16 December 2010

What did Jesus (not) say about... truth and love?

by Dan Phillips

"Doctrine doesn't matter. All that matters is that you love, love, love."

Dan Phillips's signature


Robert said...

Jesus said that the most important commandment is to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The second is like it...to love our neighbors as ourselves. He also said that if we love Him we will keep His commandments. Love and truth/doctrine go hand in hand according to Jesus. Anybody who bothers to turn to the source of His wisdom, the Bible, can see this clearly.

Reminds me of how in Proverbs the Bible speaks of how wisdom calls out to everybody. Those who choose not to listen (in this case, read the Bible) are being foolish and will pay the price for their folly.

FX Turk said...

Wel, "love, love, love" is a doctrine. It's just not a systematic doctrine.

Love Who?
Love How?
Love Why?

Even love will get you into some kind of systematic theology if you try to do it or think about it for even 45 seconds ...

DJP said...

Oops, sorry; that was me using Frank's account.

FX Turk said...


DJP said...

It's only an "ouch" if you think saying "You read my mind" is an insult.


Brad Gilbert said...

Proverbs 23:"23, "Buy the truth, and sell it for a double portion of love..."

Brad Gilbert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...


Sadly enough, in this age of instant gratification, many people don't want to spend time thinking about anything. I remember somebody looking at me like I was crazy for telling people that you need to wash your hands for 20 seconds to really clean them. 20 seconds is apparently a really long time.

word verification: catin

Mel said...

Speaking of doctrines, you will love this video called the 12 Doctrines of Christmas.


Pretty funny!

DJP said...

That vid's up over at my place.

Rob Bailey said...

The most educated man I know (doctrinally) gave a speech as the key note of a theology journal meeting. He started his speech very eloquently, then slammed his notebook and said "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so..." The doctrine determines the love. Not the other way around.

Solameanie said...

The Beatles said "It's easy. All you need is love." If the Beatles said it, it must be true. (Tongue firmly planted in cheek)

Gale said...

Romans 12:2 "...be transformed by the renewal of your mind"

As RC Sproul said in "Holiness of God": "This means nothing more and nothing less than education. Serious education. In-depth education. Disciplined education in the things of God. It calls for a mastery of the Word of God. We need to be people whose lives have changed because our minds have changed."

FX Turk said...

I say "ouch" as your comment made me think that I'm not usually that pithy and wise. I usually derail.

I'm bad on the inside. That's why I need Christmas. And love.

Anonymous said...

Jesus waxing oprahic saith: In truth love is unconditional. It does not insist on its own way. God is love, therefore, if I have done this for you, well, its your your thing, do what you want to do.

Mike Westfall said...

I think we know who @fakeFrank_Turk is now.

Mike Westfall said...

Yes! All we need is love! Jesus said so: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

But then He explained what he meant: "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."

Ouch. No can do.

And then: "You are my friends if you do what I command you."

Now I'm in despair.

"All you need is Love" is Law. The law always accuses.

I'm gonna need more than just "love."

Stephen said...

Give me rules, I will break them
Show me lines, I will cross them
I need more than a truth to believe
I need a truth that lives, moves, and breathes
To sweep me off my feet, it’s gotta be
More like falling in love than something to believe in
More like losing my heart than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out, come take a look at me now
It’s like I’m falling, oh
It’s like I’m falling in love

Oh, excuse me for singing around here...

Matt Aznoe said...

While not really disagreeing, let me offer some thoughts from Leonard Ravenhill:

"We have adopted the convenient theory that the Bible is a Book to be explained, whereas first and foremost it is a Book to be believed (and after that to be obeyed). The fact beats ceaselessly into my brain these days that there is a world of difference between knowing the Word of God and knowing the God of the Word."

Can our desire and love for doctrine eclipse our desire and love for God?

Aaron said...

Part of the problem is our warped definition of love. 21st century "love" is the powerful, yet surprisingly fleeting feeling one gets when one has their first crush. on second thought, it probably isn't a new definition. When Jesus told his disciples that when a man divorces his wife then he is an adulterer and makes her an adulterer, the disciples didn't reply..."oh, then man should choose his spouse wisely." Nope, their response was "why would anybody want to get married then?"

Love gets trickier when you have kids. Suddenly love isn't so easy because you often have to inflict temporary pain in order to do what's best for them. And that's when love is truly measured.

Finally, we say we have love...but if we were "in love" with somebody we wouldn't act the way most of us do towards God, would we?

Aaron said...

