It is the inborn tendencies of our fallen nature that trip us up in our quest for a knowledge of God and make us vulnerable to the deception of the enemy. Failing to understand as we should the absolute authority of Christ and our utter dependence upon Him, we plunge ahead anyhow, trusting in our own abilities.
Our curiosity and rebellious independence drive us to intrude into areas of truth God may not be revealing and to reason out “answers” anyway. Deut. 29:29. We do just the opposite of God’s counsel in Prov. 3:5-6. We trust in ourselves; we lean to our own understanding; we pay “lip service” to acknowledging the Lord while we “bulldoze” our own paths.
Think of the great men of God who prophesied of the coming of Christ and the glory to follow. I Peter 1:10-12. One of the great trials of their faith was surrendering their many unanswered questions to the One Who had called them. Think of Daniel, who, in spite of his burning curiosity, was willing to “shut up the words and seal the book.” Daniel 12:4-9.
There are many things we will not understand this side of eternity. Faith calls upon us to rest in God’s wisdom and to not concern ourselves about things He chooses not to reveal. As to the rest, we are subject to His choice of time, place and manner. The walk of faith requires us to trust in our Heavenly Father and in His Son in these matters, confident of their faithfulness to give us such knowledge as we need.
Faith also requires that we recognize and receive those God specially calls to “labour in the word and doctrine.” I Tim. 5:17. It goes against our nature to recognize that we do not all have the same access to God in these matters but that is the case.
The body of Christ consists of many members, each unique in his call and place. I Cor. 12. The church will only reach her destiny as God calls and anoints apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, and as the rest of the body recognizes and submits to the Christ who is present among them by that anointing. Eph. 4:11-16. In salvation, we all have exactly the same access to God through the blood of Christ and we receive exactly the same righteousness credited to our account. Eph. 1:7, 2:13-18, II Cor. 5:21. Yet, in the function of the body, some, by virtue of their call, have an access to a revelation of truth others do not have. Of course, that access is not for their private enjoyment but is God’s way of providing needed revelation for the body as a whole that all may benefit, even as our natural eyes and ears provide their special functions for the benefit of our bodies as a whole.
Moses’ sister Miriam learned the hard way about differences in call and anointing. She imagined in her heart that because God had used her, there was no real difference between her and Moses. Her feelings surfaced when Moses married an Ethiopian woman. The Bible itself doesn’t say whether it was right or wrong, but she was critical and took the opportunity to express her inward feelings and to speak against him. Numbers 12:1-2.
Of course, God heard it. Aaron had been brought into Miriam’s rebellion but it is evident that she was the instigator. God called them before the tabernacle and made it very plain that Moses was indeed different from them and that He was angry with their presumption. In speaking against Moses, they were actually speaking against the God Who had called him and put him in the place he occupied. Numbers 12:4-9.
They repented, but that the lesson might be thoroughly learned, Miriam remained a leper outside the camp for seven days. The whole nation had to sit and wait till she was healed and brought back in. Numbers 12:10-12. Amazingly, Korah, Dathan and Abiram and 250 princes of the assembly made the same mistake in Numbers 16! When they persisted in their challenge, God caused the earth to swallow up not only them, but their families and possessions as well.
God takes these matters seriously and so should we.
Of course, in our day, the challenge is in identifying those who are genuinely God’s servants — very few — from the many who give expression to some other form of inspiration. As we have previously indicated, God is both able and willing to reveal His true servants to those whose hearts genuinely desire Him.
We need to be able to recognize those few called and anointed to be “fathers,” those with a God-given vision of the family of God in the earth, with the spiritual ability to beget children of God, and with a disposition to bring together and to nurture His children through good times and bad. I Cor. 4:15. Phil. 1:3-11. God has promised to “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers ….” Mal. 4:6.
