Teaching as Doctrines the Precepts of Men

 

It is common to hear people assert that “everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” and there is certainly some truth to that statement. At the end of the day, we have the ability choose for ourselves what we believe; no one can force us to accept something that we do not want to accept. But just because “everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” that does not mean that all opinions are equally valid or true.

Paul told Timothy to “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” Apparently, there is a correct way and an incorrect way to handle the word of truth. Some interpretations of scripture are correct and others are just plain wrong.

In fact, Timothy was specifically warned that “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.” We can believe whatever we want about scripture, but in that case we may very well be preaching “myth” instead of “truth.”

Peter warned that “the untaught and unstable” would “distort” the things in Paul’s writings, “as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” Sure, we can twist the scriptures to reach all kinds of different conclusions, but we may be doing so at our own peril if we are handling the word incorrectly.

So how can we make sure that we are handling the word of truth rightly, abiding in sound doctrine, and resisting the urge to distort scripture? Let’s consider some scriptures that can help us to answer that question.

 John warned his hearers that: “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.”   John’s admonition not to “go too far” and thus “not abide” in Christ’s teachings sounds a lot like the word’s of Paul to the Corinthians that they must “learn not to exceed what is written.”

“Going to far,” “not abiding in,” and “exceeding” what is written are all terms that indicate an addition of man-made concepts to what is actually present in scripture.

Thus, in Deuteronomy the Israelites were told “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.” Unfortunately the Pharisees did just that. They invented all kinds of extra requirements to add to the law.

This idea is repeated in Revelation, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”

Jesus summed it up in a very simple and powerful way: “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

It can be hard not to go beyond what is written when we want to have all the answers. It can be hard not to invent new “doctrines” which are really only human precepts when we want to build a systematic theology that can answer all of our questions. But we must have the courage to speak when the Bible speaks and be silent when the Bible is silent.

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Scriptures and Thoughts on “Grace”

What is grace? What is so amazing about it?
11 – Hebrew
hên – favor shown by one person to another
Greek
charis – a favor or a gift of benevolent goodwill.

 12 – “The wide span of meaning that this word has then makes it imperative that one give special attention to any particular passage that he is dealing with that makes use of that word. Otherwise, he may be attributing to the writer and idea that the writer did not have in making use of that word.” – Jack Lewis

 Romans 6:23 – 13 – Grace is amazing because of its scandalous generosity, going beyond what we deserve to give us what we most need.

 What does it mean to be saved by grace?
Ephesians 2:8-9 – 14 – a gift, not a result of works, no reason to boast
Romans 11:6 – 15 – not on the basis of works
Romans 3:23-25 – 16 – Jesus paid the price on our behalf so that we could receive a gift that we could not afford

 If we are saved by grace, is right living technically necessary?
Romans 6:1-4 – 17 – A theology of grace that diminishes the seriousness of sin is flawed
Romans 6:16-18 – 18 – an understanding of grace that does not include freedom from sin is inaccurate
Romans 6:20-23 – 19 – we are saved by grace precisely because we are freed by grace from slavery to sin and its outcome, death.
Romans 8:12-13 – 20 – if you living according to the flesh you must die (spoken to saved persons)
Hebrews 10:26-27 – 21 – if we go on sinning, there no longer remains a sacrifice – yes, God’s grace is contingent upon our future actions!

 If we are saved by grace, is baptism really necessary? How would that not be “works based” salvation?
Epehsians 2:8-9 – 14 – not a result of works
Romans 11:6 – 15 – not on the basis of works
1 Peter 3:21 – 22 – baptism now saves you
Acts 2:38 – 23 – baptism is for the forgiveness of sins
How do we reconcile these passages?

John 3:5-8 – 24 – you must be born again by the spirit
Romans 6:1-4 – 17 baptism is a new birth
Titus 3:5-7 – 25 – the washing of regeneration and renewing of the holy spirit – baptism is associate with a new birth and with receiving the holy spirit

Could it be that baptism is the means by which we enter into the condition that we could not possibly earn, merit, or deserve?

Galatians 5:2-6 – 26 – Is there a difference between seeking justification through circumcision and seeking it through baptism?

Revelation 1:5 – 27 – Jesus blood takes away our sins
Revelation 7:14 – 28 – saints wash their robes in the blood of the lamb
Hebrews 9:13-14 – 29 – we are washed by Christ’s blood
Acts 22:16 – 30 – baptism is a washing away of sins

Could it be that baptism is coming into contact with Christ’s saving blood, which cleanses us in a way in which we could never cleanse ourselves, while circumcision is a denial of Christ’s blood in favor of another method of atonement altogether?

Think of the illustration of a new car that your parents buy for you, all you have to do is get a ride to the dealership and pick it up. Does this requirement of your physical action to receive the car nullify their sacrifice? Does getting a ride to the dealership, getting the keys, putting them in the ignition, etc. mean that you are trying to earn/deserve/merit the car and nullify your parents’ gift?

Christians who believe that Baptism is necessary for salvation are not trying to “save up enough good deeds” to cash them in for a ticket to heaven. After being baptized they do not feel they have earned the right to brag about some great feet they have done. They simply understand the Bible to teach that the water of baptism is the place where we receive the gift that we could never have purchased.

There is a real distinction between deserving, earning, meriting, boasting, etc. and simply accepting what has been given to you through some necessary physical act.

 When and how can I receive God’s grace?
The word grace simply means a gift or an unmerited favor.
1 Peter 3:7 – 31 – simply by being alive you are receiving grace!
Ephesians 2:8-9 – 14 – when you have faith, you receive God’s grace
Acts 4:32-33 – 32 – living as a Christian is a life full of grace
Acts 22:16 – 30 – in baptism our sins are washed away, this is by God’s grace!

 What is the concept of “irresistible grace” and is it taught by scripture?
John 6:37-40 – 33 – Jesus will keep all who the Father will give Him
Titus 3:5 – 25 – He saved us according to His mercy
Do either of these indicate that man has no say in his destiny?

Ephesians 2:1, 4-5 – 34 – we were dead, and He made us alive together with Christ
John 1:12-13 – 35 – born of the will of God, not the will of man
God’s will is certainly the deciding factor in our salvation, without His will being to save us, we would have no hope. But does that mean we are incapable of resisting Him?

Hebrews 3:14-15 – 36 – do not harden your hearts
John 3:20-21 – 37 – everyone who is evil does not come to the light, he walks in truth comes to the light
These passages seem to indicate that it is possible to resist the good news, that we have a say in the matter of whether we respond favorably.

2 Peter 3:9 – 38 – If God is not willing that any should perish, then why is the way narrow that leads to eternal life? If God’s grace is irresistible and He wants all to be saved, why will all not be saved?

 Is it possible to fall from grace? If so, how?
Galatians 5:2-6 – 26 – we fall from grace when reject it in favor of earning or meriting that which in reality we must accept humbly as God’s free gift.
Hebrews 10:26-27 – 21 – if we go on sinning, there no longer remains a sacrifice – yes, God’s grace is contingent upon our future actions!

 If grace is something that no one deserves, how is it fair that some people will benefit from it and other people will not?
Romans 6:23 – 16 – the wages (what we earn) of sin is death. It is fair any time we sin and receive death.
Matthew 20:8-16 – 40 – it is right for God to give our just wages to us, and it is His to do what He wants with the salvation that is His alone to give, and which none of us has earned. The fact that anyone will be saved at all is the part where God goes BEYOND what is fair to what is generous.