Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday’s Ministry Musing: The Danger of Not Letting the Text Speak

Sometimes we are told that we cannot come to Christ unless the Father draws us, that without Christ we can do nothing, and that if we live, it is not we, but Christ who lives in us.  Now these views tend to hide pride from man, to create a diffidence of ourselves, and to center our hopes and dependence on Christ; but lest the slothful and wicked servant should make his impotence his excuse, we are called upon to turn and make ourselves new hearts; we are exhorted to ask and we shall receive; and we are assured that God will give the Spirit to them who ask Him…(John Jennings, Christian Pastor’s Manual, 53)

I have seen men of various stripes (myself included) totally blow this one.  I have seen those of a more Calvinistic understanding of the text come to a place that sounds really “Arminian” not let the text speak for itself but simply explain it away.  I have also heard those of a non-Calvinistic understanding of the text come to those places in Scripture that sure sound Calvinistic spend their time explaining why this cannot mean what it sounds like and do not let the text speak for itself. 

What inevitably happens is that when we are guilty of not letting the text speak for itself we have very unbalanced Christians.  I am amazed that whenever my heart and mind wants to attach myself to a narrow view the Scriptures pull me back.  There are so many times that I have ridden a verse for too long only to run smack into another verse that cries out to me, “yeah but”. 

Perhaps one thing that it means to “rightly divide the Word of truth” is to let the Scriptures speak for themselves.  When we come to a text like John 6:44 we should realize that many of these Calvinistic passages are given to us for the purpose of killing our pride, inspiring us to rest solely on Christ, motivating us to have unity, and encouraging us with the power and sovereignty of a faithful God.  Preach the text for those results, don’t go about explaining it away but use the text for what it’s intended to accomplish. 

The same thing goes for passages like Luke 13:24 or Ezekiel 18:23.  Rather than trying to explain them away or make them fit a Calvinistic grid just preach them as they are.  As John Piper rightly says,

“Don't ride hobbyhorses that aren't in the text. Preach exegetically, explaining and applying what is in the text. If it sounds Arminian, let it sound Arminian. Trust the text and the people will trust you to be faithful to the text.”

These text are here to help us have a full understanding of the heart of God.  It motivates us to missions and causes us to love our “enemies”.  When we are tempted to ride a text like John 6:44 into the errors of Hyper-Calvinism these verses a reigns that pull us in to a more balanced and biblical understanding of salvation.  Yes, we must strive to enter this rest.  There is no room for complacency. 

So, if you want to be the pastor of balanced Christians then one way to bring that about is to be faithful in preaching the text as it is.  Let the text speak for itself.  Yes, that’s hard…but that is part of the reason that you are “set apart” for the teaching and preaching of the Word.  You and I are given a charge by God to rightly divide the Word—let us do it, by His grace and for His glory.

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