Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Container for Truth
"Here's your radioactive material." You look down and the tupperware is bubbling. "I brought you back your trumpet." You raise your eyes in time to take the paper sack from his hand. With a grimace you pull out the dent-ridden instrument. I'm guessing that you get the picture now. Keeping things intact and undamaged requires the proper container. God has designed a means by which truth can be kept pure and unadulterated. Scripture reveals the means by which God expects truth to be preserved. 1 Timothy 3:15, "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." The Lord gave His Words to the institution of the church to keep. The church of 1 Timothy 3:15 has a pastor and deacons; it could be only local. God designed the congregation of the Lord to keep His truth. This is reinforced in many other texts. John 17:8, "For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them."
1 Thessalonians 2:13, "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe." Revelation 3:10, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." We can see from the epistles and Revelation 2 & 3 that the Lord delivered His Words, the Truth, to the churches for safekeeping.
God equipped the church alone with the means to keep true doctrine and practice. He gave the church the Lord's Supper (Table). 1 Corinthians 11:2, "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you." His Table requires the examination, which, in part, keeps the truth being believed and practiced in a church. Church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17) is another tool to keep the truth. The office of the pastor, given to the church (Ephesians 4:11, 12), was designed by God as another way to keep the truth. 1 Timothy 1:3, "As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine." 1 Timothy 4:16, "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." The congregation itself has the responsibility of making sure that doctrine remains right. 1 Corinthians 14:29, 32, 37, "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. . . . And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. . . . If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." Matthew 18:19, "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." A major instrument of preservation given to the church is separation. The church builds the walls to keep out false doctrine. The church is the determiner of true and false doctrine. Churches use separation to do this (2 Thess. 3:6-15; 1 Cor. 5; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; Eph. 5:11; Titus 3:10, 11; etc.). (We will deal with this in greater detail in future blogs). The church keeps the truth through separation, congregational agreement, pastoral authority, church discipline, and the Lord's Table, among other means.
In my opinion, and I think there is good evidence, by far the way in which truth has been spoiled the most is through the false doctrine of the universal, invisible church. Something greater than local has not been given the means of keeping the truth. Parachurch organizations under no authority have taken right doctrine and torn it to pieces. That container has so many holes in it, that it has allowed almost countless false teachings to corrupt the truth. Anything other than the church (local) does not have a pastor, discipline, the Lord's Table, separation, or the grid of congregational agreement to keep doctrine and practice pure. Moving the truth outside of its container into colleges, boards, associations, publishers, camps, fellowships, councils, and universities has distorted and diluted and skewed it. None of these are in the Bible and that alone undermines the sufficiency of Scripture. These unscriptural organizations have added and taken away from the Word of God. They have created an entirely wrong understanding of unity that has led to the dumbing down of truth for the sake of avoiding conflict among larger groups of believers. The groups themselves have done more to spread the perverted doctrine of the church that allows them to exist and then does the most damage in destroying the very thing that they say is the reason they exist, the truth. The truth would be honored by the disappearance of these groups, all of them, and the extermination of the false doctrine of the universal, invisible church.