CHAPTER IX: The Doctrine, from "The Christian Ministry According to the Apostles" (1858) by Thomas Hughes Milner
If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good servant of Jesus Christ, nourished by the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine whereunto thou hast attained, 1 Tim. iv. 6.
1. FROM THE verb didasko, to instruct or teach, are the two substantives didaskalia, and didakee, i.e., teaching or instruction. Sometimes these words are used in holy writ, as in other works, in a restricted and sometimes in a general sense, sometimes as meaning a particular branch of instruction, and sometimes all that the teacher communicates. In this latter acceptation didaskalia is employed in the caption and motto of this chapter. Timothy had known from childhood the Holy Scriptures by which he had become wise unto salvation through the faith in Jesus Christ. In this faith was the good doctrine to which he had attained, and by the words of which he had been nourished. And now, that having been thus instructed, he occupied the honourable position of a teacher of those who, in their turn were to be the teachers of others also, the apostle warns him against all teaching other than that sound doctrine which is according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God.
2. The epithets used descriptive of this doctrine are very suggestive. John vii. 16, introduces the Saviour as saying, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me; Acts xiii. 12, calls it the doctrine of the Lord; 2 John 9, the doctrine of Christ; Tit. ii. 10, the doctrine of God; Acts ii. 42, the doctrine of the apostles. To Timothy and Titus, Paul designates it the good––the sound doctrine––that which is according to godliness, and to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God.
3. But as all teaching is expressed in vocables, we have the very words of this doctrine specified that there may be no mistake. To these the apostle alludes when he reminds Timothy that he had been nourished by the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine, and these he specifies when, in 1 Cor. ii. 13, he affirms that the things which the apostles spoke were expressed not in the words which man’s wisdom (didaktos) teacheth, but in words which the Holy Spirit (didaktos) teacheth. In the apostles’ words, then, we have the doctrine of the Lord, and on this account we find in so many passages that in their case the verb laleo, to speak, is used as equivalent to didasko, as when Paul spoke the word of the Lord to the jailor and all his house.
4. The language of the Christian teacher ought, therefore, to be scriptural. It is the vehicle of the impressions he would make on the minds of those who hear, and if it be not pure, their knowledge of the truth must be in proportion affected. If the apostles used great plainness of speech, if they preached not with wisdom of words lest they should make the Cross of Christ of none effect, if their speech and preaching were not with enticing words of men’s wisdom, but in words which the Holy Spirit taught, why should not every Christian instructor follow their example by the employment of apostolic language? It is as easy to do this as to employ that of the schoolmen. How men can expect to speak accurately on subjects of divine revelation except in the symbols in which God has given the revelation, we do not know. To change the language is to appear wiser than God. The duty of every instructor in Christ is to take the closest synonyms to the inspired words which the language in which he speaks supplies. To leave these words for others, is simply to betray himself not as an apostolic but as an apostasic teacher. Thy speech bewrayeth thee, may be said to every man who does not speak the things of Canaan in the language of Canaan. Nothing but mischief can possibly accrue from a human coinage of terms for sacred themes. What strife and debate have been caused by the use of such words and phrases as christening, particular redemption, final perseverance, Reverend, Reverend Doctor, clergy and laity, all denominations, Christendom, the Christian world, Christian country, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Independent, Calvinist, Arminian, convocation, synod, society, union, association, alliance, college, theological seminary, and many such. (Editor's note: add to these, today: "missionary" (replaces "evangelist"), "parachurch organization," "church growth," "emerging church," "postmodernism," and "the pastoral epistles.") And not only are such base coin passed as in lawful tender, but he who prefers the current coin of the realm of Scripture is traduced as a heretic. He is charged with denying this, that, and the other doctrine, as if there were no keeping of the teaching of Scripture except in unscriptural language! A non-scriptural term is of no use except to denote a non-scriptural conception. What better is “eternal Son” than “beloved Son.” God affirms Jesus his beloved Son, but where is he called the “eternal Son of God?” Not in Scripture: for respecting his resurrection the Father says, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee,” Acts xiii. 33. As to the eternity of the Messiah––his being “the same yesterday, today, and for ever,” “the Word,” not “the Son,” is the designating term. John i. 1-10. So respecting the whole host of unscriptural phrases in use, they are only evil, and that continually. The duty of all Christians is to disuse them. Their knowledge, acceptance, and union in Christ depend on the purity of their language. The human race was first divided by diversity of speech, and the second, the ecclesiastical, the spiritual Babel, is emphatically “Babylon the great.” It may be thought a slow and difficult process to unlearn the confused language of the apostacy; but, after all, one has only to speak of Bible things in the words of Scripture, and so help on the happy day when Zeph. iii. 10 shall be fulfilled, for then saith God, I will turn to the people a pure language that they may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.