It is not our Heavenly Father’s desire that those who are genuinely His children should be scattered throughout the many divisions that prevail in professing Christianity, each contending for his own set of traditions. His heart is expressed in the words of His Son in Matt. 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Spiritual rest only begins as the true gospel of the grace of God is revealed to our hearts and we are enabled to place all of our trust in the work of Christ on the cross. Too many of God’s children, however, know little of the practical rest that results from learning of Christ. He is the Teacher we need.
It is widely believed by professing Christians that all that is really necessary is that we “believe the essentials,” meaning that we believe that the Bible is the word of God, that salvation is through personal faith in Christ, and so on. In other areas of doctrine, considered beyond the basics, it is believed that we are free to disagree, each embracing his own concept and understanding.
Is there not “... one Lord, one faith ...” (Eph. 4:5)? Did not Jesus pray that we might be one, that the world might believe that the Father had sent Him (John 17:20-21)? How is it that we have come to justify division? Where did this “wisdom” come from? Did it come from above? I think you know the answer!
There are no non-essential doctrines. Every revealed truth is important to the spiritual well-being of God’s children. Everything we truly learn of Him brings a measure of spiritual rest through understanding. It is light that dispels the lies and confusion spewed forth by the serpent to pervert our thinking about God.
Do you really suppose that God, seeing His children in need, would trouble Himself to reveal relevant truth, and not care that men ignore His loving wisdom to believe as they please? What He reveals is not one opinion among many to be embraced or discarded as we see fit. We don’t need theological debate. We need the word of God.
When we don’t know, we need to be willing to say with simple honesty, “I don’t know.” There is no shame in that. The shame lies in pretending we do know and coming up with “answers” anyway.
One of the afflictions of our unbelieving nature is the need to have a theological system that answers all the questions and fills in all of the blanks. We like our religion set down “in black and white.” Trusting God with unanswered questions and saying, “I don’t know,” seems awfully scary and uncertain to an unbelieving heart.
We want a religion that can be learned by study and taught man-to-man, not one that must be revealed, God-to-man. If you prefer the former, take your pick: there are thousands to choose from! Which one is right? Or, make up your own!
The alternative is to seek God, believing He will faithfully answer our need according to His own infinite wisdom. Heb. 11:6. Do you see how most religion rests upon a foundation of unbelief? Faith is not embracing and practicing a ready-made system; it is a pilgrim journey in which we walk with God and learn of His Son by revelation through the Word.
Our Heavenly Father desires that His children have a personal faith and conviction, that they have a good conscience in what they believe. There is a measure of responsibility that rests upon the individual believer.
God has not left us to our own resources in exercising that responsibility. When Jesus spoke to His disciples of the coming of the Holy Spirit, He began, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth....” John 16:13. It should be painfully obvious that a great variety of other spirits have guided most professing Christians into what they believe: if it were not so, they would agree!
In I John 2:26-27, John was teaching and warning concerning false teachers: “These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you, But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.”
Every truly born-again child of God has His Spirit on the inside. Gal. 4:6. Rom. 8:9, 11, 15-16. There is only one Spirit. Eph 4:4. Whether the scriptures refer to that Spirit as the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Christ, they are referring to the same indwelling Spirit.
Those not born of God (including those begotten of mere religion) lack the capacity to learn and understand the things of God. I Cor. 2:9-16. But in that passage, Paul says of believers, “But we have the mind of Christ.”
While true believers have the capacity to learn the things of God, they can be, and often are, very ignorant spiritually. A normal newborn baby has all five senses and a brain but their usefulness is very limited. He cannot see clearly. His brain is not capable of mature reasoning or of correctly interpreting the signals which come from his undeveloped senses. He needs time, growth and exercise to gain the practical use of his inborn abilities. That’s just how it is in spiritual matters. Read Heb. 5:11-14 where the writer speaks of his difficulty in communicating deeper truth because his hearers were “babes” in terms of spiritual development. Verse 14 says, “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
Note: ability to tell the difference between what is good and what is evil only comes from exercise and spiritual maturity. Even Jesus, our Elder Brother, “increased in wisdom” as He grew up! Luke 2:52.
