The Fork in the Road: “The Way of UNITY between “Christian Churches” and Churches of Christ,” Part 8

In the last post of this series, I mentioned how an understanding of the Spirit helps turn us from legalism and toward a truer understanding of grace.

When I first began seriously studying the Spirit, this concept was very difficult for me. You see, I’d always had the Spirit presented in terms of either (a) word only (representative indwelling) or (b) Pentecostalism. Either we read and apply the word all by ourselves or else we speak in tongues.

This approach to the issue is what happens when our teaching become reactive, that is, when we study to defeat our opponents — those Pentecostals or Quakers — rather than studying to learn what the Bible actually says. Most doctrine derived from debate is bad doctrine.  (“In war, truth is the first casualty.” — Aeschylus)

Indeed, in the contemporary conservative Churches of Christ, there are both word-only and personal-indwelling advocates, but many who accept the personal indwelling teach a very, very limited view of what this personal indwelling does, limiting the Spirit to assisting in our prayers and to the process by which we are forgiven. Call this “personal indwelling-lite.”

Part of this is political. Those who believe in the personal indwelling are afraid to teach any real influence of the Spirit on the Christian’s heart or mind for fear of being labeled “Pentecostal.” For others, it’s the fear that we might be opening the door to tongues speaking, faith healing, and such like.

But we cannot limited our teaching for fear of where it might lead. That is to replace God’s wisdom with our own. Indeed, we often refuse to teach truth in our churches for fear of the brothers although we’d rather die than let the government limit our teaching!

I do not exaggerate when I say that my conservative brothers would fearlessly give their lives rather than give up their faith in Jesus, but many quake at the thought of being called “Pentecostal” behind their backs. Satan has found such a powerful ally in Church of Christ peer pressure that he has no need to use the government or mobs to silence many of our preachers.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the verses we considered in the last post. I begin in Deuteronomy — the second giving of God’s law to Israel, delivered by Moses shortly before the second generation of Israelites, born and hardened in the desert, crossed the Jordan to defeat Jericho.

The book begins with a recounting of God’s mighty works and the story of Israel. In chapter 10, God re-introduces himself.

(Deu 10:12-15 ESV) 12 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,  13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?  14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.  15 Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.”

God declares that he chose Israel above all other people, and in return, he asks that they love and serve him “with all your heart and with all your soul.” Judaism was never a religion of externals only. From the beginning, God insisted on the hearts of the people.

(Deu 10:16 ESV) 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

“No longer stubborn” or, more literally, stiffnecked is a reference back to chapter 9, where God reminds Israel of their rebellions against him in the desert — especially the golden calf. An ox or horse is “stiffnecked” if he refused to go in the direction the driver wants.

“Circumcise the foreskin of your heart” refers to the physical circumcision given by God to Abraham as a sign of the covenant. God now asks for a new, better circumcision — a heart that willingly obeys Gods and flees rebellion. Indeed, a heart that loves God with all its soul (being).

Miss this and you miss it all. Deuteronomy is first about the heart — a heart that does not rebel. God is about to lay out chapters of rules, but he starts with the heart.

In chapter 30, God predicts something even better.

(Deu 30:6 ESV)  6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

After Israel rebels (becomes stubborn) and the curses of the later chapters of Deuteronomy come true, God will rescue a remnant, and this remnant will have their hearts circumcised by God himself “so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”

This God does by the Spirit.

(Rom 2:28-29 ESV) 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.  29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

What is the true circumcision? The one promised in Deuteronomy 30:6 — God’s transformation of the heart “by the Spirit, not the letter.”

Therefore, what does the Spirit do in the heart? Well, quite plainly, it transforms the heart to no longer rebel against God but to instead love God with all its heart and soul.

Is this a First Century-only phenomenon? Some would love to prove that to be true, but Moses disagrees: “the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring” (Deu. 30:6).

You’ve heard the phrase in bold somewhere else —

(Isa 59:21 ESV) “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the LORD, “from this time forth and forevermore.”

Isaiah had read Deuteronomy 30, and he was referring back to it. The Spirit that circumcises the heart is for all Christians until Jesus returns. Indeed, this Spirit places God’s words in our mouths.

It all fits together. But I struggled mightily with this, because to me, as I thought many years ago, “God’s words” were along the lines of “You must take the Lord’s Supper once and only once per week, and only on the first day of the week.” I thought of “obedience” and God’s law as being all about such commands as who could be an elder and how the church treasury could be properly spent.

