Foundations of Understanding
It is widely believed that one of the chief causes of misunderstanding and division in the church today is our varied interpretations of Biblical doctrine. This point is beyond argument for who, knowing the history of the church, could take exception to this well-established and well-documented position? Truly, from the beginning of church history to this very day, there have arisen countless debates and dissentions over doctrinal issues.
At first, we had to deal with the attempt of the Hebrew legalists to hold Gentiles to Hebrew religious customs. Increasingly, such division and debates have continued throughout the pages of church history.
So vile and violent became these contentions in the Middle Ages that many of God’s most faithful sons and daughters were given to the flame, hanged, tortured, drowned, beaten or starved to death; branded as heretics for holding onto some unpopular doctrine not supported by the powerful institutional church.
It made little difference to the executioners whether the doctrine under scrutiny was Biblically sound or not. In fact, many of the doctrines held by these so-called heretics are upheld today as Biblical truths and the heretics have been given a new name; we now call them martyrs.
Today we, like the Pharisees of old, are prepared to divide and persecute anyone who dares to challenge our precious doctrines. We never stop to consider that any doctrine that can fall before the truth of God’s Word should not be taught. Instead of discouraging doctrinal testing we should invite all challenges if all we seek is truth.
Does it make any sense to dismember or discredit any brother or sister in Christ over a minor doctrinal point? Why can’t we realize that to do so we must totally crush a more important doctrine? We are told in John 3:16 that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Yes, God gave His only Son to die for us that we might have life everlasting. We are instructed to be like Him. How can we be like Him or even consider ourselves Christians when we divide and hate one another over lesser doctrinal issues?
But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.(I John 2:11)
For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer:and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. (I John 3:11, 14,15)
No doubt, if you claim to be a Christian and have even the most basic knowledge of God’s Word you know what John 3:16 says, but do you know what 1 John 3:16 says?
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.(I John 3:16)
Brethren, how can we lay our lives down for each other when we’re so preoccupied with trying to bury one another? If, in the face of new and clearer understanding, we were to change a doctrine, would it mean disaster? Would the earth cease to rotate? Would the sun cease to shine? No! All it would mean is that we would be better prepared to teach the truth than previously. It would mean that we have taken one step closer in fellowship to others who love the Lord. True, new understanding could be a thorn in our flesh, but like Paul we could benefit from such a thorn, especially in our flesh, for it’s the flesh that must be mortified so that the Spirit of truth may grow.
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (KJV)
The divisions attributed to doctrine are many, too many; often it’s not the doctrine that causes these schisms, but our own pride, our own self-indulgent need to be right. Not all doctrine can be excused, some doctrines have no legitimate connection with scripture at all. It’s simply some legalistic propaganda dressed up in a religious suit to appear respectable and trotted out to satisfy some denominational motive.
9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (KJV)
Yes, we have collected a wide variety of the doctrines of men. Like the Pharisees of old, it seems we just can’t resist adding our own chapters to God’s word. We measure each other by them, we often attribute to them salvation itself. If a man drinks a glass of wine, he’s unsaved. Why? Because we decided that all wine is bad and have a man-made doctrine to prove it. We love to further define God’s word as though he desperately needs our clarification. Especially in the areas of sabbaths, food, drink, and dress.
16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: (KJV)
We no longer have anything left for the Holy Spirit to guide us to or teach us, we’ve replaced all this with our own doctrines to cover every situation. Who said the spirit of Leviticus is dead? I thought the ordinances of the law were no longer in effect. Are they? NO!
13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; (KJV)
Many people today regard doctrine as a dirty word. There’s a tendency among the people of this generation to throw the baby out with the bath water. While recognizing that doctrine is at the center of the rift, we fail to realize that our personalized interpretation or our hand-me-down understanding of it lies at the bottom of the problem.
When we consider the issue of doctrine we must first arrive at a uniform understanding of what we mean. What do we mean? What doctrines are we talking about? Are we discussing man-made doctrines? Scriptural doctrines as they appear or scriptural doctrines defined in the way we choose to interpret them?
Often, two or more so-called Christian organizations come into contention over the same biblical doctrine. How can this be? Are they reading the same bible? Do they hear from the same Holy Spirit? Isn’t it the Spirit that guides us into all truth?
