Does the Apostle Paul permit Doctrinal Progression?

Before we arrive at the Godhead, or any doctrine associated with Councils and Doctrinal Development, we must first decide on the proper place for Doctrinal Progression. I offer two points against such a theory:

Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. (1 Corinthians 4:6 NKJV)

Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  (2 Timothy 1:13 NKJV)

How then can we go above that which is stands written, not only in the Old but the New – the Prophets and the Apostles – and create a new pattern of words – sound or otherwise?

If we are commanded not to go beyond what is written, then how can we have Church Councils which establish doctrine different, or progressed, than the Apostles?

If we are commanded to hold to the pattern of words which the Apostle spoke, then how can we create theological concepts, words, and indeed languages, when Paul would not have recognized them?

If Doctrine is allowed to be progressed, then who decides the correct doctrine if we can no longer measure the doctrine in full by the holy Scriptures?

Can we move past the Apostles and still hold to Paul’s words? Who has the authority to amend the Apostles?

If no Doctrinal Progession, then no Trinity – and no oneness or modalism either. Must we hold to only those words (translated or transliterated) found in the Bible to describe our theology proper?

More questions than answers, but that is what the comment section is for!

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64 Replies to “Does the Apostle Paul permit Doctrinal Progression?”

  1. I am a Christian. I believe that the Bible is the word of God.

    When I say that the church is fallible, I am saying that the church is capable of teaching incorrect doctrine through both the church’s oral traditions as well as through the church’s written traditions.

    Not only am I saying that the church is capable of doctrinal error, I would go so far as to say that the church is prone to doctrinal error over time in both its written and oral traditions.

    It does not matter if that church is the Orthodox Church or the Catholic Church or the Baptist Church or the Pentecostal Church, all churches no matter how pure they began, are prone to error over time. The only thing that can prevent error from entering the church or illuminate error that has already crept into the church is the word of God.

    Throughout the New Testament we see warnings and even promises that errors and wrong teachings would enter the church after the departure of the Apostles.

    Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. [Acts 20:28-32]

    The church is prone to error. The word of God is not.

  2. Russ,

    Your theory that the Church is fallible is very much flawed. (To be sure, the people that inhabit the Church is flawed) The Church is the keeper of the Truth, the Body of Christ, and His Bride. Surely, the Church could not be flawed. There is only one Church is that is pure – the one established by Christ (Matthew 16.18; Acts 2.38). Don’t let movements and sects began by man fool you into think that they are the Church.

    Actually, they entered during the times of the Apostles, but it was the heretics that were fallible, not the Church.

    The Church is pure and perfect.

  3. The church is indeed prone to error and the doctrine of church infallibility is a dangerous teaching. Jesus says to the church in Thyatira,

    “…because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.” [Rev 2:20-22]

    This false teaching in the church was not an isolated teaching that was quickly identified by the leaders in the church and dealt with. Instead it was doctrinal error that continued for an extended period of time in the church and even after a long period of time the church had yet to correct the problem. “And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.”

    Sexual immorality refers to idolatry, not necessarily physical immorality. [See Jer 3:8,9, Eze 23:37] Because the church is the “bride of Christ”, idolatry is considered sexual immorality because in idolatry the bride is finding her satisfaction and pleasure in something or someone other than her husband, Jesus Christ.

    Jesus is speaking to His church. He is rebuking His church for allowing a woman to teach false doctrine in the church. However, and most important, he is holding individuals responsible for receiving and believing the false teaching even though that teaching was permitted and propagated by and in His church.

    In other words, Jesus is holding individuals accountable for what they believe even if what they believe was taught to them by the very church that Jesus founded. Those who reject the wrong teaching will not experience “great tribulation” but those who receive and believe this teaching will be cast into great tribulation.

    Paul said, “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” But for hundreds of years the Catholic Church has allowed a woman who calls herself a prophetess teach in the church. And what does she teach? She teaches adoration of herself. She teaches the members of the church to make an image of herself and to bow before that image and to pray before that image. She teaches idolatry and her teaching continues unchecked to this day in within Catholicism.

    “…indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.” God holds individuals accountable for how they practice their faith and punishes individuals for failing to walk in the truth even if the teachings that they are believing and following were taught by the very church that Jesus founded.

    However, to members of this church who do not hold this doctrine Jesus says, “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden.”

