The Sound of Silence

When my son began singing Tim Hawkins, parody, “The Sound of Starbucks,” faint memories of a childhood melody crept into my brain. “The Sound of Silence” were the only words I remembered. Out of curiosity, I looked up the lyrics on YouTube. (The link is the cover by Disturbed.)

The song became known all over the world. I am certain tens of thousands of people gave thought to the words. Paul Simon, the writer, put the meaning simply: “The song is about the inability to communicate.” It is interesting that he also said he was trying to mimic Bob Dylan when he wrote the song (reference).

Simon understates the song’s meaning, or at least its impact. The combination of the haunting melody with the vision the lyrics describe is powerful.

Like some other secular creations, Christians would do well to learn from this song. In Simon’s vision, cold and quiet darkness is “disturbed” by a burst of light and noise. There are neon lights, lots of people, and lots of talking and singing, but as to the things that matter to these people? Nothing. The light and noise cover up what is really going on inside. In the midst of the flashes, parties, and noise, there is a deep silence crying out for attention … healing … truth … meaning.

You and I both know that happens in our churches … in us. Lights flash on stages. Singers sing powerful songs, and speakers deliver powerful messages, but beneath the noise, there is the sound of silence. We are promised that Jesus knows, Jesus hears, Jesus comforts. Jesus, we are promised, will pierce the sound of silence and touch our deep hurts.

That’s all true, but it is not the whole truth. The whole truth is that we are Jesus’ voice to bring comfort and understanding, his eyes to love and settle, his arms to pour out compassion, both to each other and to the world.

Who is answering your deep questions? When you don’t have the answers, who is telling you everything is alright? You don’t need answers, you need love. If you have someone to lean on, someone to face the darkness with you, then the answers, the future, are not so important. If you can say what you want to say without being condemned or, better yet, to be valued for asking the hard questions, then the love will be better than the answers.

Paul Simon’s “Sound of Silence” is a witness against the way society drowns out the deep, important, and beautiful things of life with lights and noise. Let’s not be guilty of the same in the church.

An Appeal

I talk about deep things and answer hard questions with people in my circle. We tend to think pastors have the answer, and sometimes they do. The truth is, though, that you and your brothers and sisters have the answer. I am not telling you to stay away from Sunday morning. I have two worship meetings I go to every week where the noise of worship helps me address the deep things lurking in my own silence. I give those things to God, and his presence washes and strengthens me. Afterward, though, I speak the truth with those who love me, and they tell me the truth. They love me, encourage me, and pray for me, and I do the same for them. Above all, we avoid “talking without speaking” and “hearing without listening” (lyrics from “The Sound of Silence”).

Jesus said, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst” (Matt. 18:20). He did not say that so we could construct a theology of church and church discipline. He was promising that we can find answers. In 1 John 2:26-27, every “you” is plural. God promises “us” in those verses that we can come together and the Holy Spirit will give us everything we need, and it will be true. When the apostle John writes about “truth,” as he does so much, he is not talking about facts. Truth is a person (Jn. 14:6). Truth never talks without speaking, nor does he hear without listening. He hears our cry even when we don’t have the right words to say, and he speaks with an “anointing” that goes in us like a seed (1 Jn. 2:27; James 1:18-22).

What you need more than a good sermon is the anointing, given by Jesus to “us.” We need to add “y’all” or “you guys” to our Bible translations. That anointing will save us from talking without speaking and hearing without listening.

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The Steadfast and Trustworthy Love of God

Job 9:32-35 (NIV):

[God] is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.

My initial reaction to this was, “Just wait, Job; just wait. Your Mediator is coming” (1 Tim. 2:5).

Then I thought about what this suggests about God. The fact is, even under the Old Covenant, God calls humans to reason with him and come away washed white as snow! (Isa. 1:16-20). Later, when Job does get to confront God, without a mediator, yes, God frightens Job with terror, but concludes by justifying him. In chapter 42, Job—in terror—repents in dust and ashes (though he did not have to go get dust and ashes; he was already in the ashes.) God says no more to him, but rebukes his “comforters” and tells them Job has said what is right.

