Monday, October 3, 2016
Is it possible for one who is directly inspired by God’s Spirit to believe and teach error? Is it possible for one who is filled with the Holy Spirit to misunderstand His message or fall short of practicing what He has given?
In previous articles I have mentioned that the Jerusalem church was blessed with 12 apostles. That number also included numerous prophets. Each was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Yet, culture and a misconception, which grew over 1,600 years under the first covenant, dulled their perception to what Jesus meant by the great commission (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19; Luke 24:46-47). Peter included it in his reply to the question of Acts 2:37, “and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39). Yet, he did not comprehend that information until he entered a Gentiles house 10-11 years later (Acts 10:34-35).
Commenting on Paul’s writings, Peter wrote,
“Our dear brother Paul also wrote you . . . His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16; Acts 2:1-4).
Peter said Paul’s letters were “hard to understand.” Yet, even though we have the complete New Testament today, the divisions in Christianity are a testimony of that same misunderstanding. Even among Churches of Christ this deplorable condition exists and continues to worsen as each divisive group justifies itself rather than seeking oneness.
Yet, it didn’t start in the 19th nor 20th centuries! It began in the first. When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, he said they had prophets (1 Corinthians 12:28-32). Yet those inspired individuals received corrective instruction from Paul. Why did it take an apostle, who was inspired, to correct a group of prophets who were? Perhaps the Corinthian prophets were influenced to believe and practice things contrary to what the Spirit wanted due to the divisive nature of the congregation (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)? Being inspired did not create supermen who became sinless upon that reception. When John wrote to the church, he stated,
“You have the gift that the Holy One gave you. This is why you all know the truth. Why did I write to you? Did I write because you don’t know the truth? No, I wrote this letter because you do know the truth!” (1 John 2:20-21).
If those who were filled with the Holy Spirit had to be dsciplined, like Peter (Galatians 2:11-14), why do we think it is impossible for us to need correcting? If one memorized the entire Bible, would that guarantee him that he would never misconstrue God’s instruction nor teach his misunderstandings to others as if it was truth?
The same folks John wrote verses 20-21 to, also were told,
“God gave you a gift. You still have this gift inside you. You don’t need anyone to teach you. That gift that He gave you teaches you about everything.” (1 John 2:27).
And yet, John still wrote this letter to remind them that in spite of their knowledge, they needed to practice what they knew!
Paul warned elders,
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock . . . Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. EVEN FROM YOUR OWN NUMBER men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!” (Acts 20:28-31).
All of these epistles were written to churches that had inspired members! In spite of that fact, Paul still cautioned,
“So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
When we substitute man’s righteousness for the righteousness of Jesus, we are no longer bringing Good News!