Life-Study of Ephesiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 4:13 Paul speaks of the oneness of the faith, and in 4:14 he refers to the winds of teaching, of doctrine. This indicates that we need to distinguish between the faith and doctrine. Regarding the faith—what we must believe in order to be saved—the New Testament is strong, strict, and consistent. In Jude 3 we are even told that we “should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Concerning the faith, we must be ready to fight. We should not merely insist on the faith and stand for it, but fight for it at any cost, even at the cost of our life. The faith for which we must fight is the common faith, the Christian faith, the faith that saves us.
In contrast, in the New Testament we are never charged to fight for doctrine. As far as doctrine is concerned, the New Testament is liberal. Take the example of eating what has been sacrificed to idols. If you read what Paul says about this in Romans and in 1 Corinthians, you may be puzzled. In some places Paul indicates that it is permissible to eat what has been offered to idols. However, in other places he strongly advises against this practice. Years ago, I spent a great deal of time trying to understand this. Troubled by what seemed to be an inconsistency in Paul’s writings, I wondered why he did not tell us in a straightforward way whether or not we should eat things that have been sacrificed to idols. Only after I had been delivered from preoccupation with doctrine did I come to understand that Paul wrote different things on different occasions about eating because he was liberal with respect to doctrine. He knew that under certain circumstances it was permissible to eat, whereas in other circumstances it was not. Only when you have been delivered from preoccupation with doctrine will you be able to understand that certain matters pertaining to doctrine are relative to the situation. This is why Paul could say one thing on one occasion and something else on a different occasion.
Concerning the eating of meat or the observing of certain days, Paul did not take a definite stand. On the contrary, in these matters he was liberal. But in Romans 16:17 he said strongly, “Now I beg you, brothers, keep a watchful eye on those who make divisions and causes of falling contrary to the teaching which you have learned, and turn away from them.” As far as doctrines go, Paul was liberal, but as far as divisiveness was concerned, he was definite. He told us to mark out those who cause division and to avoid them.
In 1 Corinthians 5:7-11 Paul deals with fornication and idolatry. In verse 9 he charges the saints “not to company with fornicators.” Fornication damages humanity, and idolatry is an insult to God. Although Paul was liberal with respect to doctrine, he would not tolerate anything related to fornication or idolatry. His word about these things is strong and definite.
In Titus 3:10 Paul says, “A man that is factious, after the first and second admonition, reject” (Gk.). A factious person is divisive and sectarian. After such a one has been admonished once or twice, he should be rejected if he continues in his divisiveness. There can be no compromise or neutrality. Therefore, regarding idolatry, fornication, and divisiveness Paul was very strict, and we must be strict also.
According to the Second Epistle of John, we see that we must also reject those who deny the incarnation of Christ. Verse 7 says, “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” This verse indicates that even in the first century there were certain ones who called themselves Christians, but who did not confess that Christ was God come in the flesh. In other words they denied the fact that Christ was God incarnated. In verse 9 the writer goes on to say, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” The word transgress here means to go a little farther. The Bible reveals that Christ is God incarnated. Those who denied this went too far; they had given up the teaching that Christ is God incarnate. Hence, the Apostle John warned the believers concerning this kind of person: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed: for he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (vv. 10-11). We cannot receive those who do deny the incarnation of Christ.
According to the New Testament, there are four things which we cannot tolerate: idolatry, fornication, division, and the denial of the deity of Christ. Concerning the faith, we must be bold, strong, and definite, ready to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. However, as far as doctrines are concerned, we must be liberal with others. Nevertheless, we cannot tolerate idolatry, fornication, division, and the denial of the incarnation of Christ.
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