In lesson 28 you made a list of commands from Jesus. You should obey them. We have another set of commands in the epistles. We can’t take the command to “rejoice always” to be at the same level as “do not murder.” Paul says to always be rejoicing, but he also talks about how he had sorrow upon sorrow. These are things we aim toward in our lives, not hard and fast laws we need to obey to avoid hell. Do you understand the difference? Another command is to pray without ceasing. Have you ever stopped praying for a moment? Ah! We’ve all sinned! No, we don’t take commands like that the same way. They are things we strive toward and ask God to build into our lives, not things we beat ourselves up over.
Even within the epistles there are different levels of commands. For instance, look at the directions about divorce. What do you notice?
1 Corinthians 7:10-12 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.
One part is from God, and one part is from man. Yes, it’s in the Bible, but neither the Bible nor Paul are God. We don’t follow the words of Paul as we would the direct commands of God. Paul basically teaches that it would best if no Christian ever marries. People in the church mostly ignore that but then fight over other non-essential things Paul says like, “I don’t permit a woman to teach.” Notice, it is Paul talking there, not the Lord. It is one man’s opinion. He has the right to that opinion and to make the judgment for the churches he led. I am sure it was the right choice. Other leaders have the right to make a different decision in accordance with Scripture and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
I do want you to take all Scripture seriously. It all needs to be prayerfully considered as far as how God wants it to show in your life. I am a woman and a Bible teacher, but I don’t just dismiss what Paul says. I took it to the Lord and He showed me how those verses were about permission. You’ll see on my website a note about how my teachings have my husband’s approval and permission to be shared. I take seriously what the Bible teaches, but my life is submitted to God. He gets to decide what I do. I hope that makes sense.
What has gone horribly wrong in the church is people taking these relatively minor things in the epistles and turning them into big things and dividing the church. The church is meant to be the ONE body of Christ with Jesus as the head. People have divided the church over things like women teaching, when it’s not even a command of the Lord. People do baptism differently or communion differently and it divides the church. The church should not be divided. There should be the one true church, all those submitted to the life of Christ in them. Don’t let the little things become big things. Romans 14 talks about not judging others who have come to different conclusions than you in relatively minor things. I don’t have space to quote it all here, but you could read it.
One way to protect against letting little things become big things is to stick with the Bible and not the teaching of man. Stick with teachers who will point you to the Bible and encourage you to seek from the Lord, not those who insist on their own rightness and everyone else’s wrongness, encouraging spiritual pride.
In the book of Revelation, there are warnings to churches. Only one church is threatened with removal. I think it’s the church of spiritual pride.
“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Revelation 2:2-5).
That passage described a diligent people who hate evil. What’s the problem? They don’t have love. They love their rightness. They love doctrine, not the Living Word. They love knowing truth, not the Truth. Missions becomes not about sharing God’s love but winning converts to their prescribed version of truth.
I guess this lesson is a warning as we are getting to the end of our time together. Love God. Love others. That’s your first and foremost. If anything is keeping you from that, get before God and present it to Him to straighten out your thinking and actions.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing.
Philippians 2:27 … But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
Colossians 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
Lesson Point: Love God. Love others. Strive to grow in grace in all the things the Lord desires.
Challenge Question: Are there doctrines or traditions of man that you have made too important? Are there truths you know that you are proud of?