Wake Up Sleeper! Speak Up

Bonhoeffer4

. . . So I’m telling you this, and I insist on it in the Lord: you shouldn’t live your life like the Gentiles anymore. They base their lives on pointless thinking, and they are in the dark in their reasoning. They are disconnected from God’s life because of their ignorance and their closed hearts. They are people who lack all sense of right and wrong, and who have turned themselves over to doing whatever feels good and to practicing every sort of corruption along with greed.

But you didn’t learn that sort of thing from Christ. . . .

Let no one beguile you with empty arguments. God’s anger comes down on those who are disobedient because of this kind of thing. So you shouldn’t have anything to do with them. You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, so live your life as children of light. Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, justice, and truth. Therefore, test everything to see what’s pleasing to the Lord, and don’t participate in the unfruitful works of darkness. Instead, you should reveal the truth about them. It’s embarrassing to even talk about what certain persons do in secret. But everything exposed to the light is revealed by the light. Everything that is revealed by the light is light. Therefore, it says,

Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,
and Christ shall give you light.”

–Ephesians Chapters 4 & 5

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”– Eph. 5:11

“There is no difference in practice between being joint-partakers with the children of darkness and sharing their works. Such works must not be condoned or excused, but exposed for what they are.”–F. F. Bruce.

…we must admit, this is an area where we need help. Here, let us grow from the insights of John Wesley in his sermon, “The Duty of Reproving Our Neighbor.” He wrote this sermon near the end of his years, after a lifetime of practicing it and seeing the fruit of Christians doing their duty.

Chapter 1 highlighted the text of this sermon, Leviticus 19:17, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.” As we noted, this stands as the beginning context before the second great commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Wesley begins, “We are to do all that in us lies to convince him of his fault, and lead him into the right way. Love, indeed, requires us to warn him . . .”

Then he makes a wise point: “We shall rarely reprove any one for any thing that is of a disputable nature . . .” (One example in our day is the dispute among some Christians about the drinking of wine or beer.) He then calls attention to “what is clearly and undeniably evil.” He gives such examples as drunkenness, cursing and swearing, and profaning the Lord’s day. (In America, where most Christians have whittled down the Ten Commandments to nine or less, we see how low we have fallen.)

But let us focus on his third point: “How, in what manner, are we to reprove them?” Noting that we are “called” to do this, he proceeds: Let us first take care that whatever we do may be done in “the spirit of love;” in he spirit of tender good-will to our neighbor; as for one who is the son of our common Father, and one for whom Christ died, . . . Then, by the grace of God, love will beget love. –From Chapter 4, Sin and Silence

invited-to-come

I John 2: Teachers versus False Teaching

Ichthys

But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. (2:27, NKJV)

 

This verse, taken out of context, has been foolishly used by some Christians to reject the need for teachers in the Church and even to promote false teaching. But as Ephesians 4 tells us, Christ “gave some to be…teachers, for the equipping of the saints…”

 

Continuing from the last post [Who are “They”?], we now have the primary context in mind, along with some sense of the spirit of those times. The immediate context of this verse (2:27) begins at verse 18:  “…many anti-Christs have come…” Among them are the “they” who “went out from us” (v. 19).

 

In contrast to these apostates (with their ‘new’ knowledge), “you have an anointing from the Holy One and you know all things” (v. 20).

 

In the Gospel of John (16:13), Jesus told his disciples that when “the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth…”

 

In this epistle, John reminds his hearers that they already “know the truth” (2:21), and that they are to allow that truth to remain in them which they “have heard from the beginning” (v. 24; cf. 1:1,2).

 

Verse 26 tells us “these things I have written concerning those who try to deceive you”  [with new ‘knowledge’], which brings us, now, to our opening verse about needing no one to teach them (v. 27).

 

In contrast to these false teachers who present new teaching/knowledge which puts forth a lie about Christ, John’s fellow Christians “know” what “is true” from the “beginning.” They have “no need” for these new teachers.

 

In his Explanatory Notes, Wesley makes the vital point: “Ye need not that any should teach you, save as that anointing teacheth you – Which is always the same, always consistent with itself. But this does not exclude our need of being taught by them who partake of the same anointing.” [underline, mine]

 

And Calvin says, point blank: “Absurdly, then, do fanatical men lay hold on this passage, in order to exclude from the Church the use of the outward ministry.” [of teaching]

john-apostle

Of Ponds and Pitfalls

swimming

 

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.--2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)

 

Too often, we hear fellow Christians talking about “what this verse means to me.”  There certainly are verses that do have a special place in our hearts, which have given great comfort in times of crisis or direction out of aimless wanderings— this blessing , we may confidently hold unto. But if we become me-centered rather than Christ-centered, we quickly close the door to understanding as we quench the Spirit’s guidance.

Still, God in his great mercy bears with us in our immaturity.

As a child growing up in the Ozarks, Erasmus’ parents forbade him to take part in any skinny-dipping in the local ponds. As a teenager, Erasmus felt the conviction of a verse in James (1:2) which, in the King James Version, speaks of “divers temptations.” Perhaps “divers lusts and pleasures” (Titus 3:3) served to strengthen his convictions, and “divers diseases” (Mark 1:34) might have instilled enough dread to keep this young man out of the pond! But, being unfamiliar with Scuba diving, what would he have thought about “divers weights” and how would “divers colours” fit into the scheme of skinny-dipping unless it was winter tide and he was thinking of the color, blue?

We may make light of silly interpretations to expose our weakness. We, however, must take care not to make light of conviction in a boy indwelt by the Holy Spirit. But his understanding of this particular Scripture verse is not to be an example that we strive to follow. Rather, the example highlights one pitfall along our path as we read Scripture.

Though God bears with us, “the smoldering wick he will not quench,” immaturity is not our goal; nor are subjective interpretations of Scripture to be the guide that we follow.

If we continue on this post-modern path of subjectivism, of giving equal weight to each of our own opinions about what a verse of Scripture teaches, then we are reinforcing the secular claim that there is no absolute truth (which, of course, is an absolute claim and utter nonsense). If “what this verse means to me” becomes our standard, then we have nothing to say to the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses about their heretical teachings. After all, select verses of Scripture mean something different to them. And, in this new age, who are we to question their interpretations?

Against today’s subjectivism, we must clearly declare “that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20). As The Expositor’s Bible Commentary states, “no prophecy of Scripture is to be interpreted by any individual in an arbitrary way.” If we are ignorant of its full meaning and simply think of prophecy as limited to predicting the future, we will lose our way here. But prophecy encompasses bringing the mind of God to bear upon the present situation. The Old Testament prophets repeatedly reminded God’s people of what the word of God had already revealed to them. The prophets vividly reminded them and called them to return to God and obey his ways. They called them to repent.

When Peter wrote that warning quoted above, his concern centered on the parallel between “false prophets among the people” and “false teachers among you; who will secretly bring in destructive heresies . . .” (2 Peter 2:1).

Peter warned us about arbitrary interpretations of the prophecies of Scripture by any individual. This warning, as we see from the parallel that he drew, also applies to arbitrary interpretations of the teachings of Scripture. And the specific point we must see here is that we are not to interpret and apply Scriptural teaching  in some arbitrary way which is awash in the philosophy of our own day.

The path that avoids that deep pitfall of arbitrariness lies alongside our familiarity with Scripture. (There can be none of this picking and choosing of verses without our awareness of their context.) To walk that path requires discipline. Step by step, we must regularly read God’s word and study it with the diligence of true disciples.

Adapted from Love, Prayer, and Forgiveness: When Basics Become Heresies