So often today I see infighting between the different denominations and groups who call themselves Christians.
I see Protestants arguing with Catholics, Pentecostals arguing with non-spirit filled religions, and everything in between. Every group has a point of view and every group believes they are correct and have the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They throw up the arguments of past Christian writers pitting one expert against another in an attempt to prove that they are right and others are wrong. And they use their experts to try to disprove and discredit the expert opinions their so-called opponents are quoting.
And they are all wrong. All they show in their arguing is pride and arrogance. They add nothing to the advancement of the gospel and rather they are away from it because pride and arrogance have no part in the gospel of Jesus Christ or the pathway to life. And this is part of what this section of scripture discusses.
Knowledge is important. Don’t get me wrong on that. But knowledge that is not tempered by faith and humility and love becomes a weapon in the wrong hands.
As the scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 8:1-2,
1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.
Now while Paul was writing about food offered to idols, the same principle holds true for all knowledge. Whe a person seeks knowledge for the sake of knowledge they are puffed up. Too often we see people use knowledge to gain advantage or to belittle someone else who does not have the same knowledge.
Instead, when knowledge is sought for the sake of building up others or maturity in oneself, and is then used to help others in a spirit of love, that is when and where knowledge is truly valuable. That is when knowledge does not cause pride and arrogance.
Pride and Arrogance
In this section of scripture in Romans 11 we see Paul warning the Gentiles against becoming proud and arrogant towards the Jews.
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in. 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. (Romans 11:17-21)
The Jews missed the point of the coming of Jesus Christ and through their pride and arrogance they rejected the new covenant that He brought into being.
The Gentiles accepted Jesus and so became children of God and citizens of the kingdom of God by faith in Jesus Christ. They now had a knowledge of something better than the Jews had. They had knowledge of the way of life that was established apart from the way of the law and was a better path to God.
But they needed to be warned not to gloat because they had it and the Jews did not. They needed to be reminded that even though the Jews had, for a time, rejected God, they were still the favored people of God for the sake of their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They were still the people who held the promises of God and the prophecies of the way to salvation.
What they needed to understand, and we need to remember today, is that whether a person is a Jew or gentile, whether they are Protestant or Catholic, Baptist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, Quaker, Seventh Day Adventist or any of the other Christian sects, denominations or groupings in the world today, ALL of us are seeking the better way offered by Jesus Christ.
Seeking the Way
Does this mean everyone is right? No. Every segment of the Christian religion has things to learn. Not every person and not every sect of Christianity is on the same page or at the same place in the walk with Jesus Christ.
Paul knew this and He attempted to grow people into the maturity of Jesus Christ. And even the Jews who opposed him he sought to affect so that they might see the light and turn to Christ as well. As he says in this section,
13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches (Romans 11:13-16)
Paul magnified his ministry in order to make the Jews jealous and so by their testing what he was saying they might find the truth for themselves. It was his hope that they would see from the evidence he presented that they would recognize Jesus was indeed the Christ and the messiah promised by the old prophets.
Going on from there then it was his hope that if they turned and repented and came to the Lord, then their full inclusion could mean only great and wonderful blessings and great rejoicing just as it also did for the inclusion and acceptance of Jesus Christ by the Gentiles.
And so too today we should not fight and argue with one another just because we have a “different brand” of Christianity. At the foundation of all the Christian religions and sects there is one common denominator; Jesus Christ. But then what comes after the foundation, the teachings and belief structures built on that foundation may be vastly different.
Paul wrote of the foundations and the subsequent buildings in this way in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw- 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
What Paul was showing here is that there WILL be many levels and degrees of teaching built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. There will be teaching systems that are akin to wood, hay and straw where the beliefs held by those particular Christians will get burned up when tested by fire. Likewise there will be those whose belief systems are like gold, silver and precious stones and these are in some case little affected by fire or in the case of gold and silver, are actually improved and refined by the fire.
As we all walk in this world we are being tested by the fires of life. We are opposed by the devil and his demons as well as those people who choose to reject Jesus Christ. We are tested by the false teachings and beliefs held as gospel in some of the Christian religions, many of which have no basis whatsoever in the scripture. And finally we are tested by the fires of temptation that are within us as our passions, lusts and desires are tempted and over which we must learn self-control.
It is a hard walk and a long and rocky path that leads to maturity in Jesus Christ.
Knowing this then, we ought to not fight and argue with other Christians for we do not know whether they hold a gold nugget of truth that may lead us to greater insight and maturity. Similarly they may have some really terrible beliefs that have no bearing on the truth of the scriptures, and perhaps by sharing our knowledge with them in a spirit of love rather than pride and arrogance, perhaps we can impart a gold nugget to them.
So let us not fight and argue in pride and arrogance. Instead let us all seek what builds up towards a mutual understanding of the truth of the gospel for the benefit of all the members of Christ’s body because just as the Jews were for a while rejected so the Gentiles could be brought into the flock, so too we will be rejected if we allow pride and arrogance to drive us rather than faith, mercy, compassion and love.
(Image sourced from freeimages.com provided by Magda Dolecka)
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