Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 4, 1955

The One True Doctrine

W. S. Boyett, Pecos, Texas

It might surprise some to know that the teaching of the Lord is never called doctrines, but always doctrine — singular. We read of the doctrine of God in the following passages: "That the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed." (I Tim. 6:1.) "That they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." (Titus 2:10.) We also read of the doctrine of Christ: "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection." (Heb. 6:1.) "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God." (II John 9.) We also read of the apostle's doctrine: "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking bread, and in prayers." (Acts 2:42.) "But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience." (II Tim. 3:10.) We also read of sound or wholesome doctrine. "And if there be any other thing contrary to sound doctrine." (I Tim. 1:10.) "For the time will come that they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lust shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (II Tim. 4:3-4.) "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." (Titus 1:9.) "But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine." (Titus 2:1.) And in this same connection we read of sound words: "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." (II Tim. 1:13.) We also read of Good doctrine. "If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast been called." (I Tim. 44:6.) Paul commanded Timothy to teach no other doctrine. "As I besought thee to abide in Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine." (I Tim. 1:3.)

In contrast to these passages we have the following references not to doctrine, but to doctrines. First we mention the doctrines of devils. "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth." (I Tim. 4:1-3.) Then we also read of doctrines of men. "He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your tradition." (Mark 7:6-9.) Then again: "Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth." (Titus 1:14.) "Why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men." (Col. 2:20-22.) And finally we read of divers and strange doctrines. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines." (Heb. 13:8-9.)

Thus far we have given two groups of passages that contain the word "doctrine." In the first group this word is always in the singular and in the latter group always in the plural. The first group of passages always speak of something good in connection with the word and in the second group there is always something of a debasing nature associated with the term. The unity and agreement of the first group of passages should be obvious to all. The very fact that the word is always in the singular shows the unity and oneness of the thing being discussed. When we read of the "doctrine of God," the word is singular; when we read of the "doctrine of Christ," again it is singular. When we read of the "apostles' doctrine," still it is singular. But when the whole is under consideration the singular is again used and the whole is called "good doctrine." Surely the doctrine of God is good doctrine and thus the same must be true of the "doctrine of Christ" and the "apostles' doctrine." These are all "good doctrine," but none of them alone, or the whole of them considered together, are ever called doctrines — in the plural. It is called the "doctrine of God" because He is its author. God is the author of all true doctrine. Jesus himself admitted that his doctrine was not his own, but his that sent him. (John 7:16.) And the words of our Lord Jesus Christ are called the doctrine which is according to godliness. "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings ..." (I Tim. 6:3-4.) It is called the "doctrine of Christ," because, as Paul says in Hebrews 2:3, it began to be spoken by him. Hence Christ was the first to enunciate the "doctrine of God."

The apostles had no doctrine of their own which was different from the doctrine which Christ preached, of which God was the author. On the day of Pentecost when their preaching was begun in the name of Jesus Christ, they spoke as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:4.) This was just as Jesus had promised them. He told them that when the Holy Spirit was come he would guide them into all truth, for, says he, "He shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he heareth that shall he speak." (John 16:13.) Thus what the apostles spake they were guided into speaking by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 16:14, that the Holy Spirit would receive his message from him and would deliver it unto the apostles. Let us notice what one of the apostles affirmed concerning the message that he preached. "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Gal. 1:11-12.) He wanted them to be sure and know that his message was not something that he had learned at the feet of some human teacher, but that he received it directly from God. The same apostle affirmed still more exactly how he received the word and how he transmitted to others in his letter to the Ephesians-3:2-5. "If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." This passage, taken in connection with the promise of Jesus, to the apostles in John 16:13, will show just how this "doctrine of God" has been transmitted to all men. God gave it to Christ and he "began to speak it," but he went back to heaven and it "was confirmed unto us by them that heard him." (Heb. 2:3-4.) Paul was one of these apostles and he affirms that he wrote what he received by revelation so that others might read it and understand his knowledge of the mystery of the gospel. Here we have unity of doctrine or teaching among diversity of methods of presenting it to mankind.

It will be noted in the passages that use the word "doctrine" in the plural that they are divided into two groups, viz., the "doctrines of devils" and the "doctrines of men." Of course we did read of "divers and strange doctrines," but this passage is in the epistle to the Hebrews; that was written to Christian people, and any doctrine other than the gospel might well be called a strange doctrine to them.

First let us notice the doctrines of devils. Any doctrine that originates with the devil, or that teaches principles that originated with him, might well be called the doctrines of the devil. Men might teach the doctrines of the devil. It would not be necessary for the devil to always be the proclaimer of these doctrines for them to be rightly his. What Paul called doctrines of devils in I Timothy 4:1-3, included the teaching that forbids marriage and commands to abstain from meats. These doctrines are still taught in the world. They are basic teachings of some people. However, it should ever be kept in mind that such is branded by the apostle Paul as the doctrines of devils. The "doctrine of God" rather than teaching to abstain from marriage teaches that "marriage is honorable in all." (Heb. 13:4.) As here, so always, the doctrines of devils or of men contradict the "doctrine of God." The "doctrine of God" nowhere commands men to abstain from meats, yet in our world there are those men that bind on their fellowmen the doctrine of not eating meat during certain festivals and on certain days of the week.

There really may not be any difference between the "doctrines of devils" and "the doctrines of men." Just as the "doctrine of God" becomes the "doctrine of Christ" because it was preached by him; so the "doctrines of devils" may become the "doctrines of men" when men preach or teach them. Paul tells us that some men would be ministers of Satan and thus would preach his doctrines. "For such are false prophets, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." (II Cor. 11:13-15.) There were certain teachers going about to whom Paul makes reference here as being ministers of Satan who, in order to cover up their real nature, were transforming themselves into the ministers of righteousness. This was foretold by Jesus in these words: "Beware of false prophets that come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." (Matt. 7:15.) Would to God that no man would lend himself to such a use by Satan, but that all men would do as the angel bid the apostles "stand and speak unto the people all the words of this life." (Acts 5:20.) And as Peter commanded all, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God." (I Peter 3:11.)