Sound Doctrine or Self-Made Religion?

Building on concepts shared in the previous posts, remember that Jesus told His apostles, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven (Matthew 16:19, NASB).  As we have noted, there are always people who want to “bind” where God has not “bound” by inventing rules and regulations not explicitly set forth in God’s word and forbidding others to participate in activities that God has not specifically forbidden.  Likewise, there are always people who want to “loose” where God has not “loosed” by negating the importance or relevance of those things that God has specifically commanded, or by permitting, encouraging, and even advocating for sinful things that are, indeed, explicitly forbidden in God’s word.

From the earliest days of what we have come to call the “Restoration Movement” in America, many modern churches of Christ have paid lip-service to the mantra said to have originated with Thomas Campbell (1763-1864) that states: “We speak where the Bible speaks, and we are silent where the Bible is silent” (Mitchell, 2013).  While that is a perfectly good goal to pursue, and motto to live by, the problem has been that people tend not only to “speak where the Bible speaks” but, where the Bible is silent, they go ahead and “speak” anyway; and then bind their personal opinions and interpretations upon others as if it were the law of God.   There seems to be no end to the human tendency to want to supplant Christ’s authority with one’s own by insisting that “my way is the only right way and is, therefore, God’s will for everybody.”

Instead of heeding the scripture that says, not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other” (I Corinthians 4:6, NASB), human beings are notoriously adept at continually exceeding “what is written” in their pursuit of “the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion” (Colossians 2:23, NASB).  The result is division.  Modern “Christianity” has been separated into many different divisions [denominations] based on particular doctrines and traditions of men around which they rally and by which they identify themselves.  So persuasive and rampant is this human tendency to take matters into our own hands that even some of God’s new covenant children are tempted to denominationalize the “ekklesia” with particular names, doctrines, and traditions over which they draw lines of fellowship, but that have no direct bearing on one’s salvation or relationship with God.

We find an example of this very problem in the earliest days of Christianity when the Apostle Paul had to scold the family of God in Corinth, saying:

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.  For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.  Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.”  Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. (I Corinthians 1:10-15, NASB)

As the passage above reveals, human beings have always been prone to wanting to have things their own way, even if it is not necessarily God’s way.  The Apostle Paul warned the young evangelist, Timothy, that he would encounter this human tendency, saying, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:2-4, NASB).  I have to admit that, in times past, whenever I encountered this passage, I always had in view those rank “liberals” among us who viewed God’s holy expectations as too restrictive and burdensome, wanting to revel in their freedom more than celebrating God’s love.  I always compared it to the passage in the Psalms that says, “Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing?  The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!’” (Psalm 2:1-3, NASB).

But over the years, I’ve come to realize that Paul’s warning to Timothy extends equally to those self-proclaimed “conservatives” among us who, like their “liberal” counterparts, have long since parted company with scriptural authority in favor of their beloved traditions.  And if the definition of “liberal” means one who does not recognize or adhere to Bible authority but, rather, buys into some other religious authority, or seeks to establish his or her own authority for what they believe and practice, then, ironically, these so-called “conservatives” turn out to be really nothing more than rank liberals in disguise.  Chew on that thought for a little bit!

These people, I think, even more than their alleged liberal opposites — and they’re really just two sides of the same legalistic coin — love to “accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Timothy 2:3, NASB). While I am no fan of giving a platform to any false spirit, I marvel at how so many churches and parachurch organizations and activities — workshops, lectureships, encampments, etc. — seem to cringe in fear at the very prospect of inviting or listening to anyone who may, in any way, dare to challenge the status quo; even if what someone has to say is firmly rooted in Biblical teaching.  And so, I’ve come to recognize that there are people of both the “liberal” and “conservative” persuasion — and, oh, how I hate having to use such “labels” — who simply don’t seem capable of recognizing, let alone appreciating, “truth” when they encounter it.

That being said, faithful children of covenant, it is with great joy that I “give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you” (I Thessalonians 1:2-4, NASB).  There are still many I love who have not thrown in the towel and climbed up on anybody’s bandwagon, except their Lord’s.

Be strong in the Lord,

~ Philip ~

Luke 17:10

References

Mitchell, C. (2013).  Silence in the restoration movement. SearchforBiblicalTruth website. Retrieved from: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=10&cad=rja&ved=0CFkQFjAJ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.searchforbiblicaltruth.com%2Flibrary%2Ftext%2Fcarl%2FSilenceInTheRestorationMovement.pdf&ei=KUoyUuilA8S5iwLzjIHYDg&usg=AFQjCNHBCHJxG7dPP_oRbiuMdrXTtGU9Gw

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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