Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Importance of Truth (and Doctrine)


In light of Michelle's recent posts 'Righteous Judgement' and 'What is Love?' I have been inspired to write a few words of my own on the topic.
This (rather long) post covers my thoughts and opinions (in a very broad sense) regarding what our responsibility is regarding the false teachings and doctrine within the church today. (You do not necessarily need to read Michelle's post to read mine, but I do recommend taking the time to read them... they are incredibly thought provoking and are sure to get you thinking... one way or another :))

I guess it would be only fair to give you a little heads up as to what "I believe":
I believe there are certain areas of doctrine that should be without a doubt argued and debated, and even confronted within the church today - there are some beliefs out there within the so-called Christian church that can be blatantly contradictory to the Word of God and are leading people astray, and by astray I mean to hell.
However, there are also doctrines out there that are NOT as serious, and can safely be left up to the interpretation of each individual believer. These "minor" differences are nothing to divide over in any sense, but personally, I enjoy debating, learning and studying the Word of God and am saddened by the fact that more Christians are not able to discuss/debate their beliefs without becoming offended, angry and downright rude with one another. Everything we do should be done in love whether it's a direct confrontation or a simple theological/doctrinal debate.
Righteous judgment is not about condemning or judging someone in the sense of "bestowing a final judgment/condemnation" but does require a sense of discernment and drawing conclusions. There is a difference.

I also should mention that I personally think that doctrine is extremely important to an effective Christian walk and far too many Christians are walking around believing what they believe without really knowing why. To be honest, this is a very dangerous place to be, the Bible reminds us over and over again of the importance of knowing and teaching truth. Ephesians 4:11-15 mentions only a few of the benefits which include maturity, unity in the church, building up in love, equipping, and protection from wayward doctrine and deception.

My primary objective in this post  is to prove the seriousness of false doctrine and being led astray. By proving the seriousness, I think we can better evaluate our motives and approach to "righteously judging and correcting" our fellow believers as well as discussing the blessings that come from guarding and keeping the Word of God pure.


2 Corinthians 4:2-6 states "But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the Light of the gospel on the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, 'Let Light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

Paul states in this passage that he is going to remain true to the gospel, without watering it down or deceitfully introducing it, regardless of how the gospel is received, or not, for he knows that the gospel is accepted and understood not based on how well it is taught or how "convenient" it looks but on whether the recipient has been "blinded" or not.
The purpose of this passage (according to the ESV Study Bible) is that Paul is pointing to the power of God rather than himself, repeatedly, as the source of knowledge and gospel acceptance. This is why he does not lose heart and is able to preach without abandon and without the fear of man and what man thinks of him.
Little bunny trail - we don't NEED to water down the truth in order for it to be accepted, it may not sound the prettiest or make complete sense to us, that doesn't matter, what matters is the power of God and His Light shining on the hearts of people - that will happen in spite of watered down "good news" not because of it!

I want to draw special attention to verse 2 "We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God" the greek word for "tamper" is ('doloo') and its meaning fig. is "adulterate - handle deceitfully" and it signifies an ensnaring, or a corruption "especially by mingling the truths of the Word of God with false doctrines or notions, and so handling it deceitfully." (Strong's Concordance)

The fact is, even if 'watering down the gospel' has good motives behind it (and personally I think it is more often an issue of ignorance than good motives) it is FALSE, meaning NOT the TRUTH and is ineffective - rather than saving it is ensnaring those who receive it!

Let's recall that this chapter is centered around the afflictions that Paul was experiencing because of the gospel he was preaching - this chapter is his encouragement to the church about holding fast to the truth and the larger picture of what's really going on.

Lets look at vereses 13-15 "Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, 'I believed and so I spoke' we also believe and so we speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

It is the TRUTH of the gospel that brings grace and glorifies God.

This particular chapter of scripture has shown us an important comparison of the two extremes - false watered-down teachings opposed to the true (possibly harder to accept) truth of the Bible. There is a right and a wrong - one way glorifies God the other ensnares and traps those who accept it.

Just in case this isn't a clear enough explanation for us, let's also turn to 2 Timothy 4:1-4 "I charge you [Timothy].... preach the word; be ready in season and out of season ["when it is convenient and when it is inconvenient(*)"]; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths."
* ESV Study Bible

The opposite of truth and allowing it, is not loving... it's a lie and a trap - one that we should be desperate to save not only our fellow brothers from but also those who have not yet become believers. Scripture paints a clear difference here - it doesn't speak of acceptance and "living with differences" it's spoken as a warning to keep Timothy (and all teacher's) diligent and on the look-out for what is happening.


