The Fundamentals

"God now speaks to us by a Son." (Hebrews 1:1)

Some wonder what is required of a person who wishes to become a baptized disciple of Jesus the Nazarene. How much must the person know, understand or have come to learn. Must the willing disciple only agree to such "fundamental" points as recognizing God’s existence, the place of the Son in His purpose, and, acknowledging that one is a sinner.

Some will claim there are no "fundamentals" and teach that doctrine is unimportant. While claiming that few beliefs beyond God and Jesus are non-essential they speak in abstraction about nebulous understandings as if as long as they were kind and loving it mattered little what they believed as to what Jesus and his inspired disciples taught.

John 6:45 -- "Everyone that has heard from the Father and has learned comes to me."

In order to "come to the Son" one must have "heard" from the Father and then "learned." What would one have "heard" from the Father? How and where would this information be found. Is it fair to conclude that this would be in what Jesus called the "truth" when he said, "Your word is Truth." (John 17:17) Jesus himself demonstrate how one hears from the Father by quoting and alluding to a great sum of those words found in the inspired Hebrew Scriptures.

John 6:63-64 -- "The sayings that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life."

The sayings of Jesus Christ are a matter of life. In the Gospel of John alone those "sayings" amount to many thousands of words and cover a wide range of subjects. If we include those sayings in the other three Gospels and their thousands of words spoken by Jesus we have certain clear subjects:

Kingdom/Church

(Matthew 4:17; 5:3, 10, 19, 21; 6:10, 33; 7:21; 8:11, 12; 10:7; 11:11, 12; 13:11, 19, 24-30, 33, 36-52; 16:19, 28; 18:1-6, 23-25; 19:12, 14, 23, 24; 20:1-16; 21:31, 43; 22:2-14; 23:13; 24:14; 24:29-25:46; 26:29; Mark 1:15; 4:11-20, 26-32; 9:1; 10:14, 15, 23-27; 12:34; 14:25; Luke 4:43; 6:20; 7:28; 8:10-15; 9:27, 60, 62; 11:2; 12:31-48; 13:18-21, 28, 29; 14:15; 16:16; 17:20-37; 18:16, 24-30; 19:11-27; 21:31; 22:16-18, 29, 30; 19:11-27; 21:31; 22:16-18, 29, 30; John 3:3-5; 18:36)

Judgment

(Matthew 10:15; 11:22, 24; 12:36, 41, 42; 13:36-43; 22:30; 23:33; Luke 10:14; 11:31, 32; John 3:17, 19; 5:24, 29; 12:47-50; 16:8, 11)

Presence (Coming)

(Matthew 24:27, 37-25:46; Luke 17:20-37; 19:11-27)

Resurrection

(Matthew 22:23-32; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 14:14; 20:27-39; John 5:29; 6:39, 40, 44, 45; 1124-26)

Tribulation (Great Oppression)

(Matthew 24:21, 29; Mark 13:19, 24)

Salvation

(Luke 19:9; John 4:22)

The above "sayings" deal with what our Lord calls "doctrine." (John 7:17 KJV) These involve prophecies and chronology of events. Surely one who is to embark on the course of discipleship must know what his Master teaches. The other major subject in the teachings of the Nazarene deal with what is involved in "following the Lamb no matter where he goes." (Revelation 14:4)

Faith

(Matthew 6:30; 8:10, 13, 26; 9:22, 28, 29; 14:31; 15:28; 16:8; 17:20; 18:6; 21:21, 22; Mark 4:40; 5:34, 36; 9:23; 10:52; 11:22-24; Luke 7:9, 50; 8:25, 48, 50; 12:28; 17:9, 50; 18:8, 42; 22:32; John 3:16, 18, 36; 6:29, 35, 40; 7:38, 39; 9:35; 11:25, 26; 12:36, 37, 42, 46; 14:1, 12; 17:20)

Love

(Matthew 5:43, 44, 46; 6:24 19:19; 22:37, 39; 24:12; Mark 12:30, 31; Luke 6:27, 32, 35; 7:42; 10:27; 11:42, 43; 16:13; John 5:42; 7:42; 8:42; 13:34, 35; 14:15, 21, 23, 24, 31; 15:9, 10, 12, 13; 15:17; 17:26; 21:15, 16)

Forgiveness

(Matthew 6:12, 14, 15; 9:2, 5, 6; 12:31, 32; 18:21, 22, 35; 26:28; Mark 2:5, 9, 10; 3:28, 29; 4:12; 11:25; Luke 5:20, 24; 7:47-49; 11:4; 12:10; 17:3, 4; 23:34; 24:47; John 20:23)

Giving

(Matthew 5:42; 7:6, 11; 10:8, 42; 17:27; 19:21; 20:28; 24:45; 25:37; Mark 8:3; 9:41; 10:21, 45; Luke 6:30, 38; 9:13; 11:13, 41; 12:33, 48; 19:26; 22:19; John 4:14; 6:32-37; 10:28; 11:22; 14:16, 27; 16:23; 17:8, 22)

Righteousness

(Matthew 5:6, 10, 20; 6:1, 33; John 16:8, 10)

Repentance

(Luke 5:32; 15:7; 24:47)

John 7:16-17 -- "What I teach is not mine, but originates with Him who sent me. If anyone desires to do His will, he will know the teaching that is from God."

