the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
By people who live on milk I mean those who are imperfectly acquainted with the teaching concerning righteousness. Such persons are mere babes. But solid food is for adults - that is, for those who through constant practice have their spiritual faculties carefully trained to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:13-14).
One of the consistent themes of Scripture is the need to grow in maturity and discernment. There is much in the Bible that should be easy to understand and apply; “You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:13-16) etc. Yet even with the most elementary principles of right and wrong there is debate. People who claim to be Christians simultaneously claim to be “prochoice.” A large percentage of people claiming to be Bible believing Christians are divorced - and not for reasons of sexual immorality but because they “fell out of love” or whatever. Millions of Christians believe the State has the right or even duty to redistribute wealth - which is a form of theft. These same Christians may regard the State as primary and so hesitate to bear false witness against a neighbor in court but think nothing of “whispering, tale bearing, backbiting, slandering…telling lies, traducing [one’s] character by innuendos, sly insinuations, and evil suggestions, whereby he may suffer in his character, credit, and reputation, and in his trade and business” (John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible).
Yet Paul, the writer of Hebrews, has more on his mind than simple right and wrong when he references the teaching concerning righteousness as cited above. If you look at the context you will discover that Paul makes this comment at the end of a discussion concerning Jesus as High Priest forever, belonging to the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:10). In other words, teaching concerning righteousness covers far more ground than a list of do’s and don’ts.
Righteousness is that which is consistent with God’s character. So, if you are going to be righteous you must live in a way that is in harmony with God’s character. Certainly this has to do with obedience to the Word of God as contained in the old and new testaments. However, it is that and much more. Our thoughts, words deeds; our beliefs, worldview, priorities, motivation and so on must all be consistent with God’s character. Some of this is obvious in its realization. The Bible gives us a lot of easily understood material telling us how to think, speak and act. On the other hand, formulating doctrine, understanding the kingdom paradigm and finding our place in God’s grand adventure require long familiarity with Scripture and spiritual faculties carefully trained through constant practice.
For instance, it requires maturity to understand the place of emotion or feeling in the Christian walk. Without immersion in the Bible and careful training of our spiritual senses it is easy to accept a teaching simply because it “feels right” or quickens our emotions. The widespread refusal to develop righteous beliefs (doctrine consistent with God’s character) has contributed to the success of more than one biblically unsound bestselling “Christian” book. Thus, well-meaning Christians underwrite the heretical teachings of American Folk Religion simply because they don’t know any better.
I’ll come back to this topic in a couple weeks.