Therefore, I found only nonsense in such passages as —

(Heb 8:10 ESV) 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

(quoting from Jer 33, quoted in the last post). If God put his “laws” into my mind, why don’t I receive verbal communications from God about how to select deacons? Why don’t I receive guidance about the rules for whether announcements must be before the opening prayer? I have the “letter” in the New Testament, and so why on earth would God need to give me this information by the “by the Spirit, not by the letter”? Or does God intend to supplement the Scriptures with new rules for the church treasury?

Then it occurred to me: there’s another kind of law. If by “law” God is referring to the command to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, then my heart would be changed — not to a perfect knowledge of ecclessiology — but to become a more loving, less rebelling heart. And I could believe that without feeling threatened at the prospect of spontaneously speaking in tongues or handling snakes.

And it fits such passages as —

(Rom 5:3-5 ESV)  3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Wow! That passages fits this theme remarkably well, doesn’t it?

“Poured” refers to the outpouring of the Spirit that comes with Pentecost and the new covenant, the outpoured Spirit all receive! It’s Acts 2:38 viewed from another angle!

(Gal 4:6 ESV) 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Do you see the parallel? The Spirit is in our hearts, pouring God’s love into us so that we see God as Abba Father. Because the love comes from within the Godhead, it’s an intimate, personal, relational love.

Thus, the “gift of the Holy Spirit” is no personal indwelling-lite. It’s the real, rich, full thing. It changes us, because the only obedience that matters is obedience from the heart.

The form of worship means nothing if we don’t worship from the heart. If we worship from fear, then we are serving ourselves, protecting ourselves from a wrathful deity. If we worship from love, then we worship indeed.

(1Jo 4:18 ESV)  18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

This being the case, what is God’s “law” that is written on our hearts? Well —

(Rom 13:8 ESV)  8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

(Rom 13:10 ESV)  10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

(Gal 5:14 ESV)  14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

(Jam 2:8 ESV) 8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

Notice the transition from love of God to love of neighbor. That comes from the fact that the circumcision of our hearts is targeted toward our becoming like God — not merely worshiping him.

(Eph 5:1-2 ESV) Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

And if we imitate God, we must imitate Christ, and if we imitate Christ, we must sacrifice ourselves for others — because this is nature of God. We become like what we worship. And we worship a God who hangs himself on a cross for our sins.

(Mat 5:48 ESV)  48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Now, when we approach Christianity in these terms — prophetic, rooted in Torah and the Prophets, as well as the New Testament, we find ourselves able to easily define some otherwise challenging terms.

(Gal 6:2 ESV) 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

What is the law of Christ? Well, it’s the same law God writes on our hearts through his Spirit. What is that? Love for God that wells up to love for others, patterned after the cross.

(Rom 10:4 ESV)  4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

For those with faith, the law ends with Christ. Of course. It’s obvious.

You see, those caught up in a debate-based gospel want to define “law of Christ” as ecclessiology, that is, Five Acts of Worship. Failing that, they want to define “law” broadly enough to pick up inferences drawn from silences — because to them these are the very boundaries of the Kingdom.

But the laws that matter are the ones God writes on our hearts, by the Spirit, so that our hearts will be circumcised and not rebel and instead worship the One True God. And he is worshiped only by those whose hearts are transformed to worship from the heart, with all their souls, and not out of fear.

So, yes, it is all about worship, but not the way we often think. It’s not “worship” as defined by Calvin. It’s worship as defined by Moses. It’s sacrifice. The change, of course, is that Jesus is now the atonement offering and we’ve become the thanks offering, responding to God’s gift by presenting ourselves to God as living sacrifices patterned after his Son.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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16 Responses to The Fork in the Road: “The Way of UNITY between “Christian Churches” and Churches of Christ,” Part 8

  1. aBasnar says:

    Most doctrine derived from debate is bad doctrine.

    That’s very true …

    The term legalism BTW is a term born in such debates. It’s not a scriptural term and therefore gives a wrong impression and leads to wrong conclusions. We are warned not to become like the pharisees – that’s a very big issue in the Gospels – who expanded and altered God’s commands. We are also taught not to turn back to the Mosaic Law of the Old Covenant – which is a big issue in Acts and the Epistles.

