The Importance of Christian Doctrine, Part Four

By Leroy Forlines

It has been pointed out that for doctrine to be made practical it must address the total person. Man must be considered a thinking, feeling, and acting creature. In addressing the total person, the relationship of doctrine to the practical issues of life must be pointed out.

Doctrine does not spell out the details relating to the practical issues of life. This is the work of the minister, teacher, and the layman. Doctrine forms the foundation for the correct answers to the problems of life. The ideas right and wrong, good and bad are woven into every yard of the fabric of life. Man cannot escape asking questions and making judgments about right and wrong, good and bad. No person can ignore these questions.

People are far more concerned about these matters than they may let on. Everybody feels some degree of satisfaction when he does that which he believes to be right or good. Everybody feels some degree of dissatisfaction when he does that which he believes to be wrong or bad.

Why does man feel so deeply about moral issues? Christian doctrine gives the answer. God is a holy God making moral demands upon man. Man is a moral creature with moral needs. Man as created in God’s image is morally constituted. The question of right and wrong, good and bad are built into his innermost being. They are as real to him as his need for air, water, and food.

The fall of man into sin has cast man into the state of spiritual death, but it has not taken moral concern from him. Man finds himself in a constant state of conflict and confusion. Much of that which is wrong and bad, he wants to do. But to call it wrong and bad, and then do it, goes against his being.

It would simplify matters if a person could completely forget the whole idea of right and wrong. This would relieve his conscience and do away with his feelings of guilt. But this solution will not work because his very nature says no to it. It says to him, “There is such a thing as right and you must do it.”

This leaves man in an awful predicament. He searches frantically for answers. He tries to solve the problem by changing the labels on things. The wrong he wants to do he calls right. This offers temporary relief, but it is not really satisfactory. He may satisfy himself up to a Point by twisting moral ideals to fit his behavior, but no man can so twist the ideas of right and wrong that they will perfectly fit the case. He is still left with his guilt that he cannot explain away.

It is out of this state of moral helplessness that man has given birth to all of the false religions of the world and all of the confused ideas of right and wrong. It is to this state of moral helplessness that God has through His Son Jesus Christ offered redemption.

Man does not need to twist and confuse the ideas of right and wrong to meet his needs. He needs to accept God’s provision of forgiveness of sins and a new life. It is the forgiven and regenerated person who can by God’s grace begin to take an honest look at right and wrong, good and bad and begin to build a life around these principles.

We must help the sinner see his moral helplessness and turn to Christ. We must help the Christian learn to cope successfully with right and wrong, good and bad as they relate to the issues of everyday life.

The conversion experience gives to the believer forgiveness of sin and a change of attitude toward sin. It is important to realize that the conversion experience is the beginning of the end of man’s moral transformation.

Regeneration puts one in a condition to glow morally. It does not, however, immediately place a person into the state of moral perfection. The new Christian needs to grow morally both in knowledge and experience.

We often hear the admonition, “Let’s not be too negative.” There is some truth in the admonition. There is more to Christianity than a list of don’ts. We must never fall into the trap of constantly being negative. However, there is also great danger if we play down too much the idea of being negative.

Christianity is at its very heart “anti-sin.” The doctrine of redemption makes this very clear. Try to define redemption or Redeemer without using the word sin or its equivalent. You cannot.

Where does the necessity of redemption lie? It lies in the fact that man is a sinner and condemned for his sin to an eternal hell. God hates sin. He will not tolerate it. What is the aim of redemption? The basic aim of redemption is to do something about sin. It is to take people who are sinners and make them holy.

We still have internal difficulties that create problems for us in our growth in holiness. The obligation to fight sin is built into the very nature of redemption. We need to be negative. We need to fight sin. Yes, we need to be positive. Our main obligation in being positive is to be holy and stand for holiness.

It is not enough just to believe that there is such a thing as sin and that it is wrong. It must be seen for its true seriousness. It takes a serious view of sin to support the idea that God hates sin so much that He has provided a hell for sinners. Yet, such a view of sin is a must for the very existence of Christianity.

Why? There would be no cross where Jesus paid the penalty for sin if God did not hate sin. The idea that Jesus took the sinner’s place on the cross and suffered as much on the cross as sinners will suffer in hell requires a very serious view of sin.

Once we see the truth about redemption, sin, and holiness, it follows as logically that redemption is designed to do away with sin as it does that light dispels darkness. Where darkness stands unconquered, there is no light. Where sin is not being conquered, there is no redemption. Moral development is at the very heart of the Christian’s responsibility. We dare not take sin lightly!