Posts tagged ‘practices’

Doctrinal Perfection

Does God Require Doctrinal Perfection? The Mosaic Law was perfect, but it could not be perfectly kept by fallen humans. In fact, Jesus Christ was the only one to ever keep it. But it still served a useful purpose in that it convicts of sin and brings us to the foot of the cross with the realization that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Jesus died and freed us from the law of sin and death that was against us, nailing it to the cross.

But did He in effect transfer us from a Law that demanded moral perfection into a new law that requires doctrinal perfection? I don’t believe He did. But let me also quickly state that I am not saying that false teaching has no consequences, or that we are free to disregard the teaching of Scripture. Jesus himself said that is we love Him, we will keep his commandments (John 14:15)

What we need to focus on is that all of the commandments and doctrine of the New Testament points in one direction — Jesus. Jesus not only taught the truth, He is the truth! (John 14:6). Correct doctrine and practices are a means to an end, not the final goal. For too long we have scoured the scriptures to find what is allowed and what is not. While I am all for a diligent study of the Bible, trying to extract a legal code from the New Testament instead of reading it to draw closer to our Savior and to know Him better is to misuse Scripture. Israel used to be under a “letter of the law” covenant where perfect performance was demanded and nothing specifically authorized was permitted. But we are under a new covenant that changes our hearts instead of just our actions. Where there is no specificity, we follow the spirit of the law.
Paul described it this way in his second letter to the church at Corinth:

You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:2-6 NASB)

We no longer are under a system where anything not specifically authorized is a sin. Again, we are not free to violate specific commandments, because that is sin.

We do not earn salvation by our perfect interpretation of the Bible, any more than we earn it by our good works. It’s not that doctrine doesn’t matter. But we do need to make a distinction between what is essential, and what honest Christians can read and still end up coming to differing conclusions on. Plus, who of us has never had an erroneous idea that was later disproven by something we read or by a deeper understanding? There has to be room to grow in the truth as we grow closer to Christ.

In fact, if we make doctrinal perfection a condition of salvation, we are not trusting in the finished work of Christ, but instead are placing faith in our ability to properly interpret the Bible. No fallen man will ever have a mind so perfect that he will achieve perfect doctrine. And keep this in mind as well. On our best, most mentally alert day, dripping in spiritual anointing, and seeing more clearly than we ever have before, we still “see through a glass darkly.” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

If you want to read about some messed up churches, both in doctrine and practice, read about Corinth, or some of the churches in Revelation chapters 2-3. There were definite consequences to their error, but at no point does Jesus say they have lost their salvation. They were expected to change in the light of the truth Jesus was speaking to them or they would die out as congregations.

So in the end, what shall we do? I would say to be firm on that which is plainly commanded (like what must I do to be saved, and who Jesus Christ is, the Gospel, etc) and where there is no specific directive, or just one example of a way a thing may be done, follow the spirit of the law without violating other principles of the Word. Avoid the works of the flesh, and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. Realize that we are all at differing levels of understanding and that as long as we love the truth and draw closer to Jesus, we will finish the journey to our eternal home.

20121010-004440.jpg

Advertisements

Doctrines and Practices

Many things changed after the American Revolution. New freedoms were enjoyed, and citizens had to become accustomed to a republic instead of the monarchy they had all lived under in the past. It wasn’t that there had been a change in kings. It was a totally different type of government now. The same is true of what has happened now that the Mosaic Law is fulfilled in Christ. We have been set free form a law that could only condemn, but could not redeem. We moved from a law that was laid out line by line and specified everything that could and could not be done.

One thing that is different is that now, instead of having to commit a sinful act, we only have to want to do it in our hearts in order to be guilty before God. So it is not that this new law is easier. It is just different because it gets to the root of sin — our hearts.
The Hebrew writer refers to it when he quotes Jeremiah 31:33-34:

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,”
then he adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:15-18 ESV)

Before, the law had to spell everything out compel obedience. Now, the Spirit has put the New Law in our hearts. Whenever we take in the words of Scripture, especially if we commit them to memory, we are busy putting those laws in our hearts. As a result, our minds and hearts are transformed.

According to Jesus, the Mosaic Law was in force until John the Baptist. Now we are under Kingdom Law.

“The law and the prophets were in force until John; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed, and everyone is urged to enter it. (Luke 16:16 NET)

Now, instead of being ruled by the letter of the law, we must keep the spirit of the law. The Apostle Paul put it this way to the Corinthians:

Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as if it were coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who made us adequate to be servants of a new covenant not based on the letter but on the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:5, 6 NET)

Here is a good place to define the terms “doctrine” and “practice”. All doctrine must be founded in the Word of God. We are not to go beyond what God has revealed, but must be able to back up what we teach to be truth with chapter and verse.
But practices are different. They are the things we do to live out the truth in our lives. Practices must be done with doctrine in mind. For instance, if a practice violates doctrine, it is sin. But if a practice can be done without violating what has been revealed, and does not violate our conscience, the we are free do do it, keeping in mind that we are not to violate the spirit of the law either.

Here is an example. The Bible clearly says that the Lords Supper was eaten using unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine. To use anything else wild violate what the Bible says those elements symbolize. So using cookies and Pepsi would violate the spirit of the law and would be sinful. In the other hand, we make partake of those same elements indoors, outdoors, left handed, right handed, with red grape juice, purple grape juice, in one cup or many cups because none of those things violate the intent of the commandment. We do not need to wring our hands because we have no clear direction on those kinds of exact details. Neither to we have to find an example for everything we do. If it is not contrary to doctrine, and is not unwise (it’s not stupid), won’t create the appearance of evil, and will not cause a brother or sister to stumble, then go ahead.

Another example is in giving. What is important is that we give, not whether or not we use a check or cash. Either one is fine because they didn’t have checks 2000 years ago, so no direction is given about the exact type of funds to be given. We just give as we have determined in our hearts, and do so cheerfully because that’s what the Word says to do. Instead of looking at the exact amount we give, as was done with the tithe under the Old Law, God looks upon our hearts and the motive behind our giving. In a way, it’s easier and harder at the same time.

I have seen the pendulum swing both ways. A group of Christians starts off wanting to follow Jesus by the New Testament alone. And things go well for awhile, until some will start wanting a chapter and verse for every single thing that is done, when sometimes there is none. They end up missing the forest for the trees as they sink into focusing on the minutia and lose there first love. Take it to it’s conclusion, and you won’t have a church building, since none are authorized in the New Testament and none existed for the first 300 years of church history.
But then the opposite happens. A group splits off and declares that they are fee of such legalism and cat aside all restraint. Not only do they stop searching the Scriptures to find it what to do, they stop paying attention to the scriptures for what to believe as well. And as the baby swirls down the drain with the bath water, the sink into lawlessness and are worse off than when they began.

The key is in finding balance. We teach doctrine from the Word and only the Word, and are only open to practices that do not violate doctrine. That will end needless debate on things of little importance so we can focus on teaching the truth of God’s Word in its purity and simplicity. We will not be arguing over the arranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic, but will be focused on getting people to the lifeboats before they are forever lost.

20120823-234928.jpg

%d bloggers like this: