To Whom God Teaches His Doctrine
November 27th, 1955 @ 8:15 AM
TO WHOM GOD TEACHES HIS DOCTRINE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-27-55 8:15 a.m.
The title of the message this morning is To Whom God Teaches His Doctrine. And the reading, the text, is in the twenty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, the ninth and the tenth verses – Isaiah 28:9-10:
Whom shall He teach knowledge? And whom shall He make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.
These eight-thirty o’clock morning services are dedicated to the great doctrines of the faith. This morning we’re going to speak of the doctrine itself.
It was said of the Lord Jesus Christ when He finished his great Sermon on the Mount in the seventh chapter of the book of Matthew, it is said, "And the people were astonished at His doctrine" [Matthew 7:28-29].
It was said of the apostles in Jerusalem in the fifth chapter of the book of Acts when the Sanhedrin hailed Peter and John and the apostles before them, they said, "Did not we command you not to teach in this name? And behold, ye have filled all Jerusalem with your doctrine" [Acts 5:27-28].
The apostle Paul wrote to his young son Timothy in the ministry. In the fourth chapter of the first letter to Timothy, the thirteenth verse: "Till I come, give attendance unto doctrine" [1 Timothy 4:13]. And in the sixteenth verse: "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in so doing thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee" [1 Timothy 4:16].
In this Second John that we just read together, the apostle wrote to the church saying: "Whosoever trangesseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. But he that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, hath both the Father and the Son" [2 John 1:9].
Now what is this thing that this Book is so constantly speaking of and describing as "the doctrine"? Well, what it is not: the doctrine is not a tricky, mean forensic thing by which debating denominationalists beat one another over the head. So many times we think of "the doctrine" as being those things that are peculiarly known to some debating parsons who seek thereby to make themselves distinctive and separate from somebody else.
For example, I heard a crazy story long time ago when I was a youth, when I first began to preach. It went like this.
In a little town like I grew up, in which so many of you grew up – in a little town like that – why upon a day the young new popular pastor of the Baptist church was having a special service and all the people were there of the city, of the little town. And so the chairman of the deacons was standing by the side of the young preacher, and they were looking out through a little place from the back over the congregation.
And the deacon was saying to the young pastor, he was saying, "You know, we have a magnificent crowd here today. Our church is just – that is just fine, just filled. Oh it’s a fine hour." He looked out and he said, "Young Pastor," he said, "You can’t say anything about the Methodists today; there are a lot of Methodists here." He looked out over the congregation, and he said, "Now, young Pastor, you mustn’t say anything about the Presbyterians; there are a lot of Presbyterians here." He looked out and he said, "And, young Pastor, you can’t say anything about the Episcopalians; we got some Episcopalians here today." And the deacon looked carefully over the congregation, and he said, "I’ll tell you what, young Preacher." He said, "There are not any Mormons out there; just give it to the Mormons today." That’s typical of so much of our delineation and our description and our definition of the "the doctrine." That’s not it.
What is "the doctrine"? This is it: the Greek word didaskō means "to teach." Didaskalia is what is taught. A didaskalos is a teacher, and the didache is the doctrine. Doctrine is what we know of God. Doctrine is the summation of the truth and the revelation of God. God is truth. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" [John 14:6]. And when a man knows the full truth, he knows God. And no man could ever know God apart from the truth, the teaching, or the doctrine.
In God’s created world, everything has its principles, its laws, its truths. In the field of music, there are a lot of laws and principles to be learned about music. You don’t know anything about music unless you know those laws and those principles.
For example, in a little old course that I had one time, I learned that when you pluck a string, like hit that string on the piano or make a string vibrate with a violin or pluck it with a harp, why the thing will vibrate from that end to this end, the full end; then it’ll vibrate from that end to half of it, from that end to the middle it’ll vibrate too; then it’ll vibrate from that end to half of the middle; then it’ll vibrate from that end to half of that half; then it’ll vibrate from that end to half of that half; and it’ll vibrate from that end to half of that half, and the half of that half, and the half of that half, and the half of that half, and the half of that half. That’s what you call an overtone. That’s what gives beautiful resonance to a beautiful violin.