I John 2:27 almost sounds as though we don’t need anybody else, that we are equipped to walk with God all by ourselves. That, of course, is nowhere near the truth. John is simply pointing out the fact that within the fellowship of believers, individual members, as well as the body as a whole, have God’s Spirit to teach them.
It is by God’s indwelling Spirit that we are enabled, as individual believers, to recognize the same Spirit in others. That is how we are able to “try the spirits” (I John 4:1). That is how we are able to “prove all things,” and to “hold fast that which is good” (I Thess. 5:21).
This ability, as we have said, is one that must grow and develop. Just as God’s order for babies is that they be born and raised in loving families that nurture and teach them, so is it in spiritual matters. The fellowship of those of like Spirit and the God-given abilities of those anointed to watch over the flock (I Peter 5:1-4) provide the individual believer a place of safety, where he can grow and his personal ability to rightly discern can develop within the context of the greater wisdom of the body as a whole.
As the scripture says, “... in the multitude of counsellers there is safety.” Prov. 11:14. A principle honored throughout God’s word is the need for two or three witnesses to establish a word. Deut. 19:15. Matt. 18:16.
God’s Spirit in one of His children will cause them to desire the fellowship of others of like Spirit and to recognize that Christ is come in the flesh of His body the Church (I John 4:3). There is a perfect balance in God’s plan between the measure of the gift of Christ given to individual members and the body as a whole. Eph. 4:7. Each needs the other. Properly joined together and to the Head, all may grow spiritually in an atmosphere of love. Eph. 4:16. There is a great need for men who not only have this revelation, but who also have the call and anointing of God to bring it to pass. Eph. 4:11-13. In the meantime, believers can start where they are, desiring from their hearts to be taught of the Lord.
Whereas religious unbelievers must “feel” or “understand intellectually,” it is by the witness of God’s indwelling Spirit that we are enabled to find a rest of faith in truths we don’t fully understand or necessarily “feel.” That witness is one of inward peace. Col. 3:15 begins, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts....” James 3:17 says, But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable....”
For example, it should be obvious to anyone following this series of articles that I believe strongly in the sovereignty of God. Why? I certainly don’t understand all of the mysteries involved. My flesh finds the truth distasteful and would prefer to take credit for some kind of self-effort. However, I’ve often heard anointed ministry on the subject and have had that confirmed repeatedly by God’s witness of peace to my heart that what I was hearing was His truth and not the mere ideas of a preacher.
I fellowship with other believers who have experienced the same thing and testified to it. Along the way have come precious nuggets of understanding that have increased my appreciation for this great truth. The more I learn, the more rest I experience. God has given me a personal faith in this area, yet I am not alone. I could testify to this in many other areas of truth as well. This is our Father’s desire for His children.
It is undoubtedly the most dangerous time in history, spiritually speaking. To stick your head in the sand and to blindly say, “I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing” (Rev. 3:17), is folly.
Folks, we need the Lord. We need the ministry He has equipped. We need the body of Christ. We need this in order “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”
Do not be hasty either to receive or to dismiss that which comes in the name of truth. Where you are uncertain, learn to look to the Lord and to wait on Him. “Putting it on the shelf” is often in order. The Lord is faithful to bear witness to that which is of Him.
That goes for what I have written. If, in the course of writing there are points I have made that, after your honest and prayerful consideration, God does not back up with a witness of peace, set those points aside. But be sure to hold fast that which is good. I Thess. 5:21. God holds each of us responsible for the truth He causes us to encounter. Well, I’ve written far more than I set out to. If you have been challenged even a little to question and to examine and to seek God as never before then I’m thankful. If we know anything at all, it’s by His grace!
What you do with what has been said is between you and God. “The ball is in your court.”
I hope to see you on that day, if not before. May God bless you!