Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pastoral Ponderings ~ The Implications of the Contradictory Nature of Implications

The Implications of the Contradictory Nature of Implications
          God’s word tells the preacher to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”[1]To preach the word means just that, to preach the word of God.
          Paul has just stated that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”[2]The preacher preaches “the word” because it is only the word that is “breathed out by God.”
          This means that, there is no way for a preacher to teach implications. A preacher cannot say that a text implies something, and then preach on that implication as if it is also breathed-out by God. It is the “words” of Scripture that are breathed-out by God, not the implications that the preacher reads between the lines, so to speak.
          One of the dangers of the church is that people believe that whoever sounds most knowledgeable about a subject must be the best teacher. Obviously, the more someone knows, the better they can teach, right?
          This would be true if we limited what people know and teach to the words of Scripture. However, when people appear to have super knowledge of things that Paul refers to as, “beyond what is written,”[3]they don’t really “know” what they are teaching. When they teach us to build our lives on things they say are implied in a text, they aren’t speaking in line with the authority of God’s word, but are presenting themselves as an authority who has discovered an implication in Scripture that God didn’t see fit to say clearly, hence the need for brilliant teachers to tell us common folk that such things are there.
          On the other hand, when a preacher calls people to back up from all dependence on man-centered implications, and let go of any “position” that is fabricated by these implications instead of the clear teaching of God’s breathed-out words, the preacher is treated as an ignoramus because he doesn’t “know” as much as the other teachers. Paul dealt with this in II Corinthians when his ministry was under threat by those who were heralded as “super apostles”.[4]
          Paul warned about such things when he continued his exhortation to pastors to preach the word. He wrote, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”[5]
          “Myths” would include implications. When a preacher says that he sees an implication in a text, but there is nowhere in Scripture that it plainly says what he thinks is implied, it is a myth, something that is unprovable. The Church is never told to live by every implication of Scripture, but “by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”[6]
          One of the dangers in all this is that people become followers of men instead of followers of God. We become devoted to favorite teachers, not realizing that we are allowing them to fill our minds with things they think are implied in Scripture, rather than simply teaching us “the whole counsel of God.”[7]
          Part of the problem is that we are afraid to live by faith. We want knowledge so much that we will treat myths as truth, and implications as revelations. We are afraid to live with unanswered questions. We want Jesus to tell us right now “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”[8]And we don’t really like it when he says, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”[9]
          So, when teachers come along who say more than Scripture, and explain things beyond what is written, we feel a sarky sense of security because now we “know” what to think. Of course, we must ignore the fact that what one groups says they know contradicts what another group says they know. And we need to ignore all the ways that we rest our faith on what a preacher teaches as implied rather than what God’s word says as clearly stated.
          I want to live with the little I “know” because it is clearly taught in God’s word, than a whole bunch of myths that just happen to be shared by a whole bunch of people who hold the same implication-riddled viewpoint.
          I will stick with what Scripture clearly says about spiritual gifts, not people’s sarky implications that make too little or too much of these expressions of God’s grace.
          I will stick with the beautiful pictures of revelation regarding the end times, and marvel at the glory of God’s victorious work in the church, without depending on anything that teachers believe is implied regarding the times or seasons that only the Father can know. His breathed-out words say we cannot know these things, so I will not trust what someone teaches as implied.
          My faith rests in the wonderful gift of God’s words that give us a childlike faith in God our Father. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ,”[10]so I will put my faith in what preachers preach from the word of God, and put no faith in anyone or anything that requires me to treat a man-discovered implication as holding the same authority as God’s breathed-out words.
          While I put no faith in what preachers think is an implied message of Scripture, there are implications to believing that we are not to treat implications as authoritative messages from God. However, the implication’s side of things is in how we apply the words of God to our lives, not in how we interpret the breathed-out words of God.
          We receive the words of Christ as authoritative, and feel our faith grow as we meditate on every word that comes from the mouth of God, but then we must “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”[11]God is working in us in fulfillment and expression of his breathed-out words.
          This inner working of God, which is always in perfect conformity to the breathed-out words of God, requires us to work out the things he is working into us. We can read Scriptures without allowing any implications added to the meaning of a text, while realizing the implications of that breathed-out text to things we are going through, and things we are dealing with. We do not give these implications the same authority of Scripture, but treat them as our side of the relationship, where we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
          For example, a husband can say that the breathed-out words of Scripture very clearly tell him to love his wife as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her.[12] He doesn’t add the thought that Paul somehow implied that this only applied to the culture of the first century. He doesn’t believe that the text implies that this is just as much spoken to wives as husbands. He takes husbands to mean husbands, wives to mean wives, and Christ loving the church and giving himself for the church to mean all the things Scripture has already clearly stated about Jesus laying down his life for his friends.[13]
          Once a husband knows that God is talking to him, and that this has to do with his way of relating to his own wife, and that the example he is to obey and follow is that of Jesus loving his church as demonstrated by giving himself up as the sacrifice for our sin, he can then work out the implications of following Christ in his relationship to his wife. He can consider the implications of doing things the way Jesus did them in the specifics of whatever they are going through together.
          A Christian husband can look at this text and understand that it is plainly spoken for all husbands, throughout the whole church, in every generation of God’s people until the return of Christ, and yet see that the implications for him in his marriage leads to working out his own salvation with fear and trembling in ways that are distinct from what other men may be required to do. The implications of a husband loving his wife through a battle with cancer may be somewhat different in detail than the husband who is loving his wife as she flourishes in ministry, but both are guided by the straightforward revelation of God’s words about these things.
          I encourage us to pay careful attention to what we believe. While preachers will make applications of Scripture to things that Scripture does not directly speak about, the exhortation of obedient faith must be what the Scripture says, not what someone thinks it implies. Preachers must apply, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds,”[14]to variations of brokenheartedness and wounds that the Psalm-writer may never have heard of. However, they preach very clearly that the “He,” is “the LORD,”[15]because that is what the text says. They preach that the LORD heals, and he binds up, because that is what the text says.
          As the preacher preaches the word, people feel God working in them to will and to work for his good pleasure. With faith in God’s word, they endure things that would otherwise be unendurable. They deal with things the Bible doesn’t speak about with absolute faith in what God’s word does speak about very clearly.
          There is so much for us to live by faith that it is a waste of time, and harmful to the church, when we share our faith with things that preachers and teachers think are implied in Scripture. Why would we want to give any authority to such things when God has given us a whole book filled with things that he really said?

© 2015 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] II Timothy 4:2
[2] II Timothy 3:16-17
[3] I Corinthians 4:6
[4] II Corinthians 11:5; 12:11
[5] II Timothy 4:3-4
[6] Matthew 4:4
[7] Acts 20:27
[8] Acts 1:6
[9] Acts 1:7
[10] Romans 10:17
[11] Philippians 2:12-13
[12] Ephesians 5:25
[13] John 15:13
[14] Psalm 147:3
[15] Psalm 147:1-2, and the remainder of the Psalm

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