    On the other hand we are taught to learn to keep all commands of Christ; Christians are not without law. We are warmed frequently (gospels and epistles) not to be become lawless; obedience is not optional. We are also taught to unmderstrand and apply the deeper, spiritual meaning of the Mosais Law.

    But whenever “legalism” is brough into discussions the first undetrstanding is: We don’t really have to do all of this; we are not under (any) law; we are saved without obedience. This is grossly wrong (and I assume we agree on this). That#s why I don#t use this term anymore. It creates a false dichotomy.

    But we cannot limited our teaching for fear of where it might lead.

    That’s also very true. On the other hand, we can learn from mistakes others have made. E.g. Premillennialism: Just because there have been very shocking exaggerations in this eschatological school (such as claiming to know exactly when and how things will happen, that turned out to not have happened after all; orthe political side of fanatical and imbalances Israel-favorism) does not mean this eschatology is wrong.

    You named speaking of tongues as an example. And yes, the cessationist interpretation fall short of accurately understanding 1Co 13:9-11. So we can assume the gift is still at least possible today. A look at the pentecostal movement however usually turns us away, because what they experience and how they practice the (supposed) gift is often totally out of step with how we see t in the scriptures:

    Orderly, two or three at the most, and not without a proper translation of what has been said in a foreign (human!) language. Aside of that it is generally overlooked that esp. this gift was never meant to be used for the edification of the church, but as a sign for the unbelievers, namely the Jews, who hear “their” God being worshipped in the languages of all nations. Many Pentecostals kame speaking in tongues a test of your baptism in the Spirit, claimuing that all should have it.

    This makes many afraid to even touch the issue. And while we should cultivate an openness to God’s Word wherever It leads us, we must be aware where misunderstanding God’s Word has others led already.

    There’s another kind of law. If by “law” God is referring to the command to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, then my heart would be changed — not to a perfect knowledge of ecclessiology — but to become a more loving, less rebelling heart.

    I can understand your line of thought quite well, Jay, because you grew up in a “pharisaically altered” understanding of God’s commands (see: No legalism). But you also come from debate and struggle. Thus, what you say here – very generally speaking of becoming “less rebellious” and “more loving” – lacks the “specifics” that are still there in God’s word. This leads to what one could call “antinomianism light”, which again leads to irritations and more debates.

    Especially when a look at the progressive movement shows changes in practice and doctrine that are true Biblical practices and doctrines – well, you can find some of this in every church, though. But the impression is such that some struggle to find the right words to describe it. “Liberal” is the most common label they put on you which is as unscriptural as “legalistic”.

    Greg’s “precision obedience” expresses well his reaction to “antinomianism light”. Speaking of obedience, but leaving ot the specifics – or belittling clear commands and precedents – keeps the words but drops the meaning.

    There must be a more balanced approach.

    For those with faith, the law ends with Christ. Of course. It’s obvious.

    You see, those caught up in a debate-based gospel want to define “law of Christ” as ecclessiology, that is, Five Acts of Worship. Failing that, they want to define “law” broadly enough to pick up inferences drawn from silences — because to them these are the very boundaries of the Kingdom.

    Christ is not the end of the law in the sense of “the law is done away now”! Because the law is written on our hearts, does not mean it lost its “specifics”. By the Spirit the Law can and shall become our nature – no longer outside of us on dead stonme tablets, but living inside of us by the Spirit. But God’s will (in essence) never changes.

    Your pointing to “ecclesiastical” ordinances blurrs the image, Jay. I agree that it is not enough to limit obedience to these; and I’d add that there is far more to worship than these 5 acts. But you cannot use this exampüle to belittle “precision obedience”. This is – again – debating-style, which – again – let’s truth be the first victim.

    There are a number off commands that should be more in the cenbter of attention: Loving your enemies (includes: Not joining the army), not swearing oaths, marital faithfulness, … and other things expressely stated in the Sermon on the Mount in order to be obeyed. Yet, all of these commands are increasingly debated – I’d have more confidence in the progressive movement if it made this big thigs as big as they are in God’s eyes.

