Between Christians


kinhjames2

Dr. McGee remembered when he was a boy he would go to Sunday dinner at his uncle’s house, and his aunt would always serve “roast preacher”.

At the Sunday dinner another aunt would drop in and she’d argue with the other about religion. My uncle’s wife was a Methodist and his sister a Presbyterian, and they just didn’t agree on anything. My uncle would quietly eat his meal then go spend the rest of the afternoon at the club. He’d come home later — not drunk, but he’d had a few drinks — and you know what, my aunt’s just couldn’t save him. He never became a Christian. When Jesus said, By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you are what — a Baptist … one who gives a lot of money to the church … someone who believes in the right doctrine? No, by the love you have one for another. The world sees Christians fighting and they think to themselves, “I don’t want that. I’ve got enough strife in my life”.

When Martin Luther was warned that allowing everyone to privately interpret the Bible would spawn chaos Luther replied, “So be it.”

The fruit of the Reformation has been division. There are over a dozen churches (Catholic and Protestant) within walking distance of my home. They each have their own doctrine, creed, liturgy and baptism. They split over a number of disagreements such as the rapture, speaking in tongues, communion, or contemporary issues such as the definition of marriage.

Demominationalism is division as Paul wrote the assembly at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:10-13):

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Were you baptized in the name of Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Ellen White, William Miller, John Knox, John Smyth, John Darby, Charles Russell, Joseph Smith, Herbert W. Armstrong, Mary Baker Eddy, Sun Myung Moon … or Witness Lee? They all claimed to be the keeper of the Word, but what they wrought was division.

The Apostasy

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition … (2 Thessalonians 2:3).

Catholics and Protestants both saw the Reformation as the Great Apostasy — not in rebellion against God, but in the renunciation of Papal authority. Catholics still believe that the rock built upon Peter is the true church of God; while the Reformers believed that the Pope was the son of perdition.

It is not in the scope of this abbreviated piece to lay bare the grievous sins of the Catholic Church, but the Protestant Church will neither stand innocent before God.

What has the Protestant Church given us? Endless interpretative debates about theology and doctrine — date-setting, rapture, tribulation, mark of the beast, sprinkling, immersion, healing, speaking in tongues and so forth.

Interestingly, Mormons believe that the apostasy began with the death of the last Apostle; and the church was not restored until God anointed Joseph Smith, a prophet, in 1820. The 19th century, in fact, saw the birth of Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Dispensationalism.

What is overlooked is that the falling away was to precede the day of the Lord. Did Christ return when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg? The cult-isms that arose in the 19th century suggested that Christ returned spiritually, if not bodily.

A Plea for Peace

This short essay was born out of a disagreement I recently had with a dear sister in Christ. Her position was that the King James Bible stands alone as the Authorized Text while newer translations are corrupt. She presented a lengthy, but scholarly defense of her position to which I do not agree. While the King James version is preferable to some translations it, too, has errors. We went back and forth on this issue, and some of the commentators were unnecessarily contentious — sort of like Sunday dinner at McGee’s house (I would imagine).

To insist that the church believed a lie for 1600 years (until the KJV in 1611) is not a tenable position. The Gospel of Jesus Christ — His death, burial, and bodily resurrection — has endured the test of time as Paul wrote,

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).

If the Lord comes tomorrow it will make petty our disagreement about the rapture — pre, mid or post. Dr. McGee — an advocate of the King James Bible — said that we can disagree on these other issues, “But,” he added tongue-in-cheek, “if you want to be right you’ll agree with me.”

Let the Bible Speak

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions … (1 Timothy 6:3-4).

The beginning of strife is like letting out water, So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out (Proverbs 17:14).

Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel (Proverbs 20:3).

Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife (Proverbs 26:21).

When you study the Bible it is always good to examine parallel passages in different translations. I also recommend a Greek and Hebrew lexicon, an interlinear Bible, a concordance and two or more commentaries. All of these study helps are linked to in the footer section of this blog. Two that are most useful to me are Bible Hub and Study Light.

If I condemn you for reading any other but the King James it is I who must repent. Each time we open the Bible (King James or NASB), God’s word reveals our ignorance. To assume that I possess all knowledge is a sin born out of pride. May the Lord grant us wisdom, a discerning spirit and a humble heart.

For strife between Christians insofar it is of our own doing may we seek Divine grace and forgiveness.

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5 thoughts on “Between Christians”

  1. Thank you for this good word!

    Paul wrote the young pastor Timothy “…what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” — 2 Timothy 2:2

    This is how we are to make disciples. While teaching and preaching involves quoting Scripture, when we simply speak to friends and neighbors, we often use our own wording. Paul didn’t say to repeat verbatim what has been taught to you. He said “what you have heard from me”. Back when Paul wrote this letter, he used the Greek language, which was the language of international commerce, even in his part of the Roman empire. But raised as a religious Jew, he would have understood theology — how he thought about his faith — more from Hebraic traditions. As we learned in the second chapter of Acts there were many nationalities and languages spoken just in Jerusalem itself. Throughout the Mediterranean were many diverse languages — many different ways of saying the same truth.

    Even today, if you were to ask everyone in church to describe the sermon they just heard, each person would use their own individual verbal style to express what they had heard “in the presence of many witnesses”. So, if they all got the message, what difference does it make if they express it differently?

    The qualifier Paul gave was that God’s message, the truth, the gospel (however you want to say it) has been ENTRUSTED TO FAITHFUL MEN. Believers are entrusted with God’s message of salvation. In other words, God trusts us to faithfully learn and then teach his truth. This was the case long before the Greek New Testament was even canonized.

    May we all (followers of Christ) be faithful to the message God has entrusted to us. And may we use whatever accurate translation we can as a tool to share and teach God’s truth. I think the Holy Spirit is able to change lives and lead people to salvation using any good translation he wants, and there are many out there. Psalm 119:89 says (in whatever translation you choose) that the word of the LORD is eternal in heaven. Meanwhile, down here on planet earth, the word of the LORD has been consigned to the limitations of human language. In other words, the truth is infinite, eternal, perfect and unchanging, but human languages only give us a rough idea of what that truth is. “We see in a glass darkly” is one way of putting it.

    We must not make an idol of any human representation of God’s truth — even the Bible.

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  2. I had another thought as I was reading about Wycliffe translators working on a translation of the Bible into one of many sign languages http://blog.wycliffeassociates.org/?utm_campaign=2016+04+Southeast+Asia&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=29533643&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8VwwWBMA-eQCZZaPz2qazZ-CbvLE4ONmsz7tJUxMZK5DiM-sA1gAsaPn193lSfW0b-DlbQsBNEcFjLaO-nsUo2KRtNoA&_hsmi=29533643

    A sign language is like any other language. It communicates meaning. All languages can communicate truth, they just do it differently. It’s not the words we use that are important, it’s the meaning behind them. The LORD divided the world according to language at the tower of Babel, not because people weren’t saying things the right way, but because in their pride they challenged the sovereignty of God.

    Attitude is everything.

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