Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Bible is full of contradictions

...at least until you understand it.
Consider these instructions regarding spiritual growth and maturity:
Peter writes "like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Peter 2:1)
Then James says "Let not many of you become teachers my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment." (James 3:1)

Now consider Hebrews 5:12-13
"For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe."
So do we want to be like babes or not? Should we be teachers or not? The Bible is full of contradictions!

Everyone enters this life as a baby. There are some things that babies do that are to be commended. One of these is how they love milk. This morning our one year old started crying at 6:40am, which meant that he wanted to be held and he wanted breakfast. The spiritual lesson is that feeding on God's word should be my first priority too. Nursing is also his habit before bed, and my habit should also be to end the day meditating on God's word, rather than the news or a movie.

Now our baby is also eating solid food, but there is something about milk from mom that he loves and is willing to search for and insist on.  In the same way we move on from spiritual milk to other deeper issues, but we should not tire of simple truth.  Even at my age I still like milk on my cereal. Notice the warning is about someone who takes only milk.

Now about teachers, there are some whose main role in the body of Christ is teaching, but we all can teach and should teach. Teaching is actually an important driver of spiritual growth that is missing for most Christians today. Since most churches are structured around a professional pastor who preaches a professional sermon, the average believer in Jesus is taught that spiritual growth comes from listening and learning. Not true! Being a disciple requires a lot more than just learning.

Application of truth comes first. About this the three chapters quoted above all agree. "He (Jesus) became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation." (Hebrews 5:9) "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves." (James 1:22) Non-disciples "...stumble because they are disobedient to the word..." (1 Peter 2:8) You can not ingest spiritual truth and be indifferent, either you obey and do it, or you suffer the spiritual consequences: "dull of hearing", "delude themselves", "unbelief".

So if you are struggling with belief, try the remedy of daily feeding on the word, asking God to teach you, and look for how to immediately obey what you learn. There are several places where we see that God is able to teach us directly, especially using His word. (John 6:45, Psalm 32:8)

After obeying truth we are able to teach, and "ought to be teachers". But who can we teach?
"The things that you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (2 Tim 2:2) We see that part of learning is to teach others also, but it says "men". What about women?

I find it fascinating that a woman of low reputation who had known Jesus only minutes was already teaching men in her city. "And from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, 'He told me all the things that I have done.'" (John 4:39)

Look at a famous passage on spiritual gifts. In Ephesians 4:7-16 Paul writes that Christ gave teachers and other specialists to equip each one of us for service. "Then we will no longer be infants... Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." (4:14-15) Notice the connection between "speaking the truth in love" and "we will grow". If we don't want to be infants, we must find ways to speak truth as we learn it, this reinforces our learning and our faith.

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