Now you knew that, didn’t you? But you weren’t born knowing that. You were taught it. That’s part of the doctrine of music. And there’s a million others just like it. So with chemistry, so with biology, so with government: these things have great truths, great laws and principles, that undergird them that make them pertinent or regnant. God made it that way.
So it is with the truths of God. There are great revelations. There are facts. There are teachings concerning God, and that summation we call "the doctrine." This is a book of facts. Our religion is a book of truths. It’s a revelation. We haven’t followed, like Simon Peter says, "We have not followed cunningly devised fables" [2 Peter 1:16]. These things upon which we ground our lives and base our souls, by which we are encouraged by hope in our heart, these things are factual things. They are great revealed truths. They are the revelation of God, and that revelation we call "the doctrine, the teaching."
Now, what is "the doctrine"? The doctrine is the backbone of the Christian faith, of the Christian church, and of the individual Christian. Down there on the seashore, I saw a jellyfish washed up there on the sand, and I went over there and I looked at it. The reason it’s a jellyfish is it has no vertebrae. It’s just a jellyfish.
Now, a Christian is a jellyfish unless he has a backbone. You don’t have to wear your backbone out in front of you. You don’t have to stick it out there all the time and let it be on display. You’d be a funny looking anatomical creature if you were coming here to church and when I looked at you there was your backbone sticking out.
No, you don’t wear it in front of you, but you’ve got to have one! That’s the thing. And if you don’t have a backbone, you’re flexible, you’re amenable, you’re either bent or humped, or you can be molded and pushed any such way. Our people ought to be so taught and they ought to be so trained that when they meet error they can say, "Why that’s not the truth of God. That’s not right. That’s not in the Book." You could take one of our children and send them to a certain parochial school and those children could stand up and say, "Why that’s not in the Bible. That’s not the revealed Word of God. That’s not the truth!" That’s what you call backbone. That’s ecclesiastical stamina. That’s a knowledge of the truth of God.
"All Scripture," said Paul to Timothy in his last letter, "is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine" [2 Timothy 3:16]. These children – one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen – there are sixteen little children right down there. We ought to be teaching them the faith, the doctrine, the truth of God! They believe something. This is what God says. No matter what a man says or a hierarchy says or an ecclesiastical group says or the editor says or the world says, this is what God says. That’s "the doctrine." It’s what makes you stand up.
Now what is "the doctrine"? It is something else. In the final analysis, ultimately, it is the decisively determining factor in all life and in all human experience. And that’s not true only of the doctrine of the Book, of the Bible, of the church, of the Lord Jesus Christ of God, that’s true of any doctrine. It’s true of any teaching; it’s true of any idea. This world is not determined by inanimate, inert matter – mountains, rivers, forests, lands, continent, oceans – but the future of humanity and the history of the race has been and is and will be determined by ideas, by teachings, by revelations, by doctrines.
Way back yonder years ago, over a hundred years ago, there lived a man by the name of Nietzsche [Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, 1844-1900], and he taught a certain faith, and he taught a certain doctrine. And he was followed by a man by the name of Bismarck who tried to implement that doctrine of Nietzsche. And he was followed by a man by the name of Hitler [Adolf Hitler, 1889-1945] who inculcated that doctrine, that teaching, in the military minds of the youth of Germany. He started out with the youth of Germany, and he taught them to believe that they were supermen and that they were born of God to rule the world. And the result was – the result of the doctrine, the result of the idea of the teaching – the result was this terrible conflict into which we were plunged in 1941-45.
