Who Says Doctrine is Impractical?
Who says doctrine is impractical? Certainly the apostle Paul would have no truck with such sentiments. In Philippians 2:1-11 we learn that there is abundant practical fruit from the rich fertile soil of sound biblical doctrine. This can be put generally and specifically. Abstractly, Christian life derives from the particulars of true Christian doctrine. Concretely, as seen in Paul’s Carmen Christi, the factuality and the character of our Lord’s incarnation yield consequences for the life of the individual Christian and for the church as Christ’s body. At the very least we would want to say that the magnitude of Paul’s commands in this passage require that the incarnation really happened as recorded for us in Scripture. The pre-existent personal Son of God at a point in time took to himself a true body and a reasonable soul. This is not a myth and it is no fairy tale. As Paul tells us in 2nd Corinthians 8, Jesus who was rich became poor for our sakes so that we might become rich in him. The Son of God humbled himself (however, he did not empty himself of his divine nature) and took the form of a servant and obeyed his heavenly Father to the point of an ignominious death on the cruel and wretched cross. The Son of God set aside his divine prerogatives and came to give his life as a ransom for many. This is all true doctrine. I might go so far as to suggest it is downright theological. And this theological foundation provides for the superstructure of Paul’s ethical exhortations. Paul calls the Philippian church to possess certain godly attitudes which yield particular gracious actions. The church at Philippi ought to be of one mind and possess the same love. These affections will then work themselves out on the practical level with humility and unity. Paul called the saints to not look out for their own interests but also those of others. The church at Philippi could not manufacture these godly attitudes or these gracious actions. They are the supernatural result of a supernatural work of the Triune God of Scripture. We cannot find these attitudes by searching within. We cannot produce these actions with mere will power. Because the Son of God did not hang on to his divine prerogatives and came to earth we as his disciples ought also to exhibit analogous attitudes and actions. Paul’s call to the Philippians and to us is based upon what Christ has done for us and for our salvation. Consider this: Jesus acted in unison with the Father and the Spirit when he determined in eternity past to take to himself a true body and a reasonable soul. The Son acted in humility and deference to the Father when he came to earth and experienced the miseries of this life and eventual death. The Son loved his own for whom he lived and died and so did not merely look out for his own interests. Since the Son did these things, we who have been joined to him by Spirit-created faith, ought to exhibit analogous character. But let us get the order right: we come to faith in Christ first and then we seek to follow after him as we live the Christian life. Who says doctrine is impractical?