This series of 26 lessons was developed for classroom presentation from the book by David Miller that should be required reading for every preacher, elder, and Bible school teacher in the Lord’s church: “Piloting The Strait”. This book is available from a variety of bookstores, Sain Publications at www.sainpublicans.com as well as from David Miller at www.apologeticspress.org.
CHANGES IN THE CHURCH
MECHANISM FOR CHANGE - HERMENEUTICS
THE NEW HERMENEUTIC - THE “FORM” “CORE GOSPEL” & “FLAT BIBLE”
II Timothy 3:16-17 “ALL SCRIPTURE is GIVEN BY INSPIRATION OF GOD, AND is PROFITABLE FOR DOCTRINE, FOR REPROOF, FOR CORRECTION, FOR INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS: THAT THE MAN OF GOD MAY BE PERFECT, THOROUGHLY FURNISHED UNTO ALL GOOD WORKS.”
Paul, in his instructions to the young preacher Timothy tells him that all scripture is given by the inspiration of God and therefore is profitable for a variety of things. The architects of change in the church today are saying that because that we have insisted on using common logic and reasoning and our “old” hermeneutic to interpret the Bible that we’ve missed the mark somehow. Because we haven’t paid enough attention to the “form” of scripture we have misapplied and mishandled God’s word.
Two things are meant by “form.” First of all, they say that we haven’t paid enough attention to the genre, or type of literature that the Bible contains. The Bible contains four types of literature; poetry (such as the Psalms), epistles (such as the letters of the New Testament), parables (much of Jesus teaching), and apocalyptic (such as Revelation) and there are others. This inattention to “form” or genre therefore in their minds has led us to misinterpret and misapply scripture.
This argument is a gross overstatement of the case. For example, while the interpretation of Revelation is heavily dependent upon our knowledge of the characteristics of apocalyptic material and even more so; on our knowledge of the book of Daniel and other Old Testament writings, the interpretation of the gospels and epistles is not. In other words, the gospels and the epistles of the New Testament, from where the common man gets his understanding of the specifics of Christianity, (that part of the Bible that tells us how to be saved and stay saved) are easily understood without being familiar with the complex genre categories that have been devised by “scholars” and theologians.
John “AND YE SHALL KNOW THE TRUTH, AND THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE.”
And, by the way, with the Bible available to us in the common language; we can not only enjoy the kind of freedom from sin that Jesus was talking about but also enjoy the freedom of being able to read, interpret, and apply the scripture.
Secondly, “form” refers to the claim that our interpretation is incorrect because that we insist that the Bible is a blueprint, pattern, constitution (as for a kingdom or government), code book, book of law, etc. They say that we have misconstrued the nature of the Bible by treating it as “propositional” (a document whose explicit statements mean exactly what they say). They say that we should have been treating the Bible instead as a “love letter.” In other words, we should not view it so much as the legislation of God as an expression of his love.
But to argue that the New Testament is to be interpreted as a “love letter” is misleading and disastrous. While it is true that God is love.
I John 4:7-8 “BELOVED, LET US LOVE ONE ANOTHER: FOR LOVE IS OF GOD; AND EVERY ONE THAT LOVETH IS BORN OF GOD, AND KNOWETH GOD. HE THAT LOVETH NOT KNOWETH NOT GOD; FOR GOD IS LOVE.”
And it is also true that the writings of the Bible are indeed an expression of God’s love for mankind; but it is not a “love letter” in the sense that is set forth by those advocating a “new hermeneutic”. Where the “love letter” notion breaks down is precisely in the area that it is designed to undermine, i.e., that the New Testament is also, if not primarily, intended to be instructive by showing how human beings are to respond to God’s love. In this sense, the New Testament is law and absolute and binding in a way that a love letter can never be.
Where do you suppose that the emphasis that we place upon the Bible as the law or constitution of God’s kingdom came from? Obviously from the Bible itself! How many of the New Testament books describe the relationship between God and fellow Christians in terms of kingdom, king and law. Only twenty-four out of the twenty-seven (Philemon, Titus and III John do not). The gospels are literally riddled with references to Christ as King and the impending establishment of His Kingdom. Paul in his writing and preaching tells us:
“AND NOW, BEHOLD, I KNOW THAT YE ALL, AMONG WHOM I HAVE GONE PREACHING THE
James 2:5 “HEARKEN, MY BELOVED BRETHREN, HATH NOT GOD
CHOSEN THE POOR OF THIS WORLD RICH IN FAITH, AND HEIRS OF THE KINGDOM WHICH HE HATH PROMISED TO THEM THAT LOVED
Peter “FOR SO AN ENTRANCE SHALL BE MINISTERED UNTO YOU ABUNDANTLY INTO
It is clear that God intended for readers of the New Testament to get the idea that Christianity is to be conceived of as the relationship between a king and his kingdom.
