What Is the One Doctrine of the Apostles?

René Malgo

Many different, often contradictory things are preached in the bazaar of Christian opinions. Paul was hardly squeamish regarding the possibly good preaching of false brothers: “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice” (Phil 1:18).

This is an important principle, especially if we do not agree with our brothers and sisters in our views. True believers may also have different views on doctrinal questions. But where is the true doctrine of the Christian faith, “once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3), which we can be certain is not influenced by differences of opinion? How do we recognize that Jesus Christ is really being proclaimed? There is only one “sound doctrine” of the apostles (2 Tim 4:3).

In the 5th century, a certain Vincent of Lérins (died in 450) pondered this question, because even at that time, false teachers had a penchant for abusing Holy Scripture. His conclusion was: We recognize right faith as “that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.” If a Bible teacher follows the “universality, antiquity, and consent” of the church since the apostles, then he is on the safe side. The concern of every Christian should be, at all costs, to abide by the “glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling” (Clement of Rome).

The apostle Paul summarizes this one doctrine—that one “rule of faith” (Irenaeus of Lyons; 2 Thess 2:15)—which we believers must unconditionally preserve in the “unity of the Spirit”: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph 4:4-6).

The church has one faith, and this one faith can be summarized as: Jesus is Lord (Acts 16:31; 20:21). The one faith expresses itself in the one body of Christ: where the church gathers in the name of the Lord Jesus, worships Him, fosters the fellowship of the body in the breaking of the bread of Holy Communion, and preaches the doctrine of the apostles (1 Cor 10:16-17; Acts 2:42).

The teaching of the apostles in the one faith and in the one body is about the one Spirit, the one Lord, the one Father, and the one baptism. Baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19) is, to a certain extent, the door to the church of the Triune God (cf. 1 Cor 12:13). The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is the one true God in three persons. The Trinity of God—the distinction between God the Father, the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and yet His acknowledgement as God Himself—is the essential feature of the Christian faith and the apostolic doctrine, as it has been through the ages (and differences of opinion), and has never been destroyed.

Moreover, the apostolic doctrine marks the realization that the Father is “above all, and through all, and in you all.” Everything we do is about Him and His honor. Being a Christian is a life of right worship in the presence of God. Wherever we rise and walk, there God is, and so we want to glorify Him through our lives.

We find an incentive to do this in the one hope of our vocation; namely, in the firm confidence that Christ will come again, and we will always be with Him. Our unshakable goal is eternal, unclouded fellowship with the Father and the Son, through the Holy Spirit in the glory of heaven and the resurrection.

Anyone who believes and proclaims these things moves within the framework of the apostolic teaching. Anyone who rejects these things, however, moves beyond the boundaries of the “historical” Christian faith, into their own and false doctrines, which are neither inspired by the Spirit nor desired by the Lord, and also do not honor the Father.

Midnight Call - 08/2018

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