If one is to do the will of God, first one must know the teachings of Christ.

John 8:31-32 -- "If you remain in my word (my sayings, my teachings), you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

To be a disciple of the Nazarene one must know the truth as revealed in the "word" (sayings, teachings) of the Lord.

John 8:51 -- "Most truly I say to you, If anyone observes my word, he will never see death at all."

Not only must one know the word of the Lord but it must also be "observed" or kept.

John 12:48 -- "The word that I have spoken is what will judge him in the last day."

It is the "word" (sayings and teachings) that will judge the Christian on Judgment Day. If one rightly wants a favorable judgment then it follows that it is only the course of wisdom to study and know ‘the word the Nazarene spoke.’

John 14:15 -- "If you love me, you will observe my commandments."

Love for our Lord is demonstrated by observance of his commandments. A consideration of the "word" of the Nazarene in the Gospels will demonstrate at least 60 such "commandments." (See the booklets, Nazarene Mountain Teachings© and Nazarene Commandments 2000©.)

John 14:23-24 -- "If anyone loves me, he will observe my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our abode with him. He that does not love me does not observe my words; and the word that you are hearing is not mine, but belongs to the Father who sent me."

If one wishes the love of Christ and his Father one must observe his "word" (sayings, commandments, teachings). Those who do not observe this "word" cannot claim to belong to Christ.

John 14:26 -- "The helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you."

Additional teachings were to be revealed to the apostles and these are presented in additional portions of the New Testament.

John 15:10 -- "If you observe my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have observed the commandments of the Father and remain in his love."

In order to remain in the love of Christ one must continue to observe his "commandments" which infers a knowledge of these.

John 15:14 -- "You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you."

Friendship with the Lord is only maintained by obedience to the commandments of the Nazarene. These are not suggestions or mere opinions, they are the regulations of the King.

John 16:13 -- "When the spirit of the truth arrives, he will guide you (apostles) into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things coming."

The arrival of the "spirit of the truth" will guide the apostles by inspiration into ALL THE TRUTH including certain prophetic elements regarding the future.

John 17:20-21 -- "I make request, not concerning these (apostles) only, but also concerning those putting faith in me through their word so that they may all be unified."

Not only is the "word" of the Nazarene vital to life and salvation, so also is that "word" to which the spirit of truth will guide these inspired men. One cannot come to belief and conviction in Christ outside the "word" of the apostles which have now appeared in the complete New Testament.

This would surely include the beloved John’s first letter where he stresses the importance of the "doctrine of Christ." (2 John 9 KJV)

2 John 9-11 -- "Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching (doctrine) of the Christ does not have God. He that does remain in this teaching (doctrine) is the one that has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works." There is a "teaching" (or, doctrine) to "remain in." In order to do so one must know what this doctrine is. Surely it is composed of the sayings of Jesus, as well as writings of his inspired disciples moved by the promised Pneuma.

More Nazarene Teachings Revealed in Apostolic Letters

The rest of the New Testament --

Romans 6:17 -- "You became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching (form of doctrine; type of teaching) to which you were handed over." There was a certain form or type of teaching which characterized the Gospel.

Romans 16:17 -- "Keep your eye on those who cause divisions and occasions for stumbling contrary to the teaching (doctrine) that you have learned, and avoid them." Paul does not tolerate those who would deviate from the Gospel he preached under the guidance of the pneumatic helper Jesus promised. (John 14-16)

Ephesians 4:13-14 -- "Until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ; in order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error." Paul mentions this process of growth Church-wide in 1 Corinthians 13:11,

"When I (the Church) was a babe, I used to speak as a babe, to think as a babe, to reason as a babe; but now that I have become a man [maturity], I have done away with the [traits] of a babe." During the formation of the New Testament canon of Scriptures there were ‘winds of teachings’ which could blow this way and that way as the result of trick teachers. When that which was "complete" arrived, the Scriptures could provide a stabilizing force for the growing church.

1 Timothy 6:2-4 -- "Keep on teaching these things and giving these exhortations. If any man teaches other doctrine and does not assent to healthful words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor to the teaching that accords with godly devotion, he is puffed up [with pride], not understanding anything." Paul categories two classes of teaching: that which is attributed to the Nazarene; and, that which resulted from the inspiration of his disciples. In other words, the New Testament is the basis for judging unhealthy "doctrine."