5. And to this end it is of vast importance that the translations of Scriptures should be very pure. That our English “authorised” translation requires innumerable corrections, notwithstanding its manifold excellencies, all critics are agreed. There is neither reason nor piety in persistently adhering to a translation which is susceptible of improvement in thousands of instances. Why should the Christian preacher or teacher have almost daily to correct the text from which he discourses? And who does not know that with the authorised version this is everywhere done. It is certainly the duty of the people of God to do what they can to obtain for themselves, and to give to the world, the purest versions possible of the word divine.
6. It is well to observe here that the word doctrine, as used by the sacred writers, has not the restricted signification applied to it in the phrase, “doctrinal and practical.” The doctrine of Christ was always practical, as all who have read his teaching know. The phrase, “my doctrine,” meant all that he taught, inclusive alike of what God had done, and what he requires man to do. If the phrase is to be restricted, the restriction should be in the opposite direction––not in that of the speculative, but of the practical: in this case the doctrine of Christ would mean his precepts, injunctions, commands. In this sense the Saviour evidently used the word when he complained of the Jews for teaching for doctrines of God the commandments of men. Matt. xv. 9. So in the sermon on the mount: Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so (to do), he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach (them to be done), the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven, Matt. v. 19. And so likewise in the apostolic commission, Go, disciple the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.
7. This goes to explain why we find didasko stated as a duty to be performed, subsequently to evangelizo, to preach, and to mathetuo, to disciple. That is to say, the apostles were to preach the gospel to every creature, with the promise, that he who believed and was baptised would be saved; so doing, they were to make disciples, and the disciples thus made, they were to teach to observe all things the Saviour had commanded for their obedience. This is the order in apostolic practise of the three verbs, evangelizo, to preach; mathetuo, to disciple; and didasko, to teach.
8. And while this proves the practical character of the doctrine of Christ, and shews that those who have become his disciples by the belief and obedience of the gospel are the proper scholars of that doctrine: it also brings out what is in these days of confusion lamentably lost sight of, namely: that preaching in its proper acceptation is not for Christians, but for the world, in order to conversion to the faith of Jesus––that it does not consist in laboured discourses on all and sundry religious topics, but emphatically in the simple announcement of the facts of the glad tidings of the love of God to our sinful world, as manifested in the gift of his beloved Son as a sacrifice for sin. The terms denoting preaching are quite different from those used respecting the instruction of saved persons: their very etymology is expressive of their design, as will immediately appear.
9. The verb evangelizo, from evangelos, a messenger of good, signifies to bring or announce glad tidings, and the noun evangelion, means good news or glad tidings. Our own word gospel, derived as it is from two Saxon words denoting good spell or story, is much more expressive than the mere word preach. With the apostles, to preach was to proclaim the good news, and simply that. As just now noted, their word evangelizo meant distinctly that the evangelion was the thing to be spoken. Whereas now an oration on any religious topic is called preaching! The only thing the apostles were commanded to preach was “the good news.” And it was not any good news, or indefinitely, some good news, or good news generally, but most emphatically the gospel. So clearly, indeed, had they this before them, that Paul says as much as that there is no other gospel than that which he proclaimed. His words are strikingly solemn: I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel, which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ: but though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
10. When the apostle wrote so solemnly, it must be much more than a matter of mere critical interest to know both that the gospel is preeminently the one thing to be preached, and in what it consists. This we are informed in 1 Cor. xv. 1-4, where the brethren are reminded of the tidings proclaimed to them on Paul’s first appearance in their city: Moreover, brethren, says he, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which, also, ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which, also, ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain (i.e., unless the preaching were false); for I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. That glad news, therefore, which Rom. i. 16 declares is the power of God unto salvation to all the believing, is summed up in the three facts of the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah. And the same thing is formulated still more briefly in Rom. iv. 25, which reads that Jesus was delivered for our offences, and raised gain for our justification. And brief though this formula be, it is not too much so, for Rom. x. 9 intimates that the word of the faith which the apostles preached says: If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. That Paul was satisfied with the gospel in all its brevity is manifest from the resolution which he maintained to death to make known nothing to the unconverted but Jesus Christ the crucified. This was his one theme in preaching; other subjects would not have been the preaching of the gospel.
