Doctrine and Practice, Inseparable

Truth is so vast and its implications so great, that the mind is compelled to analyse, dissect and separate in order to attain to some semblance of understanding, but both teacher and taught should ever remember that truth so dissected is dead: we are but conducting a post-mortem examination. Consequently we differentiate between faith and works, and can consider each separately, yet in strict truth 'faith if it hath not works is dead, being alone' (James 2:17), and so are works without faith. Again, we differentiate most markedly between imputed righteousness and practical righteousness, yet if imputed righteousness never manifests itself in practical righteousness, the original reckoning is vain, being unfruitful.

For the purpose of clearer understanding we speak of Doctrine and Practice, and point out that whereas Ephesians 1 to 3 contains seven sections devoted to doctrinal truth, Ephesians 4 to 6 contains seven corresponding sections devoted to practical truth; but if we imagine it to be possible to receive, believe and enjoy the revelation of the doctrinal section while ignoring the practical teaching of the corresponding section, we are in grievous error. The doctrine cannot be divorced from its divinely described goal, namely, 'that we should be holy and without blame'. So also the revelation contained in Ephesians 1:15-23 presupposes the enlightenment of the eyes: 'the eyes of your understanding having been enlightened' (1:18, perfect, passive participle). The fact that salvation is by grace, through faith, and not of works, is not to be separated from the equally emphasized fact that it is nevertheless 'unto good works' (Eph. 2:8-10). The doctrine of Ephesians 1 to 3 and the practice of Ephesians 4 to 6 make one undivided whole, and any attempt to explain the one without the other is vain and must end in confusion. In John's Gospel the Saviour has given one or two words that point in this direction:

'If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine' (John 7:17).

'Will do', is the simple future, but this is not what the original says. The Revised Version is correct and reads: 'If any man willeth to do His will', showing that the 'will' of the person is involved. The same care is called for in translating John 5:40, where the Authorized Version reads: 'Ye will not come to Me', which is given a force nearer to that of the original if made to read, 'Ye are not willing to come to Me'. Other examples of the truth that 'will to do' precedes knowledge of doctrine can easily be found.

'If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed' (John 8:31).

This word 'continue' is the translation of meno , a key word of John's Gospel, mostly translated 'abide' (see 8:35). So John 15:9 says 'continue ye in My love', but John 15:10 says, 'Ye shall abide in My love'. While a different word is used in John 8:44, there appears to be a reference to the danger of the negative side of this truth, for it says of the devil that he 'abode not in the truth'.

First then we have 'the will to do', followed by the taking up of a permanent abode, making the word of the Lord our dwelling-place, our atmosphere, our environment: 'Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free' (John 8:32). Here the knowledge of the truth which flows out of this abiding, leads to liberty, and makes free . While the truth is necessarily expressed in language, a knowledge of grammar is essential to its interpretation, yet nothing is said of grammar, of the laws of interpretation, of literary ability: what is stressed is consistent, corresponding practice.

This is one of the primary lessons which all must learn and practise, if they would understand doctrine aright.