@Frank if we start thanking Phil for the great post you've written, then you'll know you've hit the big time. ;)

Strong Tower said...

Well Matt, I would say that Ravenhill's statement is a very good example of what Jesus did not say about truth and love. To answer your question, let Jesus set the record straight: "Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me."

Proverbs invites us to get knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Paul commands us to. And likewise, those who do not honor the Son do not honor the Father. We have it from a very good source that Jesus is the Word. It should go without saying that to know o o oo him is to love uv uh uv him. Jesus equates himself with his words, and says that only his disciples understand them. He equates the understanding of the word with the love of the Father. The essence is one with thing, as Hebrews 11 says. The first thing that God does in our conversion is to give us understanding. For only in that is true love found. For we cannot love what we do not know. Scripture does not make the separation that Ravenhill would. Love cannot speak unless it does so with understanding, and we are commanded to speak the truth in love. So first, contrary to Ravenhill, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, or to quote the castrated one, how can I understand unless someone explains it to me. First and foremost, we explain, for that is what preaching the Gospel is. It cannot be believed until it is understood.

Sonja said...

John Stott says it well IMO:

"There is much misunderstanding about the true nature of love. We may be sure that Jesus did not issue commands which could not be obeyed. Since He commanded us to love each other (even, elsewhere, our enemies), we must conclude that the loving He meant is not a victim of our emotions, but the servant of our will. We may not feel like loving somebody, but we are commanded to do so. We have to learn deliberately to set our love on people whom we do not naturally love."

I don't remember that lesson enough, especially when that incredibly annoying, whiny and pushy person strides towards me with the latest tale of woe. That describes me and my conversations with Him at times. The truth that He loved me first never ceases to amaze me since I should be so utterly unloveable in His eyes.

Matt Aznoe said...

Strong Tower, Ravenhill is not saying that we shouldn't study the Bible or love the Word (Jesus). But there are many people who can quote vast amounts of scripture, but they have no relationship with God. There are people who know all of the doctrinal statements and arguments, but there is no love in their lives.

While the Bible certainly promotes wisdom and understanding, the far greater emphasis is placed on faith and love. It is not enough to simply know the facts (doctrines). You need to believe and trust in them.

I am not saying that doctrine is not important nor is Ravenhill. But when that knowledge does not translate into the fruit of the Spirit, is that knowledge worth anything. Consider the words of Paul:

"And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."
(1Co 13:2 ESV)

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
(1Co 13:12-13 ESV)

Note he does not say "doctrine, faith, hope, and love." Now doctrine supports our faith and hope and can stir up our love as we consider what God has done for us, but it is the tool not the goal.

DJP said...

Yes, Matt, that Ravenhill quotation was a perfect example of how to say something really superficial and silly while sounding really deep. Just think quietly about it for a moment, you'll see; it's a paint thin false analogy. If not, wait for the long-version of this post. It isn't rocket science.

Anonymous said...

'Note he does not say "doctrine, faith, hope, and love."'

Note to self, the bible does not teach a doctrine of love.

Got it Matt.


DJP said...

Well done, TT.

Scot said...

A statement like "love, love, love" just shows how naive one can be. You can cut and paste your definition of "love" from anything, the Bible, Good Housekeeping, Chinese food, etc. Yet that is still doctrine, you are pulling together different thoughts from different to act in a certain way. This jumbled way is just slightly less beautiful and slightly more greasy...

Like Frank/Dan (or "Fran" if you wish :P ) said, doctrine shows us who God is, what is like so that we be like him.

Scot said...

"from different to act" should say "from different places to act"

That's what I get for attempting some wit...

DJP said...

When I try to be a wit, I'm only half-successful.

Scot said...

This deserves at ROFL copter

Matt Aznoe said...

You guys are missing my point. I am not saying that doctrine is not essential. But we cannot just stop at doctrine.

I can read every book I can get about Greece. I can make Grecian recipes I find on-line. I can learn to speak Greek. But until I actually get on a plane and travel to Greece, can I say that I really know what Greece is like. It has to be experienced. Our study and doctrine is essential to prepare us for the journey, and once we are living it out, that doctrine takes on a whole new meaning as certain, possibly overlooked, passages start to seem more important or are better understood.

We are not to abide in our Bibles. We are to abide in Christ. Much of that is by reading the scriptures, but just as important is a life of prayer and service.

