A brother writes me, giving Gal. 3:26 as caption of his letter, and copying the first 26 verses of Col. with certain expressions left out, and then makes the following comments:
"The above you will notice is an extraction from St. Paul's epistle to the Colossians in contracted form which, however, neither adds nor distracts from the thoughts expressed by the original writer. If, however, one injects disharmonizing thoughts or ideas foreign to scriptural teaching the danger arises of becoming more interested in the study of words than scripture. I firmly believe that we are exhorted to study Scripture rather than strife of words. And I am inclined to believe the sister from Renton, Wash., entertained similar thoughts, bless her heart. Who cares whether a pronoun bumps a verb or is transitive, 'nough said.
Signed: Your brother in Christ.
Such as this makes me both indignant and sad. This is rash disrespect for the word of God, posing as a superior brand of spirituality. It is puerility enjoying its own weakness and looking with disdain on those who would go on to maturity. In the text he has emphasized certain expressions as for inst. "faithful minister of Christ" — "filled with knowledge of His will" "increasing in the knowledge of God" — "delivered from the power of darkness" — "if ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled" etc.
How in the world can any of these grand objectives be reached except by taking heed to the Word of God? How can one for inst. be a faithful minister of Christ and be utterly careless as to the correct meaning of the Words that God has used in His revelation to us? But this attitude seems to be gaining more ground all the time. One brother said to me: "I have thrown the bible in the garbage can. I don't need these crooks and points and lines that the printer uses. That is all right for babes, but not for the mature." And in a certain meeting I have heard the preachers say time and time again that "we have thrown doctrines to the winds." I consider this the most insidious form of apostasy. It parades in the garb of super-holiness and maturity, whereas the truth is that it is silly nonsense. In a certain meeting I wrote a question on paper and sent it to all in the audience. The question was "What constitutes the witness of the spirit"—Ro. 8:16. This was one of the meetings in which they loved to assert that they did not need "the letter" of the Scriptures, only the spirit. Of about 60 people with several preachers there was not one who could answer the question scripturally. The ignorance of believers is appalling and oppressive. And the worst part of it is that they like to have it thus.
'Study Scripture rather than strife of words,' my brother says. But is it not the words that make up the scriptures? I suppose he means "words" and not "strife of words."
According to this brother it makes no difference as to how incorrectly the Words of Inspiration have been translated. And as to grammatical forms, well — that is a non-essential!
"If one injects disharmonizing thoughts and ideas" the brother says. But how can one avoid getting in such thots and ideas if we do not know the meaning of the words that God used? I dare say that no sincere and just man would treat the words of men with such radical indifference. I know no other way to get the thoughts and ideas of anyone but by their words. Words are exceedingly important things. Even on them hangs the judgment of God. "By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." — Matt. 12:37.
I dare say that if we were as careless with our own expressions as we are with the Words of God we would have pandemonium reigning even in the simplest things of life. Let me take just one concrete illustration from our religious life.
For many decades there has been going on debates about the work of the holy spirit. The fundamental error that has brought the confusion is that the baptism in spirit and filling of the spirit are synonymous. Repeatedly I have tried to point out that there are several phases of the spirits work that we must distinguish between. We have the baptism, the filling, the sealing, the anointing, the earnest and the indwelling. How often have I not heard it indignantly asserted that "it makes no difference what terms we use, the main thing is to have the experience." — Trying to use the words as the spirit has used them is utterly non-essential! That is carnal hair-splitting! But if first it is admitted that the baptism and filling are two different effects of the spirit then it opens the way for seeing the difference between the other phases.
Imagine one coming to the garage with the car to have it fixed and being asked what the trouble is, he says it is in the battery, while what he means is the radiator. When he means the generator he would just as soon say carburetor. When he means checking the tires he says checking the sparkplugs. He would not go on very far with that kind of speech before someone would think that he had escaped from the insane asylum. But in our religious parlance we can mix anything and everything and then wonder why we have so much confusion. And we take it a virtue to ignore the meaning of words used by the holy spirit to convey the divine thots.
When (as this brother has done) he cites a text that emphasizes divine wisdom, knowledge and understanding, but looks upon sincere efforts by godly men to arrive at the proper understanding of the divine words, then one may well suspect that the Enemy has gone far in his work of deception. May God restore and maintain in us the proper respect for His infallible words. It is the greatest treasure that any man can have, but if we handle these words with indifference we shall surely find at the Judgment Seat that we have piled up "wood, hay and straw."
E. A. L.
Last updated 10.10.2008