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Sunday, March 14, 2010 | Comments (31)

Does the Bible itself identify specific doctrines as fundamental? Indeed it does. In fact, if the strongest words of condemnation in all the New Testament are reserved for false teachers who corrupt the gospel, then the gospel message itself must be acknowledged as a primary point of fundamental doctrine.

But what message will determine the content of our testimony? It’s a choice between divine revelation, and human speculation and opinion; between Scripture alone, and papal hierarchy and church tradition. The two gospels are flatly contradictory and mutually exclusive.

Those considerations determine what message we proclaim and whether that message is the authentic gospel of true Christianity. We are clearly dealing with matters that go to the very heart of the doctrines Scripture identifies as fundamental.

Can we get more specific? Let’s turn to Scripture itself and attempt to lay out some biblical principles for determining which articles of faith are truly essential to authentic Christianity.

Fundamental Doctrines Come from Scripture

First, if a doctrine is truly fundamental, it must have its origin in Scripture—not tradition, papal decrees, or some other source of authority. Paul reminded Timothy that the Scriptures are “able to make thee wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15, KJV). In other words, if a doctrine is essential for salvation, we can learn it from the Bible. The written Word of God therefore must contain all doctrine that is truly fundamental. It is able to make us “adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). If there were necessary doctrines not revealed in Scripture, those promises would ring empty.

The psalmist wrote, “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul” (Psalm 19:7a). That means Scripture is sufficient. Apart from the truths revealed to us in Scripture, there is no essential spiritual truth, no fundamental doctrine, nothing essential to soul-restoration. We do not need to look beyond the written Word of God for any essential doctrines. There is nothing necessary beyond what is recorded in God’s Word.

This, of course, is the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura—Scripture alone. It contrasts starkly with the practice of the Roman Catholic Church, which commonly threatens eternal damnation for anyone who questions the decrees of the pope or the dogma of Church councils.

For example, Canon 1 of the seventh session of the Council of Trent pronounces anathema on anyone who says that there are more or less than the seven Sacraments established by the Council. That means if any Catholic questions the sacraments of Confirmation, Penance, or Extreme Unction—mentioned nowhere in Scripture—that person is subject to excommunication and in the Church’s eyes is worthy of eternal damnation.

The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent are larded with similar anathemas—in effect making all the Council’s dictums fundamental doctrines. In Francis Turretin’s words, they “are impudent enough often to declare as fundamental their own hay and stubble and whatever the Romish church teaches” [Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1, George Musgrave Giger, trans. (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1992),53].

But according to the Bible itself, no supposed spiritual authority outside “the sacred writings” of Scripture can give us wisdom that leads to salvation. No papal decrees, no oral tradition, no latter-day prophecy can contain truth that is genuinely fundamental apart from Scripture.

Fundamental Doctrines Are Clear in Scripture

Second, if we’re to regard an article of faith as fundamental, it must be clearly set forth in Scripture. No “secret knowledge” or hidden truth-formula could ever qualify as a fundamental article of faith. No key is necessary to unlock the teaching of the Bible.

The truth of God is not aimed at learned intellectuals; it is simple enough for a child. “Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes” (Matthew 11:25, KJV). The Word of God is not a puzzle. It does not speak in riddles. It is not cryptic or mysterious. It is plain and obvious to those who have spiritual ears to hear. “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7b).

The point is not that every fundamental article of faith must be supported with an explicit proof text. The doctrine of the Trinity, for example, is certainly essential to true Christianity—and it is very clear in Scripture—but you will find no comprehensive statement of the Trinity from any single passage of Scripture.