    It is clearly up to the individual to discern the teachings in the church and to, “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” [1 Tim 5:21]

    The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. [Psalm 111:10]

  4. Russ,

    You seem to think that the local church is the Church Universal, it is not. It is a member, just as the individual is a member of the congregation. 6 of the 7 Churches in Revelation had problems. 1 did not. By your logic, then, we do have a perfect Church; however, your logic is somewhat flawed.

    Christ did not come to established personal relationships. We are told constantly to commune with others and He will be there. In Ephesians, we are shown that the Church is the new man, the perfect human, and we are one body in Christ. Further,

    Further, Paul tells us of this body of Christ,

    Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
    (Ephesians 2:19-22 NKJV)

    John relates to us the words of Christ,

    the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
    (John 14:17 NKJV)

    Would the Spirit of God lie? Would it teach us false doctrine? Is this Spirit fallible? If the Spirit dwells in the Church, then the Church is infallible.


    Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
    And lean not on your own understanding;
    (Proverbs 3:5 NKJV)

    You would have us decide our own doctrine, and Russ, it seems that you have done just that with misunderstanding Israel and the Church.

    “For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God, there the Church and every grace. The Spirit, however, is Truth.” – Irenaeus Against Heresies 3.24.1

  5. First, I would like to say that I appreciate this conversation and I am in no way attacking or belittling your faith. I am simple seeking the truth as I am sure that you are as well.

    I am not sure that I understand your response. Maybe you could answer the question this way: If you had been in the church of Thyatira you would have been confronted with a decision. How would you know which doctrine to believe? Would you have continued to believe what you were taught by the leaders of the church or would you have followed the teaching of John in his letter to your church? On what basis would you choose one above the other?

  6. Russ, indeed, we seek the truth.

    It would be difficult to say what I would have done. What I would do now though, would be to combat doctrinal error from within the Church. If that did not work, I would seek help from our Bishops and then seek a Council.

    The Church is infallible, but not the people who make it up. We must judge the doctrine of the congregation, the ministers, by the Scriptures, not the traditions of men. I believe in accountability, one to another, from minister to chief minister, from chief minister to a Council. When John wrote that letter, it was then that those individuals who were following the Woman should have heeded to the leadership of one who was about the pastor.

    We know as well, that there were some in the congregation there that had not received her false doctrine, and it was unto the messenger of that congregation that the letter was sent.

    I would hope that I would have been in the group that did not believe the false doctrine.

  7. What you really said was the scripture is infallible, not the church. You said that we must judge the ministers and the congregation by the scriptures and not by the traditions of men. You did not say we must judge the ministers and the congregations by the official teachings of the church. I agree with you. The way that we determine truth from error is only by testing everything by the word of God. The word of God has the ultimate authority, not the church. The word of God is given to guide and correct the church.

    All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction… [2 Tim 3:16]

    You can say that the word of God corrects individuals and that is true but the church is made up of individuals so as individuals are corrected and instructed the entire church is righted and corrected. When the church forsakes that word of God as the nation of Israel did, the church deteriorates into the conditions that we see in the 6 of the 7 churches in Revelation. Only the word of God is able to correct and reprove the church and keep her from her natural tendency away from the truth.

  8. Russ,

    Don’t mistake my views on the infallibly of the Church on Roman standards. The Church that was established my Christ is infallible because it is derived from the God-breathed scriptures. Traditions are useful for somethings – order of service, perhaps – but not for deciding doctrines.

    The Church is made up of individuals, but the Church itself is a body. You cannot be saved aside from the Church.

  9. The corporate body of Christ, His Bride, the perfect (mature) creature that grows into Christ. His building. We are the united Jew and Gentile into one body – His bride, to whom He will call one day for our heavenly ascent.

  10. Would you consider a person who is born again of the Holy Spirit part of the church? If the church is mature, why does it need to grow?

  11. I would consider someone who is ‘born again’ to be a part of the Church, as the Spirit will lead one into all truth.

    The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians, use both phrases. We are growing into maturity. (This, however, does not include the changing of doctrines.)

  12. Would you consider someone who is sealed with the Holy Spirit part of the church regardless of what church they attend even if they attend that church until their death?

  13. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. {Eph 1:3,4]

    Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

  14. Yes, but we are also told to not yoke ourselves with unbelievers, and further, we shown in the Old Testament that we have certain places to worship. Also, a great emphasis is placed on the Church in Acts and Paul’s writings, especially in Ephesians.

