Only when we come to know God will we come to love Him. In his sermon “The Apostles’ Teaching,” Alistair Begg reminds us that Christian doctrine is fundamentally important for every believer. He turns to Bruce Milne’s modern classic, Know the Truth, to consider four reasons why:
One of the books that has become a very important book to us as a church family—and not least of all amongst our church leadership—is a book that has been written by a Scotsman, as it turns out, Dr. Bruce Milne, and the book is entitled Know the Truth. And for those of you—some in the men’s Bible studies have gone through this book—for those of you who, like them, are aware of the book, you will perhaps recall that his introduction is quite striking. Because he opens up all that follows in the book by asking the question “Why … is the study of doctrine so vital?”1 Why would anybody take all this time to write a book entitled Know the Truth that was full of Christian doctrine, the teaching of the Bible?
And he answers that with four simple answers, which he doesn’t expound in any way. And they’re these, for those of you who haven’t read the book.
He said the reason that it is so vital is, first of all, because “every Christian is a theologian.”2 “Every Christian is a theologian,” in the sense that theology is the science of God, or theology is the knowledge of God which emerges from an acquaintance with God, brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit and instructed by the pages of Holy Scripture. So it is impossible to be a believer—to be a Christian—without being someone who has a knowledge of God and who recognizes that that knowledge of God is something which is to be deepening all the time. And it is to be deepened as a result of the study of Christian doctrine. That’s the first reason that it’s so vital.
It is in getting to know my Bible that I get to know Jesus.
“Secondly,” he says, it is vital because “getting doctrine right is the key to getting everything else right.”3 If we want to know how we should worship, then the answer will be found in a knowledge of the Bible—in understanding Christian doctrine. If we want to understand how to be good witnesses, the answer is to be found in a knowledge of the Scriptures. How to conduct myself at work, how to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, how to nurture Christian relationships—the answer to all of these questions emerges from a study of the Bible.
In the course of the last few days, I’ve had all kinds of encounters with different people, none more lovely than the one which came about in encountering a lady who, along with her husband, had come to something that I was participating in in the last few days. And the lady wanted me to know two things. And she put them in this order: “Number one,” she said, “I’d like you to know that I have read the Bible through for the first time in all my life. It has taken me two years and three months. And number two, I am four and a half months pregnant.”
Now, if you want to know who she is, you need to go around and find somebody who is four and a half months pregnant. But the wonderful thing about it was, here is somebody who professed faith in Jesus Christ. Nobody laid a rod to her back, nobody said, “This is what you must do,” nobody press-ganged her into it. But over a period of some twenty-seven months, she set about the task of getting to know the Bible. And I can guarantee you that it is that knowledge which yields the opportunity to get everything else right in our lives. Not simply that a head knowledge, in and of itself, is sufficient, because the Bible says that what is going on up here cerebrally must also be translating to the very essence of our lives—to our hearts—viscerally. But nevertheless, we cannot get anything right until we get the doctrine right.
“Thirdly,” he says, “the study of doctrine is an expression of loving the Lord with our minds.”4 Remember, Jesus says—in response to the Pharisees’ question “Which is the greatest commandment?”—he says, “You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” (See Matt. 22:36–37; Mark 12:28–30.) What does it mean to love God with all your mind? How can a person love God with all their mind? The answer is, in getting serious about the Bible, in getting serious about God’s truth, in getting serious about a knowledge of God.
And “fourthly,” he says, “doctrine is vital because it is impossible finally to separate Christ from the truths which Scripture reveals concerning him.”5 In other words, our knowledge of Jesus is a knowledge which is gained through the Word of God. It is not a knowledge of Jesus that happens, as it were, over in some rarefied experience in a corner, but it is in getting to know my Bible that I get to know Jesus.
Read, watch, or listen to the sermon “The Apostles’ Teaching.”