December 15, 2016

Live theology — don’t argue about it

After attending Bible school and two different seminaries, it seems to me that many theologians spend too much time and effort working on ways to express their beliefs and opinions and not enough on living them out. This is not to disparage but observations teach an important reality; talking and arguing about theological beliefs can do more harm than good.

Today’s verse comes from this passage. It tells me to avoid wrangling over theology; get it right then behave accordingly . . . 

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:14–19)

I’m not sure what the “irreverent babble” involved in Paul’s day, but some of it seems to have involved the second coming of Jesus Christ. Christendom wrestles with the same problem today. Theologians, authors, and speakers focus on their predictions of when Jesus will return. They spout and write books that rapidly sell, with both author and readers forgetting that Jesus said no one will know that day.

In Paul’s day, ideas on this topic upset Christians and made them think they had missed it. In recent years, the same ‘swerving from the truth’ has upset the faith of many and caused some to sell everything and sit on a roof waiting for Jesus to appear.

Other false teaching has spread like gangrene. While the Bible says apart from Christ we can do nothing, and we should not trust in our own understanding but rely on the Lord for everything, just this week a Christian told me that “God helps those who help themselves.” Instead of relying on Jesus, he was messed up by this widespread but untrue teaching.

Jesus said the truth is what sets us free. He charges me to “rightly handle the Word of truth” which means avoiding theological arguments. If what I learn from the Bible is true, it will change my life — and that is far greater proof of it than anything I can say.

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