13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. (KJV)
God does not speak with a forked tongue nor is he the one that brings confusion.
1 Corinthians 14:33
33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (KJV)
If God doesn’t bring confusion to his church, then who does? The answer is obvious, our own flesh and the devil who all too often uses it to confound the purposes of God.
Pointing at the problem is one thing but it’s quite another to see how to correct it. man-made doctrines will always be a problem but God-breathed scriptural doctrine shouldn’t be a problem for true children of God. There are only two ways to interpret scriptural doctrine. There is the way he, God, spoke it and had it recorded and the way we choose to interpret it to satisfy our own understanding and desires. Some believe that the bible can be interpreted any way, others, many ways, but God says what he means and means what he says and there is but one, true God-inspired way of understanding his word and it’s his way. This should encourage you for when we find his meaning we are drawn together in unity with others before him. Contrary to what we see demonstrated, doctrine was not meant to divide God’s children but bring them together and it works if they possess the mind of Christ.
3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (KJV)
We, without Christ, have many minds and many of us have double minds so it’s no wonder we can’t seem to get together. Those who seek to achieve their own goals are more likely to find them than God’s truths (Js 1:7-8). Many approach God’s word as though they were on a hunting trip, licensed to hunt for scriptural support for personal ideas. They seek to find in it what they want so they can justify their own narrow positions. When they do this they speak into God’s word. They come, to tell it what to say, what they desire to hear. They find exactly what they want to find and care nothing about twisting the truth.
2 Peter 3:16
16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. (KJV)
Those with the mind of Christ seek only to do the Father’s will and care nothing about justifying a privately held or denominational position. They come to God’s word as a clean chalk board ready to be written on by the hand of God. When we do this we receive sound doctrine. In these moments, God is at last free to speak to us unencumbered by our preconceived ideas and personal beliefs. Our faith is made stronger and our knowledge of his will made clearer.
17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (KJV)
In Paul’s first letter to his spiritual son, Timothy, the Holy Spirit revealed, through Paul, that in the last days some shall depart from the faith, giving their attention to enticing spirits and the doctrines of devils. Such will speak lies born out of hypocrisy as though they no longer had an active conscience. These same people will have many “man-made” doctrines centering on marriage and food. When we remind our brethren that every creature of God is good if it’s sanctified by the word of God and prayer, we are good ministers of Jesus Christ and our doctrine is also good (1 Ti 4:1-6).
With the spread of TV evangelism, there came a flood of doctrine, both good and bad. Some of the things being preached were conceived in the chambers of Satan, things blasphemous, things which make God the servant of man rather than man the servant of God. Like children who go from one new toy to another, we bounce from one new doctrine to another seeking in each some new thrill. Each cleverly designed doctrine holds out some new way that God can serve man, some new promise that God holds out to satisfy our desire for self gratification. If we say the words just right, we can claim anything we want, like some witch’s incantation or Aladdin’s lamp. Offering half truths bordering on blasphemy, these teachers who preach what we want to hear, promise much and deliver nothing. In fact, they usually ask you to bless them with your gifts (2 Peter 3:16).
2 Timothy 4:3
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; (KJV)
2 Peter 2:19
19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. (KJV)
In malice, we should be as children, but in our understanding we should be men (1 Corinthians 14:20). Instead of being seduced by every new spiritual fad that comes across the book shelf or TV, we need to begin to think with the mind of Christ. If health and wealth are the main things you’re seeking, then you will miss the kingdom of Heaven. If the measure of your faith is your material possessions then the world’s most faithless, the world’s greatest failures are Jesus and the twelve Apostles. Do you think Jesus was kidding when he said that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Mat 19:24)? It’s time the body of Christ put down these children’s toys. It’s time to stop and consider who we’re following and why. It’s time to cease looking for preachers to entertain us with some cleaver twist of doctrine or some perverted half truth. It’s time we opened our eyes and realized that many of us are being seduced and deceived.
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (KJV)
One of God’s greatest blessings is that of having a sound body, one free of sickness and deformity. Another even greater is that of having a sound mind, one free of confusion capable of analysis and reasoning. In the same way, we are blessed if we’ve adopted sound doctrine, free of fleshly influences, free of intellectual corruption and free of prejudice and religious bias.
