Obey God Rather Than Men

20 10 2013

SpurgeonDiscernment

Acts 5:27-29 – “And when they had brought them, they set [them] before the council.  And the high priest asked them, saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” But Peter and the apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

We seem to have a “he said, she said” issue in American Christianity.  I am sure, though, it’s not just here in America.  Some might label me as a “Protestant” or even a “Reformed Protestant” (I hate labels….I’m a follower of Christ) and I tend to enjoy some of the writings of the great preachers and “reformers” of the past.  What they seemed to write and want to tell others seems so much more deeper and filled with truth than many of the things offered in our current place in time.

One of my favorite things to read is just about anything written or preached from Charles H. Spurgeon.  He was from England in the mid-1800’s and converted at the age of 15.  He became a pastor of a church at 17.  He then went on to lead a congregation of 6,000, have most of his sermons published in the local paper, help others into gospel ministry in his Pastor’s College, among many other things.  He is a joy to read.  He spoke truth simply and with conviction and humility.

However, he is not God.  His words have not become God’s Word.

There are those of you that are of other parts of Christianity.  You may not consider yourself “Protestant”.  Maybe you’re Catholic or Orthodox and enjoy reading some of the writings of the “saints”.  (I put quotes because I know my non-protestant brethren would call Augustine – Saint Augustine.  I have read some of his work as well in study.)

However, they are not God.  Their words have not become God’s Word.

What do I mean by that?  Just as today, if Pastor so-and-so says something, it doesn’t mean it’s true.  How do you know it’s true?  Does what he say line up with what the Bible says or is he trying to grab verses out of context to conform them to what he’s saying?  If God’s Word is truth, everything else anyone says must be subject to it.  What if what he says is not according to the Bible?  What if he writes a book and someone reads it 200 years from now.  Does it make it truth 200 years from now just because it’s old?

As I said, I love reading the writings of Charles Spurgeon.  However, I need to know what the Bible says for myself so that I can discern if what he has written is true. Spurgeon’s words should compliment the Bible and help us to understand it.  They do not become truth just because he quotes a verse or two and says, “This is what it means”.

A great biblical example of this is the preaching of Paul.  Imagine, if you will, sitting in a room filled with other people hearing the words of the great Apostle Paul (or St. Paul).  He speaks with authority and seems to know the Scriptures inside and out.  But, are his words right just because he sounds like he knows what he’s talking about?  After he speaks, the group gets together to see if what Paul was saying was right.  They are known as the Bereans.

Acts 17:10-12 – “The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue.  Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.  Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.”

Can you imagine that?  They didn’t just take Paul’s word for it.  They looked it up for themselves.  For that reason they were given the title of being more noble for it.  What if we did the same?  What if we could discern what was truth and almost-truth?  Would we know when error was taught and would we speak against it?

Today, there is a problem with culture, psychology, and “worldly wisdom” being mixed in with the truth of Scripture.  I am sure that this is nothing new and has happened in much of Church history.  However, it is hurting the Church in so many ways in our day:

1.) The “Gospel” comes in so many flavors that many can’t discern the true from the false.

Having a hard time?  We have a gospel for that.  Diagnosed with a terminal illness? We have a gospel for that.  Need more money?  Need a spouse?  Need a divoece?  Need your husband to better?  We have a gospel for all of those, too.  You can hear preaching on just about anything you can think of.  How do you know which one is true?  One pastor says the more you give to his church, the more you or your family members, dead or alive, will be blessed.  How do you know that’s right?  Just because a pastor said it?  Somebody says all you need to do to go to Heaven is ask Jesus into your heart.  How do you know?  Where is that said?  What is the “good news”?  Is there any bad news?  Where do we find it?  Someone else states that God is all for you and if you just believe, you will have the life you’ve always wanted. Can someone please line that up with Scripture…the whole Scripture.  You can make a doctrine out of just about anything if you just take one verse out of its context.  What is taught most likely cannot be taught by one verse.  It has to line up with the rest of the Scriptures.

2.) Many hold on to certain “ism’s” (Calvinism, Preterism, Dispensationalism, etc.) so tightly, that they shun those they disagree with, though they may just not have proper understanding of such issues.