Turning back now to 2 Corinthians 4 Paul states in verse 8-9 that "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed. Perplexed, but not driven to despair. Persecuted but not forsake. Struck down, but not destroyed."

Let's take a closer look at the word crushed in verse 8- the original greek word ('stenochoreo') means 'to crowd into a narrow space. The Complete Word Study Dictionary describes it a little further as "figuratively, to be constrained, reserved, be unable to express oneself". In the only other instance this word is used (2 Corinthians 6:12) the word is translated as "restricted" and implies a restriction to growth.

Dare I draw the obvious conclusion that the reason Paul can say with boldness he will not be restricted and "unable to express himself" is because he has been true to the gospel and has allowed God's power to work through Him. Reading this portion of scripture with this insight is very interesting to me. A connection is made between holding strongly to the authenticity of the gospel, allowing God's power to work through us and the ability to stand up for our convictions of truth.

This is a big deal, and it effects the church as a whole and us as individuals. The implications of NOT teaching true doctrine and watering down the truth affects far more than just an individual it affects the entire body, including those who decide to not stand up for truth.

For me personally, I don't claim to have all the answers or to be right about everything, the truth is, I know that I'm not right about everything. When I am wrong about something, especially if I am teaching others incorrectly I pray that someone would come to me and correct me in a loving, non-accusatory manner. Not just for the well-being of myself, but also those who realize the mistakes I am making and the souls of those I am responsible to. This is a serious matter, and I think that we all need to take a good hard look at the destruction that is being done by NOT confronting one another's errors (and possibly sin). The implications can be eternal!


3 comments:

Michelle said...

Just letting you know I've been here. I sent your post link to all the folks involved in the discussion the other day that I could. Love it! I'll be back later to actually comment. You know you would have to take time, too! :)

Tracy said...

One of the things I adore about the blogosphere is the stimulating posts. I've been blessed to be part of the discussion over on Michelle's blog and she emailed me about your thoughts here.

I so appreciate your thoughtful approach. I wholeheartedly agree with your point:

"believe there are certain areas of doctrine that should be without a doubt argued and debated, and even confronted within the church today - there are some beliefs out there within the so-called Christian church that can be blatantly contradictory to the Word of God and are leading people astray, and by astray I mean to hell.
However, there are also doctrines out there that are NOT as serious, and can safely be left up to the interpretation of each individual believer. These "minor" differences are nothing to divide over in any sense" - I couldn't say it any better!

I can relate to what I've heard Michelle & Nate say, and see you speaking about here, about how many Christians aren't into talking about their faith or doctrine at any deep level. This truth had left a longing in my heart that God in His great goodness helped fill when He blessed me with my husband John. John is one of the few people with whom I can talk about those topics; I remember how excited I was when we were first getting to know each other and I finally found someone who didn't get that glazed look like I was being boring when these sorts of topics came up. But I can't help but think that this is NOT entirely due to lack on the part of others, it's partly due to personality and disposition; God made us each who we are. Of course we all should be students of scripture but just not everyone is into deep discussions in general. I've really enjoyed in the blogosphere how I've been able to read what interesting thinkers have to say.

Michelle said...

I'm usually really really blabby. But it's hard to be "blabby" when I agree with everything you said! I really enjoyed the scripture you used from 2 Corinthians 4. For some reason, that had not stood out before. AND I really like how you broke the scripture down.

We enjoy looking at the Greek meaning of words, too. It helps us to understand so much more.

I have a ministry I would like to share with you. We have received his DVDs and tapes for a few years and you can receive them for free. Anyways, he says a lot of GREAT things. We honestly cannot find anything he says that is not scriptural or true. At first, he is hard to handle because he seems a little angry unless you are used to listening to him. But then, you understand why he is angry. You can take him or leave him but he is worth the time to check it out. I've had friends that dug it and friends didn't dig it. He is angry at false doctrine. But underneath all that anger is some MAJOR humility and repentance for his nature.

www.graceandtruth.net

I would suggest requesting a set of DVD's, check them out. He is HARD to follow at first because he has a TON of knowledge. Sometimes we would stop and look up what he was saying to verify. We have never found him to not match up with the Greek and Hebrew. Anyways, I'll stop now. So much for not being blabby! LOL