Witsius wrote,

Among articles clearly contained in the Scriptures … we must include not only those which they teach in express words, but also those which, to all who apply their minds to the subject, are obviously deducible from them by necessary consequence. Our Lord and his Apostles very frequently confirmed even fundamental articles of faith by consequences deduced from Scripture [cf. Luke 20:37–38]… The knowledge of a fundamental article consists not in understanding this or the other passage of the Bible; but in an acquaintance with the truth, which in one passage, perhaps, is more obscurely traced, but is exhibited in other places in a clear, nay, in the clearest possible light. [Herman Witsius, Sacred Dissertations on the Apostles’ Creed, 2 vols. (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1993 reprint), 1:21]

Nor does this mean that a doctrine must be non-controversial in order to be considered a fundamental article. Some would argue that the only test of whether something is essential to true Christianity is whether it is affirmed by all the major Christian traditions. But as Witsius points out, according to that rule, hardly anything of any substance would remain to distinguish the Christian gospel from the “salvation” offered by pagan morality or Islamic theology. “There is much truth in the remark of Clement of Alexandria; ‘No Scripture, I apprehend, is so favourably treated, as to be contradicted by no one’” (Witsius, 1:21).

There are three more guidelines to help us determine fundamental doctrines. We’ll get to those next time.For now, here’s a question to discuss in the comment thread: If a fundamental doctrine is clear in Scripture, does that mean it’s easy to comprehend? Why or why not?


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#1  Posted by Jim Ralston  |  Sunday, March 14, 2010 at 6:19 AM

What might appear to be easily understood can be missed, therefore as we read and study God's word we should pray the Holy Spirit opens our understanding. I think this is key when studing the scripture. Discussing, pondering, cross-referencing are helpful tools in working through a passage.

#2  Posted by Nancy Lindquist  |  Sunday, March 14, 2010 at 7:35 AM

Rom.1:19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse for although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but thier thinking became futile and thier foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man....v.25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie.

Now John, I've been lied to alot, a whole lot in this life. (we all have) But just imagine my utter relief,and joy when God revealed Himself as truth to me.(Jn.3:16) To learn that while I was a sinner Christ died for me. That moment by moment of each day since, revealing more and more of Himself, To no longer be conformed by the patterns of this world or man's way of thinking, but transformed by the renewing of my mind. When you've sat at such a lavish banquet,of God's revealed Word who would in thier right mind settle for the "mud-pies" of man's thinking.

Yes, fundamental doctrine is understandable, comprehensible, not only in God's word but throughout everything that exists. The problem lies with man, not God. Clarity of meaning, breadth and depth of comprehension, widsom and discernment, are not ours to contrive!"For by Grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God lest any man should boast". It is God who enables the mind to comprehend, and the heart to respond. It is a tremendous gift, this opportunity we have to know him, to enjoy a restored relationship and fellowship with Him. Even our ability to believe, our faith, comes from him. If we attribute to self anything at all, it should be the miniscule,weak power of free will. All we are able to do on our own is decide to believe God, or reject God. To take him at his word, and recieve all that He has for us, which is to know Him, and enjoy him forever. (Jer.29:11) We are the simple, we are the limited, we are the weak,frail, powerless, and totally dependant, we are the created beings. That such a rich, and powerful God would lovingly reveal himself to such unworthy,rebellious and ungrateful people just amazes me. ("what is man that you are mindful of Him, O God")God is Jesus Christ, not some prophet or good teacher, not obscure,distant or unknowable. If God himself, is not enough, then what is! What more insight or knowledge or power is ever going to be enough? Truth from God is far easier to comprehend than man's (papacy, false teaching) thinking. Surrender, agreeing with God is not, that requires a setting aside of self, or like Isaiah who fell on his face, covering his mouth saying " I am a man of unclean lips". Eternal implications here huh?

I know I've gone on. So, John I just want to thankyou for your willingness to respond to God, to love Him with all your mind, body and soul, for dedicating your gifts from Him, to Him. For standing up against all the lies with the simple, comprehensible, fundamental truth. And making a way for us who love Him with you to be brought together.

In Him, Nancy

#3  Posted by Bret Lee  |  Sunday, March 14, 2010 at 8:06 AM

I'm thinking about election. Clearly taught and easy to understand, except freewill is predominately taught, as clearly being biblical, yet much harder to understand. Having come from a long term background in freewill believing, I found election enlightening the first time I listened to Chosen by God from John's series. All the scriptures that made no sense to me for years just jumped off the pages and made perfect sense.

