Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (ESV)
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Thursday After the Epiphany of our Lord
7 January 2016
Christians who are committed to teaching the catholic faith whole and entire have been chided for their interest in "incessant doctrinal purification." Which part of "incessant doctrinal purification" would be troublesome, ungodly, or immoral?
What does "incessant" mean? It means never to stop. Is it wrong to be constantly or without ceasing interested in teaching only and all of that which has come down to the church through the prophets and the apostles? St. John encourages us to remain and abide in the doctrine of Christ (2Jn 1:9). To fail to abide in or remain in the doctrine of Christ would be to cease to be in it. So "incessant" abiding is hardly reprehensible.
So maybe the problem is purity. Purification of teaching is perhaps a bad thing. Is it? Then why does the apostle charge Pastor Timothy to forbid the teaching of any different doctrine (1Tim 1:3)? Or that Titus is to constantly teach "what accords with sound doctrine." Unsound or impure doctrine would not be acceptable to the Apostle. Peter tells us that we should long for pure spiritual milk (1Pt 2:2). Contaminated milk will kill a baby. Impure teaching can be deadly. It appears "purification" is not the problem either.
Could doctrine be the problem? If we could just get rid of that pesky and divisive "doctrine," things would be so much better for the church. Perhaps we could adopt a Rodney King-like ambivalence toward doctrine, "Why can't we all just get along?" Maybe we could be less devoted to the apostles' doctrine (Acts 2:42). Yet, our Lord calls on teachers to keep a close watch on their teaching or doctrine (1Tim 4:16). Ultimately, false teaching will corrupt what is to be taught about our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, as Peter warns us (2Pt 2:1). The Lord has given us His own Son, how shall we not in humble faith also see to it that the church that bears His name should always teach only the catholic faith about Him? What exactly is wrong with incessant doctrinal purification?
Leo the Great
"The catholic faith then, dearly beloved, may scorn the errors of the heretics that bark against it, who, deceived by the vanity of worldly wisdom, have forsaken the gospel of truth, and being unable to understand the incarnation of the Word, have constructed for themselves out of the source of enlightenment an occasion of blindness. For after investigating almost all false believers' opinions, even those which presume to deny the Holy Spirit, we come to the conclusion that hardly anyone has gone astray, unless he has refused to believe the reality of the two natures in Christ under the confession of one Person.
"For some have ascribed to the Lord only manhood, others only divinity. Some have said that, though there was the true Godhead, His flesh was unreal. Others have acknowledged that He took true flesh but say that He had not the nature of God the Father; and by assigning to His Godhead what belonged to His human substance, have made for themselves a greater and a lesser God. Although there can be in true Godhead no grades; seeing that whatever is less than God is not God. Others recognize that there is no difference between Father and Son, but because they could not understand unity of Godhead except in unity of Person, they have maintained that the Father is the same as the Son, so that to be born and nursed, to suffer and die, to be buried and rise again, belonged to the same Father who sustained throughout the person of bothMan and the Word.
"Certain ones have thought that our Lord Jesus Christ had a body not of our substance, but rather assumed from higher and subtler elements. Whereas certain others have considered that in the flesh of Christ there was no human soul, but that the Godhead of the Word Himself fulfilled the part of soul. But their unwise assertion passes into this form that, though they acknowledge the existence of a soul in the Lord, yet they say it was devoid of mind, because the Godhead of Himself was sufficient for all purposes of reason to the man as well as to the God in Christ. Lastly the same people have dared to assert that a certain portion of the Word was turned into flesh, so that in the manifold varieties of this one dogma, not only the nature of the flesh and of the soul but also the essence of the Word Himself is dissolved."
Leo the Great, Sermons on the Nativity
O Lord Christ, Your Word has given to us the catholic truth. Grant to us that we might always retain it purely taught among us. You have given Yourself through the Word, let us seek no other teaching or doctrine, for in doing so we shall lose both You and Your Word. Amen.
For the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sudan, that they might be constantly strengthened in the one true faith
For Pastors Sagar Pilli, Michael Albrecht and Scott Murray, as they travel to India, that the Lord would keep them safe in their travels
For those who are struggling with doubts, that God the Holy Spirit would lead them into the green pastures of His Word
Art: AERTSEN, Pieter Adoration of the Magi (c. 1560)
© Scott R. Murray, 2016