May 03, 2016

Quarreling About Words

Just prior to my adult Sunday school class a man complained to me about people on the internet cherry-picking Scripture to support their ideas. However, during the class he himself did something similar when he declared, “You don’t have to be baptized to be saved. Just look to the thief on the cross…” The man then went on to cherry-pick Scripture which related to salvation, but excluded the act of baptism. Paul said, “Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:14-15 NIV).

1 comment:

Steve Corey said...


-----The topic of “quarreling about words” is similar to the topic of “knowing your audience”. Pumice pointed out that maybe one in attendance of a presentation is there to learn more, and so he will have to make the effort to reach up and take hold of what goes over his head. But then, there is also a “talking over the heads” that is out of the immediate reach of an audience such that no reach up to grasp it can be successful. So also, there are some very important words the church must not let faithlessness twist and distort.
-----For example, a preacher once minced the word “death” so that “…as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin…” would not be meaning physical death. That way God would not be a liar by blaming man for the same physical death that was the critical process of evolution by which this preacher proposed God created us. That’s a serious error worthy of a loving debate.
-----Paul also told Timothy at vss. 24-25, “…the Lord’s servant [must be] kindly to every one, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness,” which is the way to “…not be quarrelsome…” Like some people have very short arms unable to reach up far enough to grasp much of what goes over their heads, others are very hypersensitive to controversy. But all scripture is inspired and profitable even “…for reproof, for correction…” (3:16). Paul’s charge to Timothy included urgency in rebuking as well as convincing and exhorting (4:2).
-----Reproof and rebuke are important to keeping the church undefiled. They are not the same as quarreling. Quarreling is always senseless controversy. Reproof and rebuke by an apt teacher is convincing to the honest and humble, but incitation to the crooked and arrogant. But the crooked and arrogant must be dealt with, or they will overtake the whole church like a little leaven overtakes the whole lump. Quarreling is the inappropriate solution. The church went ahead and tried to maintain its doctrinal purity through quarreling and controversy from the close of the first century onward because its clergy were not apt teachers, always talking much too far over their congregations‘ heads concerning important matters. Thus we have this shameful mess of denominations shouting disunity of the Lord’s body louder to the world than they preach the gospel.
-----Paul’s solution for the rebuke which turns to arrogant controversy rather than turning up unification through humble repentance is the “limp arm“. “As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (Tiitus 3”10-11) But notice this instruction is given to another apt teacher, for that is the way to overcome quarrels in the church: teach the truth all the more fervently, kindly, gently, and convincingly, but not far over the heads.
-----The difficulty is what to do when the foolishness is coming from the clergy. This disease has spread throughout the entire church, and not simply in that some denominations can not reason their way high enough to know why Christ was more than a created being, or that “baptize” is merely a transliteration of a Greek word meaning “immerse”. Even clergy very close to us will slice and dice a word better left whole and meaningful.
-----Some things are best left to the Lord while love and forbearance are our given duties. And if we disassociated from everyone who mishandled one concept or another of the Word, soon we would be associating with only our selves, and shortly thereafter with nobody. For even our own selves are full of inner conflicts.

Love you all,
Steve Corey