Someone is probably thinking but, election isn't easy to understand. In light of scripture it is! The freewill Preacher/Teacher has to twist it, pervert it, throw in contrived notions to make the passage work to fit his theological ideas and beliefs. Now that's hard! Yes, election takes us down mysterious roads and every answer is not available as John points out several times while teaching the subject when he says honestly, "I don't know". That simply takes us back to child like faith and the wonderful trust God has asked us to place in him to carry out his divine plan of Salvation for his chosen "elect" children! Grace and Peace on this Lord's day to all. Thanks Grace to you and John MacArthur for the blessings sent around the world with the truthful biblical stance you have taken! Bret
#5  Posted by Rick White  |  Sunday, March 14, 2010 at 9:12 AM

If a fundamental doctrine is clear in Scripture, does that mean it's easy to comprehend? The answer is no. Just look at the doctrine of the hypostatic union of Jesus. How can He be both God and human at the same time? How does the God nature not completely supercede the human nature? In what ways was Jesus limited as a man? In what way did Jesus empty Himself to become a man? Ephesians 2:7. I find all of these questions difficult to comprehend and answer, yet the Bible is clear that Jesus was both God and man John 1:1,14. The same kinds of questions can be asked about the Trinity. Why are these things difficult to comprehend? Because, our very limited and sinful minds can't grasp the things pertaining to a transcendent and holy God. Therefore, we can't expect these things to be easily understood.

#6  Posted by Christina Aleprete  |  Sunday, March 14, 2010 at 9:28 AM

Dear Pastor MacArthur, I am so glad for biblical teachers like you. Thank God, I who grew up in the Catholic church always felt that while going to church I was EMPTY on the way out of the church's mass. But it now be for an awakenening or revelation just around the time of my father's death, I might still believe in all those ritual and rites. It took me all those years until now to fully understand that the only thing I needed to be forgiven and saved was JESUS CHRIST. Although I sometimes struggle with past memories of my religion, I am happy to say that now I know I need not go to any other source or persons to speak to the father but, the Lord Jesus Christ. Sorry for being long winded, I just couldn't leave anything out. Bless you, Christina

#8  Posted by Randy Johnson  |  Sunday, March 14, 2010 at 12:36 PM

If a fundamental doctrine is clear in Scripture, does that mean it’s easy to comprehend? Why or why not?

It can definitely be difficult to comprehend if we cannot refrain from making judgments on the ways of God without waiting to see "the end of His providence". Our tendency is to become discontented and presumptuous, because we have trouble delaying our judgment about God until His purposes are completed.

When you read 2 Kings 5, you have to wait until the end of the story to see that all of it was prepared beforehand by God so that we could see two things clearly. First, the God of Israel healed the Syrian while making all of the details very public. Second, the God of Israel healed an unworthy, miserable sinner by pure mercy and grace.

When we mix the truth with faith and wait for the "endgame", we can comprehend better the "fundamentals" of our faith (Heb 4:2).

#8  Posted by Rick White  |  Sunday, March 14, 2010 at 6:20 PM


You make a great point. Too many times we try to second guess God. We think we know how things should be worked out. We become our own obstacles to understanding God's truths. We need to learn to just become servants and let God be God.

#9  Posted by Daniel Flaherty  |  Sunday, March 14, 2010 at 7:49 PM

If a fundamental doctrine is clear in Scripture, does that mean it’s easy to comprehend? Why or why not?

Ok - Let me get right to the point. In some earlier blogs we were discussing issues with Cathy - who was still involved in the Roman Catholic church. In one of her statements she claimed that in the RC communion the RC priest was actually able to turn the bread and wine into the real body and blood of our Lord (transubstantiation). Part of her proof text was 1 Corinthians 11:29 which says: "For he who eats in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." After that comment I was surprised that there were not all sorts of people on this blog who would jump all over that interpretation of Scripture. Hardly anyone said a peep. Our pastor just did an excellent message on this issue - the Lord's body - according to the context of 1 Corinthians - is referring to the church - not the Lord's actual body.

