My Thoughts. . .
Monday, February 4, 2019
I began publishing “My Thoughts” in 2011. I recognize that just because I believe something doesn’t mean others will agree nor that it is correct. I also recognize that culture, tradition, and peer pressure are tremendous forces that can blind a person and keep them from accepting the truth. Jesus and the apostles ran into that brick wall with the Pharisees and Sadducees. I also realize that one may have “a martyr complex” which drives his agenda. Jesus mother and brothers thought Jesus had developed that condition (Mark 3:21 RSV, NIV). Right or wrong, I believe we need to ask whether a passage teaches what we have always thought it did. If not, what does it actually teach? About three thousand gladly received Peter’s teaching, but the number who rejected it isn’t given (Acts 2:41). Biblical teaching is not always popular even with those who claim they know it. The divisions among believers is a biblical testimony that everyone in the body of Christ isn’t as “right” as each separate group claims. Passing something on to the next generation held as truth may be the mother of all divisions.
When Harvey Pearson immersed me in 1957, he gave me this advice. “Don’t accept something because I say it, accept it because you find it in the Bible.” That may appear to be good advice and I accepted it in that context. However, expressions may not be as good as originally thought. Harvey’s advice is much like another slogan or creed introduced as truth which states, “Silence is prohibitive.” Harvey’s expression, “because you find it in the Bible” and “silence is prohibitive” are related! When quoting scripture, where did Jesus or any inspired writer give book, chapter, and verse? What passage tells us the first day of the week contribution is to be spent on 1) evangelism, 2) edification, and 3) benevolence? You can’t find simple things in scripture that are today’s common practices such as a church building, church street sign, or a small table with the Luke 22:19 inscription? What passage tells us to substitute a “holy handshake” instead of greeting one another with “a holy kiss”? If “silence” prohibits a practice, then these are modern activities which scripture is silent about. You cannot find them in your Bible! Believers have been divided over the introduction of these non-mentioned items.
Sometimes a person’s actions may be based on a false conclusion rather than on the Bible itself. For example, an individual may give a truthful quote borrowed from someone who is guilty of teaching things that aren’t biblical. Someone objects to that quote, not because it is false, but due to its origin. If it is a sin to quote such a statement made by an unbeliever, Paul was guilty! He quoted the Greek poets to make a truthful point (Acts 17:28). There is another idea that if one associates with those who are guilty of some sin, then they too are suspected of engaging in it. If that is true, then Jesus himself would be a suspect because he allowed a prostitute to pour expensive perfume on him. This caused his host to doubt his credentials (Luke 7:36-39). On another occasion he refused to condemn a woman caught in the act (John 8:1-11). Apparently, Jesus wasn’t aware of the Pharisee’s unwritten law which pontificates, “If your actions are interpreted in the wrong way, it is a sin to engage in those actions.”
Sometimes our rules and regulations are more like those concocted by the Pharisees than being a “thus saith the Lord.” Some, like Satan, will make a statement and quote a passage as proof that the statement has a scriptural foundation. Like Satan, they are wrong. Even good intentions do not make a wrong action right. The believers who were in the Pharisee Party did not think they were in error when they demanded that Gentiles submit to circumcision (Acts 15:1, 5). Circumcision was a commandment to be obeyed for the Jews, but not the Gentiles (Acts 15:19-29). For a Gentile it was an option, not a command. If a Jewish saint demanded that a Gentile believer be circumcised to be saved, Paul’s reply was Galatians 1:6-9. Picture a disturbed Jewish Christian bemoaning the fact that the Acts 15 epistle was unfair because Jewish males had to submit to the knife to be in covenant relationship with Yahweh since Abraham. Now, these Johnny-come-lately Gentiles can have that same relationship without that surgery! In the first 15 years of the church, circumcision was followed because the scriptures taught it, and Jews were the major members. Then that Gentile Roman officer had to be recognized for his prayers (Acts 10:3-4)! The Jewish brethren were confronted with the problem of recognizing an uncircumcised Gentile barbarian as a brother in Christ! It’s not easy living through a transition period. Paul wrote telling both groups to respect each other’s differences (Romans 14). It was easier for Paul to write that chapter than for disciples to practice it. Jews thought they were compromising God’s word. In their mind, a Gentile was still unclean. Like Peter, it was hard to say “Yes” when the correct answer seemed to be “No” (Acts 10:9-14 NLT2).
Jewish Christians and proselytes continued to worship at the Temple and in the synagogues (Acts 21:18-26). Then in 70 A.D. another major transition took place. The holy city of Jerusalem and its Temple were destroyed by pagan soldiers. Jews were forbidden to live there. After that, the church gravitated toward a Gentile membership and separated itself from being “Jewish.” It was a major transition period for Jewish members. Another transition plaguing the church was predicted by Paul (Acts 20:28-31). Today we have the complete Bible in print rather than being blessed with living apostles and prophets. Yet, in both periods, disciples have continued to have those transitions. Our responsibility is in determining which ones are good and not throwing something out because it isn’t like “what we’ve always done.”