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I am not talking about the obvious dangers of false or bad doctrine, but the danger of sound doctrine, so you did read the title correctly. On the one extreme we have a broad group who believe that doctrine divides and who feel that under the heading of “True Christian Love” doctrinal differences should be set aside for the sake of unity. On the other extreme, there is a more rigid and dogmatic group, who’s whole identity is defined by their doctrinal purity and who’s unity depends on all adherents agreeing on all points of doctrine, which they believe justifies the label of “persona non-grata” for all other Christians, who don’t agree with them.

These thoughts and concerns have been a growing challenge in my own life, with a cupboard full of doctrinally correct T-shirts and a lengthy list of undesirables who did not agree with me doctrinally.

Apart from the armchair apologists’ (and avid internet searchers’) insistence on particular biblical interpretations, today we are also faced with the clamor to be politically correct on moral, social, gender and racial issues with the grayed lines of relativity between right and wrong fueling endless debate.

Two Central Issues

I have found that the simplest and yet most profound truths have been plainly declared in the opening chapters of Genesis, the very beginning of the Bible. It is here that I believe we find the heart of God on this thorny issue that has been the cause of brother murdering brother, both physically and spiritually for millennia, ever since Cain killed his brother Abel. Wars have been fought, Christians burnt at the stake, drowned, despised, defamed and rejected by fellow believers in the name of doctrinal purity throughout church history.

The Lord has drawn very specific attention to the two trees that “were in the midst of the garden”. These trees were central in the Garden of Eden and they remain central to everything that we are about today. I’m referring of course to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. While we have every reason to believe that these were physical trees with edible fruit, they obviously represent something far greater.

Absolutes

A simple and even superficial reading of the Bible will display an unambiguous declaration of God’s absolutes of good and evil. Therefore, the clearest, most accurate knowledge of good and evil can only be learned from God’s Word, the Bible. In fact, when Christians have their spiritual senses exercised by “use of the Word of God” they are able to (correctly) discern between good and evil, according to Hebrews 5:14. Simply put, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil represents the Bible or God’s Word and the sound doctrine it contains.

The Source of Everlasting life

Also in the midst of the garden was the Tree of Life, which represented the source of everlasting life. It is abundantly clear from Scripture and particularly the Gospel of John, that the Lord Jesus Himself is the giver of eternal life. The Tree of Life therefore represents the life that He alone can give. The metaphor in the Garden of Eden of a tree, of fruit and eating in order to obtain eternal life is clearly explained in John’s Gospel, by introducing us to another concept of the Bible (other than the knowledge of good and evil).  The Bible is not just the printed book, but it is a person, the Living Word, Jesus. The Lord Jesus further demonstrates and explains that like the five loaves that were broken and became sufficient to feed the five thousand and like the manna that fed the nation in the wilderness, He is that bread which we need to eat in order to have eternal life.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

The two trees in the garden represent the two aspects of the Bible, or two sides to the same coin – it is the source of the knowledge of good and evil but it is also the source of everlasting life. A sound knowledge of good and evil or a sound grasp of good doctrine requires careful study, but to consume the living bread requires a revelation which only the Holy Spirit can give us.

Subtle Danger

The danger of sound doctrine is that it is knowledge and knowledge puffs up. It is this pride that causes us to despise those who do not agree with us and it is this very pride in us that God resists. Therefore, a knowledge of sound doctrine could cause us to ‘slay’ our brother as Cain did to Abel and there is also every likelihood that God Himself will oppose us.

Jesus demonstrated this great truth when He joined two disciples walking to Emmaus, He explained to them how the whole Bible was in fact about Himself. If ever two people heard sound doctrine, it was that day, but it was only when Jesus opened their spiritual eyes that they grasped who He is and what the Scriptures really mean. If our sound doctrine does not lead us to a ever-growing revelation of Jesus that changes our attitude and behavior and makes us more Christ-like in our dealings with fellow Christians, we have only eaten of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and not the Tree of Life.