The issue, in regards to this question at hand of whether a fundamental doctrine is easily comprehended - is more about people forcing their traditions into Scripture rather than doing the hard job of proper hermeneutics that give us the proper interpretation of Scripture. As John has said so often - the meaning of the Scriptures is the Scriptures! By the way - it is lazily accepting an incorrect interpretation of Scripture that has caused many apostate teachings to enter into the church, to remain, and to grow stronger and is a great reason why apostasy so often goes uncontested - although MacArthur has been an excellent exception. Just think of how many hundreds, thousands, and perhaps millions of people were murdered throughout the centuries because they properly maintained that transubstantiation was wrong to the contrary of the false religious establishment. We need to return to the fundamental doctrines of Scripture and uphold their true meaning by doing the hard work of study and prayer and excepting whatever ridicule or persecution that may come because of it. In other words - let's contend for the faith once delivered to the saints!

Maranatha! Dan

#10  Posted by Mike Sexton  |  Monday, March 15, 2010 at 7:31 AM

The idea is a non sequitur. No matter how clearly something is presented in scripture, comprehension is based completely on the individual. While truth is concrete, clarity and comprehension are subjective. I had teachers and professors in math who were excellent teachers. They always presented stuff clearly...according to everyone who got A's in the class. Unfortunately I can't comprehend math beyond long division, so while it might have been presented clearly...while the answer was as apparent as the nose on my face, I had no idea how it worked. My brain isn't geared for math.

I'm not against the establishment of fundamental truth. If God said it, and caused it to be written in the Word, then it is true. My question is, should our level of understanding affect the presentation or acceptance of the message?

I say if it is easy to comprehend, then praise God. If it isn't, study harder and then praise God. If you still don't understand it, but it is clearly in scripture (ie. the elect, predestined, chosen...these words are absolutely in the Bible and used "clearly") then praise God and trust Him to bring you to an understanding later. Either way, we must accept it, adhere to it and teach it exactly as the Word uses it.

But it doesn't logically follow to say that something is easily understandable just because it is presented clearly. Until we all start thinking the exact same can't.

Sola gratia! Sola fide! Solus Christus! Soli Deo gloria! Sola scriptura!

#12  Posted by John Joseph  |  Monday, March 15, 2010 at 10:49 AM

Fundamental Doctrine: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one shall come to the Father except through me." John 14:6

It is clearly written in scripture that apart from Jesus no man shall enter the kingdom of God, and i understand it. However, i cannot comprehend that God would create people knowing they would never encounter the Gospel.

#13  Posted by Matthew Parsons  |  Monday, March 15, 2010 at 10:49 AM

I have an interesting issue I have been dealing with lately that I hope someone can help me address. I have come across an issue with someone who believes all the verses in the NT are not "scripture" because they are not affirmed as such in the NT itself. For example, As Pastor MacArthur noted above *2 Tim 3:15 "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." The argument would be that "from a child" would liken this to specifically mean the OT scriptures. Every other verse that has to do with addressing what scripture is also sounds similar. I am finding it quite confusing and was hoping someone knew of some clear verses that could only be talking about the NT letters that were circulating at that time. Any thoughts?

#14  Posted by Gabriel Powell (GTY Admin)  |  Monday, March 15, 2010 at 11:21 AM


That is a great question and it has great relevancy to our discussion. It is true that 2 Timothy 3:15-16 does refer to what we call the Old Testament (OT) because the New Testament (NT) as we know it had not been completed.

However realize the argument being made: There is an appeal to NT Scripture to validate OT Scripture while saying that the NT isn't Scripture. That doesn't make sense, does it? Unless the NT is Scripture, we cannot affirm the OT as Scripture. Further, we do not need a specific reference in Scripture to validate a particular book or letter. Not every OT book is specifically quoted or referenced elsewhere. If one required a verse to validate every book they would find themselves with a true "slimline" Bible.

Positively, we do have NT Scripture that tells us that some of Paul's writing was already considered Scripture while he was still alive (2 Peter 3:16).

Last of all, whoever it is that is denying certain NT perhaps isn't aware of how the NT came to be affirmed. It is not, as some think, that a bunch of church leaders got together one time, put all the various books and letters on a table, and gave an up or down vote on what they thought should be included. From my experience it seems like most people believe that.