  15. Being born again has nothing to do with yoking ourselves with unbelievers. Joining a church is not the equivalent of being yoked with unbelievers.

    Jesus said, “the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father… the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” [John 4:21,23,24]

    There is no designated place of worship in the New Testament. The place of worship is not important to God. The spirit of worship is very important to God.

    Yes, there is an emphasis on the church in the New Testament but the church is by definition any group of believers who are filled with the Holy Spirit. Anywhere on earth where two or more spirit filled believers are gathered in His name, there is the church. It does not matter what name you put on the door, if Jesus is in the midst of the believers then that gathering is a gathering of the church – and anyplace there are two or more believers gathered, there He is in the midst.

  16. Russ,

    Can I put Isa Bey Mosque on the door? If throughout the OT, the name of God was of the utmost importance, and so again we see it in the NT, and if in the OT, the place of worship was important, then why the big change?

    Where the Church is, is the Truth, Russ, and the Spirit, as we are told that the Church is the dwelling place of the Spirit and the keeper of the Truth.

  17. Yes, those Spirit filled believers are the keepers of the truth and yes God’s name will be honored in their worship and teaching if they are true born again believers.

    I remember once when we attended a weekend retreat at a hotel. There was a mistake when they assigned the meeting rooms so for one of our morning sessions we had to meet in the hotel bar. It was great. We worshiped the Lord and studied His word we had a great time of prayer and fellowship – right there in the hotel bar. The place of gathering makes no difference at all. In times of persecution the church will often meet wherever it is the safest.

    Jesus often mingled with the tax collector and prostitutes. The proud religious leaders of His day hated Him for it but many people were saved because he did not isolate himself from the world. Instead, He loved the world, especially the sinners, like me.

    I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. [John 17:15]

    Yes, the truth and Spirit are in the church because the truth and Spirit are in the hearts of the believers. Where the believers gather in His name, there He is in the midst.

  18. Russ, we seem to be going round and round, getting no where here.

    Let’s try this – In Acts 2.42 (might be a verse off, don’t have my bible in front of me) the believers were added to the Church, those the Church exists before the believers, and apart from the individual, thus we must worship only in the Church – the body of Christ. I don’t speak of four walls when I say this.

  19. Keep in mind that the bar was closed at the time to outside customers. No drinks were being served!

    Also, you said that the place of meeting was important in the New Testament. Where do you see that?

    Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. Yes, it appears that they commonly met in houses but other than that I don’t see where the location is important in the New Testament.

    Jesus preached in the temples and from boats and in the hillsides, ect.

  20. The Church already existed when the 3000 were added in Acts because Peter and those others who the Holy Spirit had already filled were already the first members of the church.

    The Philippian jailer was added to the church from Paul’s prison cell. What is your point?

  21. Preaching to the sinners – going to where they are at – is different than meeting to worship God. Also, where is the prohibition against such things? Truly, if the Church is Israel, then we too have our own place of worship, not to say that you cannot worship at home, or in places otherwise unknown.

    The point, Russ, is that it is not an individual relationship, but a relationship through the Church to Christ who is the head of the Church, and that Church is indeed important.

  22. Only Jesus has the right to determine those who are His. Those who are His are sealed with the Holy Spirit. They are the church. There is no church outside of those who are born of the Holy Spirit and those who are born of the Holy Spirit are already ONE because the same Spirit dwells in each member individually.

    Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. [John 14:23]

    There is no one true church except individual believers sealed by the Holy Spirit of God.

  23. The Catholics are all about their church, the Mormons all about their church, the JW’s are all about their church. Every cult and “ism” believes in their church to the exclusion of all others. Welcome to the club.

    For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. [2 Cor4:5]

  24. Yep. Now all you need to do is prove that yours is the original and true one. (Seems like the Catholics and the Orthodox may have one up on you there.)

    The church is made up of those whom Jesus Christ has rescued from this present evil age. He has sealed all members of His church with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the “down payment” on the purchased possession and guarantee that he will complete the transaction for He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it.

    And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. [Eph 4:30]

  25. Russ,

    The True Church has the True Doctrine. Surely, even you would recognize that? We are not talking about whether or not you can trace this one or that one to the Apostles, but whether or not the doctrine – the real tie that binds – is the same as the holy men.

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