To deny the idea that the Bible is a pattern is likewise inaccurate and inappropriate. All that brethren have meant in referring to the Bible as a “pattern” is that human beings are obligated to go to the Bible and learn what God wants them to know and practice. If the Bible is not a “pattern” in this sense, then the Bible is completely irrelevant when it comes to how we chose to live our lives. We know better than this.
The “Core Gospel” and “Flat Bible”
The church is accused of treating the Scriptures as if they were “flat.” When we are told our hermeneutic assumes a “flat” Bible, they mean that we should recognize that not all facts or truths presented in the Bible are of equal importance. They say that some parts of the Bible are more important than others. For example, whether we use in an instrument of music in worship or partake of the Lord’s Supper every Sunday is far less important than whether we evangelize or pray. As we discussed in prior lessons; they want to help God tell us what is important for us to always observe and what isn’t.
Now it is entirely possible that some within our fellowship have overemphasized one truth of God’s Word over another. This is part of the reason that we have brethren that bind some things where God has not bound them. In Jesus’ day the Pharisees also manifested a tendency to emphasize one part of Scripture to the exclusion of another.
Matthew “WOE UNTO YOU, SCRIBES AND PHARISEES, HYPOCRITES! FOR YE PAY TITHE OF MINT AND ANISE AND CUMMIN, AND HAVE OMITTED THE WEIGHTIER matters OF THE LAW, JUDGMENT, MERCY, AND FAITH: THESE OUGHT YE TO HAVE DONE, AND NOT TO LEAVE THE OTHER UNDONE.”
But those who accuse us of having a “flat Bible” misuse this passage by going to the equally unbiblical and opposite extreme – omitting the more weighty matters and basing fellowship on few of the less weighty matters. The clear teaching of Jesus on the matter is that we should do both “THESE OUGHT YE TO HAVE DONE, AND NOT TO LEAVE THE OTHER UNDONE.” If we love God and our fellowman, we will give our undivided attention to all that God desires us to do. Paul declared to the Ephesian elders:
Acts “FOR I HAVE NOT SHUNNED TO DECLARE UNTO YOU ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD.”
Besides when we humans decide to judge as to whether something that God has given us is trivial and unimportant or not, we usually get it wrong. Jesus told the Pharisees”
Luke “…YE ARE THEY WHICH JUSTIFY YOURSELVES BEFORE MEN; BUT GOD KNOWETH YOUR HEARTS: FOR THAT WHICH IS HIGHLY ESTEEMED AMONG MEN IS ABOMINATION IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.”
Adam and Eve were expelled
These incidents are no more “technical” or “trivial” than the New Testament regulations pertaining to vocal, verbal music in worship (Ephesians 5:19), bread and fruit of the vine at the Lord’s Table every Sunday (Matthew 26:26-29; Acts 20:7) and entrance into the kingdom by immersion in water (John 3:5; I Peter 3:21.)
Instead of the “flat Bible”, that we are accused of promoting, our change agent brethren are advocating the idea of a “core gospel.” Currently they are insisting that agreement on doctrinal belief and practice must not be the basis upon which unity and fellowship are based. The “unity-in-diversity” folks insist that we will never reach a point where we can all agree 100% on what the Bible teaches. Therefore, we ought to base our fellowship with other religious groups upon what we have in common – those fundamentals shared by all who profess faith in Christ. In other words we should fellowship as children of God all those who profess belief in certain basic fundamental principles and just not pay attention to all this other stuff that they may believe and practice that is an addition to or an omission from God’s Word.
This “live and let live,” “I’m okay, you’re okay,” “don’t be judgmental” mentality – which has infiltrated the church from secular society – has in turn led to the notion of a “core gospel.” These that advocate a “core gospel” hold that fellowship with other religious groups should be conducted based upon a brief list of beliefs which all factions within what man calls “Christianity” hold in common. Ironically, these brethren who practice this expanded fellowship don’t always agree among themselves as to just what these few common beliefs should be. But most seem to agree that belief in Jesus – especially his death, burial and resurrection – is the central thesis about which we must agree in order to have fellowship.