    There are a number of “specifics” that require “precision obedience” (I know this term is a bit dangerous, but for the sake of provoking you a little …)


  2. Tim Miller says:

    Regarding the statement the Christ is the “end of the law”. The meaning (as I have discovered in my study) is that Christ is the object at which the law points, much as an arrow aimed at a target. Thus sin (missing the mark) is to fail to understand that the law has always pointed at Jesus and he is the fullfillment of the law. Missing the nark here is missing God’s eternal purpose in its entirety. Also in Romans, the term often translated “schoolmaster” would be better translated “custodian” or “legal guardian” When the child is grown, he no longer needs a legal guardian. The thought of being a teach is not actually any aspect of the meaning of the word.

  3. Tim Miller says:

    pardon my earlier typos, but I think the intent–rather than the letter–is clear.

  4. Laymond says:

    Alex said, “So we can assume the gift is still at least possible today.” he was speaking of ” tongues” as it was referred to in the bible, I suppose on the day of penticost.
    Alex tell me what would be the purpose, and what would would make it a “gift” if it had no purpose.?

  5. Price says:

    Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

    Jesus said in Matthew 22 in response to the challenge of what was the greatest of all the “laws”, that we were to “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” and to “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What He says next in verse 40 is telling… “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

    When I hear people talk about Law and Obedience I generally hear them follow up quickly with the concept of punishment… When I hear people talk about Grace and Love, Fear usually ins’t a part of the conversation… I guess if you choose the law then you rightly choose punishment…

    Jay, I guess nothing would make me jump for joy more than you suddenly being able to speak to some needy student about God….in French…:)

  6. Charles McLean says:

    Laymond, you ask what the purpose of the gift of tongues is. Have you not even bothered to read what the scripture says about it? That’s where many of us got our revelation of this gift, not from some Pentecostal influence, but from the scripture itself. I know you revere the Bible, Laymond, so your question rather astounds me.

    I personally find three different applications of this gift in scripture: First, as a supernatural capacity to communicate in a foreign human language (See Acts 2). Second, as a sign to unbelievers when it is interpreted (see I Cor 14). Third, as a God-given means of speaking to God (I Cor 14). Jude also mentions it in conjunction with “building yourself up in the faith” (Jude 20). Paul tells the Corinthians that he “would like every one of you to speak in tongues”. Now, when we edited this little tidbit out of our version of the New Testament, did we also toss out the rest of what Paul told the Corinthians he wanted to see in them?

    Again, I would point out the underlying flaw in your ongoing argument. I may not know for what purpose chocolate exists, either, but my ignorance in this matter does not suggest that chocolate does NOT exist.

    I appreciate Jay and Alexander et al who can see what is NOT (some of the Pentecostal excesses and errors regarding tongues) without disregarding what IS, as revealed in the scripture. People ask me how I managed to become open to the gift of tongues while still a CoC preacher. My response is that I just read my bible and took it seriously and that’s where all the trouble started….

  7. Charles McLean says:

    Alexander, I think my aversion to a term like “precision obedience” comes from my interaction with those who offer it. The direct biblical analog to these folks is in the story of the Pharisee and the publican, which is reason enough to give me pause. Speaking of my own “precision” would stick in my throat.

    But the main difficulty for me seems to lie in exactly who grades the work. If we can entirely leave the matter of assessing another man’s “precision” to the Judge, that would be an entirely different matter than the application of this concept as I have seen it practiced over lo these many years. So far, all the inspectors I have met have been local volunteers.

    Jesus’ lesson to the Pharisees’ claims of precision obedience was, in my words, “Fine. That’s great. Now stop telling people about it and get on with the more important things you are leaving out.”

    A larger question may be: Exactly how much ‘imprecision’ does grace cover for the believer? At what point of imprecision does the Heavenly Quality Control Inspector kick the product into the waste bin? And at what point of imprecision does the HQCI fire the operator who makes that imprecise product?

  8. Todd Collier says:

    I have a problem with “cessionism” as sold for a big reason.

    These things did not cease when we say they did. If cessionism were true as taught then miracles would have steadily declined through the early second century and disappeared altogether by @180AD when the last person to receive the gifts from an original Apostle would have surely been deceased.

    But what do we see? Well into the fifth and sixth century we have the record of the miraculous accompanying the spread of the Gospel in to the world of the “barbarians.”

    The actual cessation of these things seems to more coincide with the rising popularity of Augustinian theology which said that such things were ceased.

    Now the few statements in antiquity that favor cessionism all come from prominent figures no earlier than the fourth century who are participants in long established works in secure “Christianized” environments. So only a few actually say these things had ceased, they were not in mission areas, and they are contradicted by the historical record of ongoing miracles in areas of intense mission.

