Major Problems In Doctrinal Purity (3)
In previous articles in this magazine we have discussed "Major Problems in Moral Purity." We considered the problems of pure thoughts, pure motives, pure speech and pure actions. Now let us consider some major problems in purity of teaching (doctrine).
The scripture furnishes us completely in pure words from God. Furthermore, the words thus revealed are sufficient to meet our every spiritual need. Thus it can be said, in keeping with Second Timothy 3:16, 17 that the word of God revealed in the scripture is altogether true and also that it is all of the truth in spiritual matters for us. However, the same scripture which so perfectly reveals God's will to us, also warns us that "The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine . . . and they shall turn away their ears from the truth and be turned unto fables" (2 Tim. 4: 3, 4). Timothy, a young preacher, was told to give heed unto himself and to the doctrine (teaching). The idea was that he was to keep himself and that which he taught pure. If these articles can be made to serve in showing us some of our problems in keeping the teaching pure (true to the revealed word), then it may help to enable us to protect ourselves and others against deviations which would pollute the truth and make it falsehood.
Once I was invited to study with a family who were worshiping in error even though they were doing the very best they knew to do. Almost immediately the wife and mother said, "We want to know all the truth." Her statement was not made lightly, and her intent was as fervent as her statement. Naturally this family was easily led into true worship. Three sons from that family now preach the gospel, although before our study it was a girl in the family who most desired to preach! The whole point is that there was a sincere desire for truth, and so it was comparatively easy to help them find that truth.
In the third chapter of the gospel according to John, we read of the man named Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night with inquiries regarding the truth. Some people criticize Nicodemus, but I am willing to concede that he may have been a very sincere seeker after truth who chose to come to the Master in the quietness of the night to hear from Him words of truth. Perhaps he manifested more real desire for knowledge than many who thronged about him in the hustle and bustle of the day's activities. To me it seems that he may have demonstrated the real, urgent, sincere desire that is necessary if one would become really familiar with the word of God. Significantly this ruler of the Jews was one of the few such men of prominence who evidently believed in Jesus, for he was one of the two who anointed and buried the body of our Lord (see Jn. 19:39, 40).
Contrasted to the sincere desire for knowledge that should characterize each of us, especially in matters that will determine our eternal destiny, is the vicious complacency and indifference that may be observed in almost everyone to some extent. Too often we just don't care!
Jesus sald, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Mt. 5:6). Evident1y the Lord was suggesting that those who really have a fervent desire for holiness, goodness and godliness will be able to possess those qualities. However, it must be remembered that he promises the blessing for those who are really hungry and thirsty for such. "The greatness of the soul is measured by the number, the intensity and. the quality of its desires. . ." (H. Leo Boles, in "Commentary On The Gospel According To Matthew," page 122.) In a similar sense we can say that those who really have an intense desire for the pure word of God may receive it. Jesus said, "If any man willeth to do his will, he shalt know of the teaching, whether it be of God or whether I speak from myself" (Jn. 7:17-R.V.). This suggests not only that we "be willing" to know truth, but it further and more positively suggests determination to know it. Intensity of desire to do God's will will naturally be accompanied by a similar intensity of desire to know what God's will is. Conversely, when there is no real desire to do what God wants done, there will not be much desire to know what he has said.
Oh, for more and more people who will honestly say, "We want to know all the truth!"
Perhaps the most besetting problem of all of us is the one that involves us in a study of God's word without regard for person, place or thing on this earth. This kind of study will require that we eliminate consideration of the popularity of any particular belief, and that we will also disregard unpopularity. We will not allow the number who believe or disbelieve a thing to affect our investigation of it. We will recognize that though all the world believe it, it may be false, and that even if everyone everywhere rejects it, it may be true. In the long ago Elijah did not allow the multitude who followed a false God and who opposed truth to prevent that truth from being known. He knew that truth did not depend upon multitudes, nor upon loud cries of false teachers. On Mount Carmel he demonstrated that necessary determination to investigate without concern for opposition. (See I Kings 18.)
A completely objective study will force us to eliminate friends, parents, children, or any person as a factor in determining what is truth. Our search for truth will not stop when we get the opinion of some preacher, whether he be popular or unpopular if we are actually investigating honestly and objectively. Some people have to wait for word from a preacher to know what to believe! Some have such trust and confidence in certain men that they accept their word without question. Likewise, some have such hatred for certain preachers that they immediately revolt against anything those preachers teach. The kind of investigation that will bring us to the pure truth must be unobstructed by prejudices about people.
Objective study demands that we eliminate previous concepts and open our Bible to search for truth rather than to search for something to uphold what we have always believed. Furthermore, the search that will really bring us to purity of doctrine will eliminate the emotional appeal. One time a preacher accused me of "having religion from the ears up." He didn't miss it far. Of course our religion is something we do, but the directing force in our bodies must be our brains. When we allow ourselves to be directed by a fuzzy feeling in the pit of our stomach, or by a choking sensation in our throats, or by the tears that flow from our eyes in response to appeals to our emotions, we will very likely be led into some false doctrines. Truth must be sought through the use of intellect. When truth has been discerned intellectually, then there is opportunity for use of emotional appeal regarding the application of that truth, but this latter appeal must have absolutely no part in determining what is truth.
If we are to find and maintain purity of doctrine, we must eliminate the demand for "orthodoxy." By that I mean we must not be guided by the demands of men that we conform to their ways and beliefs. To insist that we follow the "accepted beliefs and practices" of the people, either those alive or dead, is to demand that we concede that such people have arrived at perfection. It may easily be that many of us today place entirely too much value upon "what saith the people," and not enough upon "what saith the Lord." It may be that we too often get our examples from the church in America and not from the one in Jerusalem (Ac. 2), Samaria (Ac. 8), Phillipi (Ac. 16), etc. Preachers may often be judged by those of 1900 A.D. instead of by those of 1900 years ago. If we are to really have confidence in the doctrines we believe, it must be because thev have stood the test as compared to the New Testament, even if it means that we are then subjected to accusations of being narrow, queer and old-fashioned. Further, we must be prepared to accept such criticisms from friend and foe, even from brethren in Christ. We may have to stand alone sometimes, but only by eliminating "orthodoxy" altogether as a determining factor, can we safely proceed along God's highway of holiness.
Finally we must also eliminate any "objective spirit" if we are to have pure doctrine. Such a spirit demands that we be different, even if we have no right to be so. Some of us may be guilty of holding the view, even though we mav hold it almost unconsciously, that to be right we must object to almost everything. Perhaps we often do not try to see what is right about a thing, but rather what is wrong with it. We listen to a sermon hoping to find something to criticize (and can always succeed if that is our goal) instead of finding truth which we can retain and exemplify. When we find people who teach some error, even if they be brethren, we cannot conclude that we are perfectly pure in teaching just because we are able to find fault with those others. We must not object just for the sake of objecting, for in doing so we will often find ourselves objecting even though in so doing we are wrong.
Next month we plan to discuss problems in absolute integrity and problems in total surrender, as we continue this study in obstacles to purity of doctrine. There is a natural inclination to make specific application of each problem we present, but we shall avoid this and allow our readers to apply the lessons in their own areas of study, thinking and teaching.
Truth Magazine II:9, pp. 2, 17-18