“The disciples of Jesus had evidently been far inferior to their Master in every possible way; they had not understood His lofty spiritual teaching, but even in the hour of solemn crisis had quarreled over great places in the approaching Kingdom.
What hope was there that such men could succeed where their Master had failed? Even when He had been with them, they had been powerless; and now that He was taken from them, what little power they may have had was gone.
Yet those same weak, discouraged men, within a few days after the death of their Master, instituted the most important spiritual movement that the world has ever seen.
What had produced the astonishing change? What had transformed the weak and cowardly disciples into the spiritual conquerors of the world?
Evidently it was not the mere memory of Jesus’ life, for that was a source of sadness rather than of joy.
Evidently the disciples of Jesus, within the few days between the crucifixion and the beginning of their work in Jerusalem, had received some new equipment for their task.
What that new equipment was, at least the outstanding and external element in it (to say nothing of the endowment which Christian men believe to have been received at Pentecost), is perfectly plain.
The great weapon with which the disciples of Jesus set out to conquer the world was not a mere comprehension of eternal principles; it was an historical message, an account of something that had recently happened, it was the message, “He is risen.”
But the message of the resurrection was not isolated. It was connected with the death of Jesus, seen now to be not a failure but a triumphant act of divine grace; it was connected with the entire appearance of Jesus upon earth. The coming of Jesus was understood now as an act of God by which sinful men were saved.
The primitive Church was concerned not merely with what Jesus had said, but also, and primarily, with what Jesus had done. The world was to be redeemed through the proclamation of an event.
And with the event went the meaning of the event; and the setting forth of the event with the meaning of the event was doctrine. These two elements are always combined in the Christian message.
The narration of the facts is history; the narration of the facts with the meaning of the facts is doctrine.
“Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried”—that is history. “He loved me and gave Himself for me”—that is doctrine.
Such was the Christianity of the primitive Church.”
–J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1923/2009), 24-25.