Connecting Doctrine With ‘Real Life’

K. J. Gilliard

A continuing complaint in many churches is that an emphasis on ‘doctrine’  will often be at the expense of teaching believers anything ‘relevant’ to their daily lives.  Thus, in Christian circles, the majority of books that ‘sell’ are books which have to do more with ‘how to make it through my day without losing my temper’ or ‘how to be a better me’ rather than things which focus on the nature, attributes, works and person of God.

As a result, many believers find themselves ill-prepared to answer objections to the Christian faith or to even adequately explain the content of the Christian faith because they either have a shallow or non-existent doctrinal basis for their beliefs.

Now let’s be clear. Making that connection (between right doctrine/teaching and right living) IS absolutely essential and a necessary part of good, sound expositional preaching and teaching.  But we MUST get the doctrine aspect correct first before we attempt to get into the practical aspect.

For example, “How do I become a better husband ?” is probably an immediate question that comes to the average churchgoer’s mind quicker than “Which view of the atonement is correct ?”

Well, the two are intimately connected. Often, people in churches that aren’t doctrinally sound and doctrinally grounded (read: shallow) aren’t made to regularly see the connection between the two – thus, they see and hear doctrine being taught outside of their circles and think its’ not ‘practical’ or ‘relevant’.

So we find the answer to BOTH questions in Eph. 5:22-33.

How is a husband to ‘be a better husband’ ? He is to love his wife in the *same manner* as Christ loved the church – Christ gave Himself up for His bride.

That’s a particular love, not shared with everyone else in the world. That, when cross-referenced with Acts 20:28, John 10:14-17, Matthew 1:21, Titus 2:11-13 and a host of other passages tells us about the extent of the atonement and which view of it is correct. Christ’s love and sacrifice were for His bride, His sheep, His people – not the goats, not the tares, and He intercedes for His people in John 17 – not those outside of His people.

This same kind of love is what a husband’s relationship to his wife should be – specifically, the level of devotion he’s supposed to have and WHERE it should be directed.

So that informs the husband that his desire should be for his wife, not other women. That cuts out all fantasizing, pornography and tells him that as Job did, he needs to make a covenant with his eyes and keep them on his bride – the same way Christ made a covenant with His father and died to bless His bride with every spiritual gift (Eph. 1).

Second, it’s a self-sacrificing love – that informs the husband’s behavior toward his wife is to be of the character that nourishes and protects her the same way Christ does the church, leads her spiritually the same way (v. 26-28 of Ephesians 5). This is a call to spiritual leadership in the home – simply because the same way Christ nourishes and washes His bride with the Word in order to present her spotless and unblemished (notice the Word is the means of our sanctification), the husband is to model this same spiritual behavior in his home as priest and head.

Here, we see the doctrine of sanctification set alongside how a husband is to love his wife and lead his home.

There is MUCH more in this passage, but prayerfully you get the idea.  Right doctrine taught rightly shows us how to live right and why we need to live right.  If this foundation is not in place, the process of simply ‘living a good life’ becomes nothing more than moralism and personal preference– something which will put believers in a position where their beliefs will only be treated as an option (alongside other moral standards that do not get their start with God) rather than as ultimate truth.

There are many resources for believers now from good, solid teachers that can help believers. Desiring GOD has an entire library of works from John Piper (including all 25+ years of his sermons) online for free as MP3’s and in text form for study and growth in the faith. Likewise, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Voddie Baucham and many  other teachers have made their materials free so that if you’re reading this article, you can access their works too.

Invest the time. It will be returned to you in years of spiritual productivity and less frustration with learning how to deal with these issues when they actually arise rather than learning about them beforehand and being prepared.

In closing, I must give credit to John L. Duncan of First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Mississippi for giving the original message that helped to inspire this article.  The message is entitled “Sound Doctrine – Essential to Faithful Pastoral Ministry” and was given in April 2008 at the Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

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