The Higher Purpose of Sound Doctrine

In summary, we need to be ‘good Bereans’ searching the Scriptures to see if these things are so because false doctrines are the order of the day. We need to be taught and to learn sound doctrine and be fully persuaded in our own minds but there is a higher calling. If we only know what is good and what is evil doctrinally, we will be inclined to use our superior doctrinal knowledge to condemn and reject others. Remember, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20) The only way to ‘eat of the Tree of Life’ is to allow the sound doctrine (the revelation of Jesus Christ throughout the whole Bible) to mold our perspectives, permeate our attitude and change our behavior towards others who embrace Christ as Savior. The greatest test of sound doctrine is whether it is producing the fruit of the Spirit in us.

Jesus did not say, “By their doctrine you will know them” but “By their fruit you will know them”.

Discernment goes beyond discerning whether the doctrine is right or wrong, true discernment also tests the spirit. Spiritual discernment of the heart rather than the obvious doctrinal misinterpretation is the mark of a spiritual person. May we all be elevated to the higher road of love without compromising sound doctrine.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Co 5:17)

We know that the Bible is true and completely reliable. Jesus fully endorsed the credibility of Scripture when He used the Bible as a defence against temptation when on three occasions He told the devil, “It is written” and then proceeded to quote Scripture. He also said that heaven and earth would pass away but that God’s Word would remain. It does seem to be a contradiction, however, when we don’t always experience this ‘newness’ of 2 Corinthians 5:17. We may even wonder if we are not just using wishful thinking or the power of positive thinking when applying the above verse to ourselves.

Am I really a new creation if I still succumb to temptation?

To unpack this and get to a meaningful understanding of this apparent contradiction, we need to consider a profound statement made by the Lord Jesus. When a rich young ruler (of the Jews) asked about eternal life, he said: “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”

Jesus answered with a question (as He so often did): “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. . . “(Mt 19:17) This statement unlocks a very vital and all-encompassing principle: The only source of “good” in the Universe is God Himself.

On a practical level when we look around us in the world, there is some ‘good’ in almost everyone; even the worst sinner may have some kindness or goodness in them. As an extreme example, look at Hitler, it may be very difficult to find any good in him, but if he showed kindness to his cat, that would still register as a tiny fragment of good. The point being, where ever the smallest gesture of good is observed, the source of that good is God. To quote Jesus again, “No one is good but One, that is, God” The influence of the goodness of the Creator can be observed even in the worst sinner.

Of course, even though the source of all goodness is God, no amount of ‘goodness’ in us will save us, we MUST be born again to qualify for eternal life.

Here is the bottom line; there is no inherent good in anyone of us, any good thought, feeling, behaviour in us, comes from God. The closer we are to the Lord, the more goodness is seen in our behaviour. The further we drift from the Lord; God’s goodness in us diminishes accordingly. This can be seen in the lives of individuals and also in the corporate lives of nations. When a nation honours God, the goodness of God can be seen in many facets of society. The opposite is also true when a nation excludes God, there is deterioration on all levels of society. Although the world is predominantly evil, God is actually restraining the evil at the moment. If (when) God removes His restraint of evil, the world will disintegrate into a cesspool of moral depravity.

When we are born again and become a new creature in Christ, God places His Spirit within us and makes all His goodness available to us. We don’t automatically become good, but we now have full access, as new creatures, to God’s goodness. We need to take full advantage of this and allow God’s goodness to influence every aspect of our lives.

Sadly the behaviour of many Christians is often far worse than the behaviour of some unbelievers because they have not grasped this principle that they are not good in themselves, but any goodness in them comes from God. A born-again, new creature in Christ has to rely on God for his or her goodness. We are not inherently good even though we are born again. Paul said: “In me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing” (Rom 7:18)

Summary:

  • God has breathed His Spirit into us again and we have become a new creation in Christ (born again or newly created)
  • Old things have passed away – Sin is no longer our Master, it has been dealt with.
  • All things have become new – we are in a new standing with God and therefore face temptation as Jesus did by quoting what has been written in Scripture and holding fast to it.
  • The more we open our hearts and minds to God and honour Him by our actions, the more of His goodness is seen in us, there is no exception to this rule.