11. Another important particular is to be learned from another term used respecting the apostolic announcements, the import of which is strikingly exemplified in their practise, and as completely contrasted in the practice of the present day. We refer to the words keerugma, proclamation, and keerusso, to proclaim as a herald. A proclamation, as all know, is a short, direct, explicit, public announcement; not a matter that is to be repeated to the same persons week after week for years, but once or twice, for better or for worse. So the apostles preached Christ. They went everywhere, proclaiming the glad tidings of his reign as the Prince of Peace, Acts ix. 20; xx. 25. If the people believed, they commanded them to be baptized, and then taught them to observe all the duties of discipleship; if they believed not, the apostles left them with the solemn warning: Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish, for I work a work in your days which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you. The Jews in Antioch, in Pisidia, refusing faith, were thus addressed at the close of the second proclamation, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you, but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles, Acts xiii. 14-52. Instead now-a-days of the preaching or proclamation of the good news being a thing by itself, and having for its immediate object the discipling of the unconverted, and instead of its being so delivered as to lead the hearers directly either to submission or rejection, it is confounded most generally with Christian teaching. Christians have it preached to them, and the teaching proper only to them, is enforced upon the unregenerate, and this, of course, instead of leading to the decision of any, leads to the indecision of all. Thus is there confusion, and every evil work.
12. But our specification as to what preaching and teaching consist in is not complete without further animadverting upon the unlawful commixture and fixing down of both with mere human doctrines. The opinions of men upon divine subjects have, since the apostacy, formed the rule. And still the question is put as one of mere opinion: Is he orthodox? i.e., Is he of the right opinion? And, indeed, so fully fulfilled is 2 Tim. iii. 8, so reprobate, i.e., so “undiscerning concerning the faith,” have the people become, that they see no difference between the faith of Jesus and the opinions of men. Present any portion of the truth for acceptance, and if not assented to by the party, it is unceremoniously dismissed with the remark, “Oh, that is your opinion.” Unquestionably, the manner in which the people have been taught, or rather kept in ignorance, is to blame for this. The reformers of the sixteenth century not only expressed their opinions of the truth of God, but wrote them down expressly as “church standards,” as “confessions of faith,” and as the criteria of all that is right or wrong in Christian doctrine and practice. The reign of opinionism was thus established, as the Greek and Roman were, centuries before. Now, we submit that the apostles never on any occasion presented the truth of God as a matter of opinion. On the contrary, they delivered it in most express contrast with the opinions of men. They shewed that the opinions of religious parties were the very cause of stumbling against it. The Jew had his opinions, and the Greek his; the Pharisee was orthodox in Jerusalem; the Areopagite in Athens; the supposed orthodoxy of the one led him to revile the gospel as scandalous, and that of the other to the pronouncing of it foolishness! For himself, Paul says, that it was because of his opinion that he so opposed the gospel; I verily thought (“opined”) with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth, which things I also did. He tells us the Greeks opined him a setter forth of strange gods, because he preached Jesus and the resurrection. The Saviour declared that he did not seek the opinion (doxa) of men, and that their care for it prevented their believing on him. I receive not honour from men...How can ye believe who receive honour one from another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? John v. 41, 44. From the days of Jesus to the present, the opinions of men have prevented faith in the word of God. And if it be said that men will, and must, have their opinions, we reply that this is not denied; only that their opinions are of no account in the truth and church of God. Their introduction and operation there ever have been, are, and ever must be, sinful and fatal. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God...Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to judge his doubtful thoughts. A man’s opinions are his own private property, and neither has he any right to intrude them upon others, nor has any a right to rob him of them. There are many things on which men have doubtful thoughts, but these are in no case to be made the subject of teaching among Christians. There is nothing doubtful in the Christian faith. “We,” says Paul, “are always confident.” Men doubt because they are opinionists, not believers. Faith cannot produce doubt; doubts fly before it. The doxa, opinion, honour, glory of God is the only orthodoxy, and the word divine is the means to this. Abraham was strong in faith, giving glory to God. But, alas, what sad havoc human opinion has wrought!
13. And we repeat, that while all human speculations, physical and metaphysical, concrete and abstract, are debarred from the Christian ecclesia, not less unlawful to the teacher of the faith is the incorporation of the law with the gospel. Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus were written for their instruction as evangelists, so that they might know how to behave themselves in the house of God, set in order the things wanting, and instruct the teachers as to what was proper to teach. Observe, then, that after Paul beseeches Timothy to charge the teachers to teach no other doctrine than that according to the gospel, and warns him in particular, to see that they give no heed to myths and genealogies––evidently alluding to the Greek mythology and Jewish traditions––which serve for debates, and not for administering the godliness which is in the faith, he points out that some having swerved from the faith had turned aside unto vain jangling, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they said, nor whereof they affirmed. And then, adds he, but, the law is good if a man use it lawfully, knowing that it was not made for the righteous, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers, and murderers of mothers, for whoremongers, for those who defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing contrary to the sound doctrine according to the gospel.
