From Doctrine to Duty

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1).

Imagine someone saying, “I have some extra money lying around. I think I’ll send a large check to the government.” Absurd, isn’t it? But every year, honest wage-earners fill out forms and give part of their income to the government. Why? It’s not because they are generous but because there is a law— a doctrine—that says they have to.

There can be no right living without right principles.

Unless people know the reason for what they should do, it’s unlikely they’ll make a commitment to do it. Paul understood that, so he always taught doctrine before duty. “Therefore” in Ephesians 4:1 links the doctrine of chapters 1—3 to the duty of chapters 4—6. Doctrine and duty are inseparably linked; duty always flows out of doctrine. Right living is based on right principles. Paul told the Colossian church, “We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (1:9). For what purpose? “So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (v. 10). Spiritual knowledge, wisdom, and understanding make up the pathway of a worthy walk.

When pastors teach duty without teaching doctrine, they weaken the Word of God because they’ve eliminated the motive. They may be able to stir up emotions, but that brings no long-term commitment. The pastor’s responsibility is to teach the truth of God, and the hearer’s responsibility is to obey it.

Of course, the source of God’s truth is His Word: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Knowing the Bible well is our means of equipping ourselves for a righteous life.
As we think about our worthy walk, let’s avoid emotionalism and legalism, and instead focus on living what we learn from a thorough and personal study of God’s Word.

Suggestions for Prayer
If you have neglected studying the Bible, confess that to God, and ask Him to give you a greater desire to learn His Word.

For Further Study
Read Ephesians 1—3 and list all we are or have in Christ. Knowing what God has given you, can you do any less than commit yourself to Him completely?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.