Way back yonder, about the same time that Nietzsche lived, way back yonder over a hundred years ago, there lived a man by the name of Marx [Karl Marx, 1818-1883]; and by his side there labored a man by the name of Engles [Friedrich Engels, 1820-1895]; and then a little after them, there came one by the name of Lenin [Vladimir Lenin, 1870-1924], and he implemented those ideas of Marx and of Engles. And then there came one Stalin [Joseph Stalin, 1878-1953]. And today, that idea, that doctrine, threatens the whole world. You can’t shoot Communism. You can’t kill Communism with a sword. You can’t murder Communism. You can’t drop a bomb on its head. Communism is a doctrine. Communism is an idea. Communism is a thing that a man would call – he calls it the truth.
Now, long time ago there lived a man, the God-Man, by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. And He was followed by an apostle named John, and an apostle named Paul, and an apostle named Peter. And those men had an idea. They had a teaching. They had a doctrine, and it concerned man, and it concerned God, and it concerned the world. And it’s that idea that makes us. It’s the doctrine that shapes us. That’s what we are.
A little boy – let’s take these children over here, all those children I counted right over there. How wonderful it is to see these little children in the church. Now, I see them all over this house. You can take those little children, and you can teach them, and you can make cannibals out of them. You can make cannibals out of them. You can make goose-stepping Nazi soldiers out of them, Fascists out of them. You can make Communists out of them. You can make Catholics out of them. You can make Mohammedans out of them. You can make atheists out of them. You can make Baptists out of them. You can teach them the truth of God or the error of man. And they are what you teach them. They are the product of the doctrine. That’s what doctrine is. Ultimately, I say, it is the decisively determining factor in all human experience and in the destiny of life and nation: the doctrine, the teaching, the truth of God.
Now, we must hasten. Who learns it? Who learns the doctrine? My text says, "Whom shall He teach knowledge? And whom shall He make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts" [Isaiah 28:9]. They learn the faith, they learn the doctrine, who go beyond the infant stages of Christianity. One of the complaints of this unknown author who wrote a letter to the little Hebrew church found in Hebrews 5:12 and 14. One of his complaints is this. You listen to him as he complains:
For when for the time you ought to be teachers –
telling others the doctrine –
ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
And Paul, writing to this church at Corinth, listen to him as he complains: "And I, brethren, I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babies in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto you were not able to bear it, neither are you now able to bear it. You’re still babies in Christ" [1 Corinthians 3:1-3]. Now a babe that is a few months old is all right. A little child that is two or three years old is all right. But a little child that is forty years old would be a heartbreak to any father or any mother. "Here’s my baby, forty years of age."
That’s what these men of God are complaining of. This church is made up of babes in Christ. They’ve been Christians years and years and still they haven’t grown. They have to be fed with milk and not strong meat.
Paul, in that fourth chapter of his Ephesian letter, he says to the churches of Ephesus and of all Asia, he says to them, "Be no longer children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine . . . but," he says, "but speaking the truth in love, let us grow up into Him in all things, who is the Head of the body, even Christ Jesus the Lord" [from Ephesians 4:14-15].
Peter. Peter one time said to those people of the Diaspora to whom he was writing, Peter one time said, he said, "Let every one of you" – all of you, every man among us – "let us be always ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us when anybody asks us" [from 1 Peter 3:15].
Why is it? Why is it that you’re a Baptist? Why is it that you have the Lord’s Supper as you do? Why is it that you baptize as you do? Why is it that you have these services as you have them?
I had a long conference yesterday with one of our young women that’s gone away to school; and she couldn’t understand why our services are like this and the services to which she had gone were so formal and ritualistically and beautiful and reverent and all. I said, "Listen, girl, reverence is not what you think it is. The idol temples had reverence. The idol people worshipped god. They bowed down. What we do is to open our hearts and our minds at church to the truth of God just like they did here in the Bible." That’s what we’re doing. That’s why we gather – in order that we might worship.
What is that worship? The highest worship is the offering to God of the faculties of our mind and our soul and our heart that we might be made conformable to Him, to His image; that we might learn to be like Christ, that we might learn the truth of God, that we might be encouraged to follow in the Lord [Romans 12:1-2].