1 Timothy 1:3-4
3 As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,
4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. (KJV)
Perhaps you’ve seen the arguments and division caused by prideful men who have used doctrine as a means of doing injury to the body of Christ. Maybe you blame doctrine for these divisions but doctrine is not to blame, we are. If we approach God’s word with a pure heart we’ll receive as our reward sound doctrine. Let us continually search the scriptures allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal its truth to us.
1 Timothy 4:13
13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. (KJV)
Sound doctrine doesn’t destroy, to the contrary, it restores, it saves and unifies.
1 Timothy 4:16
16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (KJV)
Elders who labor in the word to teach sound doctrine are worthy of honor (1 Timothy 5:17). Nevertheless, let us test all teachings by the word of God. We must never cease to hold our teachers accountable to God’s word. We need to try the Spirit of all who teach.
I John 4:1
1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (KJV)
Brethren, let us never be afraid to ask for chapter and verse in any area we’re unsure of, or have never heard before.
Any who teach the word should be cautious, knowing that they will receive a stricter judgment and thus must be careful to teach doctrine that reflects Godliness. Any who teach out of their own heart, things apart from God’s holy word, are proud and will bring division. The water of God’s word will not mix with oily words taught by crafty men. Such words can only bring strife and division.
1 Timothy 6:3-5
3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. (KJV)
Is this the kind of teaching you’ve been hearing? If so, then it’s time to move and find a teacher dedicated to truth. Good, sound doctrine is profitable to all for correction and instruction in those things which please the Lord (2 Timothy 3:16). We must always be ready to give an answer to any who ask us.
1 Peter 3:15
15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (KJV)
We must always be ready to preach the word instantly with patience and sound doctrine.
2 Timothy 4:2
2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (KJV)
The time will come and in many places now is, when men will not endure sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3).
False doctrines destroy, doctrines of men confuse but sound doctrine is able, if anything is, to convince the opposition, if they have the spiritual ears to hear what the Spirit is saying.
9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. (KJV)
Knowing this we must then concern ourselves with only that which pertains to sound doctrine. What is sound doctrine? That which the Holy Spirit, through the Apostles, has given us. There can be no other doctrine in the Christian life. Sound doctrine is God’s truth and God’s truth for men is contained in his holy word so then it is up to those who see the value of rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) to speak always of those things which are suitable and becoming to sound doctrine.
1 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: (KJV)
There are unfortunate consequences if we turn from the truth of God to teach any other doctrine (2 Peter 3:16). Those that do such things do so to their own destruction. It’s very important that we take firm hold of the fact that there is only one true doctrine and that is the doctrine of Christ. Failure to believe and seek this truth could cost you your eternal life with God. Perhaps you think we go too far here. We are saved by the grace of God but it takes faith to receive this grace and faith comes by hearing the word of God (doctrine). If we don’t understand this doctrine we place our very soul in jeopardy. Not only do we risk our relationship with God and our eternal life with him, but we also risk fellowship with each other.
9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (KJV)
Failure to teach and preach the true doctrine of Christ can separate you from the fellowship of the brethren. This unfortunate circumstance may not happen by your choice. You won’t have anything to say in the matter for the very doctrine which you have been perverting will be that which instructs those brethren who obey it, to regard you, the offender, as a spiritual leper.
II John 1:9-10
9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: (KJV)
Brethren, let us take seriously this admonition. Let us now develop a renewed respect for sound doctrine. Let us put away from ourselves all doctrine that is self serving, unbalanced, out of context and replace it with unprejudiced truth that reflects our open hearts (Hebrews 13:9). We may have to re-examine all the hand-me-down doctrine we’ve ever learned. Replacing those old familiar doctrines so long trusted may be like throwing out a favorite pair of shoes or childhood security blanket. It may seem like asking an old friend to leave; or be like tearing roots out of our heart. Here is where we find just how interested in truth we really are. Jesus didn’t say “take up your favorite blanket and follow me,” he said, “Take up your cross daily and follow me;” crosses are instruments of death and we, like the Apostle Paul, must die daily.
1 Corinthians 15:30-31
30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?
31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. (KJV)
There can be no compromise where truth is concerned for truth is absolute and compromise can only dilute its strength. What fellowship hath light with darkness? There is no shadow of turning with God (Js 1:17). Now let us, with integrity, read together the word of God; not seeking for it to say what we want to hear but accepting in our heart what it has to say. He says what he means, and means what he says.
