Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Full-Grown Man - A Man of Knowledge

When writing to the Corinthian church, Paul addressed a problem that was going on in their church regarding speaking in tongues. He reminds the Corinthians to be mature in their thinking.
"Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature." (1 Corinthians 14:20)
An he directly applied this to their thinking about the scriptures and how they applied the word of God to themselves and their church.
"In the Law it is written, 'By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to me,' says the Lord. So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe." (1 Corinthians 14:21-22)
Paul's exhortation to them was that, when it came to the scriptures and their understanding and knowledge of them, they should no longer be babes but rather mature in their thinking. He exhorted them to grow up in their cognitive abilities to perceive, judge, and know the things of the scriptures and what they really say, not just what others have told them they say. They needed to grow up to the place where they could know and understand the scriptures for themselves, and that in a mature and rational way.

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesian church, tells us why it is so important that we become mature in our thinking.
"As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming." (Ephesians 4:14)
The English language does not do this scripture justice in bringing out all the wonderful color of the words Paul used to express his thought. Be that as it may, Paul was concerned about three types of deception that, if we remain as children in our minds, we might fall prey to.

First is the doctrine of the day. There will always be the latest thing, the newest idea, the present fad. However, if we follow after every "wind" of doctrine that comes around we will end up being tossed to and fro and will never make real progress in our walk in the Lord. Jumping on the latest bandwagon may get us into the "in crowd" but may also get us a ride where we do not want to do.

Secondly he warns us of the trickery of men, which literally means the fraud of dice-playing men. A fraud, in terms of doctrine, is purporting something to be true when it is in fact false or purposely twisting what is true so that it becomes false. Often this comes when someone purposely misrepresents or reinterprets the scriptures, replacing one word for another, in an attempt to make God's word say something that it does not.

Thirdly, he warns us of the craftiness in deceitful scheming, which literally means to fall prey to the sophicity of men as they work their plan to deceive. This is often the case, in reference to doctrine, when they present an explanation for the scriptures which seams plausible  yet their explanation fails to find agreement with the rest of the scriptures, the message of Jesus, and/or the teaching of the Apostles.

In all these cases the goal is to deceive. The word used here by Paul us a very interesting word. It is the same word from which we get our word for Planets. The early astronomers watched the sky and notices that each star carved its assigned arc through the sky. There were, however, a handful of other luminaries that would not keep to their assigned arc. Their traversal was erratic  out of line, departing from the way. These were called planets because they wandered from the truth. The goal of all deception is to get us to wander from the truth, to wander from truth into error. 

Paul's warns us that we might become mature in our thinking; that we might guard against such deception and keep ourselves in the right way. However, such maturity of thought does not come overnight nor without effort, discipline, and practice. The writer of Hebrews reminds us,
"Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil." (Hebrews 5:11-14)
Again, Darby renders it "solid food belongs to full-grown men." Becoming a man or woman of knowledge does not just happen, it takes concerted effort and time to develop the faculties of our mind to receive and understand the "solid food" of the gospel. Notice that the writer says first that developing our minds takes practice, or literally, use or habit. It is something that we must commit to. Knowledge rarely comes through serendipity  but rather is sought out, forged, and is the result of much work. We must also train our senses, that part of our mind where we form perceptions and judgments. The word for "train" is the Greek word from which we get our word "gymnasium" and latterly means to practice naked. We must exercise and train our minds towards righteousness; to discerning or judging between good and evil; we must practice thinking. Finally, notice that the entire context is in regards to the "word of righteousness." In the very next verse the writer says, "Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity." (Hebrews 6:1) again with a reference back to the word of righteousness and the teaching of the Christ. It is through this pursuit of knowledge and the training of our mind that we grow in our abilities and help to make ourselves mature that we might begin to partake of "solid food" and not just "milk".

One final thought, I've used the term knowledge meaning more than just static information, but rather knowledge that is made comparable with behavior, character, and thought. It is not enough to know truth, but we must live the truth for the truth to have any power and effect in our lives. Jesus, speaking of laying a foundation of truth in our lives says,
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell — and great was its fall." (Matthew 7:24-27)
Notice that the only difference between the two groups of people was not what they heard but what they did with what they heard. Laying a foundation is not found in hearing truth but rather in living truth. True knowledge cannot exist outside of obedience. Knowledge, without incorporating that knowledge into our lives, is dead; it has not the power to change, equip, or strengthen us; it has become powerless in our lives. As we pursue knowledge let us always remember that we are pursuing more than just information, we are pursuing knowledge that we might live in the ways of truth.

David Robison

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