The point is that Job had audience with God without a mediator and came away justified. He got what God offers in Isaiah 1:16-19. Later, God used Job (along with Noah and Daniel) as an example of righteousness (Ezek. 14:14,20).

I am not saying that we do not need a Mediator. I run to that Mediator because I want to be among the saved who know the truth (1 Tim. 2:4-5). I have confident access to the throne of grace because of faith in the Mediator (Eph. 3:12; Heb. 4:16). When I am there, he is always at my side (1 Jn. 2:1-2).

What I am saying is that God’s character is often misrepresented. He is portrayed as unmerciful and harsh under the Old Covenant when, in fact, the Bible teaches from the beginning that he is merciful and kind, punishing only the guilty (Ex. 34:6-7). This is every bit as true under the New Covenant (Gal. 6:7-8). Even as Jeremiah mourned the just and forewarned destruction of Jerusalem, he announced, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).

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The Gospel Story As Told by the Primitive Churches and As Told Today

Two Stories: One is the Gospel tale as it was told in the second and third centuries (as best I can tell it). The second is the Gospel tale, or one version of it, as it is taught in the U.S. today.

I changed the first line of story #1. Apparently, any suggestion that the Garden of Eden might be a parable makes story #1 unreadable. Story #1 does not require the Garden of Eden to be a myth.

Story #1

Whether it is historical or not, the Garden of Eden is an explanation of our reality. Though humans could simply obey God and live in joyful relationship and prosperity with him, they consistently choose to determine right and wrong for themselves. Walking away from God, the only source of true life, they received the result of their choice: spiritual death. No longer attached to God, spiritual forces of wickedness took them over (Eph. 2:1-3). Humans cannot free themselves from this slavery, nor can they see it despite all the wickedness that surrounds us (2 Cor. 4:4).

God is and always has been a merciful God, quick to forgive everyone except those who stubbornly persist in their evil ways (Ex. 34:6-7; Ezek. 18:20-30). God chose his own nation through whom he would show his love and his remarkable way of life to the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, that nation, too, chose to persist in its evil ways. No matter how hard God tried and whether he showed kindness or anger, they persisted in evil (Rom. 2-3). While this was no surprise to God, it was and continues to be a surprise to humans (Rom. 7). That long period of forbearing evil (Rom. 3:25) and winking at sin (Acts 17:30) was not so God could find out we are slaves to sin. God always knew, but humans needed long example to convince us that we are slaves. God was always hoping, and asking, that we humans would reject our self-rule and return to joyful relationship with him (Isa. 1:16-20; Jer. 7:21-24; Micah 6:8).

God’s nation kept rejecting all his messengers and messages, so the world did not get to hear of the mercy of God (Eph. 2:12). Finally, God sent his Son. His Son came to the earth, lived the way a human should live, in fellowship with God (John 5:19), then gave his life as a ransom for the human race, buying their freedom from spiritual wickedness and slavery to sin with his own life, his own blood (Matt. 10:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Tim. 2:6).

Of course, the spirits of wickedness knew they could simply enslave mankind again, and they rejoiced at the capture of God’s only-begotten Son, through whom God had created the earth in the beginning. What they did not realize is that the Son of God would tear apart the shackles of death, “bind the strong man,” and plunder the domain of wickedness (Mark 3:27; 1 Cor. 2:8).

Having risen from the dead, he offers to all who will come to him the freedom that he bought and fought for. Once again, through the Son, we can have fellowship and friendship with both God and his Son, resulting in everlasting life (Jn. 17:3; 2 Cor. 5:14-21).

This new relationship with God is not as easy as it was for Adam and Eve. We are not in the garden, but we in are a world enslaved to sin because many still reject both the Son and fellowship with the Father. Because the followers of the Son are in fellowship with God and are more powerful than the spirits of wickedness, they fight off the attempts to enslave them. Because God is love, they love, and they fight to bring others under the dominion of the Son who sets humans free.

They will continue to do so until the time of opportunity is ended. Then all who have made their way into the kingdom of the Son will shine forever, while all who rejected him and chose disobedience to God will be destroyed along with the spirits of wickedness who kept them captive.