Some of the “change agents” insist that only the “seven ones” of Ephesians four qualify as doctrinal tests of fellowship:
Ephesians 4:4-6 “there is ONE BODY, AND ONE SPIRIT, EVEN AS YE ARE CALLED IN ONE HOPE OF YOUR CALLING; ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM, ONE GOD AND FATHER OF ALL, WHO is ABOVE ALL, AND THROUGH ALL, AND IN YOU ALL.”
If a particular viewpoint or doctrinal issue falls outside the scope of the “seven ones” then that viewpoint must be held as opinion and not allowed to hamper fellowship with those who hold a different opinion on that issue. Specific doctrines which they say should not be allowed to effect fellowship include instrumental music, solos and choirs, Premillennialism, women’s role, and the frequency of the Lord’s Supper. But how does this compare with I Timothy 4:1-4 where Paul says that those who “forbid to marry” and command to “abstain from meats” have departed from the faith?
To what extent should doctrine determine fellowship? Despite the insistence of some brethren and the popularity of the “core gospel”, “core doctrine” position, the Bible clearly teaches that doctrinal correctness and fellowship are linked together and inseparable. The New Testament used the term “fellowship” to refer to the idea of partnership. Fellowship consists of joint participating, sharing and associating. Scriptural fellowship begins with God.
I John 1:3-4 “THAT WHICH WE HAVE SEEN AND HEARD DECLARE WE UNTO YOU, THAT YE ALSO MAY HAVE FELLOWSHIP WITH US: AND TRULY OUR FELLOWSHIP is WITH THE FATHER, AND WITH HIS SON JESUS CHRIST. AND THESE THINGS WE WRITE UNTO YOU, THAT YOUR JOY MAY BE FULL.”
Once we establish our fellowship with God then we will be in fellowship with all other people who have also established their fellowship with God.
I John 1:7 “BUT IF WE WALK IN THE LIGHT, AS HE IS IN THE LIGHT, WE HAVE FELLOWSHIP ONE WITH ANOTHER, AND THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST HIS SON CLEANSETH US FROM ALL SIN.”
Christian fellowship between two individuals must then come into being as a result of both having obeyed the gospel plan of salvation and have come into fellowship with God. That is; both must believe in God, Christ and their word (Mark ), repent of their sins (Luke 13:3) confess the name of Christ (Romans 10:9-10) and be immersed in water for the remission of sins (Acts , I Peter ) and be added by God to His church (Acts ). Only then are we in fellowship together as Christians and in fellowship with God.
In order for two Christians to remain in fellowship with each other as Christians they must remain in fellowship with God. In order to remain in fellowship with God we must live faithful, i.e. in accordance with New Testament teaching regarding how we should conduct ourselves and live the Christian life. But if a Christian disrupts his fellowship with God than how can he continue to be in fellowship with other Christians? How could we remain in fellowship with one whom God no longer fellowships as his child? How could the prodigal be in fellowship with his father when he was living his riotous life or groveling in the hog pen?
II John 10-11 “IF THERE COME ANY UNTO YOU, AND BRING NOT THIS DOCTRINE, RECEIVE HIM NOT INTO your HOUSE, NEITHER BID HIM GOD SPEED; FOR HE THAT BIDDETH HIM GOD SPEED IS PARTAKER OF HIS EVIL DEEDS.”
How do we disrupt our fellowship with God – Sin.
I John 1:6 we “WALK IN DARKNESS”
I John 2:3, , 24, 5:2,3 we don’t “KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS”
I John 2:5 we don’t “KEEP HIS WORD”
I John 2:6 we don’t “WALK AS HE WALKED”
I John we don’t do the “WILL OF GOD”
I John 2:28; 3:6 we don’t “ABIDE IN HIM”
and there are more but time does not permit.
Though some insist that “the gospel” only includes the doctrine of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, in actuality, the entire Bible is God’s “good news” or “gospel”. If we reject any part of it then we cast doubt upon it all. If we deny any part of it then we deny God’s ability to provide us with that which we can understand and follow.
In John 8:31-32, Jesus emphasized to those to whom he was speaking that they must “continue” in His word to be His disciples. They had to “know the truth” in order to be set free. In John 12:44-50, Jesus further emphasized that they had to hear and keep His words. Those who refused would be judged. His words included:
the essentially of baptism - Mark ; John 3:5
God’s law regarding divorce and remarriage - Matthew 19:3-12
resolving sin between brethren - Matthew 18:15-17
obeying civil law - Matthew 17:24-27
the Lord’s Supper - Matthew 26:26-29
the Second Coming - Matthew 24:36 - 25:46
prayer - Luke 11:1-13
loving one’s neighbor - Luke 10:25-27
use of money - Luke 12:13-21 and a host of others.