January 23, 2009

The Power of Persuasion

I was going to subtitle this, "From where is your understanding derived?"

I have found that most peoples' understanding of God and the things of God are formed primarily from the pulpit of the particular denomination they happen to be raised in; or by the teaching of a particular seminary that they happen to attend. And, of course, many choose a seminary that adheres to the teachings of the denomination that they were raised in.

Some sources state that there are over 34,000 Christian denominations. I recall hearing a sermon by John MacArthur where he indicated that there may be as many as 89,000 different denominations.

And then there are the millions of lay people--those who have been attending church services for most of there lives; or, who are saved later in life and then discipled under a particular denominations teachings, who are not even aware that other Christians hold differing views on a myriad of things like "eschatology" for example. Their understanding of things are based primarily on what they hear during bible studies and what they hear from the pulpit on Sunday morning. I fear that very few actually spend much time in the Word of God.

My mother just recently learned of the term "cessationist" (as that is the position the church we attend holds on the miraculous gifts). She asked me to explain to her what that term meant, because she desired to know if she was one--since holding that position is also a requirement of membership. I gave her a very brief overview and then felt it was better to simply let her read the differing views held by four different biblical scholars, all who used the scriptures to support their positions. I gave her a copy of, "Are Miraculous Gifts for Today: Four Views"--Grand Rapids--Zondervan, and encouraged her to read it. What was the outcome?

She said, "After reading the first "view"--I thought--now that makes sense. I agree with that position." Then I read the next "view" and said, "Now that makes sense, I agree with that position.." and so it went. She finally got frustrated and realized that she didn't really know what she believed.

Oh, the power of persuasion!

If our understanding is derived from the teaching of men, we can all be easily persuaded by a learned and convincing argument. In addition, if we are "indoctrinated" by a particular denominations teaching and feel loyal to that denomination, we can limit our understanding and exclude the position of others out of a sense of loyalty and pride.

However, if our understanding is first derived from scripture, we will find that the teaching of men will either affirm our understanding or be contrary to it.

I would love to lock 10 new "born-again" believers in a room (who had only heard the Gospel and who had never attended a church service, never heard the opinions of men regarding doctrine) for 5 years with only the Word of God and no other outside influences, and at the end of those 5 years see if they held such differing views as are currently held throughout the Christian community. Of course that is a ridiculous and impossible experiment. Nonetheless, that would be "sola scriptura".

So, what is my point? Simply this: Ask yourself from where your understanding is derived. It should be derived from the Word of God. Do not go to the scriptures, with a preconceived understanding, reading your understanding into it. Go to the scriptures with a humble heart and the desire for God to give you understanding--or to correct your understanding.

"SOLA SCRIPTURA"--the cry of the Reformation and the power of God! Do you actually believe it or is it just a mantra that you give lip service to?

For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

For while one saith, I am of MacArthur; and another, I am of Piper; are ye not carnal?

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