Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Paradigm for Taking a Biblical Position that Makes Sense of Everything God Says In the Bible

For full disclosure, I've been doing a series on the gospel of John on Sunday mornings in our church. I've been in the book for about three years, I'd say, and I'm toward the end of chapter 14 now in the Upper Room Discourse of Jesus.  John was the first book I preached as we got started here in California.  I was still typing my sermons on a manual Smith Corona typewriter.  Now I use a tablet on my second time through.

The big news of the Upper Room Discourse is that Jesus is going to leave.  Life is very dangerous right now for the small group around the Lord.  They went to a lot of trouble to meet in private, because of the threat of the religious and then political establishment.  Right at this most turbulent time, Jesus is departing.  Not just that.  One of them will out-and-out betray Him.  Their leader would deny Him three times.  They had not lived their lives without His physical presence.  This was all new and Jesus instructs them in this new reality, how they would get that done.  For all of us, that's our only reality, living for Jesus without His physical presence, so all of the resources He provides them also apply to us today.  Jesus Himself says this when He prays to His Father in John 17.

While the Lord Jesus Christ lays out the truth for His followers' future, He identifies who He is talking to again and again.  The promises that strengthen and calm in light of His departure don't alight upon just anyone.  A limited audience should expect the fulfillment of what He promises and Jesus apprises the group again and again of this reality.  This isn't just for anyone.  Who will receive the benefits of these promises, the comforting realities and calming truths?  As much as anything Jesus repeats, He repeats that truth in a positive and a negative way to be very, very clear.
John 14:15, 21, 23-24,  "If ye love me, keep my commandments. . . . He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me."
Jesus isn't talking to just anyone.  Not just anyone will get the answers to prayer.  Not just anyone will receive the internal presence of each member of the Trinity.  He will not manifest Himself to just anyone.  Not just anyone will be enlightened with the truth and all the things that He said.  And so on through four dense chapters (John 14-17).

Jesus' promises are for those who love Him.  Those who love Him are those who keep His commandments, keep His words, keep His sayings.  The people who do not keep His saying, that is, do not love Him, will not be the beneficiaries of these wonderful blessings.  God limits the audience of the promises.  An assumption here is that people who do not as a practice keep what God says, don't love Him, that is, they aren't saved.

Let's take what Jesus was teaching here and see how it works with teachings related to what He said here.  This is a crucial passage.  Much of what is New Testament doctrine that we believe and base our lives upon starts right here in these chapters.  Jesus introduces the ministry of the Holy Spirit here like Pneumatology 101.  You have to look into these chapters to understand the work of the Holy Spirit in believers in the age in which we live.  The epistles will elaborate on some what Jesus teaches here. What I'm saying is that this is a very important passage, so this should not be seen as some remote location for doctrine in any fashion.

If someone either breaks this passage down in a commentary, a book on the gospel of John, utilizes it for his biblical theology, perhaps Johannine doctrine, or as part of his systematic theology, inculcating everything in these chapters into his system, certain teachings here should not be lost on his way to doing some of these.  Let me explain.

First, a true doctrine of salvation, a true gospel, should or must match up with what Jesus says here.  It can't be true if it contradicts what He says to His disciples here.  If someone doesn't keep as a practice what God's Word says, the Words of Christ, then He is not a saved person.  He doesn't love God.  Any gospel that makes room for someone who doesn't love God as a practice or doesn't keep everything that God says as a lifestyle, must be a false gospel.  You don't have your salvation doctrine right if it doesn't mesh with this message.

Second, and going further, sanctification relates to the Word of God, the truth.  A person is sanctified by the truth, by what God says, not by impressions or feelings that He has.  It must be scripture.  Your doctrine of sanctification is wrong if it doens't jive with this reality.  I say this second one as kind of aside, but I do not think it should be skipped.  Today men are often very subjective in their doctrine of sanctification.  Sanctification and love are very often disconnected from the Word of God.  They should not think this is how the Christian life is intended to be lived.

