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Monday, February 16, 2015

Priests & Pastors; Guardians of Orthodoxy

Truth is absolute; we have determined this through both our study of Scripture & our study of God, through bibliology & theology! Because we know that truth is absolute, however, we seem to be more concerned with our assertions & propositions about what that Truth is, than with the Truth Itself! Many Christians, in the past centuries especially, have been so concerned with preserving this orthodoxy, that they have almost completely defaced that most important of our Fathers commands, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  And [ the ] second [ is ] like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.''. No longer was the focus on making this world a better place; now the greatest concern of Christianity was going to heaven when you die, so that we could enjoy Him forever!

Put simply, orthodoxy is 'right thinking'! Sounds good, right? We should all be thinking rightly, right? Nothing wrong with that, as far as that goes, but is right thinking a guarantee of right practice? And who determines this right thinking, much more what right practice is? Does not our Heavenly Father spell out in the Revelation of His Word what right thinking & right practice are? Right practice really enjoys, when you think about it, much more of a focal point in the ministry of Jesus, continuing throughout the apostolic ministry!

The apostle Paul wrote the the Church in Colosse, 'As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him' ( Colossians 2:6 ) Paul's instructions to the Church were never, 'believe this, so you can go to heaven when you die', but 'because of this, that'; 'because of what Jesus did, this is how you should then live'! His emphasis was not so much on believing the Truth as it was living it!

Jesus Himself, in His short ministry, emphasized, in His Sermon on the Mount ( Matthew 5-7 ), for instance, that it was their actions, their practice, that determined their inheritance & whether or not they would enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In fact, He told His disciples, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him' ( John 14:23 ) Jesus taught the importance of, not believing, or asserting that 'thus & thus' was true, but in acting upon those beliefs, for 'even the demons believe—and tremble!' ( James 2:19 )

For centuries, what is orthodox has been determined by what may be called 'doctrines of men'; these are propositions, based upon the truth that is found in Scripture, but needlessly complicated by the further assertions of mere men & women, assertions that are based upon their individual interpretation of the Truth of Scripture. Here, some would no doubt object, saying that, 'no, the creeds we not based upon any individual interpretation, but upon that of the majority of right thinking individuals'! Well, as history has shown, the majority is not always right!

The Roman Catholic priests, from the 'Dark Ages' ( anywhere from 500-1,000 years prior to the Reformation ) & continuing on into the present day, are proof that orthodoxy is not sufficient to guarantee orthopraxy, or right action! Even the pastors of our own day, from the most liberal evangelical to the staunchest, most seemingly steadfast Reformed, have proven that even if one has his or her doctrinal 'ducks in a row', the worst kinds of evil can still flow from their bodies when the spirit moves!

No more is our mantra that of Jesus; 'Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them' ( Matthew 7:12 ), or even 'love your enemies' ( Matthew 5:44 ). The mantra of the modern Church seems to be, not just 'keep the church pure', but 'hunker in the bunker; ' 'let's just keep our nose clean till Jesus comes back' & 'stay out of those dirty politics'! We, as the Body of Christ, seem to have forgotten that our own Shepherd, our own Leader, taught His disciples to pray that His Kingdom would come 'on earth as it is in heaven'! Yes, that Kingdom has come, it is fully here ( 'God is the Ruler yet' ), but in many or most areas, it has yet to be fully implemented, or put into practice & it is through us, through our practice, not our doctrine, as the Body of Christ, that it will be implemented!

May we realize that though all was fulfilled in the Person & Ministry of Jesus, it is continually fulfilled ( filled up ) through us, His Body! Is doctrine important? You bet it is, but as 'faith without works is dead' ( James 1:28 ), so doctrine without practice is useless! Even worse; it is a detriment to The Kingdom of Heaven!

Charles Haddon Shank

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