Story #2

The story of Adam and Eve is history. God told Adam not to eat from the tree of good and evil, but the devil tricked Eve into talking Adam into eating it. God, worried that Adam and Eve might eat from the tree of life and become immortal, barred the passage to the garden they lived in. Now it is no longer visible or maybe even submerged under the earth.

God cannot bear any disobedience at all. He never forgives anyone even the slightest sin because he is too holy and just. Anyone who disobeys in any way must die (Hab. 2:13? James 2:10? Ezek. 18:20, but note vv. 21-30). God does not want to kill humans. Even though he must kill humans because he is so holy and just that he cannot forgive sins, he really wants to forgive sins, so he allows humans to kill animals so they don’t have to be killed. In fact, when Adam and Eve sinned, God killed animals in their place and gave them the animal skins as clothes.

Even then, God is not really accepting their sacrifice, nor is he simply showing mercy when the Old Testament says he shows mercy. Instead, he is looking forward to the eventual death of his Son in the place of all humans because that is what actually allows him to forgive. This must be why King David said God doesn’t want sacrifices but a repentant heart (Ps. 51:16) and why God desires mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6, a verse Jesus quoted in Matthew 9:13)

Humans continued to sin, and God kept allowing them to kill animals in their place. Adam’s son, Cain, did not understand this, so he offered grains to God as a sacrifice. Plant life can’t atone for human life, so God rejected Cain’s sacrifice. Cain got mad and killed his brother because his brother offered an animal sacrifice. God let Cain go anyway. He even stamped Cain with a stamp on his forehead so that people would not kill him.*

* The real story is that Cain’s sacrifice was rejected because he was evil, and Abel’s was accepted because he was righteous (Gen. 4:7; 1 Jn. 3:12).

God eventually took for himself a nation, and though they had sacrifices to cover their sins, they were so evil God overthrew them despite their sacrifices. Then, finally, when the time was right (Gal 4:4), God sent his Son, through whom he created the universe, to be the ultimate sacrifice. The Son never committed a sin, and he was divine, and therefore he was qualified to be the one great sacrifice that would allow God to forgive all the sins of mankind once and forever.

After paying for all sins with his life, the Son rose from the grave, and everyone who believes that he died for their sins will have their sins forgiven no matter what they do.

Conclusion

Which story do you think is more biblical?

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Leaving Nominalism Behind: How to Become a Disciple

This was shared 7 times on Facebook. That’s a lot for me. I thought I would share it here too.

I got an email today from a man who wants to stop living a nominal Christian life, and his initial efforts are being discouraged by his wife and church. I wrote this to him:

I do not have a rebuke for you; I have a plan for you. It would help to know where you live. If you are in the United States, then you have options.

I am going to tell you what I tell a lot of other people. It doesn’t matter all that much what you do on Sunday morning. If you find a great church service to attend, that is awesome, but if you don’t, no matter. According to the Bible (Hebrews 10:24-25), the real essence of Christian fellowship is getting to know one another, provoking each other to love and good works, and encouraging one another. You can do that on any day of the week; you just have to find people to do it with.

The Bible says, “Pursue faith, love, peace, and righteousness along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). Your job is to find people who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. God will help you find them. Pray and ask him.

Your wife may not like it, but you cannot let that deter you. You also cannot let her opposition get you angry. We are called to lead our wives. That is LEAD, not RULE. Lead good; rule bad. Leading means you set an example for her to follow, both in your fellowship and in your love and patience toward her. As you find people to pursue faith, love, righteousness, and peace with, ask them to pray for you to be the best husband that has ever existed. Love your wife; cherish her; speak kindly to her even when she opposes you. Set an example of godliness and love that cannot be spoken against.

That is my suggested plan. I can also give you some Bible study suggestions if you want, but the most important thing is that you start reading your Bible. If it is hard to find time, use your breaks at work. There are lots of Bible study plans online or in Bible apps for your phone.

So, feel free to write back. I will be praying for you.

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Righteousness Is from the Lord

Hosea 10:12

Orthodox Study Bible (based on Septuagint*):
“Sow to yourselves in righteousness;
Gather in the fruit of life;
Light for yourselves the light of knowledge;
Seek the Lord till the fruits of righteousness come upon you.”