Coming together on doctrine can only be accomplished if we approach it in the same way. Each of us has influences that pull at us, tempt our minds into accepting preconceived points of view. Words take on different meanings to some then to others. When you say baptism you may mean one thing while another may understand it as something entirely different. Our spiritual backgrounds and education will be a strong force to be reckoned with. It will endeavor to sway us into a particular channel of thought. How can we hope to rid ourselves of these influences? First, we must honestly want to! Then we must search the scriptures diligently and look especially close at the perfect model of Jesus. He should be ever before our eyes. It is His likeness that God seeks to fashion us into.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (KJV)
The results of searching the scriptures with an open heart will be truly amazing. The greater your willingness to accept truth over previously held opinions, the easier it becomes. As it continues you will find companionship with others who are on the same spiritual pilgrimage back to the simple understanding of the Apostles and the early church. You will find that the truths you uncover are easily supported in God’s word. Your confidence in what you believe will grow as will your ability to defend it. Fear will slip away as you appreciate the force of evidence God has left for you in his word. Because of your new-found strength you will become a threat to those who’s doctrinal foundations are shaky and they will be frustrated by the soundness of your doctrine. Don’t expect them to like it; they won’t and will try to discredit you to others.
Truth cuts deep into the soul. Like a surgical scalpel it cuts quickly and deeply. Removing old tightly held beliefs is like removing cancer, though it may be necessary, it still causes pain. Some would rather live with an error-ridden belief system than suffer the pain of removal. Truth can change one’s life forever and change can be frightening if you’re making it alone and often you are. The sword of truth can bring you pain but it’s the only path that leads to God.
Most denominational churches and others have stopped looking for truth believing they’ve found it all. They’ve chosen to separate into their own private factions. In disobedience to God’s word, they’ve separated over doctrine, discontinuing their search for truth and are now beyond learning or seeing anything further than denominational propaganda whether it be right or wrong. The glaring example they offer to the unsaved world is that Christianity divides and destroys, it has no real unity, no common bond. It’s called the body of Christ but it demonstrates a dismembered body. Jesus said at the last supper, “This is my body broken for you.” He allowed his fleshly body to be broken in the hope that his spiritual body, the church, will never be broken. We can’t be one, because we choose not to be. We don’t want God to tell us what to believe, we want to tell him what we want to believe. We don’t want a God before us with a rod of iron, we want a god with a rubber stamp. We want him to approve all our ideas about doctrinal interpretation. We don’t want sound doctrine, we want our doctrine and if we’re not careful, he’ll give it to us and let us believe it. What will come of us if this should happen?
II Thessalonians 2:11-12
11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (KJV)
On a highway, just outside a city, two clergymen of different denominational persuasions were returning from their monthly ecumenical meeting of pastors. During the course of their ride, they engaged in a doctrinal discussion which quickly turned into a heated argument. The car they were driving began to swerve from left to right as it continued to pick up speed. Neither of the two passengers were aware of the careless manner in which the car was being handled nor were they aware that behind them another car was following. In this car sat a lone driver surrounded by an assortment of empty beer bottles. His car was also swaying as he watched the action in the car up ahead. As the two pastors continued arguing, their arms raising up and down, their fingers pointing at one another, they failed to negotiate a sharp turn. Spinning out of control, they hit the shoulder of the road and rolled down a steep embankment coming to rest upside down on the roof. The drunk following saw the whole thing and being concerned about the occupants of the overturned vehichle, brought his car to a sloppy stop. He was angled into the breakdown lane, his front wheels coming to rest on the grass at the top of the embankment. Carefully, he opened his car door, using it to support his weight and holding onto the car to keep from falling, he made his way to the left front fender, far enough to see down to the car below. As he was looking, he saw the two clergymen crawling out of the car windows to safety. Though drunk, he, in a slurred speech, cried out, “Hey, guys! Are you alright?” There was a moment of silence as the pastors caught their breath and then one of them replied, “We’re OK, we’ve got Jesus.” The drunk responded with concern in his voice, “Well, you better let him ride with me, you guys are gonna kill ‘im.” Of course, this is a joke, but what’s happening today is not a joke. There are too many arguments between Christians, too many scenes like this are being played out before the unsaved and we’re killing the Lord right before those whom he came to save. We’re killing any desire that the unsaved may have to be part of the family of God.
