Sunday, October 28, 2007

Reisinger on Acceptance

John Reisinger is one of my favorite preacher/teachers. I was on his website reading a series of articles he has written on Galatians. He had some wonderful things to say about viewing and treating the Gospel as the sole sufficient basis for our right standing with God. He goes on to explain that we ought not expect of professing believers anything that God does not expect of them.

"Paul’s controversy with the congregation at Galatia concerned the freedom of which Jesus spoke. Paul viewed the conflict in terms of bondage to the law versus the freedom of grace. The bondage against which he argued was not only bondage to the world, but also bondage of the conscience to the Mosaic law as a means of gaining assurance with God. The same controversy continues to this day wherever the gospel of free grace is preached in simplicity and power. People with either a legalistic mentality or a pharisaical nature will always use the law incorrectly in an attempt to fetter the simple gospel. How many people do you know who would demand that Titus be circumcised (or whatever our contemporary analogy might be), regardless of how godly and blessed of God the individual might be? Before he is acceptable in our circles, he must first pass our personal inspection and have our distinctive mark of approval upon him. He must come through our schools and submit his conscience to our creed. It is true that Christ may have accepted him as one of his sheep, but before he can come into our sheepfold, he needs some additional preparation under our authority. Our understanding of doctrine, our interpretation of Scripture, or our particular practice becomes the new orthodoxy by which we measure heresy. My brother Donald used to remark, “It dangerous to say, ‘We know the Great Shepherd has put his mark upon you, but we must also put our peculiar mark on you before you are acceptable to us.’"

How do Paul and the other apostles view these kinds of demands? Not one of them intimated that Titus, because he was a Greek, ought to be circumcised. In fact, the suggestion would never have arisen but for the presence of some pseudo-Christians, who wormed their way into our meeting to spy on the liberty we enjoy in Christ Jesus, and then attempted to tie us up with rules and regulations. We did not give those men an inch, for the TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL for you and for the Gentiles was at stake (Gal. 2:3-6 Phillip’s, emphasis added)."
Click here to read the entire article. The doctrine of justification of faith alone apart from the works of the law must not merely be applied to our relationship with God, it should also be applied to our relationships with those in the body of Christ. Reisinger does an excellent job here of pinpointing some areas which need work in many of the churches in America. Although some of those who open their arms to anyone and everyone go overboard in doing so and end up neglecting much of the Scriptures, this does not mean that it is ok to not live out our theology. We ought never build our practical theology out of fear of the extreme mistakes others have made. We ought always build our practical theology out of faithfulness to God's Word--His entire Word.

4 comments:

Pastor Luke said...

Jimmy,

Great post! There does seem to be some sort of feeling that christians are between a rock and a hard place: do we relativise our doctrine or do we fulfill this example of Paul's that it is solely about universal dependence upon Jesus' Cross to justify?

The question could be posed another way: do we have to sacrifice love for doctrinal objectivity, or do we succumb to a theological relativism in the name of love and peace in the body of Christ?

These particular problems have and will continue to plague the church for all eternity. I don't claim to have the answer, but I do have a few thoughts (as usual!).

First, I would want to make sure and destroy the notion that orthodoxy equates to justification, and vice versa. I look at Martin Luther, he would not be able to be a member in most churches today due to behavior as well as doctrine, but no one is going to question the man's commitment and life in Christ. John Calvin was instrumental in seeing a man executed for, what we would evaluate, as minimal doctrinal difference. Yet, I agree with Arminius that Calvin was the closest thing to an apostle of Christ this earth seen since the first century.

The point is simple: to demand orthodox objectivity and a life of repentance bore out with the fruits of the Spirit, we must also see our own blind spots. Every generation of Christians has massive, huge, unbelievably large blind spots that we are simply oblivious to. We assume that we've got it, but 100 years from now people in the church will look back on us with pity as to our gross error in all manner of errors just as we do Luther and Calvin.

Thus, there needs to be a large degree of orthodox objective humility. Humility is not relativism. Relativism says it does not matter. Humility says that it matters in a big way, but recognizes human limitations and observations, as well as personal propensity toward error.

In our day of rampant subjectivism and relativism it is easy to over-react in demanding standards and objectivity. This leads to the rampant use among those who care about theology of using their theology as a modern form of circumcision to get into the club.

Joshua Harris' work on "Humble Orthodoxy" is of absolute importance here...in my opinion it is the only way to fight for objectivity with out making our brand of objectivity the litmus for justification.

Pastor Luke said...

"These particular problems have and will continue to plague the church for all eternity."

Sorry...not all eternity, all our lives until Christ comes. In eternity this will be no issue whatsoever, Praise God!

Jimmy Snowden said...

Dude,
You are like, ummm..., eloquent and stuff. I dig it! Honestly, that was an excellent response. Please tell me where I can get Harris' book/article or whatever it is.

Also, "In our day of rampant subjectivism and relativism it is easy to over-react in demanding standards and objectivity. This leads to the rampant use among those who care about theology of using their theology as a modern form of circumcision to get into the club."

Well put! I know how much of a demand it is, and I have a hard time fighting it as well.
Jimmy

Pastor Luke said...

Jimmy

Harris' work on this issue is not actually a book or article, it has to do with a conferenc he put together called "Humble Orthodoxy" it may be linked with "New Attitude"