There are two extremes in the church today. The one side says that doctrine is not important. None of us here believes that, so there is no need to belabor that point. But the other extreme is place doctrine, knowing things about God as the quintessential goal. We are not supposed to just know about God. We are to act on that knowledge by living in faith and sacrifice according to God's commands in the faith and hope of His promises.

Even more important than understanding what the scriptures say is actually believing them and living accordingly.

Unknown said...

Not to be too simplistic, but love is active, like faith, it needs works to be alive. Doctrine is the menu of these works. To love is putting the doctrines into action (especially the one that says pass on the doctrines)...that's why the KJV "charity" seems to me to be a great translation for "αγαπη".

So, you love someone by teaching them the doctrines--starting with the Gospel of Christ. If they won't recieve that, you've loved them enough for the time being. Move on to the next zombie...

DJP said...

So Matt, why are you making these comments? The Ravenclaw quotation was silly, superficial, and irrelevant. So why quote him? Are you afraid that Jesus stressed doctrine too much, and said love doesn't matter? Are you afraid this 12-word post stressed doctrine too much, and said love doesn't matter? What was your reason for commenting?

Aaron said...

I've been to Greece. You're not missing much. ;)

Matt Aznoe said...

His name is Leonard Ravenhill, and the quote is from "Why Revival Taries", a book greatly esteemed by A.W. Tozer. It is not silly or superficial but cuts to the heart of the matter on why our church -- and specifically the leaders of the church -- are so weak and ineffectual today in America.

To make fun of someone's name in such a fashion is action unbecoming to a saint.

I make my comments because I am deeply concerned regarding the state of the church in America, and while much can be (and has been) said regarding the rampant apostacy in the church, very little is said about the paltry fruit that comes from our part of the church. We need a serious wake-up call. We need to fall to our knees in prayer and seek the transforming power of God to restore His holy name in our hearts and in our Church.

DJP said...

No, actually, it was a very silly quotation. This has been explained to you, but see it for yourself. Read it aloud. Think about it. It falls apart.

To make fun of someone's name in such a fashion is action unbecoming to a saint.

Perhaps. And what is it to simply misspell someone's name? And what is it to rain pious disapprobation one someone who makes such a mistake, based on a false assumption?

Good heavens man, if you think the main problem if the church is that people know their Bibles too well, you really have not been paying attention.

And you still haven't answered the very simple question: what does ANY of that have to do with THIS POST?

Matt Aznoe said...

No, it is not that people know their Bibles too well. It is that those who do are so wrapped up in their doctrinal discussions and debating their Greek and Hebrew that they are allowing the Church to die around them. The people who come to read your forum already know the doctrine; you are preaching to the choir. What we need to hear is how to actually put that doctrine into practice, to demonstrate that belief by putting it into action by faith -- not just in talking about our faith, but actually living it out on the street and in our homes and at our workplaces -- to reach the millions of dying in this nation before they fall forever into the pit of Hell.

Instead of just patting ourselves on the back and enjoying our little quips at the outsiders, we should be spurring ourselves onto good works.

DJP said...

One last chance, Matt. Give me a straight answer, or we'll just ban you as incapable of remembering (or unwilling to remember) Rule 5, of which you've been a repeat violator.

What does any of that have to do with this twelve-word post?

Strong Tower said...

What we need to hear is how to actually put that doctrine into practice:

"But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight" of God."

Pragmatics can be just as foreign to a personal knowledge of God, as an impersonal knowledge of the Word can be. Either can supplant him as the end of man. As you can see in the verse above, the word is sufficient for both the knowledge of godliness and the practice of godliness. An overdue emphasis on what the church lacks today can betray the same fault that belongs to those who would only emphasize the knowledge aspect and neglect the abundant commands of Scripture. A supposed too great an emphasis on the doctrine is one of the reasons some demerit Michael Horton. Where as, if you listen to Horton, you'll find he is quite satisfactorily balance on the issue. What I like about him is the fact that he knows the source of our knowledge of the practice of godliness, is not found in pop teaching and the latest Christian book, but in Scripture. And that means doctrine.

The post is really about what is the urban Jesus mythos and the confused kind of love that finds no true parallel in the Word. On that note, far too many Christians expend too much effort on practice of good works to take notice of the reality that not all good works are good works even if they are good for the simple reason that they are not done according to doctrine. Such undiscipline is rife in pragmatic evangelicalism. The unity in John 17 is founded upon a strict diet of the Word: "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth." Now what is absent from that Matt? Well it doesn't say sanctify them by their good deeds, does it? So, then, there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end there is death. We strive to keep the unity of the faith (that is keeping it al ltogether as a whole fabric) and do so while speaking the truth in love to one another. That should, as long as were faithful to the word, spur one another on to good works as we faithfully assemble together to carry out the will of the Lord as revealed in his word.