How do we break free of denominational bondage? Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). Become a seeker of truth, let the Holy Spirit lead you, find a group, a church meeting as the early church did, one consulting God’s blueprint for direction, one seeking answers rather than claiming they have them all. The truth shall set you free!
With so much to separate over, how can any of us hope to find peace and unity? There is only one possibility and that is to approach the word of God in the same way. This can only be accomplished if we accept, without dispute, some basic tenets of understanding. If we agree together on four simple truths, we can then find our way to truth and unity. We must first ask ourselves whether we should live by the old covenant, by the new covenant, or both. To answer this question, we must first turn to our most reliable source of truth, God’s word. We know that sin is imputed (Romans 5:10) by the law and where there is no law, sin is not revealed. If we live under the old covenant of law, then we remain under its curse.
19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (KJV)
The law was to us as a schoolmaster, we learned from those born under it that no man can keep it.
10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: (KJV)
By the deeds of the law there can no flesh be saved.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (KJV)
“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Jesus has freed us from the curse of the law, we are no longer under that schoolmaster.
13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: (KJV)
25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. (KJV)
The old covenant offers much to us in the way of instruction; it puts God’s people in touch with their hopeless sinful condition and brings home to our hearts the need we have for a savior. It points us to God's ultimate plan of redemption; to the cross of sacrifice and the sinless offering made there to cleanse our souls of sin. It does all these things but it is this sacrifice made of God on our behalf that removes us from the consequences of the law (death). Through the grace of God that can only be received through faith, God has granted to us a better promise with better rewards.
6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. (KJV)
In short, we have been given a better covenant made possible through the son of God. He is the spotless, sinless lamb of God made perfect, he became the author of our eternal salvation.
9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; (KJV)
Having said enough about this, we can now see that to live under the bondage of the law again would indeed be foolish.
3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.
5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (KJV)
“If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Now we can say with confidence, that we are only committed to live within the parameters of the New Covenant.
Now having decided to live by the new covenant, we come to a more complex question. How much of the new covenant (testament) should we obey? Why is this a complex question? It seems so basic, so obvious. We should obey all of it! If you agree with this, you better consider first what the New Testament contains before you make this leap.
To mention just a few things contained in it, you may recall that Paul said, “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man” (1 Timothy 2:12).The bible also states that women are to be in subjection to their own husbands and obey them in all things.
22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. (KJV)
They are to be silent in the church (1 Corinthians 14:34) and to wear a covering when they pray or prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:34). If you’re not a woman you may be thinking to yourself, “That’s OK with me.” If so, hold on, there’s a bunch more for men. If you are a woman, do you still think we should obey the entire new testament?
As men, we are required to take the oversight of our own homes and bring all family members into subjection. As men, we must not only accept responsibility for our own souls, but for those we care for as well (Hebrews 13:17). We are to be the spiritual leaders of our own homes. We are to model Christ for our wife and children. We are to work and provide for the daily needs of our families.
1 Timothy 5:8
8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. (KJV)
We must remove our hats and have nothing on our heads when praying or prophesying. We must keep our hair shorter than the hair of a woman if we choose to honor the Lord.
1 Corinthians 11:4
4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. (KJV)
1 Corinthians 11:14
14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? (KJV)
Now, do you still insist we should obey all of the new testament?
Not only should we consider those things that are required from us as individuals, but also those things required as a church. Obedience and respect for leadership, serving and loving each other, being willing to lay down our lives for the brethren, parting our possessions and goods for any within our flock that have needs, thinking of others as better than ourselves, knowing the word of God well enough to be ready to give an answer to those who ask about the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15).
About this time, you’re beginning to rethink your original position. Perhaps now you want to make a few exceptions and offer a few excuses as to why you no longer think you should obey the entire New Testament. Well, think again, you were right the first time.
