From Doctrine to Experience

Our home base in east Tennessee has the vista of the Great Smoky Mountains. I never tire of seeing their seasonal colors and grandeur. Similarly, the Jewish pilgrims viewed the mountains in Israel, especially Mt. Zion where Jerusalem sits. The psalmist testified,

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills–From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1,2).

Do you find yourself looking up, praying for help for today’s challenges?

This sentiment was also echoed in T. H. Bernard’s Bampton Lectures at Oxford, given back in 1864. He not only taught the doctrines of God’s grace in Christ, but also challenged his hearers to apply these truths to their own lives. As I was leafing through this volume I was blessed by his comments on 1 Corinthians 1:30:

“But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God–and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

“This is not a statement of doctrine, but the summary of a life. Surely I must ask, is it a life which I am living now? [In the New Testament] I see an ever-present consciousness of being in Christ, and a habit of viewing all things in Him. Must I not look down into my own heart and ask whether my own inward life bears this characteristic? Let me accept nothing in exchange for this. Men bid me live in duty and truth, in purity and love. They do well. But the Gospel does better; calling me to live in Christ, and to find in Him the enjoyment of all that I would posses and the realization of all that I would become.” [1]

We would do well to make Bernard’s application our own. Is our knowledge of Christ and His provision only doctrine to expound, or reality to live by? Jesus is not just a source of teaching and an example to follow; He is to be our life-source!

Christ summed up the essence of our personal relationship with God: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).  And Paul confirmed this aim in Philippians 3:10: “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”

Don’t settle for a Christianity which merely consists of duties and doctrines; instead, cultivate your relationship with God. As you abide in Christ you will move from doctrine to experience. He lives within His people by the Holy Spirit (Col. 1:27; 1 Cor. 6:19,20). Look to Him to be your Savior, your Helper, and your Life.

Prayer response:

We are grateful for the precious truths of Your word, O Lord. Cleanse us from sins of omission when we hold truth without applying it. We yearn to not only believe Your doctrine, but live by it in the power of our resurrected Savior. In His name, Amen.

[1] T. H. Bernard, The Progress of Doctrine in the New Testament. (p. 184,185)

Copyright by John Woodward 1999. Biblical quotations are from The New King James Version (copyright by Thomas Nelson). Permission is granted to reprint this article when credit is given to the author and

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