I have seen and been a part of many an argument. From my experience, the more vehement disputes have been among the Christian family – God’s people. What do we spat about? Truth – our truth vs. another’s truth. What are we really fighting over? Personal glory. Ouch…that hurt. That’s okay, because pain is good. It helps us target the source of our problem, so we can find healing.
I like what Warren Weirsbe says about himself as a teacher, “When I teach the Word of God, I can claim authority for the Bible but not for all of my interpretations of the Bible.” We often defend our interpretations of scripture vs. what the Bible actually says. We squabble over how “we” see what the word says, instead of steadfastly standing on the accuracy of what the Word speaks. The contention between two people over the scriptures is often selfish, especially when it comes to defending it from their frame of reference. Suddenly “being right” becomes the defense.
How do we know if we are defending our interpretation vs. God’s truth? It’s in our insistence on getting others to agree with us or not. Our aim in teaching and interpreting scripture is not to get others to agree (nor even follow) but to deliver the Word and let God’s Spirit do the convicting and transformation of the other.
Even Jesus, Himself was not concerned so much about making sure all agree with Him. Yes, He wanted salvation for all, but He also knew that many would reject Him. His aim was to do what the Father asked of Him, to follow in total obedience to His plan and then allow the free choice of man to make their decision. Sadly, many fell away from Him and few followed.
Jesus spoke very boldly, “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether My teaching comes from God or whether I speak on My own.” His instruction for us is to DO the will of God not make sure others agree with or do it. Additionally He warns, “Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the One (Father in Heaven) who sent Him (Jesus) is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him” (John 7:17-18). Jesus was speaking to the Jews in this passage, but He also speaks to us. The bigger question for all teachers and those interpreting scripture is “whose glory are we seeking?” If we seek the glory of the Father, we will teach His truth and leave the outcome to His timing and His way of conviction – not ours. If we seek our glory, we will defend it to the point of division – which does not honor God.
Timothy was to “preach the Word…” not “convict the heart.” In his preaching he was to do so in preparation. That preparation was for his own heart not in preparation to convict another’s heart. Let’s look at Paul’s instruction to Timothy, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For a time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:2-5). Many a time this passage has refocused me on what I’m to be about; it has often silenced my insistence for others to listen to “my way” of seeing the scriptures. I am grateful for the gentle rebuke! And I am also thankful for the peace that follows.
With great patience and careful instruction we, too, are to preach the word. Yes, we are to correct, rebuke, but notice the little word “and.” In addition to correcting and rebuking, we are to encourage. Encouragement goes a long way in helping another’s heart to receive. I also like the phrase “keep your head in all situations.” It is a known fact that others will refuse to listen to sound doctrine. We can expect it. But our instruction in times like these is to “keep our heads in all situations” meaning we are to “keep an eye on what we are doing.” We need to keep our own hearts in check. And no one else can do that for me, like I can. Nor can I do for anyone else what they can do for themselves. In the end, we are all responsible for our response to the truth of God’s word.
We will have a lot less anger, strife and discord among ourselves, if we attend to our responsibility in the matter of teaching God’s truth. We are to obey the word, preach the word and let the Holy Spirit use the word to convict others. What freedom off our shoulders when it comes to others! However, what responsibility on our shoulders when it comes to ourselves!