2 Timothy 3:16
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (KJV)
Don’t turn coward just because things don’t suit your thinking but instead, realize that you must comply with his thinking and as hard as that may be to understand, he’s right. It’s his way or your way and now you get to choose. It was easy when you didn’t have to humble yourself, when you didn’t have to obey, but now it’s different, change is required and it’s not easy. Prepare to do all that the New Testament requires and leave out nothing. If you do this, you’ll have taken the second of those four important steps needed to bring us all together into truth and unity. After all, which of the changes is impossible to achieve? If God has not asked the impossible of us, then where is the problem? If there is a problem, it might lie between his will and yours. You say that God is first in you life, right? You say you love him and want to obey him, well, here’s your chance; here’s where the rubber meets the road. When you can’t reconcile obedience to God with your life style, then it’s time to admit to yourself that you want Christ to be your savior because you want forgiveness for sin and eternal life with him. Don’t you realize that disobedience to His word is disobedience to him? You want him for your savior but not for your Lord. He can only be Lord of your life when He has absolute authority over it. Jesus said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not the things which I say” (Lk 6:46)? Brethren, the word Lord in today’s vocabulary is "boss". If Christ is not your Lord, can he be your savior? The answer is found in His word and that answer is NO!
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (KJV)
Perhaps you’re ready to give up without really trying. Try obeying the entire New Testament, you may find that the burden of it is light.
I John 5:2-3
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. (KJV)
Our third important step is the most revealing in our quest to find the truth of scripture and the unity that follows it. Step two produced a lot of questions and doubts. It made you feel uncomfortable by suggesting a level of obedience you’re not entirely satisfied with. It came into conflict with your pride, your desire for self determination. You began to make excuses, to justify your exceptions to God’s word. Perhaps you felt that the things that bothered you were written to a particular people and did not extend you. Another justification is that of time. These unpleasant requirements were written to the people of that generation only and don’t apply today. You might choose to believe that these restraints only apply to a particular ethnic group and thus don’t fit today’s customs. Of course, education provides another excuse when we assume that the lack of education among those required to obey is the reason for these rules and thus being better educated today we need not obey them.
The most often used excuse is none of the above. It’s worse than any of the previously mentioned for it denies the biblical authorship of God. When we read God’s word, the bible, and see something we like, for example, the grace or gifts of God, then we believe this to be God inspired, no matter who wrote the words down. When we don’t like what we read, we immediately attribute it the uninspired words of a prejudiced scribe.
The Apostle Paul usually catches most of the blame because he wrote two thirds of the entire New Testament. We must remind ourselves at this point that if we hope to follow God’s blueprint we must follow all of it. The entire plan and specification of God was conceived in the mind of God, protected by God and meticulously given to those men he personally selected to present it in the way He wanted it presented. The men selected were selected by God for their uniqueness. Each was carefully chosen for their individual personality and God foreknew how each man would express the thoughts and revelation he received from him. If this were not so he would have used more than just four of his Apostles as scribes, (Matthew, John, Paul and Peter), he would have used the other Apostles rather than Luke, Mark, James and Jude. It was their emotional expression he wanted, not their spiritual office.
God selected these men as a sculptor selects his instruments or an artist his brushes. Each was chosen for the end result. God, who knows all things, knew how each would express his message and picked each for their individual expression. Every word set down was as God wanted it (2 Timothy 3:16). Even when the Apostle Paul expressed a personal thought, he said, “I speak this by permission” (1 Corinthians 7:6). Who’s permission? God’s, that’s who!
From the beginning to end the Holy Spirit was leading, directing, prompting and reminding.
26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (KJV)
If you were to take a letter for your employer with the employer doing the dictation and you the writing, who would be the author? Who’s signature would the document bear? Obviously your boss would be the author and you the scribe; it’s no different in the word of God. Take a look at the book of Revelation, chapter one, verse one through nineteen, especially nineteen for a vivid example of this point. Can there be any doubt that every word of scripture was given by God to men of all generations? Who among us is wise enough to edit the word of God? Who would dare?
God wrote to one group of people; his people. The customs and traditions he gave to us in his word, i.e. baptism by water, the last supper, feet washing, head covering or uncovering, assembling together, bringing spiritual and material gifts to the church and obeying his law of love, are some of the observances required of the people of his kingdom. These are kingdom traditions and remain in effect until heaven and earth pass away and some won’t pass away then. The things he gave us to do are not based on education, ethnic background or generation, they’re based on our relationship with him. If we love him we’ll keep his commandments.
