Biblical Doctrine and Beautiful Relationships
In the life of a church, what is more important: right belief or right behaviour? Biblical doctrine or beautiful relationships? The answer of the Bible is yes; it’s both. And though you can ostensibly have one without the other, you cannot be a biblical church unless you have and cherish both of these things. In the words of Ray Ortlund: “…the test of a gospel-centred church is its doctrine on paper plus its culture in practice.”
Indeed, the gospel—the good news about Jesus—is a message to be proclaimed and believed (Mark 1:14-15). It is the point of the whole Bible (Gal. 3:8). It comes from God above (Ga. 1:11-12). It is worthy of our utmost (Phil. 1:27-30). And this message can and must be defined, and from the Bible alone.
But this message does not hang in the air as an abstraction; as something merely cerebral and intellectual. This message of good news powerfully produces a culture of good news; it produces relationships of goodness and beauty. And, as Ortlund says, “…when the doctrine is clear and the culture is beautiful, that church will be powerful.”
Here at BPCC we take both of these biblical realities very seriously. We have built our church structure and strategy around the message of the gospel (see ‘Who We Are’ booklet) and we have clearly defined the type of culture produced by the gospel. In fact, within the covenant obligations of members (see pages 26-28 of ‘Who We Are’)—the actions and standards we all agree to uphold as members of Christ’s church—we have summarised the passages in the New Testament which describe and define our life together as a church in the following way:
[I covenant] To protect the unity of the church (John 17:20-23), extend love to others in the church (John 13:34–35), and to pursue humility (John 13:12–15) in all of my words and actions, which according to Jesus and the broader witness of the New Testament, are to be the defining characteristics and interest of church members and the church community. These characteristics are a summary of the “one another” passages in the New Testament, which describe who we are to be and what we are to do for “one another” within the church community.
These “one another” passages, which we see throughout the New Testament (for a comprehensive list see page 28 in ‘Who We Are’ booklet), clearly define the culture of grace that is produced by the gospel of grace. And they are important for us all to be aware of and to pursue intentionally and together. Because as Jesus told us during his time on earth: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35). So, let’s believe, cherish, and proclaim the gospel. And let’s allow the gospel to inform and transform our relationships and our life together.
With love in Christ,