14. Yet we are not to suppose that the law is of no use to Christians; it is good if a man use it lawfully. And the lawful use of it in Christian teaching is not to enforce it as if the disciples of Jesus were under it, but to employ it as the apostle himself so frequently does, in illustration. To this effect he says in Rom. xv. 4, Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope. In this way all Scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly accomplished for all good works, 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17.
15. And this leads us to notice the wide variety of theme and duty which Christian teaching comprises. The Master said to his apostles: I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot hear them now, howbeit, when the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all the truth, John. xvi. 12, 13. So guided, they have given us in their writings ample directions respecting the whole relations of life; so much so, that there is instruction for the ignorant, reproof for the sinful, correction for the erring, and direction for the right, that the man of God may be perfect in all the will of God, and thoroughly equipped for all the good works required of him. There is, indeed, no relationship or duty respecting which the Scriptures of the faith do not contain the most particular instructions. This is patent to every reader of the world, but it is only on the more exact study of the various terms employed therein, that its profusion adequately appears.
16. Some of these terms, like didasko, teach, are applied equally to the instructor’s endeavours on behalf of the unbelieving, as to his instruction of the faithful. Of this class are dialegomai, discourse or reasoning; diamarturomai, witnessing or testifying; and parakaleo, exhorting or entreating. Regarding Peter’s famous Pentecostal discourse, Acts ii. 40 says, that with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, save yourselves from this untoward generation. And while in Acts xx. 7, 9, we find Paul holding mutual discourse (dialegomai) with the brethren in Troas, we find him in Acts xvii. 2, 16; xviii. 4, 19; xix. 8, reasoning and disputing (dialegomai) with the unbelieving. In such passages as 1 Thess. ii. 11 we find these terms so combined as to be very instructive as to the apostolic manner of teaching: Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you who believe, as you know, how we, as a father to his children, exhorted (parakaleo), and comforted (paramutheomai), and testified (martureomai) to every one of you to walk worthy of God.
17. But while preaching (evangelizomai) is never applied to addresses to Christians, so comfort (paramythia) is never addressed to the unbelieving. And as with this word comfort, so it is with prophetuo, to teach prophetically; 1 Cor. xiv. 4, steerizo, to establish; 1 Thess. iii. 2, oikodomeo, to upbuild, edify; Acts ix. 31; 1 Thess v. 11, paramutheomai, to encourage, or comfort; 1 Thess. v. 14; noutheteo, to warn or admonish; Rom. xv. 14, anamimneesko, to remind; 1 Cor. iv. 17, en ecclesia laleo, to speak in the church, 1 Cor. xiv. 35, and such terms. When we thus see that he that prophesieth edifieth the church; that Timothy was sent to establish the believers concerning their faith, that the disciples were enjoined to exhort and edify one another, to warn the unruly, to encourage the feeble-minded, to call to remembrance what had been forgotten, and to speak in the ecclesia to its edification, we perceive not only the marked distinction between preaching the gospel to those without, but the wide field there is in the teachers’ department for the employment of the varied abilities of the brethren.
18. It is well known that no one man, even the most highly gifted, possesses every qualification. Some excellent preachers are the poorest of teachers; some who speak most edifyingly to the church offer no attractions to the world; some rare expositors can do little or nothing in exhortation; some who can move to tears by appeal, are helpless in the expounding of Scripture. However willing, therefore, any one brother be to do the whole, “the one-man system” is alike impracticable and unscriptural. It is by division of labour that the work is to be carried on. In the above and other citations as to teaching in its various forms, the apostles does not address one particular functionary called “the minister of the church,” nor does he even address the pastors, but the whole church. It is so in all the apostolic letters. To the believers in Rome he says, I am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. To those in Corinth: I thank my God always on your behalf for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ, that in everything ye are enriched by him in all utterance, and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that ye come behind in no gift. To the Galatians: Let every man prove his own work. To the brethren in Ephesus: Be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but, speaking the truth in love, grow up into him in all things who is the head. To those in Philippi: Stand fast in one spirit, striving together for the faith of the gospel. To them in Colosse: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another. To the Thessalonians: Comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. And to the Hebrews: Provoke one another to love, and to good works. Thus the doctrine of the Lord in all its wide variety is committed to the brethren, and no power on earth has authority to take it from them, nor have they any right to surrender it.