15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. (KJV)
42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (KJV)
As subjects of his kingdom we have our own identity and it’s found in him. We have kingdom dress, kingdom customs, kingdom commemorations and kingdom authority. We have a king, he is the head of the kingdom. his commands, his desires, his requests must be observed as well as all else. Because the kingdom is spiritual it is peculiar to itself, there is none like it, it stands alone. The subjects of the kingdom are also peculiar, different from others because they have abandoned all to possess a spiritual kingdom and its king. These people have come out from among others; others they love, others they have known, others they were once a part of to join an invisible kingdom led by an unseen king that waits for us at the side of his father in a kingdom not yet fully come.
People of all origins have customs and traditions common to their heritage and God’s people are no exception. We have our own ways, our own look and in a spiritual sense, our own language. Our King is also our God and we are his people. It was he who said, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God and they shall be my people (2 Corinthians 6:16). We can not be his people, we can not be subjects of his kingdom if we do not obey him. We can’t pick and choose which of his regulations we will obey or disobey. We can’t say we accept his commands but not those of his authorized representatives, the Apostles. Not that we can rightfully separate the two. If you have the spiritual eyes to see it and the spiritual ears to hear it, then read the parable of the wicked husbandmen (farmers) given in Matthew the twenty first chapter, verses thirty three through forty. See if you can then separate the servants from the householder. The servants (apostles and prophets) carried the words of the householder (God) to those to whom the land was entrusted (sinners) and were slain and beaten for their efforts. Can those who possessed the land say to the householder (God), “We didn’t think you servants (the Apostles and prophets) were speaking for you.” Do you really think God will over-look our disobedience because we attributed the commands to the servants rather than the king?
Imagine listening to our fellow believers standing before God and saying, “I’m sorry, God, I thought Paul, your Apostle, was just kidding. I thought he was just giving his opinion so I decided not to obey.” The Apostles were not acting in their own authority but in the authority of God.
21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. (KJV)
Is this not reason enough to obey (Hebrews 13:17)? How then, can we justify disobedience to any New Testament requirement? You say, “Isn’t this getting legalistic?” Any obedience which comes from a heart filled with rebellion is legalism but who says we have to obey grudgingly? Why can’t we see each new requirement as an opportunity to please God and offer it to him, from a heart of gladness? In the spirit of Hebrews 13:17, shouldn't we allow for our leaders to persuade us?
Attending church today is seen as an obligation, a duty to God, a place where we go to give instead of receive. Those of us blessed with a good fellowship have come to see it as God’s way of supplying our spiritual needs. We see it as a place to charge our low spiritual batteries, to replenish and renew our spirit. If going to church is drudgery, why go? If going to church is like going to the theatre to watch a performance, then you need to find something real. The Lord delights in our praise and worship but if we go just to get a spiritual high and live from high to high without making any commitment to him then we are treating the Spirit of God like a whore who gets visited for the momentary gratification she can supply. Why not just drop twenty dollars in the collection plate for services rendered and leave.
Being part of a church is being part of a love relationship. It’s love received and love given. It’s not about affection, the truth and quality of it is demonstrated in service. A man may tell his wife every day how much he loves her but if he never feeds her, clothes her, counsels or protects her, does he? He may have a full physically rewarding relationship with her but if her emotional, physical and spiritual needs are being ignored while her sexual needs are being met, can this be called love?
Can any of God’s people feel they have a spiritually healthy relationship with him based on their spiritual highs or does service count for something? Wives tell their husbands of their love every time they wash their socks, mend their clothes or cook their meals. Obedience is better than sacrifice.
1 Samuel 15:22
22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. (KJV)
Our faith and love is born out in our service to out Lord.
Having said this, let’s go back to the nuts and bolts of understanding biblical truth. The fourth and final thing we must understand about scripture is that it is literal and can only be approached in that way. God knew that the simplest way for his word to be understood is the most direct way and that way is literally. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line and the literal line of communication is both direct and straight. Paul said to the church at Corinth, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1). Straight talk is a good synonym for literal understanding.
When we say literal we’re not saying that everything in God’s word is presented in literal terms but rather the understanding of it will always break down to literal interpretation. Much of the bible is made up of historical events and requires no further explanation, however, many of these events serve as spiritual examples that reveal spiritual truths as well, but these truths are literal truths with literal spiritual application.