 

(Sung to the tune of “I have a dream by ABBA” Click here for the music

I bow my knee, in humble praise

To Him who died my soul to save

I can sense His presence, deep within my heart

And I lift my voice now, praise to Him impart

I believe in JESUS, from my sin He came to set me free

I believe in JESUS, He is more than life itself to me

I bow my knee, in humility

 

I bow my knee, in humble praise

To Him who stands within this place

He will make Himself known, through the weakest soul

By His Holy Spirit, His mystery will be told

I believe in JESUS, as He speaks through lips of all His saints

I believe in JESUS, the eternal plan He weaves and paints

I bow my knee, in humility

 

I bow my knee, in humble praise

And to His throne, I set my gaze

He has been exalted, to the highest place

And He lifts my spirit, to behold His face

I believe in JESUS, as He sits upon His throne above

I believe in JESUS, He has shown me His amazing love

I bow my knee, in humility (x 2)

I was asked to give a brief series on the First Principles of the doctrines of Christ or Fundamentals of our Faith or the Milk of the Word, as found in Hebrews chapter 6. Below are links to each talk plus a link to a chart, which presents a summary of these principles. You are welcome to either download these or listen online.

The Writer of Hebrews tells us that if we do not understand and apply these principles, we remain spiritual infants and unskilful in interpreting the Bible. (Heb 5:13)

The focus of these talks is to understand the underlying principle behind each of the doctrines mentioned in Hebrews 6:1-2. By way of illustration we could speak about a passenger jet, a car, a bicycle and a donkey cart. The common denominator between all of these is the “principle of transport”. We could get completely lost in the details of jet propulsion and air travel and lose sight of the principle of transport, which is: getting from point A to point B.

In the same way we can get lost in the details of many doctrines and lose sight of the purpose and principle of the doctrine. This is why I felt it necessary to concentrate on the principle rather than getting lost in all aspects of the doctrine. These First principles form the foundation of our relationship with the Lord Jesus.

 

Should Christians Vote?

My church leaders taught me not to vote as a Christian. They based this on the fact that “Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules.” (2 Ti 2:4–5).

I have since changed my mind and believe as South Africans we have a duty to vote. I am sharing these thoughts in the South African context. I know that in other countries, like the USA, to many Christians, voting is almost part of their belief system.

Firstly let me express some thoughts on the principle from a Scriptural view point. We certainly are not of this world, we are born from above and our destination is the New Jerusalem. We are citizens of the heavenly Kingdom and as far as this world is concerned, we are just ‘pilgrims passing through’.

Having said that, we also need to note that we should ‘render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God, that which is God’s’. Being responsible citizens in our ‘temporary’ country of residence, as we make our way to the ‘City that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God’ requires us to pay taxes, abide by all the laws of the land (provided they do not contradict God’s laws) and voting affords us an opportunity to have a say in who will be placed in power to Govern the country.

Looking at the current political landscape in South Africa

In the election next year the ANC will try their best to get a two thirds majority. They need this to make changes to the Constitution. Once they are able to change the Constitution, they can take back land and nationalize the mines. The reason they want to do this is obviously to own and control the two primary sources of the economy – the mineral riches and the food producing farmland. Julius Malema has formed his own political party, which should rob the ANC of a fair slice of their support base, because as radical and militant as he is, he has a lot of support among the youth. This may seem a good thing, but what could happen after the election, is that the ANC buy an alliance with Julius in order to get their two thirds majority. Should this occur, the international community will downgrade our credit rating, pushing up the price of borrowing money to fund our deficit. (The difference between what we buy – import and what we sell – export) This will send our economy down the rocky Zimbabwean road to ruin.

The current Government’s track record is also not good at all, but it is the Government that the majority have put in power. According to statistics, on average per year in South Africa there are:

  • 71000 sexual assaults
  • 15000 hi-jackings
  • 18,148 murders

Since 1994 over 3000 farmers have been murdered (this shows the determination to get their hands on farmland); and in total 290,368 people have been murdered. Besides these shocking statistics, there is the enormous amount of corruption and mismanagement in every Government department from the top down, the only exclusion being SARS – the efficient collection of taxes.