This is the faith. This is "the doctrine." It’s not genuflection. It’s not burning incense. It’s not bowing down. The great faith of God is the truth as it is revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ. And I say that truth is always dynamic. It is always decisive. It changes a man’s life – his course – and a group of us, a destiny, and a nation.
We are to learn. That’s why we come to church: to be taught the truth of God. And we are worshipping the Lord when we open our minds and our hearts to the great revelations of God in Christ Jesus. That’s worship at its noblest, at its sublimest, and at its highest.
All right, we have one other avowal. How do we learn it? How do we learn it? All right, my text – just preaching it out of the Book. That’s all. How do we learn it? "Whom shall He teach it? Whom shall He make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts" [from Isaiah 28:9]. We’ve got to be discontent with being little babes in Jesus all of our lives. We’ve got to grow.
All right, how do we grow? How do we learn? How do we get beyond that infant stage? "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little" [Isaiah 28:10]. How do you learn the doctrine of God? You’re not born knowing it. You’re not born knowing anything except to nurse and maybe to jump when there’s a big noise around you. Those are automatic, congenital reflexes. But you’re not born knowing anything: you learn, you learn.
You learn to walk. If you were never taught to walk, you’d crawl on all fours all your life. You learn to stand up and walk. You learn to talk. You learn to talk English. You’d be gibbering and jabbering all your life were it not you were taught to learn to talk English. So with everything in life: we’re taught. We’re taught to add and multiply. We’re taught calculus, finally, engineering. All of these things that we learn, we learn them in life.
How does a man know the doctrine of God? He learns it. He learns it "precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line, here a little, and there a little" [from Isaiah 28:10]. These little children, over and over and over with them, and all of us who are growing in grace, coming to prayer meeting on Wednesday night, coming to this eight-thirty service Sunday morning, coming back here at seven-thirty again Sunday night, listening to this radio at eleven o’clock, opening the Book at home, reading the Baptist Standard. For a long time, Dr. James [Ewing S. James, 1900-1976], in the Baptist Standard, has been writing articles on the New Hampshire Confession of Faith: the sum total of those great biblical commitments to which our Baptist people have been preaching, have been giving themselves for generations. We learn little by little, little by little, patiently, faithfully, earnestly. We grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in His grace and in His understanding.
When I’s down there at Baylor, there was a wonderful man who was head of the junior department in the First Baptist Church – Dr. Feaser. He died before you got there, I think. But he was a great Christian layman, and I took a course in geometry under him just because I wanted to be under him. And it didn’t bother – it was trigonometry. Didn’t bother me to take trigonometry because I could learn easily, just memorize like that. And I don’t know a thing in the world about trigonometry, and I made A+ in the course because I could just memorize everything he had in the book there just like I did chemistry down there. Don’t know a thing in the world about chemistry, but I made A+ in chemistry ’cause I could memorize the thing easily, and when they’d give me an examination, just write it out.
Well, I took trigonometry under him, just to be under Professor Harrell, one of the finest Christian men that I ever saw. And he said things in that class that have lived in my heart forever. Now this is one of them. Now you children listen to this. This is one of them.
"Upon a day," and he’d always, in his class, he’d always start talking about something – philosophizing. "Now," he said, "Downtown in Waco, there’s a big store down there." And he said, "The main entrance of that store has an enormous stone over the door." And he said, "Underneath that stone, walking through that door, go thousands and thousands of people every week." Now he said, "I saw them build that building." And he said, "I saw them prepare that stone to be placed up there above the doorway." Now he said, "When it was brought down here to the city of Waco, it was an enormous stone, and it had to be split, half in two, in order for half of it to be placed above that doorway."
"Well," he said, "I was interested in how they were going to split that stone." Now he said, "If I were going to split that stone, I would get me a great big chisel about that big around, and I’d get me a great big hammer, an iron hammer that would weigh just all I could pick up. And I’d come back on that hammer, and I’d hit down on that chisel, and I’d blast that stone wide open. He said, "That’s what I would have done." And he said, "Yes, and when I hit the stone with a big hammer," he said, "I would have broken it in a thousand pieces."
