Friday, September 24, 2010

1 Timothy 4: Confessing or Conforming to God's Word?

1 Tim 4:7-10 Rather  train yourself for godliness; for while  bodily training is of some value, godliness  is of value in every way, as  it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is  trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God,  who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

There is currently a popular teaching on grace that light-pedals obedience to the extent of creating passive believers who are "confessing" God Word, rather than obeying it. Unlike Scripture's emphasis on training for godliness, the only "training" required by this grace-teaching is the exercise of the vocal call  - viz., "confess the Word and you will receive God's blessing". Rather than the scriptural emphasis on obedience to God's Word, the new Grace-mantra calls for confession of God's Word as sufficient. While I believe there is value in confessing God's Word to reject negative thinking habits and patterns, I think God calls for more than confession of Scriptures--in fact, He calls for obedience. Confessing may start us off as  believers but it is the obeying that will make us strong and fruitful disciples.

In the Scriptures quoted above, Paul teaches that godliness is a fruit of "training." He compares such godliness training to bodily training. No one should for a moment think that he can become strong and muscular by simply "confessing" truths about health and body-building. To have a strong body, he would have to go to the gym and pump some irons to build up his muscles. In the same way, godliness requires disciplined training comprising the regular reading of Scriptures and prayers based on God's Word. However, the training goes beyond just reading of Scriptures. Godliness training requires us to  put God's Word into practice. 

Jesus says in Matthew 7:24-27 that "everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like  a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like  a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."

Here Jesus makes it very clear that it is not the hearing and even the confessing of God's Word alone that build strong foundation for Christian living but the doing of God's Word. It is unbiblical to substitute "does them" with "confess them". Confessing God's Word may start the process of spiritual growth, but it is the conforming to God's  Word that defines a godly man. 

Grace does not make obedience unnecessary but makes obedience possible.

Chee Min

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