Doctrine vs. Commands


I think sometimes, confusion regarding the differences between doctrines and commands keeps us from fully obeying our LORD in love and faithfulness.  I’ve come to call this confusion “category error.”

A category is a “division or class” of a thing.  Inadvertently, we sometimes mix up these categories and hurt ourselves and our churches.

For example, a doctrine is a teaching.  To some extent, both theological doctrines and biblical commands can be called “doctrines.”  But there is a finer point to consider.  When we consider the “most important” doctrines found in the Bible, certain ones come to mind:

  • The Sovereignty and Power of our Eternal God

  • The Triune Godhead

  • The Deity and Humanity of Christ

  • The Sufficiency of Scripture

  • The Doctrine of the Church

  • Salvation by Grace through Faith Alone

  • The Return of Christ

Most believers would consider these doctrines “primary” or “first tier.”  Then there are doctrines like:

  • Modes and kinds of Baptism (immersion or sprinkling, babies or just confessing adults)

  • End Times views (Eschatology)

For most, these would be considered “secondary” or “second tier” teachings.  Then there are a few important moral/liberty issues that aren’t as well defined and about which Christians might use certain biblical principles to stake out a position (also called “tertiary” issues):

  • Acceptable foods

  • Which Day to worship

  • Which holidays to celebrate

  • Which kinds of music to use in LORD’s Day worship

  • Order of Service

  • How often to serve the LORD’s Table

  • How to educate our children

Concerning these things there are wide-ranging views among sincere believers.  But here are a few teachings (for our purposes, I’m calling them “Commands”) we MUST NOT place onto the sliding scale of doctrinal importance:

  • Idolatry

  • Murder

  • Adultery and fornication

  • Lying

  • Stealing

…and other “sins.”  God has “commanded” that these things not be done.  They are not up for debate; they are not “non-essential” doctrines.  They are in a different category altogether.  They are sins.

Do you see the difference?  Whereas we might have a vigorous but loving debate over amillennialism vs postmillennialism or casual church vs. formal church, we should never debate whether committing adultery is right or wrong.  That issue has been settled by God.  It is in the “Command Category.”  A church might debate modes of baptism, but it must never debate whether baptism is required.  Lying isn’t “no big deal” or a “secondary issue.”  It is sin.

Again, theological doctrines tend to be assembled using the whole counsel of God in an attempt to understand God better.  Moral commands are given to us by God to execute without delay.

Beloved, I submit that sometimes we slide our sins into the systematic theology category and act as if disobedience is up for debate.  If God says "do not do" and we do…that is sin.  If God says “do these things” and we refuse to, that is sin.  Sin is always a big deal.  The remedy isn’t a committee; it’s repentance!

There are several issues in our current day that believers are calling “second tier” and “small issues” that are actually against the commands of God; they are transgressions.  We're making little progress with them because we have them in the wrong category and are treating them as mere doctrinal differences or personal preferences.  As a result we are attempting to implement wrong solutions.

May we learn the difference between theological understanding and rebellion. Much is at stake.

Meditating upon the Scriptures

In March of 2019, our church is reading through Psalm 119 each day. To complete it, we’ll look at 5-6 verses each day of the month. Our emphasis, however, is not just upon reading it. Our goal is to improve in the time-honored and biblical commanded discipline of meditating upon God’s Word.

That very Psalm declares:

Psalms 119:12-16(KJV)  Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.  13  With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.  14  I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much asin all riches.  15  I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.  16  I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.

It also says…

Psalms 119:44-48(KJV)  So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever.  45  And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.  46  I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.  47  And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.  48  My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes.

Many Christians read God’s Word consistently. Our goal is to live the Word and declare the Word among the nations that people would come to know God in Christ! Some of us even sing the Word! But most have not learned to sit quietly and mediate upon the Scriptures.

Simply put, meditating upon the Word is, with the Holy Spirit’s help, the act of intentionally focusing one’s mind upon the Words of the Bible for the purposes of greater understanding, obedience, and worship. It is one tool the follower of Christ uses to better know the heart of the LORD.

Mediation isn’t rushed. It isn’t a daily checked box so we can move on to other things. But it also isn’t some sort of mystical trance. It is prayerfully turning God’s precepts over and over in one’s mind and heart until His truth is grasped at a greater level. It is training the mind to think more like the LORD thinks. It is to desire the mind of Christ! (1 Cor 2:16)

This is a good article with some wonderful definitions and quotes, including from J.I. Packer, whose book Knowing God we read in February 2019:


Here is another article, a bit more involved, that helps us distinguish the difference between biblical mediation and other forms of (unbiblical) mediation:

Article 2

May March 2019 be the start of a new part of your journey in Jesus!

Sola Scriptura…Solus Christus!

