Avoiding the Devil's Details

There is among some of the brethren the tendency to want to make sure that everyone has exactly correct doctrine according to the Word of God. Some are kind and understanding of differences in understanding. Some are combative and accusative of the brethren.  

Certainly, it can be understood that good-hearted brethren want others to be sure that they are right before God so that they are accounted worthy to stand before Him at the end. However, as former presidential candidate Ross Perot said in his campaign speeches, “the devil’s in the details.” Our desire for the brethren to have the “right” understanding is one place where the devil can insert himself if we are not carefully watching ourselves.

2Ti 3:16 -17 says this: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” This scripture combined with the Christ’s saying that “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth …” (Jn 16:13) is taken to an extension that is not warranted by scripture.

Some of us have the idea that we are guided into all truth. Because of that, when we see any difference in doctrine between us and others, we react in ways that do not represent the Christ well.

As an example, I have heard the statement that “If you are not keeping the right (you fill in the blank) then you can’t be worshipping the same God as I am.” Inherent in that statement is that, since there is only one God, our friends must be worshipping that which is not God, a direct violation of the commandments laid down in Exodus 20.

“What’s wrong with that?” Some will ask. “Getting it right is important to our salvation!” That is, I suppose, a fair question. However, it is one that demands an answer to another question beforehand. That question is “Where in the scripture does it say that ‘except you know and understand every doctrine perfectly and walk in it that you cannot be saved?’” Of course, as we well know, there is no such statement in the scripture.

What about the scripture in 2Ti, then? The answer is contained right in the scripture. It says that ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable. In whatever way we react to differences in understanding, it needs to be in the light of ALL of the scriptures!

For instance, when we read that the Spirit will guide us into all truth, we have to notice what is written as well as what is not written there. It does not say that the Spirit will guide us into all truth immediately, or even in our lives! We will indeed be guided into all truth, but in God’s time, not ours. All of the wrestling with the Word of God over differences in some lesser dogma are an attempt, perhaps with good intent, to force an understanding on another to which, perhaps, the Spirit isn’t yet leading.

This is not to say that we should not discuss the Way and how we see it in our interactions. Of course we should! But, the scripture (1Pe 3:15) says that we should be “ready to give an answer.” Giving an “answer” presupposes a question!

For instance, if we go to someone and tell them that they need to be wearing tassels and not shaving our beards, but have not been asked about that, we have not obeyed the commandment telling us to be ready with an answer.

The Christ’s brother, James, wrote this to us: “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (Jas 4:17). Some take this as a mandate to make sure that everyone else is doing good. This scripture is not discussing getting everyone else right. It is discussing getting ourselves right. In other words, if we “know” that we ought to wear tassels, refrain from eating at a restaurant on Sabbath, wear suits to church, or one of a myriad of differences we see in the Church, then we ought to be doing those things. What is not said is that we ought to be setting others on our path!

“Well, why not? Aren’t we supposed to teach? What about the Ethiopian eunuch?” Indeed, we are supposed to be “apt to teach.” However, let’s not take the scripture out of context. Here’s what is said: 2Ti 2:24-26  “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,  In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;  And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”

Space prohibits a complete analysis of that scripture, but, within the context of this article, we should notice that the apt teacher should not be a striver, someone who wants to argue! We should note that any instruction we give ought to be done in meekness, that is, in a gentle spirit just as one would teach a little child.

The Christ summed up this attitude for us. Joh 13:34-35  “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” We are not known to be His disciples by our correct doctrines or argument style. Everything we do with one another and, by extension, the world, ought to be done in love for one another.

Beyond this, in the scripture in 2Ti 2:24-26 the discussion is related to instructing those who “oppose themselves” and are in the “snare of the devil.” This scripture was never written to use our own particular dogma or difference to create a separation between ourselves and our other brethren. It was merely written to show how to help those who have slipped.

What we need to realize is that God is capable of discerning our hearts just as well as everyone else’s hearts. Notice this in Heb 4:12  “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

We should understand that God, who is a discerner of our thoughts, knows whether or not we have the doctrine right. He knows whether or not our brethren have the doctrine perfectly right. And, as previously shown, it is the Spirit that leads us into all truth—not the arguments we have, however well worded and finely crafted they might be! We ought not to be trying to do the work reserved for the Spirit, except as God leads them to ask us a question about those things. As well, those asking questions should be doing so with sincerity, not to create an argument!

For too long we brethren in the Church, not all of us but way too many of us, have felt, and acted, like our own brand of Christianity is the only right way and everyone else must be headed down the wrong path toward Satan. We then have taken it on ourselves to “correct” those “errors,” not realizing that we have one huge error that needs addressing. We need to love one another first and foremost.

There are many “styles” of worship in the Church of God. Some like to dance and shout. Some are more reserved. For instance, during the recent BSA conference, we were able to attend a local messianic-type of service. There was much dancing and singing. It was uplifting, but it isn’t my cup of tea. Does that make their “style” worse than ours? Or better? It does neither. It is just different!

God desires each of us to look into His Word and to allow the Spirit to lead us. Men can be sincere, with good intentions, but wrong. Therefore, let’s look into His Word and, instead of finding our differences troubling, see them as God does—different flavors from the same wonderful Body of Christ. After all, the eye is not the hand, or the foot, is it?

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