Despite the above, there is every likelihood that the majority of South Africa will vote ANC, but in my view (for what it’s worth) the stronger the opposition, the more checks and balances there will be and the Constitution will at least hold the Government in check to some degree. For the sake of our children and grandchildren, I believe it is our duty to vote. Abstaining from voting is a vote for the current Government.

On a practical note, you need to be registered to vote. Registration will be opening this weekend 9th November in a public building near you. Take your ID and register, and then at least you are eligible to vote next year when every vote will count.

May the Lord hasten His coming! The only true and just Government will come when Jesus, King of kings rules the world with a rod of iron.

There was a time when this question was not a major issue, the gender roles were clearer. Husbands were the bread-winners, while the wives stayed home to keep the house and raise the children. With the ever-increasing pressure of feminism, the lines have become blurred and the question of who should be the head of the home has become a more thorny debate. The result is that any hint of the Biblical model of the husband being the head of the home, could be viewed with some suspicion by women, as a male contrived conspiracy to put the women ‘in their place’.

Against this backdrop, Paul’s statement in Ephesians is very clear:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.” (Eph 5:22–23)

I have been surprised, given the current pressure on women to assert themselves, to hear from most of the wives at numerous Marriage Seminars, that they preferred their husbands to take the lead and be the head of the home. If there were any complaints about this subject, the majority of the wives wished their husbands would play more of a leading role and take on greater family responsibility.

Taking a closer look at this subject I think there are two important questions that need to be answered.

  1. Is the subservient position of the wife a form of punishment resulting from the Fall?
  2. Does submission suggest inferiority in any respect?

To answer the first question let us take a closer look at God’s pronouncement to the woman after she had sinned. “To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”(Ge 3:16). Notice that God did not curse the woman, but rather, He explained the consequences of her actions, because both she and Adam had allowed the devil to become the third person in their marriage union. It was no longer the earthly ‘Trinity’ of God, the man and the woman, but it had become Satan, the man and the woman. Their offspring would not be God’s children spreading His attributes across the earth, but rather their offspring would be a reflection of ‘their father the devil’. For more detail on this point have a look at Part 2. In this respect her conception would produce children, who would do the deeds of their spiritual father the devil, bringing sorrow to her and her husband. Her conception would also be multiplied. Although speculative, there is some hint that if man had not fallen into sin, God would have played an active role in opening the womb of women at the appropriate time and producing children that would fit into His great purpose. Consider Sarah, Rebekah, Rachael, Manoah’s wife and Elizabeth in this regard. They were all barren, but when the Lord chose to open their wombs, they produced important children. It seems that one of the consequences of Eve’s sin was that conceptions would be multiplied and they would be indiscriminate.

Regarding the second part of verse 16 “Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you”, in the ESV there is a note saying that ‘for’ could also be translated: ‘against’. The verse would then read: “Your desire shall be against your husband.. “. This second translation is supported by the fact that the same author (Moses) uses very similar language in chapter 4, where his meaning is a lot clearer. “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Ge 4:7) In this verse it is clear that sin has a desire to pressurize Cain to go its way, but Cain would need to exert his will and try to dominate it. It is this same idea presented in verse 16 regarding the Husband/wife relationship. She would try to pressurize him to go her way and he would have to dominate her (in an un-Christlike way) to exert his will.

In other words, in the woman’s primary function as child-bearer, she would have pain and sorrow and in her most intimate relationship, there would be a power-struggle and strife.

To answer the second question we must note that God made mankind in His own image, “male and female made He them”, which clearly tells us that women are as much in the image of God as are men. If we look at the Godhead, we find that each person of the Trinity is equally God. Jesus, “who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,” (Php 2:6) nevertheless He was subservient to His Father. The Father sent the Son and the Father also sent the Holy Spirit, the Father clearly is the authority in the Godhead. Therefore we could say that the Godhood of each person in the Trinity is equal, but their roles are different. Neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit died on the cross, it was only Jesus because their roles are different. Similarly we can say that in their personhood, men and women are equal, but in their roles, they differ.

