The Doctrine of Christ – Basis of Fellowship
A doctrine or teaching can either unite Christians or divide them. Sometimes doctrines tend to divide the Body of Christ rather than unite.
The Bible has given us its own inspired statement of faith, and for all believers of the Scriptures, it should be accepted as the doctrinal basis of fellowship of the followers of Christ. John refers to this in 2John 9-11 as the “doctrine of Christ.” “…He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you, and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him.” The doctrinal basis of fellowship, therefore, is belief in and practice of the principles of the doctrine of Christ.
In Hebrews 6:1-2 we find a statement of these basic principles of the doctrine of Christ. “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”
Here we find six things with a seventh implied which comprise the doctrine of Christ:
1. Repentance from dead works.
2. Faith toward God.
3. Doctrine of baptisms.
4. Laying on of hands.
5. Resurrection of the dead.
6. Eternal judgment.
7. Go on to perfection (maturity).
The doctrine of Christ provides enlightenment, tasting of the heavenly gift, partaking of the Holy Spirit, tasting of the good word of God, and tasting of the powers of the world to come.
Repentance from Dead Works
Belief in Christ is not sufficient without repentance. Jesus said to the religious Jews, “…unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
Natural man, if he believes in salvation, believes in a salvation of works. But only through the blood of Christ is one purged or cleansed “from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14).
Faith toward God
It’s faith – not in dead works – but faith towards God through Christ. Christ showed that faith in Him is faith towards God.
"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).
You must have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:16, John 3:35-36).
Doctrine of Baptisms
It is written as doctrine of baptisms, not the doctrine of baptism. Some believe in singular baptism, but not in plural baptisms.
Baptism with Water
Peter explained that water baptism is a figure, or symbol, of an inward work, “…(not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” (1Peter 3:21).
The answer of a good conscience saves us. Baptism is the answer of a good conscience before God. It’s an outward symbol of initiation into the body of Christ. Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
Baptism with the Holy Spirit
Christ said, “…for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5).
What they experienced on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-4 and the proof that they had received the Holy Spirit was that they “began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Jesus told them the purpose of the experience at the same time He told them of this soon coming experience – to give them power and to enable them to be His witnesses.
"…you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
John the Baptist spoke of Christ’s baptizing His people in the Holy Spirit in Matthew 3:11.
Baptism into One Body
Associated with the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the act in which the Holy Spirit Himself baptizes the members of Christ into one body. Men may join a human organization, but they become members of the body of Christ by baptism of the Spirit into the body.
"For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…" (1Corinthians 12:13).
The Spirit of God has set Christ as head of the body, and all true believers are members of the body. The doctrine of baptisms thus compels us to accept and recognize the unity of all true believers.
Since the Spirit sets members in the body, no human personalities may overrule or break that relationship without violating the integrity of the body of Christ.
Who are the members that are baptized by the Holy Spirit into one body? They are listed in 1Corinthians 12:27-28. “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.”
These members of the body of Christ are empowered for service by certain gifts that are given them by the Holy Spirit. “…for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues” (1Corinthians 12:8-10).
The Lord’s Supper
As water baptism is the outward symbol of being baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3), so the partaking of bread in the Lord’s Supper is the symbol of Christ’s dwelling within us and we in Him (John 6:56). We become members of the body of Christ as we partake of Christ in faith.
“The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, being many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread” (1Corinthians 10:16-17).
This eating of the body of Christ and thus becoming a part of His body is one of the great doctrines of Christ. Those who partake of Christ, in faith, dwell in Christ and are a part of His body.
The Laying on of Hands
This doctrine has been practiced in the church for a long time, but too often without faith and the anointing of God. In such a case it is only a form and a ceremony.
The laying on of hands was a doctrine of the Old Testament. Joshua received the Spirit of wisdom through the laying on of hands by Moses, who had been so authorized by the Lord (Numbers 27:18, 23; Deuteronomy 34:9).
The Laying On of Hands for Healing
Jesus began His ministry of healing by laying hands on the sick. “Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them” (Mark 6:5).
In the Great Commission, Christ mentions the laying on of hands. He commanded His disciples to lay hands on the sick for their recovery. “…they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:18).
Laying On of Hands for the Receiving of the Holy Spirit
The Apostle Paul himself received the Holy Spirit through the laying on of the hands of Ananias, a disciple (Acts 9:17). This act shows that this ministry was not reserved exclusively for the apostles.
Laying On of Hands for Ministry Gifts
There is also the laying on of hands for the several ministries. In the case of Paul and Barnabas, after they had waited on the Lord with prayer and fasting, the Holy Spirit separated them for a certain work.
“As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:2-3).
A gift was given to Timothy through the laying on of hands. “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery” (1Timothy 4:14).
It is evident that the laying on of hands is cooperating with God. Only the Holy Spirit gives gifts for the ministry. It is His prerogative.
"But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills" (1Corinthians 12:11).
The giving of the gifts belongs to God. The initiative of stirring up the gifts belongs to man.
Doctrine of the Resurrection
The fifth essential principle of the doctrine of Christ is the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. This glorious event takes place simultaneously with the coming of the Lord.
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord I the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1Thessalonians 4:13-17).
Doctrine of Eternal Judgment
Christ taught the doctrine of eternal judgment for the believer by stating that they would inherit the kingdom of life eternal as found in Matthew 25.
He also taught the reality of eternal damnation, or judgment (Mark 3:29). These solemn truths are an essential part of the doctrine of Christ. He referred to an everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). He spoke of everlasting punishment for the wicked (Matthew 25:46).
Those who would lessen the seriousness of the truth or deny the eternalness of the judgment of God are of the same spirit as was Satan who, while in the Garden of Eden told the first lie, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4).
Doctrine of Going On to Perfection
The writer of the book of Hebrews declared that these six principles of the doctrine of Christ were not complete. There was one more – Christians should go on to perfection. They must go forward or die. Though none is already perfect, each should press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14).
The question is not how far have we already attained, but are we pressing forward to the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus? This is the doctrine of Christ, for He Himself said, “Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
Aside from the required acceptance of the doctrine of Christ, it is evident that in the Early Church there was not uniformity of belief in many matters, as for example that of circumcision (Acts 15:1). The apostles did not attempt to resolve differences in this case. Each side was given liberty of conscience in the matter, but neither was permitted to make it an issue. The church should stand for liberty of conscience in the matter of doctrine other than the doctrine of Christ, but it must condemn and disapprove of those who would use that liberty to divide the brethren.