Of interest within its own right, and in view of ongoing discussions of importance among our people, is the determination of what is meant by the statement, “the doctrine of Christ,” as given in 2 John 9. As remarkable as it may seem, there is difficulty and uncertainty in the minds of some as to the meaning of this expression. The following is offered as worthy of consideration in determining its meaning.
There is a significant combination of statements about doctrine and Christ which clarify the meaning of this expression. In John 7:16-17, one reads, “Jesus answered them, my doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.” Note the words in bold as we have done. In Acts 2:42, one reads, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.” Then in 2 John: “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.”
In John 7:16, there is the statement of “my doctrine.” It would not be possible to maintain that this is different from “the doctrine” in the very next verse. Therefore, surely the reference is broader than the deity of Jesus, though the deity of Jesus is included in what Jesus termed “the doctrine.” The “apostles’ doctrine” is not the doctrine or teaching about the apostles, but must be the doctrine that they taught. Would anyone maintain that this doctrine was different in content from the “my doctrine” and “the doctrine” of John 7:16-17? With this in mind, what of the “doctrine of Christ”? Is it not clear that “the doctrine of Christ” and “my doctrine” are one and the same? Also, is it not clear that this is the same as “the apostles’ doctrine”? The fact is the same body of teaching or doctrine is under consideration in these several verses. What one means, they all mean and refer to the teaching which Christ gave by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This whole “doctrine” includes discussion of the deity of Jesus, to be sure, but it cannot properly be limited to just that important truth. Rather it includes the whole content of New Testament teaching. This understanding parallels the conclusion of Westcott, “…the doctrine which Christ brought, and which He brought first in His own person, and then through His followers…and the usage of the New Testament is uniformly in favor of it” (Comments on II John 9).