As a personal aside, my daughter, a believer, has been dating an athiest. She is an adult, 21, and free. Or so she thinks. While she is free statutorily, and I can't make her mind any more, she is not free to claim she is in love when in fact the definition of love that she is using does not have its source in Scripture.

You can pray with me that she doesn't turn to the latest "let your love language be your guide book," and turns back to the Book, sufficient for DOCTRINE, reproof and correction, so that she knows how to love.

Unknown said...

When I try to be a wit, I'm only half-successful.

When I read that I had coke come out my nose. If you think that sounds disgusting imagine what the poor guy in the row in front of me thought. Thanks a lot. I have to fly with these people for another two hours.

Carry on.

Mike Riccardi said...

It's true that if all we have is doctrine with no fruit that comes of it, we've gone horribly wrong. But Dan's right, Matt: that really isn't what this post is about.

One thing, though, that this post is about that is at least somewhat relevant to your... whatever-you-call-this, is that without the sound doctrine (that you seem to be decrying in one comment and defending in another), the Church will never love like she's called to.

You're speaking of these things as if they're not even related. And, as Frank pointed out earlier, they're more than related: the minute you start talking about the nature of the love we're supposed to exhibit, we've gotten into theology/doctrine.

Your intent is noble, dude. But in your zeal to make your point about a valid concern you overstepped into an off-topic pet peeve. Rather than dig your heels in, learn from it.

M. H. Dennis said...

When I read Romans 6:17's discussion of doctrine, Paul is explaining doctrine in the context of God's love for us and the implications of that love.

Paul said in Romans 5:6 when we were without hope in just the nick of time Christ died for ungodly people.

In Romans 5:4, Paul likens us to a funnel that God uses to pour His love through to mankind. Wouldn't that be a doctrine about how God's wonderful love works.

In my opinion, doctrine is taking a simple truth and applying it to our wounded souls like a medicine. To me, the word doctrine reminds me of the word doctor. Wouldn't doctrine mean to doctor?

Lastly, after we are believers, we are commanded to take God's word and recreate our minds with it, so we can discern God's good, flawless, & pleasing will. (Romans 12:2) Therefore, God's word is God wonderful doctrine or medicine for our messed up minds.

Mike Riccardi said...

Holy sensationalistic hermeneutics, Batman!

M. H. Dennis,

You may be doing more harm than good there.

1. Romans 5:5 calls the Holy Spirit the funnel and us the recipients, not us the funnel and the world the recipients.

2. Doctrine at its root means "teaching," and the word "doctor" originally was someone who taught, or who indoctrinated.

It's a nice little picture you drew up there, but to equate doctrine with medicine is simply inaccurate. It illustrates why we must always let the text shape our opinions and impressions, and not the other way around.

Cathy said...

I follow your blog, but usually don't comment. I went to a church where the pastor said from the pulpit, " The only thing that matters when Jesus comes back is if you are in a love relationship with Him." It was an emergent type church. I looked around the room at the mostly 20 somethings and wondered how they might define "love relationship." Or anyone else for that matter- divorce is rampant. 11 years olds " date" . The porn industry is out of control. People leave church's if they have even a disagreement with someone. So we get to decide if we are in a "love relationship" with Jesus. But if the pastor had
said instead, " you have to be in a covenant relationship
with Jesus"- well, now we're talking. A covenant has terms.
You know when you enter into a covenant. Yes, it a
covenant of love- but love that is defined and
Anyway- that was kind of the straw that broke the camels
back for me. My elders felt I was being nitpicky.

Rachael Starke said...

"Doctrine doesn't matter. All that matters is that you love, love, love."

But this is, in itself, a statement of doctrine. Bad doctrine. But doctrine nonetheless.

I have to confess that I think I understand where Matt is coming from. I was raised with a ton of doctrine. I know a lot of doctrine.

But last night, I'm ashamed to say, I lay in bed pretending to be asleep while my dear hardworking husband got up in the middle of the night to care for a crying preschooler with another round of stomach flu. I asked my husband's forgiveness in the morning, and felt even worse after reading this. My doctrine failed me completely in that moment.