    This raises a question:
    Did the works cease because God decided they were no longer necessary or did these things cease because the “officers” at the supply depots safely in the rear decided the front line troops didn’t need any more bullets, then successfully taught them that they didn’t need any more bullets, and then taught us all that no body ever needed bullets ever again?

    Cessionism is a bit thin in Scripture – if these things were temporary (other than ending with Christ’s return) the text doesn’t come out and say so and to make it say so we have to invent artificial dividers in the text about who is being promised what and when.

    Maybe, just maybe, cessionism is a product of our believing it to be true, not God’s will that it should be so. And if that is the case, who is to say that a restoration of the original faith would not also see a return of the original charismata. In accordance with the text, it would appear that the best course is to test the spirits to see if they are of God, not to continue to deny they aren’t there.

  9. Alabama John says:

    Good post Todd.

    The Catholics do not believe they have ceased.

    Maybe that’s why we insist they have. Politics plays a big part.

  10. eric says:

    I really like this post because I’m really intrigued by the Spirit. I’ve seen the miraculous in answered prayers. I can’t say I know much about speaking in the Spirit though I see it in scripture and have known some who practiced it. I come down with C.S. Lewis on this one. If God wants to change the machine for a specific purpose why not? And by the way I have wondered if God has performed a miracle in our misted and we claim He didn’t are we any better than the Pharisees that claimed Jesus performed miracles through satan. One other thing. At the end of the post I really like the message about being a living sacrifice. And would add that in keeping with fear becoming love, sacrifice is so very different when we love someone. Sacrifice because of fear is work. Sacrifice because of love can be pleasure. Maybe not always but we tend to enjoy doing things for those we love, and not doing other things as well. I love my wife so I don’t find it hard to be faithful and so on. And one more thing about the spirit. Am I the only one who has asked God a question only to hear a sermon on the radio or at church, or read something in a book or the Bible soon after that answered the question? And too, have you ever heard several sermons from different sources on the same subject in the same week and got the impression God was trying to tell you something you needed to know? I have and it’s comforting and spooky at the same time.

  11. Royce Ogle says:

    Most of our fine coc brothers bow up like a stubborn mule at the mention of anything”supernatural”. Everything about God is supernatural. To those who do not believe in anything supernatural I ask, “Why do you pray?” Any specific answer to prayer is supernatural. When a lost sinner is born from above he goes from “natural” (dead spiritually, a slave to sin, alienated from God) to “supernatural”(made alive by God spiritually, able to receive and understand the things of God, and eternal). If you have decided to resist anything outside of the natural order and accept only what can be experienced by the natural senses then you should just forget about God.

  12. Charles McLean says:

    Unfortunately, our heritage springs from Campbell’s scientific/rational view of the faith. Campbell believed that unity would ultimately come from careful study of the Bible, from which a single cohesive view would emerge. So unity, for Campbell, was a matter of getting a suitable understanding of biblical writings. Likewise, we have been handed down a mechanistic, man-centered, cause-and-effect view of man’s relationship to God. God sends us a plan, we fulfill that plan by complying precisely with its instructions. Our adherence to plan is rewarded with eternal life. Imprecise compliance on our part releases God from any warranty, express or implied, though He might arbitrarily choose to let us live, for reasons inscrutable.

    In the historic view, even the invisible is only known by its natural expression, thus the idea that faith is really just obedience, and that the Spirit is just the KJV or NASB. That which cannot be seen or understood in the natural is suspect.

    This thinking is not malicious nor intended to reject the things of God. It merely- and sadly- establishes human reason as the boundary of the kingdom of God. The record of the supernatural in the New Testament is true, so it must of necessity be reconciled to the “outside the camp” status of all things outside human comprehension. We reconcile this contradiction by cessationism. This device allows us to both honor the church’s experience with the Spirit and then completely ignore it, like a picture of George Washington. (George was important in his day, but he hasn’t been in power in centuries.)

    This is NOT to say that this is where we have all wound up. Many CoC and former CoC folks have come to different conclusions than those to which our original rationalistic direction would lead. But this is a matter of leaving those “old paths” — “old” as in 19th century.

