THE DOCTORS OF THE LAW
Lk.5: 17 And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.18 And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.
19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.
20 And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.
21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?
22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?
23 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?
24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.
25 And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.
26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.
I grow tired of the ecclesiastical Bourgeoisie from whose mouth people derive their truth while criticizing people who do the same from television preachers. I read the comments on one blog and one MacArthur supporter suggested that JM has studied the Bible for so many years that his interpretation must be more valid than most others. That is human idolatry and intellectualism as well. During the Reformation people divided into groups. Some followed Luther; some followed Calvin; some followed Zwingli; etc..
I am of Paul; I am of Cephus; I am of Apollos; and history repeats itself. One of the most bizarre spectacles in today’s evangelical community is when a few preachers sit in a semi-circle on the stage and answer questions as if they were “ek cathedra” and the audience receives what their favorite preacher says as inspired truth. “Holding men’s personages in admiration”.
It smacks of the ancient “doctors of the law” and it has led to human followship rather than a personal and robust followship of Jesus Christ. In these days of soft chairs and remote control people are extremely lazy in their Scriptural study and their prayer life. It is much easier to choose a side, embrace a teacher, and sit back and enjoy the ride. The entire exhibition is a disgrace to our Savior and reflects so little of what He has suffered for us.
It continues to expose doctrinal purity as the easy way out. Are these men well known for their humility or their mercy or their lifestyles which so dramatically reflect the life of Jesus? Or do they have such great followings because of what they say they believe? Speaking words requires little more than constricting some muscles, forcing air from your lungs, and manipulating that air to form sounds. But having your life accurately and remarkably reveal the very life of Jesus is light years from sitting back and pontificating about your systematic theology.
I have known some charismatic people whose doctrine was in my opinion significantly skewed but in all honesty their lives were filled with passion for the lost, compassion for the poor, and a love and commitment to prayer. And I have known many “orthodox” people whose doctrine was mainstream and seemingly Biblically based and yet who exhibited very little of the attributes that I mentioned. In fact they sometimes seemed to be in love with their doctrine more than they were in love with Jesus. And even though they did not have the same passion for the lost and compassion for the poor and commitment to prayer as did the charismatic brother they looked down their doctrinal noses at him because they had “sound doctrine”.
Oh but my friends, what is sound doctrine? Is it just creating an organized system of beliefs? Is sound doctrine completely presented by spoken words and writings? Is showing love for our enemies sound doctrine, or is it just believing that the words “love your enemies” are inspired and inerrant in the original Greek? In essence, is sound doctrine what you say and teach or must it be what you do? It is lazy and even hollow discipleship to have your written theology as the core of your commitment to Jesus and pick and choose what you will obey and what you can explain away.
Do you see what the intelligentsia have done to the faith which is supposed to follow Jesus? They have made it a doctrinal exam rather than a remarkable and distinctive lifestyle which stands out dramatically in the midst of an hedonistic and fallen culture. These doctors of the law still pledge allegiance to a fallen nation; they still save up great sums of money for themselves; they still profit handsomely from their church salaries as well as the sale of their books and other merchandise; they still participate in voting along with Satan worshipers and open sinners of all stripes; they live in very nice and expensive homes; and yet we are asked to ignore all of those New Testament offenses and only give credence to what they say they believe. Now that takes some hubris.
But that is where we are now in the American version of Christianity. It is not wrong to have teachers and to inquire of them. But when you exalt them as the caretakers of the doctrinal Mt. Olympus than you have wandered into human idolatry. And this kind of idolatry occurs regularly in liberal and orthodox faith communities and everywhere in between. The emphasis is now on what you believe and not what you live. In effect that is Gnosticism even when you are boldly teaching against Gnosticism.
And it seems that fact has completely escaped the doctors of the law. Of course truth according to the Bible is important, but when we pitch our tents on doctrinal truth and gather the throngs which agree with us and feel very orthodox about ourselves we have missed what Jesus taught and lived. Jesus lived doctrine. His teachings were overwhelmingly truths which should govern our lips and our lives. To follow Jesus requires more, much more, that just believing His words are inspired.
It is quite remarkable to hear preachers boldly chastise those professing believers who suggest there is fresh revelation that is on a level with written Scripture. These orthodox men accurately teach with conviction that the written Word is the final and complete revelation from God. But the question is not whether we believe the Scriptures are the final and complete revelation from God. The question is what are we doing about that revelation?
