Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 1 Study # 6
Thesis: Being "unyielding" is both necessary and complicated.
Introduction: The issues of "liberty" and "slavery" have been the focus of our study for the last couple of weeks. We have seen that "liberty" consists of two parts: the absolute deliverance from any application of the Justice of God to us; and the relative provision of power by God to enable our actions. Paul's claim in 2:4 is that it was the goal of the false brethren to return us to "slavery". And it was his claim in 2:5 that he adamantly resisted that objective.
In this present study, it is our goal to examine Paul's "adamant resistance". It consists of two major parts: its level of tenacity; and its rationale. He didn't yield in subjection for even an hour. His claim is that it was the Gospel itself that was at stake.
Our questions are two: when is it legitimate to refuse to yield?, and what aspect of the Gospel was at stake?
April 10, 2011
- I. Paul's Refusal to Yield.
- A. His wording has a parallel in our modern language: he "didn't budge an inch".
- B. The tensions his behavior generates.
- 1. At what point does a serious believer "give way", and at what point does he refuse to yield?
- a. One of the more popular bits of "advice" given to those dealing with others is "pick your battles".
- 1) The assumption behind that is that the one doing the "picking" has the wisdom to know which compromises will do the least damage.
- 2) That is an assumption that has rarely, if ever, been justified.
- b. The problems are both many and enormous.
- 1) At any time that the situation involves more than a single believer in relationship with God in His Light, the ability to operate "biblically" is circumscribed.
- a) Not only do no believers ever operate "biblically" across the board (God only requires a clear conscience, not a clear understanding of an omniscience-based theology), no two believers "walk in the same Light" if by "Light" we mean a clear grasp of the biblical mandate and methods.
- i. 1 John 1:7 and 1:9 give tacit admission to this fact.
- ii. Walking in the same Light requires the same understanding, a requirement that is impossible except at the level of uninvestigated cliche.
- b) Every individual grows into the "Light" at his/her own individual pace and no two individuals have the same understanding of anything.
- 2) As soon as any believer's participation is with multiple others, the ability to operate "biblically" is reduced in direct proportion to the numbers involved.
- 3) At any time that a believer's commitment to a "mandate" transcends his/her personal "knowledge/conscience" reality, the ability to operate biblically is lost.
- 4) The biblical admonition to be "longsuffering" runs smack into its admonition to "stand against evil".
- a) One problem is that those who lack understanding are ignorantly "committed" to their agenda and methods so that any who would "work with them" will have to yield their agenda and methods.
- b) Another problem is that those who have understanding can easily see the "death" involved in a false agenda or method so that it is impossible for them to give up their own agenda and methods.
- 5) Every group of people who have agreed to work together has an unbiblical agenda and accepts unbiblical methods in the pursuit of it.
- a) This runs from the fact that no two people will ever agree at the heart of every situation they face and the lack of agreement forces one of two things: separation, or compromise.
- b) Further, the larger the group the more compromises that will be made.
- c) This is inescapable and calls for a greater grasp of the fact that "grace" must be at the root of each believer's understanding. [God's will gets done for one reason: His omniscience and wisdom are both infinite so that He can get done what needs doing with, or without, human understanding or cooperation.]
- c. The solutions seldom fit a legitimate biblical mandate.
- 1) Because men are desperate to be seen as "legitimate", they will always do what they think is necessary to promote their legitimacy. This, for those in the "biblical" camp, will invariably involve the twisting of Scripture so that both the "agenda" and the "methods" have "Scriptural backing" in the view of those involved.
- 2) There is only one real "biblical mandate": Acts 24:16. [Note that it is at this point that I bring on my own "Scriptural backing". However, I do challenge anyone to show how one can be "biblical" in mandate or method who does not view Paul's "constant exercise" as more fundamental than anything else he seeks to pursue.]
- 3) The difficulty here is that as soon as one becomes aware that he/she is "out of line", a "conscience void of offence toward God" will automatically compel an "adjustment" that will invariably create tensions with those whose consciences do not accept the premise that caused the person to recognize that he/she is "out of line".
- a) Once this occurs, the conflict between "conscience" and "unity" rises to storm level.
- b) There is a reason that Paul, at the end of his ministry in this world, claimed that "all have forsaken me". [A clear conscience will often lead straight to this result.]
- 4) The two most typical attempts of men to resolve this are: 1) maintain conscience at the cost of "unity" and the ability to pursue the agenda by a method that caused the crisis of conscience in the first place (thus tending in the direction of creating and maintaining a Noah-mentality -- "I alone am correct"); or 2) sacrifice conscience at the cost of personal openness to God in order to maintain "unity" and the ability to continue to pursue the agenda by the method(s) (thus creating and maintaining a harlot-mentality -- "many lovers need satisfaction in order for me to be prosperous").
- 5) Since neither of these typical approaches are legitimate, any who would live in a clear-conscience situation face a significantly difficult condition.
- 2. There are no hard and fast answers, and, for this reason, the gradual dominance of the mystery of iniquity is inevitable. This raises these questions: is there any point to standing fast on any "truth"? When is "truth" Truth?
- 3. Toward a "solution"...
- a. "Precision" is demonstrably "edgy" at the edges, but "accuracy" is also demonstrably achievable at the center/core (even a piece of metal abandoned to the processes of decay will rust more aggressively at the outer edges than it will at the center).
- b. Though there will always be the question as to what is "edge" stuff and what is "core" stuff (is the timing of the "Rapture" as crucial as the "deity" of Christ?), the reality is that the "what is edgy and what is core?" issue is like the rest of the reality of edges and centers -- some things are accurately identified (the identity of the Christ is far more central than the question of whether a woman can legitimately lead the worship team in church).
- c. The biblical position on the restraint of the mystery of iniquity and the inevitable destruction of the world as we know it is that those issues are deliberately kept in God's hands and not ours (this means that we are to "pray without ceasing" about the decisions we face, but we are not to belabor the issue of consequences: it is not our job to bring in the Kingdom).
- d. It was Paul's "job" to press the issue of the methodology of salvation because that is, without dispute, a most "central" issue with all manner of horrendous consequences attached to "getting it wrong".
- 1) He claimed that the issue of his unyielding stance was "keeping the Gospel present to you".
- 2) What he meant was that the Gospel was being attacked at the point of methodology in the specific arena of "the resolution of human sin and Divine Justice".
- a) Is there any act that a son of Adam can do to compensate for any sin which a son of Adam has already done?
- i. Paul's answer is a resounding "No" for one cause: man's sin against God is an action taken out of "death" and there is no "law" that can bring "life" (Galatians 3:21).
- ii. Man's basic problem is not his "sins"; it is, rather, what causes them: an existence surrounded, circumscribed by, and infused with, death.
- b) As long as man is "dead", it is impossible for him to do "good".