That Nagging Awareness That Something Doesn’t Line Up With Scripture

c5fbb-psychologyIt wasn’t only in the Women’s Ministry. The church at large embraced psychological models to help us identify the root causes of our besetting sins. I just noticed the problem more during those women’s meetings.

One evening in particular stands out in my memory. The women leading the meeting instructed each of us to think of an instance when our parents wounded us. They explained that we couldn’t properly forgive them unless we first “worked through” the pain that we had suffered at the hands of our moms and dads.

One lady found the exercise to be perplexing. She honestly couldn’t think of anything she held against either of her parents. Instead of admiring her purity, however, the leaders accused her of failing to deal with her past. I could see their frustration as she continued to maintain that she had wonderful parents — that she couldn’t remember anything they had done to hurt her.

The leaders finally let her alone, concluding that her denial would Continue reading

Who’s Being Divisive? A Lesson On Scripture Twisting To Silence Those Who Call Out Error

Titus 3 9 thru 11

Sometimes you’ve just got to laugh at the ways people use God’s Word to advance unbiblical ideas. I thought I’d heard all the Scriptures people employ in efforts to shame those who call out false teachers and/or expose erroneous doctrine, but someone recently broadsided  me with a passage I generally use to support calling out enemies of the truth. Look at the passage that she hurled at me:

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. ~~Titus 3:9-11 (ESV)

The application, of course, was that I am warped and self-condemned because I warn against teachers and teachings that compromise the Gospel. By warning against Beth Moore, Rick Warren, Holy Yoga, the Roman Catholic Church, etc, I am engaging in foolish controversies and stirring up division.

But am I?

Let’s review the  Bible Study I wrote on this very passage back in 2017, shall we? Hopefully we’ll remember the historical context behind this passage and thus better understand Paul’s actual point.

Paul gave Timothy similar, more detailed, instruction in 1 Timothy 1:3-7, explicitly specifying that Timothy “charge certain persons” not to teach doctrine that differed from the teaching of the apostles. This parallel passage sheds light on Titus 3:9-11, so allow me to quote it here:

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (ESV)

As with the 1 Timothy 1:3-7 passage, the Titus 3:9-11 passage aims squarely at teachers who deviate from sound doctrine. So let’s examine Titus 3:9-11 more carefully.

Firstly, Bible commentators Jamieson, Fausset and Brown explain that the genealogies mentioned in verse 9 weren’t simply looking up family trees. Rather, they involved systems that ultimately led to Gnosticism. Regarding this particular verse, The Complete WordStudy Dictionary explains: “These Jews were turning the entire historical substance into mere myth. The genealogies were not treated primarily as historical documents but instead were subjected to a highly symbolic interpretive scheme. Names, dates and places supposedly contained hidden meanings which became the basis for esoteric doctrines.”

To Paul’s remark that such controversies are unprofitable and worthless, John MacArthur comments that “Proclaiming the truth, not arguing error, is the biblical way to evangelize.” Errors, such as those infiltrating the churches under Titus’ care, are best refuted by sound doctrine.

Moving to verse 10, we learn that the person who causes division is, according to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, one who chooses to follow his or her own way rather than than submitting to Biblical teaching. The Greek word means “to choose,” and it developed into the word “heretic.” The idea is that heretics choose their lies over God’s truth. In writing this command to avoid heretics, Paul definitely addresses the false teachers who disrupted the churches in Crete.

He issued a similar command in Romans 16:17, where he stated that divisive people oppose apostolic doctrine. Those who question things in a church that deviate from sound doctrine often get branded as being divisive, but Scripture makes it clear that true heretics divide themselves from God’s Word.

Paul tells Titus to give heretics a first and second warning (compare with Matthew 18:15-17). Barnes points out that these two warnings provide the offender with opportunity to explain his or her actions and to repent. Continued violation beyond that point demonstrates the person’s commitment to rebellion. Therefore, that person must be separated from the church.

Paul concludes in verse 11 with an explanation of why divisive people should be avoided. To put it bluntly, heretics who disregard warnings prove themselves to be warped. Vincent’s Word Studies defines the word here translated as warped to mean “turned inside out.” It communicates a sense of perversion. As a result, they live in a constant state of sin.

Furthermore, heretics condemn themselves by rejecting correction and sound doctrine. Whereas those whom God saves are justified by grace, false teachers condemn themselves by preaching salvation by works and/or by other deviations from Biblical teaching. The Lord Himself, in John 3:18, made it clear that failure to believe in Him puts a person under condemnation.

Applying Titus 3:9-11 people who call out false teachers and/or expose erroneous doctrine demonstrates a lack of Scriptural knowledge. In one sense, using this passage to silence people who stand against doctrinal error is laughable. But in another sense, it’s very sad.

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Which “One Another” Should We Accept?

SwordNo one denies that Christians should accept each other. As a reader recently pointed out to me, Scripture tells us that we must live in peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ. She provided Romans 12:16-18 as substantiation:

16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (ESV)

I agree that many evangelicals ignore these words in this day of social media. From the safety of our keyboards, we so easily type vicious words with the very conscious intent of putting others down in order to elevate ourselves. Sadly, some so-called discernment ministries have degenerated into such barbaric behavior.

