I received an email today that got me thinking. The author had been a spiritual mentor to my husband and myself over 20 years ago. It is thanks to his sharing the wonderful truth about God’s self-less love that we became a happily married couple instead of joining the ranks of the divorced.
The author says: “The conscientious, alert follower of Jesus is in constant tension. Every wind of doctrine is blowing with force. Publications on the Internet and by printing are flooding our mailboxes, both postal and electronic. Voices are clamoring to be heard with new interpretations of key Bible teaching. Some are seriously aberrant but are clothed in appealing language that is intended to deceive “if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24).
“The tension is heightened by remembering that it is wrong and stupid to let oneself be deceived by clever falsehoods (we should by now have “eye salve,” Rev. 3:18), but at the same time it is a revived rejection of Christ if we “despise … prophesyings” that are of heavenly origin (cf. 1 Thess. 5:20). The Lord has a way of raising up “messengers” (often humble ones!) to whom He has revealed new truth that His people need to hear. They are new “Elijahs” facing the hide-bound old King Ahabs, or new “John the Baptists” facing the old “Sanhedrims” that still condemn truth.
“In John 6 Jesus stood alone before the Jews, confronting them with a real problem: He split the congregation! The leaders and people were perplexed; how could they interpret the data about Jesus? Was He the Messiah? Were the evidences He gave them valid proofs? We say “yes!” but the problems weren’t always easy for the people. Not one of the leaders of the people accepted Him for what He said He was. That confused the common people.
“Jesus sympathized with their perplexity, and He sympathizes with yours. He said, “If anyone wants to do [the Father’s] will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17). That promise doesn’t excuse us from studying; evidence must be carefully weighed. But it is an assurance of the unerring guidance of the Holy Spirit. Now is the time when we need it as never before!”¹
Not all winds of doctrine are winds of error. Some are winds with great power for we are told in Revelation 18 that a mighty angel comes with great power. This means that we must inspect any teaching from the scriptures, not from the perspective we have been taught to hold.
Leavened with Antisemitism
Even as Paul was writing his letters, he recognized a power at work that was leavening the church with error. It has been a power that has been at work since the expulsion from Eden. Cain wanted to obey the law in a way that recognized it but allowed his contribution to be meritorious. Abel recognized that he had no merit, and brought the sacrifice exactly as specified. One is spoken of Paul as having faith.
This same leaven entered the early Christian church. The adversary worked from two angles. He used Judaizers to confuse the Galations with works of the law which Paul then spoke out strongly against, for human effort can never attain righteousness, for no amount of human effort reproduces the self-less love revealed by God through multiple acts of mercy throughout history, and especially at Golgotha.
This brings us to Satan’s second angle. He used unstable minds to twist what Paul was preaching to foster anti-semitic attitudes. His goal was to remove those things from the church that would keep fresh in the believer’s mind the vital truths of salvation. The devil didn’t care how he deactivated the positive aspects of the Jewish economy. He didn’t want Christian’s to remember their roots.
So for us today, we need to ask ourselves, “Am I imbibing in the same attitude that led to the falling away?” It was the hatred of all things Jewish that led the church into apostasy.
Yes, there were problems within Judaism. These were problems that Paul and the other apostles addressed vigorously. And interestingly enough, they are problems that Judaism has also striven with over the intervening centuries. God’s spirit hasn’t left those who study His word, including those whose study has been the Tanakh and especially Torah.
It was never God’s intention to destroy the Jews. That has been Satan’s work. Satan has feared for centuries what might happen to the Christian church if Jews and Christians started to speak with each other. Christians might begin to see something about the character of God that they want to emulate.
Is it possible that we don’t want to study into “Jewish” things like the festivals because we “know everything we need to know” already? Could we unconsciously be saying, “I’m rich and increased with goods. I don’t need anything.”
Unless we take the promise to heart “If anyone wants to do [the Father’s] will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God”, we could find ourselves among those who reject the remedy recommended by the Great Physician–“Buy of me, eye salve.” He has no desire to spew you out of His mouth. Yet, we are warned. “Babylon is fallen, is fallen. Come out of her my people.”
A Great Fall
What made her fall? Her embracing of the pagan things that had been so much trouble to the children of Israel. She claimed the power to Christianize these things. Did she really have this power? That’s another question for another time.
¹From the “Dial Daily Bread” Archive: August 20, 2005.