Responding to Racism Biblically

Text: Acts 17:22-28 (emphasis: v26)

Acts 17:26  And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; (KJV)

Act 17:26  From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. (NLT)

I’d like to walk you through this very complicated issue by attempting to answer four questions:

  1. What is Race?

  2. What is Racism?

  3. What are some common Perceptions of Race and Racism?

  4. How should Christians respond to Race and Racism Biblically?

What is Race?

  • When we think about Race, we think about skin color, hair texture, facial features, speech inflection, musical preferences, and other social constructs.  

  • Biblically however, there is only one “Race” as our Text declares: Human.  From one man, Adam, God created the human “Race” made in His image.

  • Definition: “The lineage of a family, or continued series of descendants from a parent who is called the stock. A race is the series of descendants indefinitely. Thus all mankind are called the race of Adam; the Israelites are of the race of Abraham and Jacob.” Webster 1828

  • Our differences are explained through the dispersion of men after the tower of Babel, the confusion of the languages of man by God, and the development within the subsequent “people groups” of variations based on geography, language, traditions, and very small genetic variations based on environment and parental DNA.

  • “If one were to take any two people anywhere in the world, scientists have found that the basic genetic differences between these two people would typically be around 0.2 percent—even if they came from the same people group. But these so-called “racial” characteristics that people think are major differences (skin color, eye shape, etc.) “account for only 0.012 percent of human biological variation.” (AIG)

  • Biblically speaking, men weren't divided by pigment and hair, but by geography and lineage (“Nations”), and more to the central message of Scripture, what they believed about God.

  • In particular, the thing which often produces the visible differences we see in people groups is a pigment called MELANIN.  This is the pigment that gives human skin, hair, and eyes their color.  Dark-skinned people have more melanin in their skin than light-skinned people have. 

  • We all have the same basic color, just different shades of it. We all share the same pigments—our bodies just have different combinations of them.

  • Our true “differences” are more cultural than biological. “The only reason many people think these differences are major is because they’ve been brought up in a culture that has taught them to see the differences this way.” (AIG)

What is Racism?

  • Merriam-Webster: “A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

  • Admittedly, there have always been those, and there will probably always will be those, who look down upon people that look, talk, or sing differently from them: I call this Surface Racism.

  • But the foundation of that surface racism often has more Sinister roots.  

  • In short, in the mid-1800’s a man named Darwin popularized the unbiblical concept of evolution to the world.  Among other things, Darwin believed that man evolved from monkeys and that different “races” of man evolved slower or faster, with the Caucasian race evolving the fastest, and the brown-skinned races evolving the slowest, being closer to apes.

  • This belief is the foundation of the worst racism: that blacks and whites (for example) are ontologically different (or different in our very nature, not just our cultures), and has been used to justify some of the worst atrocities the world has ever seen.

  • TRUTH: There is only on RACE.  From ONE BLOOD, God created all men.

What are some common Perceptions of Race and Racism?

First a question: Is there still racism in the world…in America, in our communities, and sadly in our churches? YES.  And honestly it “goes both ways.”  Pigment does not make any man immune to sin.

There is a debate raging about how widespread this racism is however.  As a result you’ll run into varied perceptions:

  1. Again, you will encounter those who believe our visible differences denote ontological differences…that we truly are different people…almost like a different species!

  2. You’ll encounter many people who still grieve (and are angry about) America’s past, including the great sins of slavery and forced segregation.

  3. You’ll meet those who see every slight, mistake, or unfortunate incident as involving racism.  Indeed, there are those whose entire worldview revolves around perceived (and sometimes real) injustices.

  4. You’ll meet those who agree things have improved, but still believe racism in America is institutional (woven into main areas like finance, education, government, etc) and intersectional (all these area work together to oppress).

How should Christians respond to Race and Racism Biblically?

  1. Examine your own heart before the LORD.  Do you really believe what Scripture says concerning your fellow man?  Have you allowed any racist attitudes to grow in you?

  2. Realize that Racism is a sin, like any other sin.  The answer to sin is Christ and His glorious Gospel.  True Gospel preaching (and hearts that have been transformed by the Gospel) is the only true antidote to Racism.

  3. See people as individuals, with unique experiences, doctrinal understandings, cultural pressures, biases, and sin struggles.  

    • In other words, don’t assume that the brother or sister in the LORD who looks different from you has been totally healed in this area.

    • It’s no different than any other sin that fallen man endures.  We would never say “Don’t worry about all that domestic violence stuff; it’s all under the Blood.”  Or cancer.  Or pornography.  Or adultery.  Yes the Blood IS our answer, but minister with enough grace so people can hear you.

    • Guard against being flippant.  Lean towards being transparent, honest, loving, and patient.  Along with LGBTQ and gender issues, race is THE most sensitive issue of our day. 

4. Pray for the Lord’s wisdom, help, and humility.

5. Serve.  Reach across color lines.  Understand what is biblical vs. what is preferential.  Be a light!