June 3, 2015

Watch how I talk

2 Chronicles 6:12–8:18, Titus 1:10–16, Psalm 94:1–23

In the New Testament, God warns that not many should be teachers. Standing up before the people of God to teach them is a weighty responsibility. Even though God provides teachers and the spiritual gift of teaching, He is aware of the damage His people can do with their talk.

I am aware of this too. Sometimes I want to talk and know I should be quiet. Sometimes I am quiet and know that I should say something. The Lord disciplines me for being contrary.

Today’s OT reading begins with Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of God’s temple. “Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands.” (2 Chronicles 6:12). Then he talked to God.  

This verse stood out to me because he did this in the presence of all the people. So much of my spiritual life is a private matter. I usually pray alone, study alone, and when God answers prayer, I share it with a few rather than all the people. I’m assuming many are like me. Yet one of my seminary professors said that a careful reading of the psalms shows God intends our thanksgiving be a corporate sharing.

Talking to God aloud before others can be difficult. However, speaking to God alone, or about the goodness of God to only a few people could be compared to exercising only one muscle. That part of the body is built up and strengthened, but the rest is left out and may even suffer. My prayers, studies, praise, and thanksgiving are intended to be shared with others in the body of Christ.

Yet teaching those is the body of Christ is reserved for a few. Why is that? To me, the obvious answer is that not everyone is qualified to teach. However, there is a greater problem with allowing just anyone to teach . . .

“For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” (Titus 1:10–11)

Empty talkers who defy authority and deliver a false message (for money, no less) should not be allowed to stand before the people of God and publicly teach. Paul says they should be silenced and if this command were obeyed today, many of the “teachers” on television and who write books would be put out of business.

In their case, insubordination is rebellion against established doctrine, the teaching agreed upon by the body of Christ and expressed in creeds and statements of faith. The circumcision party refers to those who insist that salvation requires that certain laws or rules must be kept or no one can be saved. That is, they mix human works with grace and ruin whole households because of this false teaching.

The phrase shameful gain is obvious. These ‘teachers’ are in it for the money. Proud people want to hear how they can contribute to their salvation, some to the point that they will pay those who give them this “good” news, even though it is empty, false, and deceptive.

For this, even the psalmist prays, “Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve! O Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult? They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast.” (Psalm 94:2–4)

Is it unkind to ask God to deal with those who do these things? Some say we are supposed to be kind and merciful, but God says He disciplines those He loves. The psalmist puts it this way: “Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law, to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked. For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage.” (Psalm 94:12–14)

It is far better to be under the heavy hand of God as our Father, than to be ignored and allowed to persist in evil and destined to the pit that is dug for the wicked.

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