2 Timothy 3:16 -- "All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching." This "scripture" would include what Timothy was reared on, the Hebrew Bible; and, those later "Scriptures" Peter mentions, including Paul. (2 Peter 3:16) Thus Christian teaching involves "all Scripture."

Hebrews 6:1-3 -- "For this reason, now that we have left the primary doctrine about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying a foundation again, namely, repentance from dead works, and faith toward God, the teaching on baptisms and the laying on of the hands, the resurrection of the dead and everlasting judgment. And this we will do, if God indeed permits." Here Paul lists six primary doctrines beyond which the Christian is to grow to maturity:

  1. Repentance from dead works -- before baptism one would need to understand repentance and likely already "produce fruits befitting repentance." (Luke 3:8)
  2. Faith -- before baptism one must have declared faith in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God -- the "Lord" and King. (Romans 10:9, 10)
  3. Baptism -- spirit and water: Jesus himself said that one must be born of water and spirit to enter the "realm of profession" under his rule as Lord.
  4. Laying on of hands -- with baptism one has hands laid upon him or her. Likely prior to baptism it would be wise to understand from where this authority comes. The "laying on of hands" implies some authority, not only with regard to the baptism itself but also in matters of later appointments to positions within the Church. (Acts 6:6; 8:17, 18; 13:3; 19:6; 1 Timothy 4:14; 5:22; 2 Timothy 1:6) So there is some degree of recognition on the part of the one being baptized that there is some order and arrangement within the Church.
  5. Resurrection -- The very root of the Gospel is the resurrection of Christ and all that this implies. Certainly the person reaching baptism would have come to know of Jesus’’ resurrection and those teachings related to it.
  6. Judgment day -- Surely in examining the "doctrine of Christ" one learns about Judgment Day, for our Lord taught such. One learns about the parousia-judgment of the Church upon the Return of Lord Messiah. Knowledge of judgment implies an understanding of what is needed to attain to a "resurrection to life" as opposed to a "resurrection of judgment." (John 5:29; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 John 2:28) Much of this would relate to the Christian walk in the "fruitage of the spirit" (Galatians 5:22, 23) as well as the life-long determination to "perfect holiness in the fear of God." (2 Corinthians 7:1)

As Paul wrote in Hebrews 6:1 that new Christians would continue to develop in maturity. Hebrews 5:11 - 6:1 counsels: "Concerning (Christ) we have much to say and hard to be explained, since you have become dull in your hearing. For, indeed, although you ought to be teachers in view of the time, you again need someone to teach you from the beginning the primary principles of the Words of God; and you have become such as need milk, not solid food. For everyone that partakes of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong. For this reason, now that we have left the primary doctrine about the Christ, let us press on to maturity." Thus Paul identifies what he calls "the primary principles" which a new Christian ought to learn.

When occasions arouse in the early church to unify the widely scattered small home churches letters were carried by representatives of the ‘ruling’ (Hebrews 13:7, 17) body of elders to be observed by all these churches. These letters were not suggestions but dogmatic and resulted in growth. (Acts 16:4, 5; compare the Greek dogmata)

What Preceded Baptism in the Early Church

In the several cases recording the baptisms of individuals and crowds it is noted that generally a talk preceded the immersion ceremony. Baptism was a "saving" act and deserved some thought and education. (1 Peter 3:21) On this matter consider: Acts 2:14-41; 8:26-38; 10:1-43; 16:33-35; 17:24-35.

Judging from those texts above new disciples approaching for baptism were first instructed to a degree in "the primary doctrine of Christ." For this reason the publication Nazarene Principles© was created. It is a Bible primer on the basic teachings of Jesus and their sources in the Hebrew Scriptures as well as commentaries by his inspired disciples. This small book covers the "seven principles" outlined in the Lord’s Prayer. In 350 footnotes and hundreds of Bible citations the central truths unique to Jesus Christ are presented in an easy to understand manner.

In addition, as a companion to this Bible study aid, the manual Nazarene Community 2000© discusses the order of the first Church and those characteristics needed to preserve its harmony and unity. "Unity" is a familiar subject to both Jesus and Paul. The Nazarene prayed: "In order that they may be one just as we are." (John 17:11) And Paul strongly counsels the fragmented Corinthian church:

"Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should no schisms among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same opinion." (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Despite this godly direction both Jesus and Paul predict a future fragmentation of the original true church. The Nazarene does this in his parable of the sower. (Matthew chapter 13) Right in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says: "For first of all, when you come together in a congregation, I hear schisms exist among you; and in some measure I believe it. For there must also be heresies among you, that the persons approved may also become manifest among you." (1 Corinthians 11:18-19)

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Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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