Acts 19:24-26 24Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. 25This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; 26and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
A man who had a right heart but not right (yet) doctrine
In the passage above, a 1st century Bible teacher by the name of Apollos was communicating God's word based off of a "Pre-cross" understanding of the scriptures. Apollos' heart was pure, sincere and devout. He loved the Lord. When the Apostle Paul's friends Priscilla and Aquilla came and "upgraded" Apollos's doctrinal understanding, he came to it.
People who have a right heart with God but do not (yet) have right doctrine
In our previous blog we contrasted heresy and orthodoxy, noting their features and character. However what do we do whenever we come across people who though differing in their theological convictions are nonetheless genuinely in right relationship with God through Jesus Christ? Below are some thoughts that have stemmed from pastoral experience and theological reflection when it comes to dealing with people who have a right heart and yet may not possess (yet) right doctrine.
Some folks may have had incomplete teaching, and yet want to know more
There are those folks who have become involved in churches or groups that teach a portion of the scriptures or a portion of the gospel, but yet do not present the full truth. Apollos was a genuine believer in the Lord, however He was not yet made aware of the New Covenant arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. His error was not intentional, rather it was "incomplete". The fact that he came "immediately" to the full teaching of God's word indicates He had a work of grace in His heart.
Some folks may have had exposure to inconsistent teaching, and yet want consistency
There are people involved in groups that teach inconsistent concepts like having eternal life and yet having the possibility of losing one's salvation. Another example of inconsistent teaching would be that the Bible is God's Word and yet requires church tradition or human experience to be an equal authority. I have known people whom I would say genuinely love Jesus and are troubled by the inconsistencies. They know deep down that true biblical Christianity possesses the coherent and sufficient understanding of man, God, salvation and the future.
Some folks have had exposure to inadequate teaching, and yet have no intention of embracing it
There are other people who become involved in groups that intentionally add to the scriptures. They will teach that Mary is some type of co-redeemer with Jesus Christ (Roman Catholicism) or that in order to become a Christian, faith plus something else (baptism, speaking in tongues) is required for salvation. These are people are true believers who embraced the Gospel elements of a particular movement which does not adequately teach the true gospel.
When we talk to people like these, what should we think? Thankfully scripture gives us some guidelines for dealing with other people (and sometimes ourselves) in making sure that we not only have sincerity, but also right doctrine.
1. A person who is truly converted will come to the full measure of the truth
When Priscilla and Aquilla took Apollos aside and expalined to him "the more excellent way", he immediately embraced it. Truly converted people will acknowledge when they have been involved in unintentional yet nonetheless wrong teaching. Humility aimed at pleasing Christ is a true mark of a converted heart. (Galatians 5:18-22; Philippians 2:1-5)
2. A Person who is truly converted will renounce the exposed error
If somebody is holding to a doctrine that cannot be supported by scripture, and yet does not realize its full implications, once they have been shown the truth, they will take the necessary measures to correct it. It is one thing to hold error in ignorance, and quite another to hold error intentionally. By the truth of God's word is the ignorance of the mind made to see the fullness of God's truth. (Psalm 19:7-13)
3. Patience is required by those who perceive a desire to be right in the truth
When I have talked to those who are genuinely right with God through Jesus Christ, they will be marked as also wanting to be right in the truth. (2 Timothy 3:15-17) However if the person has held to the particular error for a period of time, often that error may had been picked up from a teacher who had helped them through a crisis.
4. Sincere faith must have a right heart and right doctrine
On the one hand the truth must be ever contended for and communicated without apology. (Jude 3-4) On the other hand the truth must be communicated in firm gentleness, discerning when listeners are humble and broken, ready and eager to come to a full-orbed understanding. (1 Corinthians 7:40; Hebrews 6:1-3; Jude 20-23) In today's culture, people value "sincerity" as being more important than "right belief". The scriptures tie together both "heart" and "head" when it comes to the Christian walk. (Romans 12:1-2) We are to love the Lord will all of our heart and mind. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Matthew 22:37-39)
Often the convert will begin with a right heart, with a most basic understanding of the Gospel (Jesus as Savior, Lord and grace through faith alone). However from that "child-like" faith should issue forth the desire to "mature" in one's understanding of what they believe. Sincereity of the heart towards loving right should grow into every increasing sincerity for believing right. (Hebrews 5:12-14)
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Friday, March 2, 2012
Why loving right should include believing right
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