I may tend to agree with certain things because I see them in Scripture, but am I fully right?  Do I have perfect understanding?  Do we see clearly yet?  Even if I am right, does that give me reason to say those that don’t think I’m right are not Christians?  In some cases, yes, but there is a difference in denying concrete biblical doctrines and not understanding something that is not so clear.   There is a difference between denying that Jesus is the only way to God and denying that tongues is a prayer language.  One is concrete and shouldn’t ever be questionable, the other is questionable and could be debated until Jesus comes back and isn’t worth splitting the Body of Christ over.  That is what is supposed to be the wonderful dynamic of the Body of Christ.  We all have different backgrounds, traits, understandings, gifts, talents, struggles, strengths, and weaknesses and, yet, we use them together to build each other up.  At least, that would be the ideal.  However, the common practice is to think that someone else’s weakness or misunderstanding disqualifies them from the grace of Christ.  The thought becomes that because they don’t believe everything that I do on a certain subject, they are therefore “heretics” or “apostate” when nothing is said about it in Scripture, but someone may have spoken or written, even hundreds of years ago, that it was so.

3.) Biblical marriage roles are not understood or tossed out altogether

A leading, authoritative, and loving husband and a submissive, respectful wife is like sour milk to the world.  They cannot understand such a concept, nor should we expect them to.  However, this is what marriages within the Church should be like for that is what God in His Word calls us to in Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3, and Collisions 3.  But, instead, we water it down or argue with it.  Our marriages, therefore, look hardly any different with the world.  Not only that, but the divorce rate among Christians is at about the same as the world.  How are we any different? How are we an example to the world?  It’s no wonder nobody wants to get married. It’s no wonder homosexuality is becoming more common.  What do they have else to look to for an example of what is right?

And the list can go on and on.

The point is in all of this is:  Where do we turn to for truth, to men or to God? Yes, I understand that God gives pastors and teachers to equip the Church for ministry (Eph 4:11-13).  However, not all pastors and teachers are correct, as Scripture clearly warns us of false teachers who will not spare the flock (Acts 20:28-30).  Not only that, but even those that seek to be true to the Word of God are not correct on everything.   So, it is also the job of the hearers to read the Scriptures for themselves to be able to judge all things.  That being said, nobody, including you and I, will ever be able to understand every little truth in Scripture.  That is where the Body comes in to encourage each other in what we know is true, not beat each other up over misunderstandings.  That is why God inspired the Apostle Paul to write Romans 14:1-15:7.  That is why we are called to be humble, not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought, and bearing with the weak if you think you are strong.

Finally, do not at all think that I am advocating an ecumenical-kumbaya-we’re-all-the-same attitude.  By no means.  If I thought that, I would be denying the very Word of God that I want to uphold.  There are certainly false teachers, false gospels, and false theology that must be refused and brought to light.  There are black-and-white issues that some want to make trivial.  We need to point to the Scriptures to make it known that they are not trivial.  However, there are also trivial things that some make into black-and-white issues that you cannot backup with Scripture.  How do you know if it’s black-and-white or trivial?  You can ask a godly friend or pastor, but ultimately you can ask God.  It is his Word and He knows perfectly, better than any man, what He meant by it.  He has given us the Holy Spirit to teach us His truth and lead us in it.  Trust in Him.

John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”

John 16:13-14 – “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”

1 John 2:26-27 – “These things I have written to you concerning those who deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.”

Jesus said to follow Him.

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7 responses

22 10 2013
cdubbs727

Good thoughts.

Back in my twenties, I would have described myself as a staunch Calvinist. And my thought on every issue came down to the question “what would my pastor/John Piper/John Edwards say about this”? But as I grew in my faith — and met and married a woman who had grown up Methodist — I began to see that so much of my faith identity was wrapped up in other people’s interpretations of the Word of God…not the Word itself. I began to look at the Word and discover, “You know what? There’s so much tension about what the Bible really says on this issue, and the Bible doesn’t go out of its way to explain itself, that I don’t know whether this is an issue I need to make into a hill to die on.” I still probably lean more toward being described as a Calvinist, but I realize the issue is so big and mysterious that I have to hold onto that loosely.

And on the other side, I see it as well. There are Christians who have had claimed to have supernatural experiences that strain my credulity. In some cases, I realize it’s simply a biblically sound experience I haven’t been given — but in others, they defend it and say “well, I know what I experienced and what my church teaches,” and I have to say, “I know what you say you experienced…my problem is that it doesn’t square with what the Bible says.”

22 10 2013
Chris@QPC

I am in full understanding of what you are saying. I, too, if I wanted to label myself, would consider myself more of a Calvinist, but not because of John Calvin. I just see some of the things in the Scriptures which he happened to affirm. I always love how my pastor sums it up – “Does the Bible show that God is totally sovereign? Yes. Does the Bible show that man has full responsibility? Yes. Can we fully understand that? No.”

Because of not being able to fully understand it, we like to take sides. Then, some get into it so much that they call the other side “heretics” without fully trying to understand where the other side is coming from.

