Confidence in Christ's Doctrine

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Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. Jn. 7:16-17

There is a moral dimension to the doctrine of Christ, and if we are not willing to embrace it on that level, we will be forever struggling in an assurance of its truth. And though it is true that there can be real and significant intellectual hurdles for the unbeliever to surmount as they come to faith in Christ, the reality is that often these kinds of hurdles are only there because of the hostility of the affections against the lifestyle demanded by it. In other words, it is the demand on the life more than the demand on the mind that is the barrier to our coming to embrace Christ's word as true. This is what our Lord is saying here: those who want to do God's will (the first "will" in verse 17 means "to desire"), whose hearts are amenable to its precepts and commands, will know - have real confidence - that Christ's doctrine is true.

This is the reason why our Lord again and again points to a moral reformation of the heart as that which must take place before anyone can come to faith in Christ. They must be drawn and their hostility must be overcome (Jn. 6:44; Rom. 8:7-8). We must be born again (Jn. 3:5).

But it is also true for those who are already regenerated by the grace of God. We too can sometimes struggle with doubts and questions about the truth of God's word. After all, didn't John the Baptist? What makes us think that we are not susceptible to such doubts as well (cf. Mt. 11:3)? How then do we combat such doubts?

Again, we don't want to deny the role of the intellect here. It is right to study theological and philosophical arguments for the truth of God's word. There is a place for apologetics.

But if we really want to nurture a heart that has confidence in the doctrine of God's word, we must take seriously the state of our heart as it relates to the goodness of God's commands. It is when we begin to allow sin to take root in our hearts and begin to think of disobedience to God's will as something desirable that we will inevitably start doubting other elements of God's word as well. If we want to rejoice in the doctrine of God, we must also rejoice in our duty to God.

To use the apostle Paul as an illustration: if we want to be able to say, with him, that "I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things that are written in the law and in the prophets" (Acts 24:14), we must also be able to say, with Paul, that "herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men" (Acts 24:16).

By: Jeremiah Bass