What happened was during the first four centries the churches recognized what was Scripture and what wasn't. Over time there was what we might call an implicit canon that everyone agreed to. Eventually when church leaders from all over came together, they didn't start from scratch deciding what was in the canon. They essentially already had a list of books/letters that were considered to be Scripture, and then they used careful criteria to ensure that nothing that wasn't Scripture didn't get included in the official list. Obviously in this short space it is impossible to go into detail about this, but the point is that there is no book or letter in our NT that had not already been recognized for hundreds of years as Scripture by the majority of the early church.

If the person you're dealing with has trouble with the NT as Scripture on the basis of what we'll call "verse reference validation," just ask them how they know the OT is Scripture. And unless they are willing to affirm that 2 Timothy is Scripture, they have to appeal to something other than the NT. And if they are willing to affirm that at least 2 Timothy is Scripture, then they must explain the criteria for affirming 2 Timothy while rejecting others.

Hope that helps!

#15  Posted by Paul Young  |  Monday, March 15, 2010 at 11:29 AM


In response to your question (comment #13), In 1 Timothy 5:18 Paul uses a single formula, "Scripture says" to introduce both an Old Testament citation and a saying of Jesus (Luke 10:7). In 2 Timothy 3:14 Paul tells Timothy to continue "in the things you have learned." Context would indicate that Paul is referring to both the teachings of the Old Testament and those of the Apostles (note verses 10 & 15). But 2 Peter 3:15-16 is perhaps the most helpful. There Peter clearly associates the writings of Paul with "the other Scriptures." Hope this helps a little.

#16  Posted by Jodi Denning  |  Monday, March 15, 2010 at 4:56 PM

I am so thankful for John MacArthur his ministry, and his dedication to honest exposition of the truth. And thanks to those working to support these efforts. Preaching truth takes great courage in today's world, just as it has throughout the history of the church. It is difficult to find this teaching in most churches, but the truth of Jesus Christ is the only thing that truly sets us FREE. May God bless you for your dedicated service to Him.

#17  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Monday, March 15, 2010 at 5:52 PM

If a fundamental doctrine is clear in Scripture, does that mean it’s easy to comprehend? Why or why not?

No, it is not necessarily always easy to comprehend a difficult concept about God. The Trinity, as someone here already made mention of, is a hard doctrine to comprehend, but at the same time it is difficult enough to be believed. Why is that true? That something is difficult enough to be believed? I do not know exactly. It may be for the very fact that we realize the things about God (His intelligence, majesty, holiness, and eternality) are just things that are way too high for our understanding, which actually says so much about our faith in God. We acquiesce to His supreme greatness and the way in which He truthfully reveals Himself to us, not according to our small thoughts of how we think He should be, but according to divine revelation. That is faith.

Holiness means to be other than. And God is certainly other than any thing we have ever known. Praise His holy name for that!!!

#18  Posted by randell danner  |  Monday, March 15, 2010 at 8:59 PM

Yes Mary, i believe in divine revelation and absolute faith in His Word. There are some that would say that God only speaks through the written Word and that divine revelation has passed along with all the gifts of the Spirit. But if all the gifts have passed away then what means does God use to get that divine revelation to us and through us? Maybe Gabriel can answer that one.

#19  Posted by Gabriel Powell (GTY Admin)  |  Monday, March 15, 2010 at 10:15 PM

But if all the gifts have passed away then what means does God use to get that divine revelation to us and through us?

Are you making a distinction between Scripture and divine revelation, are you saying that Scripture is insufficient?

#20  Posted by Michael Riccardi  |  Monday, March 15, 2010 at 10:53 PM

But if all the gifts have passed away then what means does God use to get that divine revelation to us and through us?

Hopefully I'm not undercutting Gabe here, but I think I have an idea of what you're saying.

First, it's probably helpful to say that not all cessationists believe that all of the gifts have passed away, but only the miraculous, sign gifts. So, for example, I don't believe that there is a gift of healing, prophecy, or tongues for today, but I do believe that the gifts of teaching and exhortation exist in the Church. So that's one thing.

Special, divine revelation has ceased with the closing of the canon. God does not give 'a word' outside of the whole of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. But that does not mean that the ministry of the Spirit has ceased.

