FIRST LIFE, THEN DOCTRINES.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Ps. 34:8.

Moses experiences God

Moses experiences God

Our service in the Body of Christ is based on our knowledge of Christ. This knowledge comes from our experience of life, not from doctrines.
God first gives us life and then doctrines. Life comes first, and doctrines follow. The Bible shows us that Abraham had a special contribution for the Body along the line of faith. This did not come by a teaching he received concerning faith, and it was not brought about by him communicating a doctrine to others. Instead, it came about by Abraham being brought into a set of circumstances in which he learned to trust God.
What was wrought into him through the fires of affliction was eventually ministered by him to the whole Body for its enrichment. First there was the life and lesson of faith and then the doctrine of faith.
How did Martin Luther become competent to teach the church concerning the truth that “the righteous one shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4)? He did not become competent by diligently studying the Bible as a textbook and then communicating the knowledge he had acquired; rather, he became competent through much suffering and affliction.
When his knees were worn from kneeling and his hope for justification was gone, the Lord revealed to him in a living way that a man is justified by faith.
After he had this experience, he gained the doctrine of justification by faith. Doctrine is necessary, but doctrine should follow experience, not precede it. First there should be life, and then doctrine should follow. First there should be the experience, and then there should be the teaching.
The order of the New Testament is first the Gospels (facts) and then the Epistles (doctrines). First, we have the life of Christ, and then we have the teachings of Christ. We should not spend all of our time studying, analyzing, and investigating a doctrine; these are works of reeds and will fail when the test comes.
The only thing that is useful is what God has wrought in us, and only this can render supply to others. The only way we can communicate to others in a living way is to communicate that which we have learned through experience. Discipline, suffering, and trials are the means for God to constitute the word into us so that we may have something to give to the Body. If we want to be ministers for the building up of the Body of Christ, we must not shrink from any trial, discipline, or dealing.(1)
we are never told in the Bible that Christians should seek out these experiences or that they are normative for all believers.

Despite potential for excesses and potential for problems, Christians should not avoid spiritual or crisis experiences altogether.
Francis Schaeffer points out, “Christianity is not only intellectual…Christianity is the reality of communion with God in the present life; it is the understanding that there is the indwelling Spirit; it is the understanding that there is the moment by moment empowering of the Holy Spirit… It is the understanding that the fruit of the Spirit is something real to all Christians.
It is the understanding that prayer is real and not just a devotional exercise. Indeed we must not overreact to… super-spirituality, but we must stress that Christ… means us to affirm life and not negate life. Such is the ideal. May God show us the living balance and help us to live, by his grace, in that balance.”
Altogether rejecting crisis experiences would strip our Christian lives of some of the most profound and rewarding events that occur in our lives. The result would be a dead and lifeless orthodoxy that is just as destructive as overemphasizing experience.
We should be grateful, as Paul was, when, through adversity or the overflow of the Spirit, we are granted accelerated growth or deeper insight into God’s character. But we can’t expect that these events will always occur in the life of every Christian.

While affirming healthy spiritual experiences, we should teach people to view sanctification as a process. During this process, Christians enjoy the power and presence of the Holy Spirit as He helps them to live in dependence on Him, have victory over sin, and serve effectively.

(1) (The Mystery of Christ, Chapter 11, by Watchman Nee)

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