Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weighing A Message at Corinth

Weighing A Message at Corinth (1 Cor 14:29)

The “weighing” of prophecy in this verse is just the same as our “weighing” of what is said in a sermon: which every congregation does today after a sermon. You have - or should have - an opinion about the sermon, a response. And it would be totally informal, and usually also totally private and personal. So this instruction is as important a challenge to the church of today as it was to the church in Corinth when Paul first wrote it. Paul is saying to us today: Don’t automatically believe everything you hear, not even everything you hear in a sermon! Assess it! Evaluate it!

It is actually easier and clearer to us today to do this, because we have the complete Scripture available and accessible. They would have had their knowledge of true teaching, pure doctrine, from what they had heard from Paul and others like him. But just as they - and we - are to resist evil, so also it is important to resist error. Jesus himself warned (Matthew 7:15) that false teachers would come like wolves in sheep’s clothing, false followers who would be capable of wreaking havoc amongst the flock of God.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 Paul said again the same kind of thing: Put everything you hear (even from prophets) to the test, and hold fast to what is good. Later, to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:29-30) he was to exhort them to guard themselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit of God had made them overseers, for savage wolves are coming to ravage the flock. (What a clear reminiscence of Jesus’s teaching!)

In the same way Peter (in 2 Peter 2:1-3) warns that, as there were false prophets of old, so there will be false teachers invading the church in his day, promoting destructive heresies.

In recent centuries down to present times - as indeed before, throughout church history - there have come false prophets in the church, enemies of the gospel masquerading as children of light (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). And also quite often there are earnest and genuine followers of the Lord who, in their teaching, simply are sincerely astray, sincerely wrong.

Too often the church of God has been too slow to weigh the teaching of the teachers against the Scripture, and to denounce error for what it is. The combined result is to be seen in parts of the church today: places where believers were previously true to the Scriptures but who now have accepted wrong teaching about the things of God, and wrong moral and ethical standards which are contrary to the Word of God.

And if we ourselves are called to a ministry of prophecy, of preaching - instructing, exhorting, and encouraging the people of God - this underlines the responsibility we are undertaking. James 3:1 reminds us that teachers will be judged with greater strictness. Paul says to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3), “instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine.” And Paul says here, “Weigh carefully what is said.”

Let us do this conscientiously, testing what is being taught against the whole teaching of the Word of God. Isaiah said (8:20) “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no light.” To do this requires that we are diligent and teachable students of the Bible, so that we put ourselves genuinely in a position today to evaluate preaching accurately by biblical standards, and we do not reject something just on the grounds that it is at variance with something else we learnt before. Like the Bereans of Acts 17:11, we must be active in searching the Scriptures for ourselves, as to whether these things are so.

The general teaching of the Scripture is that we are to accept the leadership of our leaders, and give them our loyal obedience (1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Corinthians 16:16; Hebrews 13:17). But this is to be balanced by a healthy scepticism which weighs up what is being said by the preacher: for Paul here puts this into balance. The fact that something is said by a prophet, a preacher, a leader in the church, does not automatically guarantee that it is right and true, and a word from God. Perhaps if those in earlier generations had been more alert to assess, identify, and counter wrong teaching, we may not have to the same extent the doctrinal and moral confusion which exists in many parts of today’s church. Perhaps if we heed now these words of warning from Paul, we may do a better job of guarding the deposit of God’s truth and handing it on faithfully - and accurately - to the next generation, as Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2 challenged Timothy to do, and as Jude 3 also exhorts us.


Ward

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1 comment:

Seeker said...

And if I or an angel from heaven teach you another gospel than Christ in us Jesus dying on the cross to ensure this is possible Let him be accursed.

We are only to be obedient when the laws etc. are revealing the truth of peace, righteousness and joy or more correctly phrased based on the laws introduced. So irrespective of how we look at this grace and mercy is in the laws. Love and obedience in the foundation of the records of the apostles and prophets.