‘And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers’ (Acts 2:42).
Those who gladly received the Word in the first century ‘continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine’. Their times of worship and fellowship were based on the truth that God was pleased to reveal to them, by his eternal, sovereign, redeeming grace in Christ.
The word ‘doctrine’ simply means ‘teaching’ and refers not to a system or dogma, but rather to what God revealed to his apostles and prophets concerning himself (Ephesians 2:20; 3:5). They, in turn, taught it to others just as they received it.
It is the apostles’ doctrine, not because it was invented or thought up by them, but because our Lord himself raised them up as instruments of his gospel. He called them and revealed himself in them (Galatians 1:15-16).
They were eyewitnesses and personal recipients of his teaching and his work, commissioned to communicate it throughout the world (Matthew 28:19, 20).
In Scripture, doctrine is always in the singular. It is not the apostles’ doctrines, but doctrine; not ‘the doctrines of grace’, but rather the doctrine of grace.
John calls it the doctrine of Christ, saying: ‘Whosoever transgresses, and abides not in the doctrine of Christ, has not God’ (2 John 9). What, then, is the apostles’ doctrine of Christ?
The doctrine of Christ
It is the revelation of God in his Word concerning his Son, the God/Man (Colossians 1:15). It relates what Christ accomplished by his sacrificial life and death, redeeming all those whom God the Father chose and gave to him (Hebrews 9:12).
It tells us where Christ is now, ruling in sovereignty and reigning in glory (Philippians 2:9-11), ensuring that all for whom he died are called, justified and kept for his glory (Romans 8:29-30). It reminds us that he will come again to judge the world in righteousness.
When someone says: ‘I’m interested in fellowship not doctrine’, they have cut out the very heart of biblical fellowship. Do not falsely imagine, as many do, that a person’s heart can be right with God, even if their beliefs are not founded in the truth.
You may be an outwardly moral person, but if you have not been sanctified by the truth concerning the imputed righteousness of God in Christ, you are sadly deceived (John 17:17; Philippians 3:9-11).
We are gravely mistaken if we suppose that anyone can be saved, or benefit spiritually in any way, other than through the truth as it is in Christ. That doctrine, revealed in the Scriptures, and received, loved, and obeyed by those who trust in Christ, ever glorifies the one who is true.
For ‘we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life’ (1 John 5:20).