. I preach the Cross, I preach repentance, and I preach obedience to Christ...but mamma mia, so many churches...Catholics claim an unbroken tie to the Apostle Peter, Staunch Reformation theologians decry the Catholic Church as the great whore while I have found many truly saved individuals in that church. Catholics think everybody will get to heaven, charismatics fall for the latest theological sham/circus, and the world thinks we are all crazy!!! Help me make some sense out of all of this my brothers. This is serious business and at times it gets too overwealming...

    Responding to Rico:

    There are many people and "organizations" or "churches" which pontificate about doctrine/teaching, but there is only one way to make sense of it all. Not everyone is right. The Bible is the way to test everything, so prove what is true, hold fast to what is good. The Bible is the only source for doctrine/teaching. Rico, persevere in the Bible.

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