Sunday, February 05, 2006

On speaking the truth in love (part 3)

... so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph. 4:14-16)

In the last instalment, I have listed down a few points which could be seen from a cursory examination of Eph. 4:14-16, regarding the purpose of speaking the truth in love.

Before I go on further, I would just like to state that this passage is dealing with issues within the community of believers. For non-believers, the purpose of speaking the truth in love to them is much simpler; to be a faultless witness to them (Titus 2:8) for Christ (Rom. 1:16).

Back to the purpose of speaking the truth in love in the community of believers, in Eph. 4:14-16, we are told that the purpose of speaking the truth in love is to be:

  • Firm in the faith (v. 14)
  • Build up and grown up in Christ (v. 15)
  • Growing in the community of believers (v. 16a '...whole body, joined and held together...')
  • Equipped for service unto the Lord (v. 16b '...from which it is equipped...')
  • Serving our Lord properly (v. 16b '...each part is working properly...')
  • Grow in love for our Lord and for the communion of saints (v. 16ff '... it builds itself up in love.')
  • I would now like to further expound on the points listed above, starting with the first point.

    The first point, to be firm in the faith, carries with it the connnotation of being strong despite encountering adversity (Mt. 7:24-25). The concept expressed here is often used in the form of an injunction by the apostles in their epistles (1 Cor. 16:13, 2 Cor. 1:24, Gal. 5:1, Eph. 6:13, Phil. 4:1, 2 Thess. 2:15, 1 Peter 5:12) where Christians are commanded by the Lord to stand firm in the faith. Now, of course, what does this mean? What faith are we talking about here?

    The most obvious answer is that we are to stand firm on Christ and our faith in Christ. This is definitely supported by 1 Cor. 16:13, 2 Cor. 1:24, Phil. 4:1 and a surface reading of Eph. 6:13. While this is definitely true, the other passages in which we are asked to stand firm more explicitly focuses on the things which we are to stand firm on.

    Now, of course, I am saying this for the anti-intellectual, emotional crowd who name the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, which have its main adherents in the charismatic circles of modern evangelicalism. This is not to say that other denominations produced do not produce anti-intellectuals, but the ridiculous mind-manipulating methods and the spurious, unbiblical advice to "just follow the Spirit's guiding" (as if the Spirit works independently of the Word) propogated by such false prophets like Benny Hinn leads to multitudes being taken captive by such unbiblical nonsense. The nonsensical phrase "No creed but Christ" is one such anti-intellectual slogan, as if the word "Christ" means the same thing and refer to the same person to everyone alike, thus showing their utter naivety and foolishness.

    So what do we need to stand firm on? What does it mean to be firm in our faith? In 1 Peter 5:12, the Apostle Peter asks us to stand firm on the grace of God which he revealed in the entire epistle. In Eph. 6:13, the context is talking about putting on the armor of God, and therefore standing firm include both the putting on of the various facets of the armor (belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, readiness of the Gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God) and using it. Without going into an exposition of the Armor of God, which will be indeed very rich for our edification, suffice it is to say for the moment that concerning the topic at hand, this passage teaches us that certain things are essential for us to stand firm. Besides the sword of the Spirit, the other are experential aspects of the Christian life which are found and applied from ... the Word of God, which is also the sword of the Spirit.

    And this brings us to the focal point. What is it that we are asked to stand firm on? Answer: The Word of God! Everything taught in the Word of God! In the last passage which we haven't considered yet, 2 Thess. 2:15, we are asked to stand firm on the apostolic traditions which are handed down to us by means of the Word of God. In other words, every single thing which is taught in the Word of God is for us to stand firm on. We as Christians do not have the liberty to pick and choose what we want to believe and what we want to take a stand on. We are to stand firm on our faith in Christ, yes, but that faith and that Christ includes the totality of the entire system of biblical doctrines and teachings found in it.

    Since that is the case, as one of the purposes of speaking the truth in love is to be firm in the faith, the aim of speaking the truth in love is to produce believers taking a firm stand on what the Bible teaches, and this extends to all doctrines and teachings found in the Bible.

    [Continue in the next instalment]

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