SHOULD WE BE GRACE-ORIENTED OR DOCTRINE-ORIENTED?
Some people tend to be “detail-oriented,” while others are more “result-oriented.” The adjective “oriented” means “interested in a particular thing, activity, etc.” [www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary]. To be something-oriented means to put emphasis on that something.
What about the church? Where should its emphasis be? Should we focus on grace or focus on doctrine? What about you and me as individuals: should we give our attention to grace or to doctrine? Let us open the Book and see what we can learn.
Over and over again, we read about grace in the Bible. The Greek word “χάρις/charis” has a number of meanings, with the basic thought being “good will, loving-kindness, favour” [Thayer, word no. 5485].
How grateful we ought to be for the grace of the Godhead! By God’s grace, Jesus tasted of death for every person (Hebrews 2:9). Let us never forget that we are “justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). A proper concept of pleasing God must include grace for it is “by grace” that we have been saved (Ephesians 2:8).
The whole world needs to hear the great news that “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). His grace, which is offered in the Christ, is available to all. Thank God that in “the word of His grace” (Acts 20:32) He has revealed to us the beautiful message of salvation via grace.
Let us accept and admit the truth: without God’s grace, we could not be saved. Without His kindness, which we do not deserve, we would remain lost, helpless, and hopeless. Like the apostle Paul, each of us can say, “But by the grace of God I am what I am . . .” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
Should we be grace-oriented? Absolutely. Should we be humbled by and express appreciation for God’s grace? Of course. Should we teach often about this marvelous topic? Yes! I personally have been blessed to be present in worship assemblies in a number of different countries of the world. In those gatherings, I have heard lessons presented by faithful gospel preachers, each of whom is a grace-preaching preacher. I do not mean that grace is the only topic on which they focus; rather, that each of them points his listeners to God’s truth about grace. Let us set the record straight: if the claim is made that “our” preachers do not preach grace, that assessment simply is not accurate. Faithful evangelists always have preached God’s glorious grace, and many of them were doing it long before some highly-confident brothers began to think that the church did not understood grace until they came along.
Well, since we are going to be grace-oriented, then I guess that means we cannot be doctrine-oriented at the same time, correct? Why would anyone feel compelled to draw such a conclusion? There is no biblical reason for us to think, “Hey, we have to make a choice: we have to choose between emphasizing grace and emphasizing doctrine.”
The word “doctrine” simply means teaching. Is the message that we teach and defend important? It is the truth, God’s word, which sets men free (John 8:32; 17:17). The Holy Spirit through Paul charged Timothy, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16). The same inspired writer told another teacher, “But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). “Sound doctrine” is teaching which is healthy for the soul. Propagating and sticking with that message is imperative. If we want to continue to have fellowship with the Godhead, then we must abide in the doctrine of the Christ (2 John 9).
In view of the passages noted above, it is clear that the God of heaven considers doctrine to be of great importance. “But what about being grace-oriented?” There is no conflict, no conflict at all, in being both grace-oriented and doctrine-oriented. And, if you want to add the thought that we should be “Jesus-oriented,” that is correct, too! We preach the Christ and Him crucified as God’s wisdom and salvation. If we walk with Jesus, then we are blessed/allowed to do so by the grace of God. At the same time, it is just as true that if we walk with Jesus, we are walking according to His instructions/ doctrine, because no one, and I mean n-o-b-o-d-y, truly follows the Christ without submitting to His teaching (Luke 6:46).
Praise, honor, and glory to God for the abundant riches of His grace. May we stay committed to King Jesus and His soul-saving doctrine. We do not have to make a choice between highlighting grace, the Savior, or His doctrine. All three go hand in hand.
— Roger D. Campbell