Even a casual perusal of what the New Testament has to say concerning doctrine, teaching, instruction, and truth reveals that these things are of paramount importance to God and, consequently, should be equally important to every believer. That being the case, every believer should be interested in knowing the means by which he may understand the truth of God’s Word. Certainly, there are many factors that contribute to an understanding of God’s Word. Saving faith is a given; diligent study is critical; earnest prayer is essential. But perhaps the cord that binds these all together into a package that delivers understanding is given us by our Lord: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).
Certainly, the ability to think and to reason is essential to a real apprehension of the truth. And in some regards, a greater intellect may be able to communicate the truth more clearly than a lesser one. But it has never been the purpose of God to raise up a body composed exclusively of intellectual giants, and God intends His truth to be generally accessible to all believers.
A desire to know and diligence to seek the truth are indispensable to a comprehension of the truth. But they are not sufficient to open the door of scriptural revelation. For desire may be motivated and corrupted by pride, by a wish to show off our knowledge, by a longing to be perceived as an expert or to be thought to be spiritual on account of what we know.
No, neither intellect, nor desire and diligence alone, nor even their combination will suffice to throw wide the door of God’s revelation. If we want as much of God’s truth as our faith can apprehend and our intellects can comprehend, then our wills must be involved. “If any man will do his will [i.e., “is willing to do His will”], he shall know of the doctrine,” the Lord promised. In other words, God most clearly and fully explains Himself to believers whose wills are yielded to the Lord. Am I faithful to what I already know from the Word? Then the Lord will show me more. Do I want to obey the Word of God? Then the Lord will show me more.
“The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant” is the way David states this truth (Psa. 25:14). In other words, the study of the Bible will never be truly fruitful as a merely intellectual pursuit. Mere desire for knowledge will never bring a believer into a complete understanding of God’s truth. For such an understanding, that desire must be grounded in a love for the Lord that seeks His glory through reverent, submissive obedience.
Stated another way, neither the delineating of a systematic theology nor the ability (which is both admirable and desirable) to express doctrine in clear, concrete terms is the fullest evidence of a knowledge of the doctrine. For the knowledge of the doctrine of which the Lord speaks—though necessarily expressed in intellectual terms—ultimately is to be experienced in the practical life of the believer. Full knowledge of doctrine results from determining to do God’s will, and doing God’s will is the ultimate expression of sound doctrine. For example, it is not sufficient to declare God to be sovereign. We must submit to that sovereignty. It is not adequate to explain that God is a God of love. We must reflect that love in our lives. It is not enough to declare that Christ may come at any moment; we must purify ourselves as ones having that hope. Such believing obedience unlocks the door of God’s truth.
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