Furthermore, legitimate discernment ministries must continually check themselves to make sure we don’t use discernment as an excuse to tear fellow believers down for the sake of feeding our own egos. Pride lurks in every human heart, and even the most spiritual discernment blogger bears the responsibility to examine his or her motives each time he or she takes on a popular teacher or trend that could lead people away from the purity of the Gospel.

But does Romans 12:16-18 really teach that we must accept those who distort the Gospel? To answer this question, let’s consider the Continue reading

What Paul’s Warning Didn’t Mean –And How We Know It Didn’t Mean That

According to ScriptureThe meaning of 1 Corinthians 1:10 seems quite obvious, doesn’t it?

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. ~~1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV)

Pretty straightforward, right? As a spokesman for the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Paul warned the Corinthian church against having divisions within its  members. He later described the church as a unified body with each member functioning in cooperation with all the other members (1 Corinthians 12:12-30). Such unity precludes criticizing each other, clearly.

Some use 1 Corinthians 1:10 to shame those who call out false teachers who appear to be genuine Christians. We, rather than the false teachers, receive accusations of causing division within the church, as if our discernment violates Continue reading

The Displeasure Of Readers Shouldn’t Keep Me From Telling The Truth

Woman Asking FramedOnly two years after graduating from college, I became the editor of my church’s monthly newsletter. It didn’t take long to learn that I couldn’t please everyone all of the time. Writers complained that I was too ruthless in editing their articles, while my assistant editor complained that I was too lenient. No matter what I did, somebody would inevitability be unhappy with me.

I learned to live with the displeasure of others.

As a blogger, I’ve had to draw from that lesson I learned as an editor, particularly because I frequently write about discernment. Usually, the criticism I receive rolls off my back — I pretty much know that Continue reading

Keys To Discernment: Why Paul Prays For Their Wisdom

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Although we’re getting into the meat of Paul’s letter to the Colossians today, our text will demand that we look at some background information on the false teachings that he addresses. I aim to demonstrate how he uses sound doctrine, rather than direct discussion of the errors at hand, to steer the Colossians away from faulty theology and practices.

We’ll most likely only get through two verses in this installment of our study, but (as usual) I’ll quote the whole passage for the sake of context.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. ~~Colossians 1:9-14 (ESV)

If you take verses 9 and 10 at face value, you could get a fairly accurate interpretation of them. Definitely, Christians should pray for each other along these lines, getting beyond the superficial prayers for health, finances, marriages and other temporal matters.  But how much better would it be if we prayed for each other’s spiritual development?

At the risk of sounding like a late night info-mercial, I’m going to say, “But wait — there’s more!” Paul’s not only modeling an important way we should pray for each other. He’s also attacking the pre-gnostic mysticism that threatened the First Century churches in that region.

That mysticism had too many facets to explain in this article; I’ll talk about specific aspects as they come up in the course of our study. Today, therefore, we’ll look at verses 9 and 10 in light of Paul’s introductory reference to the pre-gnostic ideologies that floated around Colossae.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; (ESV)

You can’t help but notice the emphasis on knowledge, wisdom and understanding, can you? Paul beats that drum quite forcefully. As we’ve seen earlier, this apostle has a habit of choosing his words with great deliberation, and these two verses are calculated to counter the claims of secret knowledge that the pre-gnostics purported to possess.

Those false teachers insisted that they offered insights into spiritual mysteries that required initiation into their group (sort of like our present-day Freemasons). Paul counterbalances this error by emphasizing that the Lord is the true source of knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Furthermore, rather than seeking the knowledge that would enhance their pride, Paul prays that they would be filled  with the knowledge of God’s will. He prays that they would be filled with spiritual wisdom and understanding.

The knowledge of God’s will, as well as spiritual wisdom and understanding, comes through the teaching of the apostles — which the Holy Spirit preserved for succeeding generations in the Bible. Thus Paul prays for the Colossians to be filled with sound teaching, not with the mysticism of the pre-gnostics.

Verse 10 elaborates on the knowledge that Paul prays for the Colossians to possess by mentioning its purpose. Whereas the knowledge of the pre-gnostics served only to inflate egos, the knowledge of God’s will enables Christians to walk “in a manner worthy of the Lord.” This phrase targets the pre-gnostic separation of the material and the spiritual that allowed people to claim spirituality while indulging fleshy appetites. Paul prays that his readers will be given a knowledge and wisdom that has implications on their behavior.

The spiritual wisdom Paul desires for his readers will cause them to please the Lord instead of pleasing themselves. Clearly, the apostle makes a distinction between the imitation knowledge of the false teachers in Colossae and the true wisdom that comes exclusively through the knowledge of God.

Interestingly, as Christians please the Lord and bear fruit for Him, we actually increase in our knowledge of Him. The pre-gnostics would never have thought that obedience could lead to even more knowledge. Paul cleverly strikes at their false teaching by simply informing the Colossians as to the nature of his prayers for them.

As I suspected, I can’t go past verse 10 today. Next Monday, Lord willing, we’ll continue with this passage, which is packed with some of the most glorious teaching I’ve ever read! Be sure to join me then.

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