1 Corinthians 2:12-15 teaches that we've received the Spirit so that we may know the things freely given to us by God. So the way that Christians understand Scripture is by the illumination of the Holy Spirit. The passage goes on to say that the unbeliever doesn't accept the things of Scripture because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things. It is the Spirit who grants this ability to "appraise," or to evaluate and understand the Word of God.

So, the summary is: though the Spirit does not "reveal" (using that word in a technical sense) Scripture to us individually -- like Barth taught -- He does illuminate the already-revealed Scripture to our understanding.

#21  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Monday, March 15, 2010 at 11:52 PM

Dear Randell:

Let me make myself "perfectly" clear on what I meant by divine revelation. It is the Word of God found only in the Bible and nothing else. I want to stress that because I do not believe God speaks to us in any other way except through Scripture. I hope that explains it for you.

God bless.

#22  Posted by Rick White  |  Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 5:02 AM


Since we have the completed scriptures that give us "the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" and makes it so "that the man of God may be adequate,equipped for EVERY good work" 2 Timothy 3:15,17,what other revelation do we need? What can anyone else add to the scriptures? And,since the miraculous gifts were to confirm the testimony of the apostles Hebrews 2:4, why would we still need the miraculous gifts? Their testimony has been handed down to us and confirmed in the scriptures Jude 3. The claim of divine revelation and other miraculous gifts today do nothing but detract from the clear and sufficient teaching of the Bible.

#23  Posted by randell danner  |  Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 6:05 AM

Yes, i do believe the canon of Scripture is complete and we do not need extrabiblicular revelation and activities in the church. To tell you the truth, i used to believe in the "tongues" that is used today for a long time because i was niave as a young Believer. But thanks to Bro. John and his book "Charsmatic Chaos" i see that it is false. I had to read that section on tongues several times to get what he was saying. I believe we do need to study God's written Word everyday and i have done so since the day i was born again. I also believe that the Holy Spirit speaks to us when we do study and teaches us thru His Word. the written Word will line up and confirm what the Holy Spirit is saying to us. The Scripture and the Spirit affirm One another. If you here a voice or teaching and it doesn't line up with scripture it is not from God. How can we tell? By having a renewed mind and the mind of Chriest. We must have a divine revelation knowledge of who Jesus is or we will be tossed around like trash on a freeway as more and more false doctrines go speeding by us on a daily bases. But let me ask one more question. How do we determine the will of God where Scripture doesn't specifically tell us what to do such as: career choice, who we marry, etc. Does God stay silent and let us just make blind choices and hope for the best. What if i pray about someone will He not tell me yes or no???

#24  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 6:30 AM

Randell you ask a good question.  You write,

How do we determine the will of God where Scripture doesn't specifically tell us what to do such as: career choice, who we marry, etc. Does God stay silent and let us just make blind choices and hope for the best. What if i pray about someone will He not tell me yes or no???

The short answer is that God has given you freedom to make wise, discerning decisions in those areas of your personal life.  Most Christians have this idea that they have to have some "experience" in order to know God's will for their lives, but honestly, if you are obeying the things God has told us to do as Christians, the Spirit directs you in God's providence as you make biblically informed and wise decisions about those things. 

I would recommend a couple of items from John's preaching that may help you:

This message John gave to students at the Master's College:

and this classic message by John called "Decision Making Made Easy."

I would also recommend a short little book written by one of our former pastors who served with John at Grace Church called "Decision, Decision" written by Dave Swavely.  You may have to search for it, but I am pretty sure it is still available in print.  It is a good little book that would help you think through how to make those sorts of personal decisions.



#25  Posted by Elaine Bittencourt  |  Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 8:59 AM

# 10 - Mike, I agree with your comment. A question though, and I quote you: "Either way, we must accept it, adhere to it and teach it exactly as the Word uses it."

Having in mind your comment, how would one go about teaching something that they cannot understand?


#26  Posted by Elaine Bittencourt  |  Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 9:38 AM

# 23, Randell.

Here's another sermon that will help you:

# 24 - Fred, thank you for posting the other sermons' links, I will check those out.


#27  Posted by Elaine Bittencourt  |  Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 9:41 AM

Here's the link to the book mentioned by Fred on # 24, it's on amazon:

#28  Posted by Mike Sexton  |  Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 9:44 AM

Elaine, hello my sister! I pray that this finds you well.

