I’ve talked about this on the blog before, but this is worth talking about over and over. Here’s the issue I’m asserting:
- If the apostles said something that you can’t repeat without explanation or caveat, it is because your theology is wrong.
- If you will say what the apostles said, even if you don’t understand it, the apostles’ sayings will correct your theology.
Here’s some examples of things the apostles—or worse, Jesus—said that conservative Evangelicals can’t or won’t repeat, at least not without explaining the verses away. Something to be said on behalf of the Roman Catholics, since I’m usually opposing some claim of theirs on this blog, is that I could make no such list for them.
These are all from the World English Bible. I like the translation, but I use it primarily because it is in the public domain.
- You see then that by works, a man is justified, and not only by faith. (Jam. 2:24)
- Having been made perfect, [Jesus] became to all of those who obey him the author of eternal salvation. (Heb. 5:9)
- “We are His witnesses of these things; and so also is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:32)
- God … "will pay back to everyone according to their works": to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory, honor, and incorruptibility, eternal life; but to those who are self-seeking, and don’t obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, will be wrath and indignation … (Rom 2:5b-8)
- Yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we live through him. (1 Cor. 8:6)
- "This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ." (Jn. 17:3)
- "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)
- Be more diligent to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never stumble. For thus you will be richly supplied with the entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 1:10-11)
- If you call on him as Father, who without respect of persons judges according to each man’s work, pass the time of your living as foreigners here in reverent fear. (1 Pet. 1:17)
- For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal. 3:27)
- "I … declared … that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance (Acts 26:20)
I could add at least 20 verses to that list, probably 100.
I know that conservative Evangelicals would all claim to be able to explain these verses. They would argue that they believe all these verses if they are properly explained.
I ask, however, whether a conservative Evangelical would say any of these things. It’s one thing to agree with a statement if you can put your own spin on it. It’s quite another to believe in such a way that you would say the same thing yourself.
Let’s not be general. Try walking into a Southern Baptist church, the largest denomination in the USA with over 40 million members, and telling your Sunday School class that you’ve been out telling people that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.
Let’s go one step further into “heresy.” Try walking into that same Southern Baptist church and saying that you believe that a person is justified by works and not only by faith.
Unless you’ve never spent much time in a Baptist church, you know exactly what kind of response you will get, and will not be praise for having memorized Acts 26:20 and James 2:24.
You won’t do any better with those other verses, either.
I suggest that the reason there are so many Scriptures we Evangelicals cannot quote is because our theology is faulty.
Let me put that in different words so it’s more persuasive: I suggest that the reason that we don’t speak like the apostles is because we don’t believe what the apostles believed. We don’t say what they say because we don’t believe what they believed.
I wish I could convince every Christian to speak scripturally. I wish I could persuade every Christian to know the apostles writings, and to purposely say the same things they say. I am convinced that if we did so, we would—slowly and over time—find our theology, our beliefs, transforming into apostolic beliefs.