In the passage in Luke chapter five there were the doctors of the law “sitting by”. Isn’t that what most theologians do? Do they not speak and teach with great conviction while missionaries around the world labor in the fields? There are Pentecostal missionaries in many places around the world who help clean up AIDs infected people, or who feed starving children, or who risk their lives to preach the gospel, and yet the American doctors of the law pontificate about the finer points of doctrine. Now who do you believe is doing the work of the Kingdom? And who do you believe is following Jesus?
I am not condemning studying the Word and arriving at certain elements of truth we call doctrine. On the contrary that is foundational. But what I am suggesting is that when we make our doctrine the end and not the means then we have entered into a form of self righteousness.
II Tim.2: 15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
That verse seems to be the core principle of many who believe certain doctrines are paramount to being a follower of Christ. And we must indeed study the Word of God. But so often we study in order to substantiate and solidify our theology and not to see just where we fall short ourselves. Yes the word “study” is applicable. But let us not forget that words like go, and help, and feed, and love, and give, and humble yourselves, and be kind, and visit, and consider, and do unto others, and a long, long list that should be spoken alongside of study. It is possible to do all the things I mentioned and not be a follower of Jesus because you have rejected Him as Lord and Savior. But it is also possible to believe on Jesus as Savior and not be a follower because you do not do those same things. It is so very easy to study the nouns and ignore the verbs.
I am not speaking in semantics or in some kind of code. I am openly suggesting that we have made Christianity overwhelmingly a faith of written tenants which focus on doctrines which demand no action, no sacrifice, and no self denial. On the contrary there is many times an air of hubris about taking some kind of stand for some moral cause. And yet Jesus allowed Himself to be taken to the cross while we squawk at the slightest verbal persecution. But are we not called to that same cross? Where did we set aside that teaching? When did we decide that enduring persecution and blessing those that curse us were passé in these enlightened times?
The deficiencies in that kind of faith cannot be overstated. James of course makes it plain concerning faith without works, however the totality of the life and teachings of Jesus serve as an overwhelming indictment to that kind of faith which is communicated and demonstrated by an organized system of beliefs. And that is what this post is all about. We have constructed a faith called Christianity which in no way resembles the life and teachings of Jesus. And in place of those things we have a well organized theology which many embrace with words, defend with words, and demonstrate with words. They study and study and study and then reveal to us the fruits of their study which they contend are the very core of Christianity.
It is like studying and studying a car. And after you have done thorough research you take a pointer and teach others what you have learned about the car. However the car does not move. It is lifeless. And here comes a person who does not know what you know about the car and he gets in, starts it up, and drives away. The flesh is a diabolical wonder that can manipulate and construct all kinds of mischief even while portraying itself to be spiritual. And you can have all your doctrinal i’s dotted and t’s crossed and yet still be wallowing in the flesh. In fact, you can be a discerner among discerners and point out quite clearly and convincingly the doctrinal errors in many faith communities but still be blind to your own remarkable shortcomings and doctrinal liabilities.
Again, I reiterate, this goes to the core essence of the faith. I cannot downplay the importance of Biblical truth, however I will not constrict the scope of that truth down to a set of theological doctrines which usually require no defined action from those who profess to believe them. What action is required when you say you believe the Trinity? What action though is required to substantiate your professed belief in loving your enemies? Do you not see the difference? They both are important and yet loving your enemies has been relegated to an elective while the Trinity is a required belief.
And if you listen to the doctrinal Bourgeoisie sit on a stage and pontificate about Biblical truths and doctrinal perspectives I challenge you to find a discussion about feeding the poor, or loving your enemies, or even about being clothed with humility. And just what does that tell us? It reveals a tangible sense of doctrinal hubris which picks and chooses which doctrines are worthy of discussion and which are not. And it also elevates certain men’s interpretations and perspectives above all others. And those who already have become enamored with certain men receive their words as the arbiters of truth. And because certain men already have garnered fame, and I might add fortune, their words carry much weight among millions.
And so you have the modern day doctors of the law. They have unquestioned original language credentials; they have written books; they have sold tapes and CDs; their calendar is full of speaking engagements; and they are heralded and renowned as great teachers. And if it is only teachers after which you are searching then your search is over. You have found them.
But if it is doers you desire, and if it is the life of Jesus living through earthen vessels, then your search continues. But I can offer some advice from a nobody. Search for Jesus Himself for then and only then will you find all truth.