NASB (1995 version):
“Sow with a view to righteousness,
Reap in accordance with kindness;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the Lord
Until he comes to rain righteousness on you.”

Either way you read it, seeking comes from us, and righteousness is poured out from the Lord. It reminds me of Galatians 5:5: “For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.”

*https://www.christian-history.org/septuagint.html

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The Kind and Merciful Judgment of God

Biblical teaching on the judgment is critically important. Many churches insult God by portraying him as merciless, a cruel deity who would torture a human for eternity for one sin because he is “holy” and “just.” (What sort of holiness and justice tortures people for one sin?)

This error arises from the evangelical tendency to interpret the Bible only from their incorrect understanding of “salvation by faith alone.” Thus, evangelicals use verses on faith to create doctrines on baptism, judgment, and other subjects without taking into account the passages that address those subjects. Thus, they have a misunderstanding of judgment that insults God, making him the most unholy and unjust of all deities. Being merciless is neither just nor holy.

The Bible’s actual passages on judgment show us a God of true justice, who punishes only the wicked and sets things right. We don’t have to take our own revenge because he will take vengeance on those who deserve it (Romans 12:19-21). He is merciful, and he only punishes the guilty (Ex. 34:6-7; Gal 6:7-9). He takes no delight in the death of the wicked, but promises that if the wicked will repent and live righteously (“but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God”–Micah 6:8), then he will reward life. (Ezek. 18:20-30; 33:10-20). He gives eternal life to those who help the needy and sends to hell only those who turn their hearts and faces away from the hungry, naked, sick, and imprisoned (Matt. 25:31-46).

People who teach the awful, cruel judgment of the evangelical god wind up teaching that Jesus died to change God. God wanted to be merciful, they say, but his justice prevents him from being merciful unless he kills someone. (How awful is this portrayal of God?). Thus, they say, Jesus died so that God would not kill all of us. That may be a wonderful portrayal of Jesus, but it is a terrible portrayal of his Father.

Because of this terrible teaching, the wonderfully kind promise that those who do good will receive eternal life (Romans 2:6-7) cannot be believed. To them such a judgment is not kind because no one can possibly do good. They claim the rest of Romans explains that Jesus’ death delivered us from God’s cruel judgment rather than from our own slavery to sin.

Rightly understood, Romans explains that under the Law, the sin in our flesh causes us to violate the Law; therefore Jesus died to free us from “sin in the flesh” by putting “sin in the flesh” to death (Romans 7:1 – 8:4). We are freed from sin (Rom. 6:7), we receive the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9), and then sowing to the Spirit leads to not growing weary in doing good and the reward of eternal life (Gal. 6:7-9). Galatians 6:7 says we are not supposed to be deceived about this.

If we are going to teach the judgment, it is obvious that we ought to use verses on the judgment to teach about it. We should read Ezekiel 18 and 33 and get God’s understanding of the judgment into us. We should pay attention to God’s kind words about Job, David, Daniel, and Noah (e.g., Ezek. 14:14,20; 1 Sam. 13:14). Once we do, verses like John 5:28-29, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment” (NASB), will be delightful to us. They will motivate us to both the godly fear AND the unspeakable joy of which Peter speaks (1 Pet. 1:8,17).

Posted in Dealing with Scripture Honestly, Evangelicals, Gospel, Modern Doctrines, Rebuilding the Foundations | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

A Good Understand Have All Those Who Do (Psalm 111:10)

This morning I wrote on Facebook:

As I think through my list of Christians I admire, both in the present and over the last 2,000 years—both the ones close to me and the ones I only hear about or hear from—one thing really stands out to me. God can’t possibly care about how we interpret the Bible, just whether or not we do what it says.

I suppose it would only take George Whitfield and John Wesley to prove that premise.

I returned to my newsfeed after posting those words and found Facebook reminding me that exactly six years ago, I quoted John Wesley as saying:

Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth.*

It seems impossible that this was coincidence. Perhaps when the Psalmist wrote, “A good understanding have all those who do,” he did not mean “Those who obey will gain a good understanding,” but “Those who obey prove by what they do that they already understand well.”