    One of the most effective ways to explore more of the supernatural is to form relationships with mature believers who are more historically open to such things. Yes, those believers will have flaws in their understanding (don’t we all?) but if you were reared in Alabama, and you want to know about life in China, you hunt up someone who is from China, not someone from Texas who has read a book about China. This is not the only way, but what I recommend.

  13. Alabama John says:

    That is exactly why I shun those best at understanding the Greek.
    If Greek is the key to truth, why are not all Greeks COC like us?
    There has to be at least a 2nd point we have missed in the Greek studying.

    Since I left the super conservatives, I have been trying hard to read the Bible with God loves me and this is a letter of love to guide his followers, rather than this is a confusing, hard to understand book of law that we must debate because to get any part of it wrong is certain eternal punishment.
    I pray I have seen the last preacher say just before dying “I hope I have done enough”.

  14. aBasnar says:

    That is exactly why I shun those best at understanding the Greek.

    That’s a more-sided issue.

    On one hand the Gospel mast be kept simple. Yet we tend to oversimplify it one way or the other. Some say we only have to take 5 simple steps (CoC-approach), others say: “Just believe” and put aside (at first and then forever) everything that is not necessary for salvation (Evangelical approach). Both ways have their strength ion making it easier for seekrs to come to Christ, but both have the same attitude of “once fully saved” that keeps them in a spiritual infant state! Making the Gospel simple does not mean, than we should keep the faith that simple – the full counsel of God is more than just “believe!”.

    Second: We grew up in distorted churches (even within the CoC). How we view “normal church life” is a far cry from what it was originally. This is not just a matter of taste, but – at least – a matter of efficiency, and also a matter of growing in understanding and obedience. A simplistic approach “ust believe!” will never question such things and not even bother to dig into them, because they are not essential/necessary for salvation. But God is not only concerned with our personal salvation, but with the realization of His Kingdom. And this Kingdom shall be reflected in His church on earth – so “ecclesiology” is of great importance in order to understand and do God’s heart’s desire.

    And here’s where the “Greeks” come in: In order to break up old traditions and to go to the roots, we also need to go to the roots of language. Without Greek scholares there would be no Bibles – that’s one important thing. But because of so many “fluffy” Bibles, we need the possibility to confirm or rehject what is being presented to us as a translation or paraphrase. Why? Because of our traditional backgrounds we tend to translate Bibles in a way supporting our traditions. And most of the time we are unaware of this. What is the result? We base our faith (in part) on wrong translation, traditions and assumptions! Do we really like this?

    You know: “I and my Bible alone” cannot solve this problem. First God’s will was never intended to be discerned by the individual alone, but in fellowship with all saints. Second, God gave and still gives the gift of teachers in His church, who bother (or should bother) to dig deeper into the history, language and narrative ofthe Bible in order to understand and share the whole counsel of God with the church. As soon as teachers become the servants of their denomination rather than of Christ, it does not work that well anymore.

    Did you know for instance know that the follwing doctrines (not all of them are CoC) were viewed as Gnostic heresies by the Early church?
    a) Baptism is not important, all that matters is faith
    b) When we die, we go straight to heaven
    c) we can have absolute assurance of our salvation
    d) What is “external” is not important
    e) The Bread we break is NOT the Body/flesh of Christ
    f) Meat sacrificed to idols is indifferent
    All of these were first brought up by the Gnostics, and many of these “we” consider as orthodox Christian doctrine today! To me at least this is greatly disturbing …

    So, when you shun those who master Greek (I am NOT one of those BTW) or who dig into history (History Guy and me are such “maniacs”), aren’t you just like a an ostrich who puts his head into the sand? Doing this does not cancel out the errors in and around us, regardless whether they are “salvation issues” or not.


  15. Alabama John says:

    To understand the Greek best, why not assemble a large group of Greeks right off the street, break out a bible, let them explain it to you and do and believe as they do?
    Who has a better understanding of the Greek language text than a Greek?
    Why not go back further in biblical languages? Our preacher is fond of quoting some passages in Hebrew. Aramaic?
    God in his wisdom knew we would have the English language bible and the same with others that speak different languages and have their bible in that language. We will only be held accountable on judgment day for what we understand to do or not do.
    No language is the correct, superior one to understanding God. The right language for any of us is the one we speak.

  16. aBasnar says:

    Did you really get my points, Alabama John?
    I questioned the “minimalistic approach” to the Gospel quite a bit …

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