Thursday, 9 November 2017

Blogtext: Moving towards maturity

"Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go onto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection from the dead and of eternal judgment. This we will do, if God permit." Heb 6:1-3

The writer of the very important letter "Hebrews" holds the view that there is an expected development in the normal christian life. He has previous to the qoute above made the same point that Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 "I could not speak to you my brethren as I would to mature people, I can not do so even now. You are still in the fleshly mode, evidenced by the envying, the constant strife and arguments all resulting in division after division. I can only speak to you as to the carnal babes that you are in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; meat is so far too much for you. You are in every way just like those who are still outside of Christ.(my paraphrase) 


The Writer to the Hebrews put it this way: "I still have many things to say, but your hearing is so impaired and dulled that it is hard to speak of these things.  For by now you should rightly have been able to teach others, but you cannot do so because rather than being able to teach you show the need for once again being taught the first principles of the oracles of God, you have remained in the status of milkbabes and cannot take strong meat. Everyone that is accustomed to milk is not yet skilled in the word of righteousness, for that person is a mere babe. But strong meat belongs and pertains to them that have reached maturity, to those who have used their senses to discover the differenece between good and evil by regular practice." (my paraphrase) Heb 5:11-14


Paul has added another insight to this i Romans 15:14 "I myself am persuaded concerning you, that you are all full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish and keep one another on the right track. So I write boldly to you by way of reminder on the prompting of the grace of God."


The two writers (if indeed they are two different ones) share a common view:

the normal christian life is one that moves from the milk stage of the first principles onto a maturity that allows each to be in possession of enough understanding to be able to teach others also. ("When you come together each one of you has something edifying to bring to the assembly." 1 Cor 14:26) An absolute understanding of those things that belong to the fundamental oracles of God is expected from those who have received the gift of salvation within a relatively short time after salvation. We might be forgiven for setting a time aspect to it.. How many years did Christ train disciples? How long did Paul minister to various churches in order to make them aware "of the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27)?  

At least after three years every indvidual believer ought to know the 'principles, the first things, the fundamentals of the faith'.  Given that we have different learning ability and different amounts of time available that is a thumb rule only, but it seems that there must be a deliberate aim to accomplish that for every church fellowship. Or putting it the hard way: it is a failure of the ministry if people who are member for many years never get past the principles but rather having the need to have them reiterated and repeated ad nauseam but never fully learned.


It never fails to amaze me that we do not seem either interested in or  capable of complying with the inseparable command following on the matter of baptism. Baptism and all teaching concerning it belong to the initial stage of christan initiation. Agreed? But what is the absolute corollary to that? 


"Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen."


Proclaiming the gospel is not quite the same as teaching all nations. Preaching and teaching are different aspects of communication. The former to call sinners to repentance, the latter to make the saved refrain from all further sin.


If the saying of the Amen is being in agreement with what has just been said I am afraid that very few today say the "amen" to the very words of Jesus. How can I say that? Because they do not do what Christ said they should! People are brought to baptism but left to drown in the batismal water. If they are to be living the life that is supposed to be that of those who not only have died with Christ but also have risen in Christ, then they are to be taught until they can teach! 


Wich brings us back to the beginning. "By now you ought to be able to teach.." but that is not so. The unweaned baby cannot eat the strong meat needed to be able to teach others. It is well said that we become what we eat. That goes for the physical realm and also for the spiritual. Feed people baby food and they remain babes. Saved but not "Onesimus" (a name meaning 'Useful" see the letter to Philemon), i e useless. Taught the same over and over, but never getting out of the diapers.


How is it possible that teaching, often good and sound teaching, does not turn babes into warriors? Well, behold the ordinary manner of education: learning by hearing and by doing, by repetition and by accountability. How shall we grow spiritually unless what is taught is not only applied practically but also accounted for by the disciple to the master?  How did Jesus teach? He taught, they acted, they gave feed back, he interviewed them to see what they had learned by their experience,  and that formed the basis of the next lesson.


After a long while with them He asked them: Who do people say that I am?  And then: Who do you say that I am? And then: "this understanding that you have is given by the Father in Heaven, not by the wisdom of the flesh."  Have a close look at Mt 16:13-20, Lk 9:18-21  His teaching taught them as a primary root Who He was. All other doctrines are to be subject to that knowledge. We tend to teach doctrines about him, not first ascertaining in them that "they know the Son and the Father who has sent Him". (John 17) Giving meat to a babe without teeth has predictable results.



The Hebrews writer puts it this way: "The word of the gospel was preached to them as well as to us. But the words that were of such profit to us had no effect on them, because they did not receive it by mixing what they heard with an active faith." Heb 4:1-2


Faith is not simply agreeing with a theory, but rather a whole-hearted and spirit, soul and body comitment to that which is believed. We truly believe only what we do. If what we say we believe has no visible effect on our lives then we know not as we ought.


There is  much amiss in our churches if they only preserve a baby status quo.
It means that although we baptize, we refuse to teach.

Starving people have nothing to give to the others who are hungry. The ones unskilled in righteousness cannot avoid being fooled by every new wind of doctrine. When the day comes when we can no longer have offical church employed pastors, teachers and shepherds, who can and will teach then? 


Those who do not know the rudiments of the "doctrine once and for all given to the saints" are helpless in the face of all the human need around them. In the miasma of hopelessness of the godless world they cannot account for the hope that is in them. They don't know what they believe and neither do they know why they still adhere to the traditions of the fathers. 'We have always been like this, maybe."


Teaching all nations, every word of Christ.. beginning at the church. It is not allowed to claim the presence of Christ with us always in one moment whilst biting back on what that presence was promised for: the teaching! 


"Therefore we preach not ourselves, but Christ, and Him crucified!"


Teddy Donobauer, Doncaster


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