Third, the Christian life is dependent on words, not just teachings or ideas.  Jesus doesn't say, keeps my doctrines or ideas.  Actual words are the basis of the love and the obedience.  It reminds me of what God said through Moses in Deuteronomy.  Again and again, the blessings of the covenant are related to actual words or statements, not just ideas or thoughts or concepts.  They are not disconnected from those.  Someone's impression is not as important as the Words.  You don't have the doctrines or the teachings without the Words.

The disconnection of meaning from Words reminds me of the next Supreme Court justice of the United States.  I've heard people say that Trump wants to pick someone like Antonin Scalia.   Justice Scalia advocated a judicial philosophy of "textualism" or "originalism" in interpreting the U.S. Constitution and federal statutes. He opposed speculation about the intent of the drafters and the view that the Court must interpret the language figuratively.  Jesus is providing the basis here for a textual understanding of love and obedience and living.  Everything in the Christian life centers on the Words.  Even the blessings themselves are Words Jesus uses.

The doctrine of inerrancy today is right before our eyes being disconnected from Words.  Jesus doesn't do that, but people are doing it, because they feel threatened by the uncertainty that surrounds the text of scripture.  They are preparing their students or constituents for a Christianity that is lived in a more subjective or inductive fashion.  It's less dependent on the Words, but on what they would call "the voice of the Spirit."  They are not sure about the Words, so they look to this very subjective "voice of the Spirit."  Daniel Wallace and others are espousing this new position.  Because they believe there are doubts around the text, they have shifted the reality of doctrine around something more ambiguous that retains authority without certainty.  He thinks this will ward off major defections of seminarians, yet to be astounded by the existence of textual variants.

Fourth, readers of Jesus' Discourse should admit the assumption of preservation of the Words of Scripture there.  Same chapter in v. 26, Jesus says, "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."  How do we know that Jesus' audience would remember all the things that Jesus said to them?  He said they would, so this is the truth.  Would they remember the message or the Words?  He never says, "the message."  That is reading into the text.  If they could later remember verbatim the Words that He said while He was with them, then anyone, including those He includes in John 17 in that prayer, could know what they were too.

The attack on preservation of scripture is an attack on what Jesus promised in John 14.  They would say that evidence is against a reality that we know what all the Words are.  How do we know anything if we can't trust what Jesus says?  The comfort and calm in light of His departure was based on His Words.  This is why for centuries until modernism that the church just received the Words.  They assumed preservation or one might say, presupposed it.

The modern "doctrine" of preservation disregards statements of scripture for so-called evidence.  The new doctrine is God has preserved the innocuous or vague "Word," singular.  He preserved His "Word," that is, not very Words, but something that is more of a moving target, a kind of vessel to read a lot into, the proverbial gumby doll.  This sounds something like Daniel Wallace's view of inerrancy.  Is there no wonder that saints are in doubt of doctrine and practice and application of scripture?

All of your doctrine has got to fit everything that the Bible says or it isn't true.  If your doctrine contradicts this Upper Room Discourse, then it isn't right.  You are conforming your doctrine to something else than God and the Bible.

1 comment:

Craig Kuha said...

Pastor Kent,
My wife and i were talking tonight about churches in our area that have had problems. We counted 7 Baptist churches that have split in the last 4-5 years
I live in the southwest mi area.
These churches are all within 30 miles of my house.
Anyway, I am not up to speed as to what is going on nationwide or in all the Christian colleges, but this is very disturbing to me.
I've been posting on your blog, so I feel comfortable asking these type of questions, but I was wondering if there has been a movement against Baptist churches or something.
I could get into the preservation issue that some pastors don't believe in that anymore, but I was wondering if you knew of other possibilities.
I used to listen to John McDonald on the radio, but he is always negative toward fundamentalist so I don't listen to him anymore. He has a bunch of harvest churches from here to Chicago where he is located.
For people that have been involved in church splits you can empathize with me. This should be taken serious.
Sorry so long. Are you going to post anything on google plus?.
Thanks Craig