But he said, "The man, the stone mason, who was preparing that stone to go over the top of that door, he knew how to split that stone. And this is what he did: he drilled him a little tiny hole there, and one there, and there, and there, and there, and there, and there, and there, and there, and there, and there. And then he put on the inside of those little holes, he put a little steel peg there, a little peg there, a little steel peg there, a little toothpick there, put a little steel peg he put right there. And he got him a little hammer, got him a little hammer," and he said, "and he tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap on the little steel pegs, and he tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, and he tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, and he tap, tap, tap back and forth on those little pegs." And he said, "To my surprise, upon a day that enormous stone split wide open!" And he said, "When it split, it split as smooth and beautiful as if he had done it with a knife." Now, he said, "That’s the way we crack the great truths of God. We don’t crack them wide open just like that!"
"Boy, I’m going down to the First Baptist Church today, and I’m going to get me religion! Yes I am, and I’m going to learn the whole thing!" No, you not. Here’s the way you’re going to do it: tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap Wednesday night, Sunday morning, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and back again Sunday. That’s the way we learn. That’s the way we grow in grace. A little here.
Well, that’s what my text says: "Precept upon precept; line upon line; here a little, there a little" [from Isaiah 28:10]. That’s the way we learn. That’s the way we grow.
Well, just to summarize one or two other things: we learn by a wanting, by a panting. "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness" [Matthew 5:6] after the knowledge of God.
"I want to know. Preacher, you just stand up there and open that Book, and just as long as you have energy to tell me the truth of God, I’ll pray God for patience to sit out there and listen to you pour it into my soul and in my head. I want to know. I want to know. And Pastor, if you had five services on Sunday and I could listen to you and had the strength and ability and the patience to do it, I’d like to sit out there five hours on Sunday and listen to the Word of the Lord. I want to know. I want to know God. I want to know the Lord’s Book and the Lord’s will."
And we learn by enrolling in the school of Jesus. I think there is no more beautiful or precious passage in the Bible than the one Jesus used when He closed the eleventh chapter of the book of Matthew. Listen to it, twenty-eight to the end – 11:28 to the end: "Come unto Me, come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I’ll give you rest" [Matthew 11:28]. Now this is it: "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me" [Matthew 11:29].
"Take my yoke upon you" is a rabbinical term meaning "enroll in my school." It’s a rabbi’s term that they used back there. "Take my yoke upon you. Enroll in my school. Sit at my feet and learn of me." The Greek is "and learn from me. Let me teach you. Let me teach you."
That’s it. Sitting at the feet of Jesus: "Lord, my heart’s open and my spirit is willing. You say the word, Lord. Thy servant heareth. He that willeth to do His will shall know of the doctrine. I’m willing, Lord. You just teach it, and here I am ready to listen and to do." That’s the one to whom God teaches His doctrine, the revelation of the truth, which is God Himself.
Now, as we sing the stanza, Mr. Souther, as we sing the stanza, just the stanza, somebody you, give your heart to Jesus, or, as He would say, enroll in His school. Somebody, you, coming to the church, while we sing the stanza, would you make it now as we stand, as we sing?
GOD TEACHES DOCTRINE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Two approaches to the passage
1. Repetition of the sarcastic response of his critics (2 Corinthians 10:10, Acts 7)
2. Description of the simplicity of his message
II. What is doctrine?
A. Not petty, forensic tricks
B. Summation of God’s self-revelation to us
1. Works of God have teaching and truth
2. In religion, doctrine concerns God Himself
C. Substance and strength of Christian faith
D. Ultimate decisive factor in all human life
E. Teaching assignment
1. Church (Matthew 28:19-20)
2. Preacher (1 Timothy 4:13, 2 Timothy 4:2, Hebrews 4:12)
3. Congregation (Matthew 13:23)
III. How do we learn doctrine?
A. Precept by precept, line by line
B. Patient interest, desire (John 7:17, Matthew 5:6)