*I got the quote from RevivalList.com’s daily email, which did not give a source. I tried to find out where it is from using internet search, but it is quoted without a source so often I could not find the source.

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The Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple as Figures of the New Covenant

I know I’m probably late to the party and sharing something most of you know, but I got a great picture this morning of how the tabernacle (and Solomon’s temple) reveal salvation in Christ.

First, all the furniture is in the shape of the cross: first the altar and then the bath outside; in the holy place is the showbread on one side and the lamp on the other, with the altar of incense in front of the veil; finally the ark and the cherubim above it in the most holy.

We enter the holy place first by the altar, then the bath. This represents Jesus’ sacrifice and our baptism. When we come into the holy place there is the table of bread and the lamp that lights, which never goes out. This is obviously the light gives us and the communion table where we both remember Jesus’ death and always share a meal with him and one another. The table of incense represents prayer, and in prayer we can enter the holy of holies, to commune with God between the cherubim, which represents heavenly places. We never come into the most holy without the blood of sprinkling, but it is confident access (Eph. 3:12) that we have to the throne by the blood.

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The Elementary (First) Teachings of Christ: Hebrews 6:1-2

In Hebrews 6:1-2 is a list of the foundational teachings of the Christian faith. These are the “first things” of the teachings of Christ, and from these we “go on to maturity.”

The six foundational teachings listed by the writer of Hebrews are:

  1. repentance from dead works
  2. faith toward God
  3. teaching of baptisms
  4. laying on of hands
  5. resurrection from the dead
  6. eternal judgment

As a young Christian, I was not taught a proper biblical foundation, so this list was confusing to me. Now that I am settled on a proper foundation, I know that these teachings are a simple outline of the Christian faith.

Repentance from Dead Works

We have looked at the judgment, and we know that the promise of God is that those of us who turn from wickedness and give ourselves to righteousness can count on God to forget all our wickedness and give us life (Ezek. 18:21-30). It is natural, therefore, that the first step is that we repent of the sin and wickedness that has been in our life before we encountered Christ.

The reason we repent from dead works is because formerly we were dead in our sins. Even our good works were performed in death and apart from God, so we leave the whole of our previous life behind when we repent and follow God. We turn away from the good, the bad, and the ugly, and we turn to follow King Jesus into a brand new life.

Faith Toward God

This could just as well have been first on the list. Finding out about God, his power, his majesty, and the glory of his Son who was born on earth as Jesus the Messiah … it is these things that generally cause us to want to repent. It is faith—our belief in God and awareness that Jesus is his Son—that causes us to fear and repent.

Our faith in God must be through his Son. No one comes to the Father except through him (Jn. 14:6). There is no other name given under heaven by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12). What we must believe about the Son is that God raised him from the dead, thus proving that he is Lord, Messiah, and Son of God (Rom. 10:9-10; Matt. 16:16-18; Jn. 20:31).

Teaching of Baptisms

When you properly understand “God’s sure foundation” (2 Tim. 2:19), there are very few verses in the Bible that are difficult. This is one of them, though the only difficulty is why “baptisms” is plural. I am going to give what seems the obvious answer to me, but the plural here is legitimately puzzling.

Baptisms, plural, are a reference baptism in water and in the Spirit (John 3:5). In the letter to Titus, Paul refers to these as “the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit” (3:5). The only confusion on my part is wondering why baptisms need to be plural when the next teaching listed is the laying on of hands, which addresses the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

We need to understand that baptism is not magic, nor does anything happen at baptism unless it is combined with the faith of the one being baptized. Water baptism is, though, the proper response to believing. If you read through Acts, you will see that the apostles did not pray a sinner’s prayer with those who believed the Gospel, they baptized them. They also laid their hands on them to receive the Spirit. The “teaching” of baptism is that we are buried and raised with Christ (Rom. 6:3-5; Col. 2:12), enter Christ (Gal. 3:27), are spiritually circumcised (Col. 2:11-12), and have our sins washed away (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Tit. 3:5) in the water. This is rejected by many evangelical churches, but there are no verses on baptism that contest the ones referenced in this paragraph.

We will discuss the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the next section.

