FRUITS OF DOCTRINES
By Larry White
(Originally delivered in Eagle Point, OR. May 12, 1985)
Chart for this lesson:
Legal Spiritual Externals Personal relationship Petty Weighty Bondage to fear Liberty to serve
I ) What is the result of what we teach?
I began to thinking along this line after I introduced to you last week the idea that the New Testament scriptures were not a law. Of course, we have all, at one time or another, been taught, either by a positive statement or by implication, that our law (the law of Christ) is the N.T. scriptures. I believe this type of teaching has left a definite and indelible mark on the actions and characters of every member of the church.
I know now that the law of Christ is love. The Royal law - this love is the fulfilling of the law of God.
Paul says that there is a result or an outcome to everything that is taught in the church and therefore a man, especially a teacher or preacher, needs to be careful about what he teaches.
Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is being laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the day will declare it, because it is revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.
If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone ruins the temple of God, God will ruin him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; and again, “The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”
Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things about to come – all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
The person in this passage that is doing the building is anyone who teaches or preaches. The thing that is being built is the temple of God or the church. (we are God's building) What these building materials represent is the teaching that is received.
Eastern temples were built out of marble, jasper, alabaster (precious stones) and a whole lot of gold and silver. The houses of the poor people were built of wood and mud hardened with straw, and then thatched with straw or stubble.
The house we are building is the dwelling place of God, and so, each builder is to take care as to what materials are used. Therefore the materials are not just doctrine - like a creed book. The church is not just doctrine. And it is not just the members of the church, the preacher or teacher does not use members, good or bad, with which to build.
I believe it is a combination of both. The materials are the doctrines received by the members, assimilated into their hearts and realized in their lives by practice and then bearing fruit of whatever teaching was given, and it is seen in the spiritual life of the members.
The fire here, will expose the quality of the fruit of the teaching that was done. This could be the judgement - Jesus would return in flaming fire in 2Thess.1:8. He is portrayed in Rev.2:18 as having eyes like a flame of fire - and the Hebrew writer says,
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Will the teaching we have done prepare our inner characters - the true product of our religion in our hearts, to stand before the exposing gaze of Jesus Christ?
Or the day of fire could be a day of trial or a day of affliction, that will put to the test whether our teaching has produced sound, healthy, spiritual lives, or teaching that has not equipped and prepared us to withstand in the evil day, or the day of visitation.
Therefore we need to take stock as to what fruit we are producing under the influence of the teaching that is being done.
II ) If we teach that the N.T. scriptures are a law, what does that produce?
A.) Our religion becomes legal, and by our legalism we have raised a generation of lawyers. What I mean by that is that when we say the N.T. scriptures are a law, then we begin interpreting it as law with specific and specialized rules to determine whether something is bound on me for obedience of not.
A very familiar example is mid-week Bible study.
"Where does it say that I have to attend Wednesday night Bible class?"
"Don't you think Christ will be pleased that you show an interest in learning more of his word?"
"Yes, but where does it command me to attend anything else but Sunday morning service?"
"Don't you think it would be good for your growth as a Christian?"
"I'm not coming because God has not commanded it, and therefore it is not required."
This person does not appreciate who he is in Christ and the new spiritual life that he is free to live unto God, growing closer to him every day and becoming experienced in a personal relationship to Jesus Christ, knowing his love and power in his life - because he is a lawyer, only doing what is required.
To a lawyer, it is only the Externals that are important, not the condition of the heart. The person who thinks we are under law will partake of the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week - because he is commanded to in 1Cor.11. You will see these people stop in from a vacation trip they are on and partake of the communion - then as soon as that is over, they will slip out the back door and continue their vacation, thinking they have fulfilled what is required of them. All earthly based faith's have at least this behavior in common. Communion is not a meeting of Jesus Christ in a living Personal relationship, remembering all that he has done for us and rejoicing in his victory, but a duty or chore that "you get it over with" so that your conscience can be clear for another week. Certainly God has commanded things in the N.T. for us to obey - but are we obeying a law, or obeying our Father's word out of love?
B.) When we view the scriptures as a law, people get worried and concerned about getting every little thing in the scriptures exactly right - with no thought about their attitude of heart. Some even legislate where God has not said anything about it. This was the Pharisee's problem too.
The only attitude that some in the church have developed from this teaching has been an exacting, sometimes petty zeal for a strict obedience without any thought to the character they are building.
Am I saying that it is wrong to get everything exactly right? No. But we will emphasize little things like the Pharisees did in exclusion of other weightier matters.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
We will legislate on women wearing pants in services.
We will legislate on whether Christians should smoke.
Whether or not we are using the word "church" correctly.
Whether or not to ban certain songs in the songbook, like "The Old Rugged Cross".
Brethren have legislated how many containers should be in the Lord's Supper.
We will make it a matter of law as to the observance of certain holidays.
And on and on and on.
I know that for a person walking in the truth, an application of the truth should be made on such matters as these. But I am talking about the church legislating on them. Petty observances.
These same careful people will turn around and forget about justice, which is a Weighty matter.
Justice: How we treat our fellow man. How we treat our brethren. When someone disagrees with us - do we launch a campaign to smear their name and reputation so that what they teach will be discounted? Or do we treat them fairly, and represent their views accurately in what we say, and treat them justly as to their character, giving them the respect we know any human being deserves?