But, the list is so much longer than just Calvinism. Take, for instance, the firestorm from the recent “Strange Fire” Conference from John MacArthur as people take sides, misunderstand what is said, and argue with each other. What a wonderful light we are shining to each other and this world.

Cdubbs, thanks for the comments. Let’s hold fast to Christ and to His Word and proclaim Him alone

23 10 2013
cdubbs727

I thought about “Strange Fire” when I read this, but didn’t want to comment because I wasn’t sure how many people might object.

Not following the conference too closely, I found the reactions so similar to what you’re talking about. I saw many people engaging on this without looking at the conference itself, and a lot of it was “Well, everything must be biblical there because John Macarthur is saying it” or, on the other side, “John Macarthur’s wrong because my church says this is normal for Christians.”

For what it’s worth, I think Macarthur is nothing if not a biblical, so I probably tend to think he had some good things to say there. But he’s also more of a cessationalist than I think the Bible gives us a solid conclusion to draw from. But that’ going down a rabbit hole 🙂

1 11 2013
vascularity777

I found your outstanding blog today. You have voiced many of my own sentiments about our cultural church today. I’ve been trying to research why so many protestants put so much credence in all of what Martin Luther espoused. Specifically Luther’s condemnation of the Jews. According to my relationship with Jesus Christ, and in accordance with what I have learned from my years of bible reading, the Jews should be “lovingly” witnessed to; not condemned. Why don’t more Protestants reject Luther’s seemingly non-Godly approach to the Jews? Why do so many Christians harbor so much disdain for Jews? I do not expect you to have the answers, but perhaps you do have some wisdom to share on this topic. Thank you in advance……….

2 11 2013
Chris@QPC

Thanks for visiting and for your kind comment.

I don’t know all that much history about Luther. What I do know is that for some reason he changed his tone about the Jews. According to some of his writings, he seemed to first be all about lovingly witnessing to them. In his latter years, however, his tone seemed to change to a more condescending, and even condemning, one, but still acknowledged that they need Christ. I don’t know what might have happened in his life, the culture, or his mentality that made him change his tone so drastically.

Here is a good history lesson from Wikipedia on it:
Martin Luther and antisemitism

However, I would not hesitate to quote him on some of the good that he has provided us. I do not, nor would I advise others, to “put so much credence in all of what Martin Luther espoused”. Yet, I would have no problem putting SOME credence in SOME of what Luther espoused, not because he is Luther, but because something he said might make the what the Bible says that much more precious. There is no doubt God used Martin Luther and that God can still use his works to teach us today. However, there is also no doubt that Martin Luther was a mere man and was wrong at times, along with every other person in history, except Christ. That’s why we obey God rather than men.

I don’t know why more Protestants don’t reject Luther’s anti-Jew attitude. Maybe they don’t know about it. That’s all I can think. I sure don’t hear anything about it myself.

Why do so many Christians harbor disdain for Jews? I don’t know. On my little area in this earth, I don’t really see or hear that. I don’t know where you are from, but it doesn’t seem to be here unless I’m just missing it. The Jews are part of God’s creation who need Christ just as anyone else. I have no idea why Christians would have any disdain for Jews except that Christians don’t understand their own sinfulness. Did we not reject God by our sin before He “plucked us from the fire”, so to speak? Will not God turn his face back toward to Jews to hear the gospel as it is written in Romans 11? How can we show contempt for the Jews when God has shown grace to us?

Finally, I’ll just reiterate my post. People can get so carried away talking about what so-and-so said hundreds of years ago or even a famous pastor in our day. It’s easy to think they are right just because they have a “big name”. But, does it line up with the Bible or are we making the Bible line up with what they say? I love reading Charles Spurgeon but he wasn’t always right. Luther wasn’t always right. Augustine wasn’t always right. Nobody is always right except God. His Word is always right.

I will end with this. Fill in the blanks with Luther, Calvin, Augustine, or whoever you want:

1 Corinthians 1:10-13 – Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of _______,” or “I am of ______,” or “I am of _______,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was ______ crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of _________?

11 11 2013
Links and Comments #17 | The Society of Phineas

[…] Chris is back with a a good post about obeying God rather than men. Jaybee’s Pancakes is back as well, dealing with the “I am fearfully and wonderfully […]

13 11 2013
The Primacy of Scripture | Quit Playing Church

[…] at "The Society of Phineas" has written a great post that adds more depth to my last post – "Obey God rather than men". It was so good that I just had to reblog it. It is unfortunate how much weight we put into the […]

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