I do admit there is a measure of confusion with how we would teach something we don't understand. (Notice I said "don't understand" not "cannot understand". I believe that the Spirit will bring us into understanding of these things if we will faithfully seek after Him and ask Him to do so.) It isn't something that should be done lightly or often. I think that before we teach, we must make EVERY effort to understand something as fully as we can at that time. If we don't understand something about a given topic, I think we should approach it with candor and admit..."I don't fully understand this, and yet I read it clearly in the Word, therefore I must adhere to it." Too often I think most pastors/teachers/evangelists, etc. don't want to admit that they don't have every answer and so they try to fill in the gaps with their own ideas and can make a real mess.

For instance: I understand in a broad, general sense, what the Trinity is. God is one in person and yet three in essence. What I don't understand is how each "essence" fills it's own individual role and yet functions as the whole God. Christ incarnate, on the earth was all God and yet all man. That is completely illogical to me. I don't understand it, but it is clearly presented in scripture. We see the three present at His baptism. ( Matthew 3:13-17) Christ did refer to Himself as Son of God and the Son of Man. ( Matthew 26:62-64 ; John 3:16-18 ) He reminded the disciples of His flesh-and-blood body after His resurrection ( Luke 24:36-43 ), and yet He taught "I and my Father are one." (John 10:30).

Though I don't understand this fully, I must acknowledge that it is clear in the Word. What I MUST NOT do is to try and come up with a way to explain it and then rest on that explanation as truth. I've heard many analogies that attempt to explain the Trinity. The best I've heard so far is water. It can be a solid as ice, a liquid as water and a gas as steam. Three distinct characteristics and yet one substance. The major flaw with this analogy is that it is basic modalism. Christ was all God and all man at the same time. Water can't be both solid and liquid at once. It is limited...God is not. That example falls apart. I would rather accept and teach what is clearly in scripture, admitting that I can't with my finite mind grasp the fullness than to spread a heresy while trying to preserve my pride.

Like I said, this is something that I think should be done with the utmost candor and seriousness, and should be avoided whenever possible by studying and searching to the best of our ability, recognizing and admitting the flaws in our understanding. I hope that makes as much sense to you as it does to me.

In Him...

Sola gratia! Sola fide! Solus Christus! Soli Deo gloria! Sola scriptura!

#29  Posted by Todd Boudreaux  |  Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 10:29 AM

Because a fundamental doctrine is clear in scripture does not mean that it is easily comprehended or understood. The doctrine of the Trinity would be an obvious case in point. Much like santification is a process that begins at salvation and is accomplished through our walk with Christ, many things that are difficult to understand will be made clearer to us as we prayerfully search and study the scriptures. We should also consult spiritual guidance from those to whom the Holy Spirit has given the gift of teaching. If we seek Him and seek to understand His doctrines, He will increase our understanding. Of course we will never fully understand until we are glorified with Him, but our lack of understanding can become clearer and clearer with diligent study in His Word. "12For now we (V)see in a mirror dimly, but then (W)face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also (X)have been fully known. " ( 1 Cor. 13:12 NASV).

#30  Posted by Mike Sexton  |  Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 10:55 AM

With regards to teaching and understanding, Pastor MacArthur preached a really good sermon back in 1984 I think..It was called Qualities of an Excellent Servant I think it's number 54-34.

#31  Posted by Elaine Bittencourt  |  Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 12:45 PM

# 28 - Mike,

thank you very much for explaining that, that's how I think exactly.

God bless you!


#32  Posted by Ken Thigpen  |  Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 1:10 AM

Hello brothers and sisters in Christ,

glad hear about this subject. It was interested but i myself wonder whom made the doctrine. I often read the doctrines from the different authors' viewpoints. They tried their best to follow what the scripts' teaching. It bothers me alot because the bible simple explains us to see the doctrines. However, they changes what the meanings define to us so it causes to debate each together.

#33  Posted by Tom Randolph  |  Monday, March 22, 2010 at 5:39 AM

It depends if we are reading it through the eyes of Jesus.