The Laying on of Hands

Though the laying on of hands was used by the apostles and their churches to ordain men to authoritative positions in the churches and to impart spiritual gifts (1 Tim. 4:14), the primary meaning of this foundational teaching has to be the laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit simply because it is called a foundational teaching.

The testimony of history is that after the time the apostles, the baptism of the Holy Spirit was not always accompanied by the same miraculous signs that we read about in Acts (8:18; 10:44-46; 19:6). This does not mean, however, that the churches had stopped laying hands on the newly baptized so that they would receive the Holy Spirit. The churches continued to do so, often including an anointing with oil.

The Resurrection of the Dead

A lot of time has passed, and we often take this teaching for granted. We make a bold claim when we say that Jesus will raise us from the grave and clothe us with new bodies. Paul tells us that we are wasting our time as Christians if we do not believe this (1 Cor. 15). It is truly a foundation doctrine.

Not only we, but all of creation, lives in hope of this resurrection (Rom. 8:19-23). A teaching does not get any more central than this!

Eternal Judgment

The final foundational teaching is eternal judgment, for there our eternal destiny will be determined (Matt. 25:31-46; John 5:28-29; Rom. 2:6-8; Rev. 3:4-5; 20:10-15). This judgment will be according to works (2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Pet. 1:17).

This, too, is often rejected by evangelical churches. Evangelicals would not reject these verses if they could get over the teaching that God will send a person to hell for even one sin. This is horribly insulting to God, who has always been a merciful God (e.g., see Ex. 34:6-7 and Ps. 136). God rewards life to those who patiently continue to do good, not just to the perfectly sinless (Ezek. 18:20-30; Rom. 2:6-7). The idea that God punishes for one sin comes from James 2:10, a verse that tells us not to judge one another. God’s judgment is not mentioned there, but is instead described in the passages I have given you here.

If you accept the foundational traditions of evangelicalism, you are not going to understand Hebrews 6:1-2. You have to hold to biblical foundations, where “the sure foundation of God” has “let those who name the name of Christ depart from unrighteousness” written on it (2 Tim. 2:19). Jesus died so that we would be redeemed from iniquity and become zealous for good works (Tit. 2:13-14), so that he would be our Lord (Rom. 14:9), and so that we would no longer live for ourselves, but for him (2 Cor. 5:15). (My blog post on aphesis gives a great picture of what Jesus’ death accomplished for us.) By the Spirit, we no longer live according to the flesh, and thus we do good and are rewarded with eternal life at the judgment (Gal. 6:7-9).

Going on to Maturity

What does the writer of Hebrews mean by going on to maturity? He explains this in the verses right before Hebrews 6:1-2. We have a chapter break there, but was no chapter break when Hebrews was written. “Solid food belongs to those who are mature,” the writer says in the last verse of chapter 5, “those because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (NASB).

In other words, to go on to maturity is simply to being turning away from evil and doing good. We “practice” this.

2 Peter 1:5-7 also gives an excellent description of going on to maturity:

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. (NASB)

“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 8).

At Rebuilding the Foundations.org, you can download my Rebuilding the Foundations PDF for a fuller explanation of all these points.

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“Diligently Preserve” the Unity of the Spirit

Our unity is not doctrinal. Our unity is spiritual (Eph. 4:3). We are not commanded to diligently preserve the unity of the faith, but to “diligently preserve” the unity of the Spirit. Do you have a doctrinal controversy with someone with whom you are united in Spirit? If God accepts both of you, which is the only way you can be united in Spirit, but you are doctrinally divided, then at least one of you is sinning. Maybe you are even intellectually correct on your doctrine, but you are sinning because division is a bad enough sin to eject you from the body of Christ (Tit. 3:10).

“Sound doctrine” has to do with obeying God, not figuring out theological ideas (Titus 2). In 1 Timothy 1:5 we read that the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, a sincere faith, and a good conscience. Then Paul says that some, who have departed from that focus, have gone off into all sorts of wrong things. That is one of the greatest afflictions of the churches today.

If we could stay focused on laying aside sin and the weights that encumber us (Heb. 12), we would not have time for some of the doctrinal controversies we have.

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