It is also important to note that God made Adam first and then He made the woman to be Adam’s Helper, not the other way around and this was before the Fall. When someone comes alongside to help; the responsibility for the task still remains with the person being helped. Therefore Adam remained accountable, even though his helper had misled him. God called for Adam first to give account for his actions. In the New Testament we are told that the Holy Spirit has been sent to be our Helper. He does not take over our responsibilities, but He helps us to fulfil God’s requirement of us. Even though the Holy Spirit is our Helper, He remains God and therefore far superior to us.

We can conclude from this that women are equal to men and may even be superior in some respects, but their role is different to the man’s role.

Equality of men and women on a spiritual level is spelled out in this verse: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Ga 3:28)

God’s order illustrating the differing roles is spelled out in this verse: “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Co 11:3)

Husbands need to take their responsibility as head of their homes, valuing their wives as spiritual equals and appreciating them as their God-given helper.

To follow fully what I am presenting in Part 2, you may wish to get the background from Part 1.

The devil was very quick to evaluate the creation and seems to have understood the enormous potential that God had provided for Himself, to express His thoughts, desires and will through mankind, having made them in His own image. If man had not fallen, every child born would have been another unique expression of the character traits of God Himself (not His divinity, but His nature). The whole earth would have been populated with people each bearing a unique expression of God’s character and corporately as mankind, they would have filled the earth with the glory of the Lord; His love, His wisdom, His creative genius.

The devil however, saw the gap and took on the form of an animal, made his approach to the woman, knowing full well that Adam was the head of this union, having been made first ( a point that Paul used to confirm this 1 Tim. 2:13) and thereby reversed God’s order. He then disguised his approach to the woman with a subtle question, followed by a cleverly wrapped part truth, part lie. By his craftiness he effectively hijacked this God-representing union and displaced God to become the spiritual entity in the earthly “trinity”. You may wonder how I can make this statement with such certainty. Are we just speculating here? I do believe the Biblical evidence is conclusive.

  • When God cursed the serpent, He spoke about the devil’s ‘offspring’ (Gen. 3:15) God was referring here to all of mankind. (the offspring of the woman, that God mentions in this verse is a reference to the birth of Jesus)
  • When Jesus confronted the Jews who were circumcised children of Abraham, He said “you are of your father the devil” (John 8:44)
  • The first child born to Adam and Eve killed his brother (Gen 4:8) Cain showed the characteristics of the devil, who had become his ‘spiritual’ father. Jesus said that the devil was a murderer from the beginning. (John 8:44ff)
  • Paul tells us that when we were dead in our sins, we all followed the course of this world, following the Prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. (Eph. 2:1-2). We were all sons and daughters of the devil’s disobedience – his offspring.
  • The whole earth has been filled with the characteristics of the devil; lies, deceit, greed, hatred, corruption, fornication, blasphemy and murder.
  • Mankind is a corporate representation of their spiritual father the devil.

When the horrific implications of this hijacking first dawn upon us, our first question may be: “Why would God allow Himself to be ‘out maneuvered’ by a created, but fallen angel? The answer may require a few volumes to be written for a full explanation. The very simple truth however, is that God foreknew that this would happen, He already had His redemption plan in place (1 Peter 1:20). God also knew that in order to have a corporate man (mankind) who would reciprocate the great love that He has for them, He would have to give them a choice; this opened the risk factor which God foreknew. The devil, despite his craftiness has actually played right into God’s hands.

Where does this leave us in our marriages? In serious trouble because unless we individually acknowledge Jesus as Lord and then actively acknowledge the Lord as Head of our marriage relationship with our thoughts and our actions, we allow the devil to continue his treacherous spiritual oversight and influence in our marriage.

By acknowledging the Lord as the Head of our marriage and seeking His guiding influence we are brought back to God’s original design for marriage; an earthly representation of the Trinity, made up of the union between Jesus, husband and wife. This is not as perfect as the original prototype because we are damaged goods, in the process of being restored by the Lord, having escaped the corruption that is in the world, through forgiveness, redemption and salvation.