1 Corinthians 10:11
11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. (KJV)
Another means that God used to communicate with His people is through dreams and visions; literal dreams and literal visions. Though the dream or vision itself may have produced images of things not considered as actual, they were nevertheless things literally seen by the prophet or person who dreamed them. These dreamed images of the mind were given so as to reveal a literal message that would literally take place.
Yet another means of communication used was that of hyperbole or exaggeration. Christ used this as a means of putting a spiritual magnifying glass on a literal item of importance. An example of this can be found in Matthew.
29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (KJV)
Clearly what Jesus is saying is not that we should pluck out our eye or cut off our right hand, but by comparison it would be more profitable for us to lose our eye or hand than to perish in hell. If this isn’t a literal truth then we don’t understand what literal truth is. By using this exaggerated comparison Jesus teaches a literal fact, in this way Christ effectively uses hyperbole to demonstrate an eternal and practical truth.
Biblical history is quite naturally written in literal terms but many historical biblical events serve as foreshadows, teaching us spiritual truths as well. For example, Moses brought water forth from a rock in the wilderness; a rock he struck. When the rock was struck water flowed and thus God’s people were spared from dying of thirst. When Christ was struck, or executed at the cross, his shed blood, cleansed and saved his people from death and eternal damnation. Clearly this historical event of the Old Testament was a literal foreshadow of the New Testament crucifixion.
7 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.
9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him.
10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?
11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. (KJV)
1 Corinthians 10:1-3
1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; (KJV)
At first glance it would appear difficult to claim that dreams and visions are literal but remember, it’s not the dream or vision that’s important. It’s nothing more that a conveyor of literal truth. The important part of a dream or vision is it’s meaning and in all biblical prophecy the meaning, or if you prefer, interpretation is literal. In the eighth chapter of Daniel we find that Daniel had a dream. In this dream, he saw a ram with two horns, following this he saw a he goat having one large horn between his eyes that charged the ram at a speed so great that his feet didn’t touch the ground. At this point you would say that nothing is literal but read what follows.
20 The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.
21 And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. (KJV)
The historical record clearly bears out the literal truth of this documented conflict between two world powers. Merely because a dream or a vision has yet to be understood in no way suggests that it doesn’t have a literal explanation. Much of what the prophet Daniel recorded were dreams and vision that he himself did not understand but the meanings are clear and literally understood today.
8 And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?
9 And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. (KJV)
With the same reasoning we used for prophecy we can reduce the parables of scripture to literal truths. In Matthew, chapter thirteen, verses three though nine, Jesus told the parable of “The Sower.” It was an imaginary story, an allegory, used to bring life to a literal truth. The proof of this is found in the literal interpretation given in Matthew thirteen, verses thirty seven though forty two. There can be no doubt at this point; the bottom line for scriptural interpretation always results in literal truth. Does this mean that we understand the entire bible? NO! There are portions of prophetic scripture that are yet unfulfilled. You’ll know them when they come to pass but you can be sure they’ll be fulfilled literally.
The main purpose for examining this issue is to bring our thinking into one accord. There are many things about God that will remain unknown until we meet him face to face but the things he desired for us to know are declared in his word. Nothing God has spoken was spoken to confuse us. Some doctrines are man-made and based on the traditions of men rather than the word of God. Others were assembled in the imaginative mind of man and foisted on us in pride. These are based on scriptural supposition but have no foundation as a doctrine in the word of God. They are things that were never taught by Christ, Apostle or prophet. One of these is “predestination.” If we foolishly dare to probe this area of spiritual mystery we must do so in the knowledge that as yet we have insufficient evidence to arrive at any solid conclusions. If we enter into this mystery we must do so equipped with certain unchangeable facts. We must never attack or doubt God’s integrity. He is righteous, holy and truthful. Any suggestion that God creates or protects iniquity is absolute error and could be labeled blasphemous. Because this is not a God inspired doctrine we must never attempt to teach it as one.
If we all could agree together to approach the word of God in the perspectives just outlined, the results would be unity with other members of God’s family. We would find that soon we would all come to the same scriptural understanding. The byproduct of this would be an explosion of unity and love throughout the true body of Christ. Further, the construction of the early church would begin again. The blueprint for God’s spiritual house would once again be on the table and we would once again be gathered around that table to study and compare that blueprint to our lives and churches today.