I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.
I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.
Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith- to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (ESV)
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Flee for Your Live!
Wednesday of Pentecost 11
12 August 2015
Why can't we all get along? There is a long history of theological battles within the visible church. The Lord calls us all to be united in Him (Jn 17:22
). So what's up with all the conflict? The history of theological division is the history of theological rebellion against God's Word. Why is there conflict in the church? Because humans choose to disagree with the apostolic Word. A false teacher is like the bully who continues to batter and bait you, but is offended if you retaliate: "Hey, I really want peace. Can't we just get along?" Yes, the bully thinks you are getting along, just as long as you continue to permit yourself to be bullied without putting up a fight. There would be no conflict in the church if her teachers simply let God's enemies run roughshod over the true faith.
The faithful teachers may not permit our enemy to bully them into giving up the divine Word and its faithful teachings. This does not affect only teachers, but it affects also those whom they teach. "Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1Ti 4:16
). The persistent teaching of the truth will be the salvation of the hearers. So this is not an optional discipline for church leaders. It is a life and death labor that results in the spiritual security and comfort of God's people. Nor is false teaching just a matter of squabbling about peripheral issues. First, all false teaching eventually takes glory from Christ, by attributing salvation entirely or partly to human works. Second, if God has revealed His Word to us on the lips of the prophets and Apostles, what gives us the right to reject any Word of God as peripheral or inconsequential?
Those who have stumbled into false doctrine or who have been misled by pernicious false teachers should not be shunned, but embraced and led away from these poisonous doctrines, back to the clear waters and green pastures of God's Word. However, we must flee from irreformable false teachers. We must watch out for the false teaching they try to feed to the faithful and when we detect it, we must avoid such teachers, in the same way we would avoid the playground bully who will not leave off his bullying. But by fleeing false teachers we are fleeing for life; eternal life (1Ti 4:16
"'I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve' (Rm 16:17-18
). Since the false teachings were not immediately able to be discerned, Paul says, 'I appeal to you to watch out' that is, to be exceedingly particular about, to get acquainted with, and to search out thoroughly-whom, I ask? 'Those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught.' For divisions subvert the church. This is the devil's weapon. This turns everything upside down. For so long as the body is joined into one, he has no power to gain entry, but it is from division that the offence arises.
How do the divisions arise? From opinions contrary to the teaching of the Apostles. Where do these opinions come from? From slavery to their bellies and the other passions. Paul says, 'Such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.' There would be no offence and there would be no division, unless some opinion were thought of contrary to the doctrine of the Apostles. This he points out by saying, 'contrary to the doctrine.' He does not say 'which we have taught,' but 'which you have been taught,' so anticipating them, and showing that they were persuaded and had heard them and received them.
What are we to do to those who make trouble in this way? He does not say have a meeting and come to blows, but 'avoid them.' If it was from ignorance or error that they did this, one ought to set them right. But if they sin willingly, flee from them."
John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 31
Almighty and most merciful Father, in the waters of holy baptism You have united us in the suffering and death of Your Son Jesus Christ, cleansing us by His blood. Deliver us from the power of Satan and preserve us from false and dangerous doctrines, that we might remain faithful in hearing Christ's Word and receiving His body and blood. Through your Word help us to recognize false teachers and avoid them. By the Lord's Supper strengthen us to believe that no one can make satisfaction for sin but Christ alone. Give us joy and comfort only in Him, learning from this Sacrament to love You and our neighbor and to bear the cross with patience and joy until the day of the resurrection of our bodies to life immortal; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For Paul Lodholz, that the Lord his God would be all his strength and shield
For Bryan Sullivan, who is suffering from Parkinson 's disease, that the Lord Jesus would send him strength and hope
For the District Presidents of the LCMS that they would lead and support the pastors whom they supervise with the wisdom that comes from above
Art: Dürer, Albrecht The Adoration of the Trinity (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015