It seems like there's a connection between yesterday's post and today's. Jesus perfectly embodied both truth and love - by making himself nothing to be born of a virgin and spend his first night on earth sleeping in a feed trough for animals. I know that, but I couldn't find it in my selfish heart to leave my warm bed to hold my daughter's sweet head while she lost her dinner and cried.

That's probably not where you were going. But that's where those twelve words took me today. I'll look forward to reading the whole thing. :)

CR said...

The love of God is also doctrine. So it's important to know how He loves us so we can love others. So Doctrine does matter especially the doctrine of God and his attributes.

Thomas Louw said...

If our view of love wasn’t influenced by the fall, it would be a true. If our view of love wasn’t so pre-occupied by self it would be true. If our view of love was the same as God’s, it would be true.
Hey, if pigs could fly…..

DJP said...

Thank you for your candor Rachael, and no one here would deny that. But can't we ever say one thing at a time? Suppose I post on John 1:1 and affirm, "Jesus is God." Immediately one comments "But the Father is God, too! And so is the Holy Spirit! But the devil isn't!" Yes, right, of course... but by that, isn't it being implied that the affirmation of Jesus' deity was an implicit denial of the Father's deity?

I mean, for crying out loud — it's a twelve-word post!

bbqjason said...

Thank you for your post, Rachel. I do the same thing, but I do it many times a week.

Your post has done much in the order of convicting me.

James Scott Bell said...

Isn't John 14:21 on point here (as the discussion has developed)? We must know actual content (doctrine) in order to keep actual commands. One of them is the command to love. But we don't know what biblical love means unless we understand doctrine; and we can't stop with knowing, we must move on to keeping.

DJP said...

Exactly. We don't know anything without doctrine. Everyone is hip-deep in doctrine.

Good doctrine, or bad? That is the only question.

Matt Aznoe said...

DJP, I wasn't trying to derail or even disagree with your post. Actually, it was quite good, but I thought I would at least broach a subject for discussion that was related (maybe not enough).

I'm sorry; it is just the way I work. I like to look at things from different angles and poke them to see what comes out. When I see something with which I agree, I will often challenge it from another perspective to flesh it out. Maybe I should just take my musings elsewhere.

Underthelittlethings said...

Rachel, I don't think it was your doctrine that failed you, but rather your human nature. YOU failed your doctrine. As we all do, daily. See the difference?

Jeff said...

Many times I read Pyromaniacs and come away feeling very unwise but this time I think I got it. At least I got a laugh (mostly at myself).

All that matters is that you love. Don't worry your pretty little head about the definition of love.

Larry Geiger said...

True statement. If.

If I could love like God the Father, and love like Jesus Christ the Son and love like the Holy Spirit then that would be all that I would need for God is love. All doctrine flows from who and what God is.

But I don't love like the Father and I don't love like Jesus and I don't love like the Spirit and I can't. So God gives me doctrine, in his Word. Because he loves me.

Anonymous said...

You know…sigh…I frequently hear about all these unloving folks who know God's Word, who can quote Scripture, who understand doctrine, but supposedly don't know God. And yet, I've never met one of them.

I've met countless folks who proudly proclaim their ignorance of His Word and Christian doctrine saying things like…

"I love Jesus, that's all I know!"

They live under the illusion that they're in a relationship with a God they know absolutely nothing about because they base it on their feelings, which include a limited, mortal understanding of "love". They say things like, "Just be Jesus to someone," and, "You may be the only Bible they ever read."

The truth is that the people who love God's Word the most also love His Bride the most.

I know…I've been on the receiving end of that devoted, knowledgeable, disciplined, doctrinal love, many times and I give God the glory for it.

Kevin Stilley said...

I have never met a genuine Christian who disparaged the importance of conversion, faith, commitment, sacrifice, Bible study, holy living, and the like. But I know lots of Christians who have not yet seen the importance of sound doctrine. It is important THAT we believe (spiritual concern); but it is also important WHAT we believe (theological concern).
~ Ronald Nash, Closing of the American Heart, page 99

Kevin Stilley said...

Truth without emotion produces dead orthodoxy and a church full (or half full) of artificial admirers (like people who write generic anniversary cards for a living). Emotion without truth produces empty frenzy and cultivates shallow people who refuse the disciplines of rigorous thought. But true worship comes from people who are deeply emotional and who love deep and sound doctrine. Strong affections from God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship.”
~ John Piper, in Desiring God (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1986), page 76

Anonymous said...

It wasn't Jesus who said that. I seem to recall it was John Lennon (who once, embarrassingly, said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.)
I'd rather listen to Jesus.

--Mike Mittelstadt