Quite a while ago, Johannes Vos's commentary on the Westminster Larger Catechism was recommended to me. I had it on my wishlist at Westminster Books, but when I was out for a visit with a good friend last week, and we were in a store which sells Reformed books, I saw it on the shelf, and picked it up. I've been reading it daily.
The fifth question asks: What do the scriptures principally teach?
It answers: The scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.
Vos's commentary is a series of other questions, clarifying the question and answer. One of his questions is "Why is belief mentioned before duty?" Vos's contention is that in faith, as in nature, the root must come before the fruit. In other words, right living comes from right doctrine. His next questions adds more understanding:
What is wrong with the current present-day popular slogan: "Christianity is not a doctrine but a life?" This saying is one of the subtle half-truths of our day. It would be correct to say "Christianity is not only a doctrine but also a life." It is not a question of "either ... or" but of "both ... and." When anyone says that Christianity is not a doctrine but a life, he is setting doctrine and life in opposition to each other. This is a very perverse tendency and is thoroughly characteristic of the antidoctrinal prejudice of our day. Of course according to the Bible Christianity is both a system of doctrine and a life. Moreoever the doctrine and the life are organically related, and the life cannot exist and grow apart from the doctrine. After all, roots are important things.
I love the way he put that: roots are important things. Of course this is the lesson I need to learn every day, but often forget. So often, I get caught up in thinking and reading about the presence or lack of the fruit. Even in what I choose to read, many times, the "issues" are more about the fruit than they are about the root. I need to get first things first, and ensure my foundation, the roots, are well-developed and strong.
I love it when someone recommends a book to me, and immediately I can see why.