I've gone through a lot of trials myself along this line and I was glad for the one man, who was the only man, who stood up and called for justice - "Treat this man fairly." he said. This was a weighty matter, a matter of character that all my righteous judges had forgotten.
Mercy: When someone wrongs us, do we go to them with a view to becoming reconciled with them, taking advantage of a good chance to show mercy? Or do we first, talk about the problem with everyone but this person, and vent our frustration and anger? Then when this person finally realizes that your feelings were hurt and you were angry, (they are usually the last to know) and when they apologize - do we in our hearts not forgive them and hold our resentment and anger toward them? do we exact our "pound of flesh" for what they did to us and get even?
In getting everything exactly right, we have forgotten to be merciful.
Faith: The Pharisees were not trusting in God to lead them and direct their steps, but in their own understanding and wisdom. That's what many in the church are doing also.
What does our right standing with God have for its basis?
The N.T. lawyers will think, "I'm right with God because I'm right on the issue of divorce and remarriage. Those who don't agree with me will be condemned." Is that what justifies us?
Instead of trusting in God to be merciful to our shortcomings, having faith in Jesus Christ our savior for our justification and right standing - we will trust in our own ability to know it all and do it all. Didn't the Lord say the same thing?
Also he spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men – extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’
And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!’
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Even after I knew it all and did it all - that is not the basis upon which God saved me. He saved me in the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for my sins. I trust in Christ as my savior, not in my ability to get everything just right and condemning others who differ with me - pushing myself up to an inflated height by my comparing myself with others.
Am I saying that it is wrong to get everything just right? No.
I am saying that when we treat the N.T. scriptures as a law - we are led to trust in ourselves and our own ability to do everything in the N.T. scriptures to be right with God, instead of trusting in Christ and being justified by faith in him.
C.) When we see the New Testament scriptures as a law the main reaction we have toward the truth and toward God is fear, a servile fear under the obligations laid upon us by the "Law of God." Fear not only of doing something wrong but also fear of not doing enough. Christians begin serving a God who is exacting and harsh and ready to squash you if you do anything wrong - instead of walking with Jesus Christ as a friend and guide and enjoying your freedom to serve God our of gratitude for what he has make available to you through Christ.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery again leading to fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”
The Spirit we received when we were saved, is not a Spirit that brings us the Bondage to fear like they had under the Law - but he is a Spirit that has to do with our adoption as sons, and we serve God as sons in his family, and not as hired slaves. The freedom we have in Christ is the Liberty to serve God in the spirit and not in bondage to a Law.
Am I talking about not following the N.T. scriptures? No.
It is how we follow then that I am discussing. We need to believe the truth of the scriptures and walk in the truth and not be enslaved to a law.
III ) There is a danger in preaching liberty.
Some will get the idea that we can just do anything we please with the church. Over the history of the "restoration" movement I see the membership defined like this:
Carnal Members Spiritual Members 1 Liberal Conservative Meek 2 Rejects rule for Iniquity Reacts by Law to Control Mind of Christ 3 Adopts the fashion of the world and denominationalism. Pharisaism bites and devours until consumed. Faith which works by love.
Submits heart and will completely to God.
Jno.8:25-32 cf. 8:43-47
The opposite of not being under law is not lawlessness.
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, so that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might gain Jews; to those who are under law, as under law, (though not being myself under law), that I might gain those who are under law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but in law of Christ ), that I might gain those who are without law; to the weak I became weak, so that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to all men, so that I might by all means save some.
We are not under law but in law to Christ. That is, we have his law written in our hearts. We do not head up the church with our own agenda of what we think it should be doing, but we let Christ be the head of the church - following his will and direction for what we should be doing and how we should be accomplishing his work.
We have already known that doing our own thing in the church is not the right way. Now we have attained to the understanding that we are not under law. Since we now understand, let us not over-react and swing over to this other error again toward iniquity.
IV ) There is a long term effect in what we believe.
The direction in which we grow and mature as Christians has everything to do with what we believe. The N.T. scriptures accurately describe the reality of spiritual things to us. And unless our growth is into and in accord with the reality of what really is, then we will find our growth hindered.
We cannot grow and become mature through error or illusion. We must grow in accordance with the truth, or we will find that our stature is built upon wood, hay and stubble. Unless we have that correct reality of truth in our hearts, we may find it very hard to mature at all. Instead of becoming spiritual, we will remain carnal.
In 1Cor.3, Paul was surprised to find that the Corinthians were still carnal - as babes in Christ. So he goes to the root of the problem, "What is being built on the foundation that I laid?" When you can look at the church in general today and see only multitudes of babes in Christ - fighting, fuming, fussing and dividing - you know the type of material the builders have been using.
Are we teaching gold, silver and precious stones or are we teaching wood, hay and stubble? What is the answer?
Be aware of what our doctrines are producing in our religious lives. Are they bringing us close to our God or are they bringing us into bondage, or maybe even looking and acting like the world? The need is, to have faith in Christ and walk with him in the spirit, submitting our will to God to serve him in liberty and newness of life. Approaching the scriptures as the truth, God's word to me, and the light that can guide me in my new life and not a law to enslave me to fear again.
Which of these teachings will stand the fire of trial or of judgement? Your personal relationship to Jesus Christ is the thing that will get you through any trial. Having your character schooled in the virtues of justice, mercy and the obedience of faith, will uphold you and cause you to stand in the evil day. And serving God out of gladness and freedom as his child will preserve your heart before him in love and obedience.
~ Invitation ~