Sun, Jan 26th - 9:22PM
Priorities & Doubtful Disputations
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” (Matthew 23:23-26)
“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” (Romans 14:1)
In 1453 the troops of Mahomet II surrounded Constantinople, and while it was being determined whether the Balkans would be under Christian or Muslim dominion for centuries to come a local church council in the besieged city was busy discussing important issues, such as: What colour are the holy virgin's eyes? If a fly happens to fall in Holy Water is the fly sanctified or is the water polluted? It is possible that this is merely a legend, but my experience with religious people makes me tend to believe that it is probably true. In Christian circles issues and questions just as trivial and unessential are often made into major issues while important matters are neglected or ignored. All too many either adopt an anything goes philosophy or are against so much that they are not really for anything. By definition a cult is legalistic, and a tendency to major on minors is a characteristic of cults, but the problem is not limited to cults.
"Doubtful disputations" are critical judgements on the inward reasonings of others. (Romans 14:1) All too often pushing debatable theories and man-made standards as doctrinal truths is acceptable or even considered a mark of spirituality, and this tends to detract from Bible truths and important issues and make Christianity and Bible teachings look silly. (Romans 14:1-13; note that Romans 14 is not a denial of the need for church discipline or justifying disobedience to clear teachings of Scripture, as some suppose, but is dealing with conscientious differences of opinion.)
Consider your response to a few examples:
-George and John are members of the same church. When George was a new convert his obsession with fishing led to missing Sunday services when he went fishing on Sunday, so he decided to never fish on Sunday. John goes to the lake to fish early every Sunday morning, but he always manages to be at Sunday morning services and fishing on Sunday does not interfere with any obligations. Is John committing a sin? If George learned to balance his schedule of activities and not let fishing interfere with his duties and responsibilities would he be sinning if he decided to go fishing on a Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon?
-A large satanic church offers sacrifices to Satan on a regular basis, after which the meat is sold to Joe’s Butcher Shop where Joe sells it for $2.00 per pound. George buys meat from Bob’s Meat Market at $2.50 per pound because Bob only buys meat from Christian farmers and George would feel that he was supporting idolatry if he bought from Joe’s Butcher Shop. John buys from Joe’s Butcher Shop because he is careful about the family budget and buying from Joe’s Butcher Shop is not participating in idolatry. Which brother is doing right and which brother is sinning? (Both are correctly applying Bible principles.)
-Must Christians abstain from all secular amusements? (I Corinthians 7:31)
-Is divorce always a sin, and is it a sin for a divorced person to remarry? www.abercrombie.cc/ds/q0806/q0806.html
-Is it a sin to drink an alcoholic beverage in any amount? www.bible.org/article/bible-and-alcohol…
-Is it a sin to dine at a restaurant that serves alcoholic beverages?
-How long should teenagers be required to attend school, and how old must they be before allowed to marry? www.gotquestions.org/marriage-age.html…
-Is it immoral or dangerous for first cousins to marry? www.cousincouples.com/marriage-facts/…
-Are you unable to enjoy fellowship with a dedicated, Bible-believing Christian if his interpretation of a difficult and obscure passage of Bible prophecy differs from your interpretation or if he has a different belief about the time of the Second Advent? www.newswithviews.com/baldwin/baldwin773.htm…
These are just a few examples of conscientious differences of opinion. Remember this is not about standards you set for yourself or standards the head of a household may set for his family; this is about respecting conscientious differences of opinion.
It will help you discern between truth and falsehood and between doctrinal absolutes and conscientious differences of opinion to make a habit of applying these questions to specific beliefs, teachings, and issues: What does the Bible say about this, and what would be your response if an unbeliever asked you why you believe this or why something is true or false or right or wrong? (Proverbs 2:6; Matthew 15:3, 8-9; 22:29; II Timothy 2:14-15; 3:16) How important is this in relation to other matters and what Bible truths and principles or standards apply? (Matthew 23:24; Romans 14:1; I Timothy 1:5-7) Was this true in the distant past and will this be true in the distant future? (Psalm 33:11; 119:89; Proverbs 19:21; Ecclesiastes 1:9-10; James 1:17) Do you find it necessary to use the arguments of the world? (Psalm 33:10; Romans 12:2; I Corinthians 1:20; 2:5; Colossians 1:9; 2:8)
When people say they believe in holiness standards, all too often they mean man-made taboos and man-made measurements of spirituality, and instead of viewing sanctification as a means to an end, that is, preparation for service, holiness standards often become an end in themselves. As a Christian grows in faith and wisdom he must expect to find that at least some of his theories and beliefs are wrong and should be discarded or forsaken. Both the anti-everything mindset and the anything-goes philosophy are wrong. (Ecclesiastes 7:16; Isaiah 5:20-21) This does not mean that it is wrong or sinful for a Christian to hold to various personal convictions or traditions. But it is important to be careful not to let personal opinions negatively affect Christian fellowship. (Romans 14:1-19; Ephesians 4:1-3)
The separation taught in the Bible is separation unto God and godly distinctions, conduct, and relationships within society (Romans 13:1-7; Ephesians 5:3-11; I Timothy 3:7; I Peter 2:11-12), and worldliness refers to the spirit of the age or the mindset of wicked human society. (Romans 12:2; Colossians 2:8) For example, is it sin for a woman to dye her hair purple? If she does this in defiance of headship (father or husband) it would be rebellion and thus be worldly, or if this identifies her as available for sexual immorality in the culture in which she lives it could be considered worldly. Otherwise it would simply be a matter of preference.
Are all secular amusements evil? (I Corinthians 7:31) Being secular does not necessarily mean that something is evil. (Psalm 24:1; 33:5; Acts 17:24) For example, note the Apostle Paul's use of quotations from Greek plays in I Corinthians 15:33 & Titus 1:12.
It is important to study to learn what Scripture clearly says before deciding that something is worldly or sinful. (II Timothy 2:14-15) Consider: If you ignore the context of Genesis 6:14-17 it could appear that a Christian has a duty to build an ark in preparation for the coming worldwide deluge. In the Middle East in Bible times it was customary for men to greet by kissing each other on the cheek and this was equivalent to a handshake in our culture; ignoring this detail could make I Thessalonians 5:26 & I Peter 5:14 appear to mean that on Sunday mornings you are supposed to kiss everyone at your church.
Let us suppose that I repaired, restored or rebuilt an automobile, and got all the details correct and got everything in good working order except for leaving the fuel line uninstalled or disconnected. How far would I be able to travel with it? Not far. What might happen if I put everything together right except for leaving the brake lines disconnected? I might be able to travel faster but disaster would be inevitable. However, if the only thing neglected was a decal or a passenger side windshield wiper blade screw it could serve me well. We need to be careful to focus on the right priorities and major concerns and avoid chasing rabbits.