Can Anyone Think For Themselves Anymore? :: by Gene Lawley

One of the recurring statements often muttered by those who are confronted with a challenging thought about their belief system is “But I’ve always been taught that…” Does anyone think for themselves? And by that I mean, in terms of Christianity, are we not considered individually “ONE-on-one” with God? That principle would also apply to the political arena, as well, for, with God, there can be no separation from any part of our lives (in spite of the recent Democratic political platform confusion)!

The Biblical guideline and foundational principle is what Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:15): “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”. I take the directive literally, in that “dividing the Word” means to get the full Biblical consideration of a topic or issue and find its central truth or truths. Then, embrace that result. It is more than that, also, for the Bible is God’s message and plan for mankind and must be viewed as to how God relates Himself to man through the ages. (As has been said, “the Bible is its own best commentary”.)

An alternate example of faulty thinking is found in John 5:39-40 where Jesus says, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me, but you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life”. Denial of His deity in the face of the teachings of the Scriptures they held is a prime example of not rightly dividing the Word of God because of pre-set convictions. That verse also gives a hint of what “be diligent to present yourself approved to God” means in practical terms: “search the Scriptures”, and Proverbs 2 describes it as a treasure hunt.

It seems that many people are relying on their date of baptism as the evidence of their salvation, and that particular stance is not limited to those who believe the Scriptures teach that one must be baptized to be saved. Some who are born again have not grown in faith beyond their baptism, apparently, to be able to testify of an ongoing relationship with the Lord. (Church membership or being born in America might be lined up behind baptism as assumed evidence of redemption, as well.)

A thoughtful search of the Scriptures should bring one to question why the thief on the cross got away without being baptized, yet was welcomed into Paradise that same day that he died, along with Jesus. And, why a multitude of Scripture passages dealing with how to be saved never mention baptism, while only a couple seem to include it. In those days, baptism was a public declaration of commitment to Christ and often was the forerunner of prison, the lion’s arena, or out- right execution, but certainly persecution. It was not so much like a slap on the back and an invitation as the honoree at a potluck supper.

Some folks are content to leave their eternal destiny in the hands of the clergy, as “it’s their job to figure out all those things that God demands of us”. But salvation is not of man in any format or manner, but it is of God. John 1:12-13 tells us that: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Not of blood—by birthright; not of the will of the flesh—not by self effort; not of the will of man—not by some other person’s declaration!) Looks like all of the “other ways” are closed off! Is there no other way to avoid a personal confrontation with God? No, no, for with God it is ONE-on- one!

One bothersome thing to me is the twisting of Scripture, or even the rejection of God’s actual words, to have it say what has already been decided, and thereby calling God a liar. A case in point is the position of the “replacement theology” faction. They say, as I understand them, that the Jews’ rejection of Christ as their Messiah has led God to reject them in His plans and to favor the Church instead. Thus, the return of Israel to its physical location as a sovereign state today is actually contrary to the will of God.

I think, then, of the character of God as it has been revealed to us in the Scriptures, and read Numbers 23:19 to refresh my thinking: “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Out of context, you say? God is never out of context when we are dealing with who He is! So why would those folks take the word of an early church father, one Justin Martyr, instead of the Word of God, as that early believer is reported as saying, “The era of Judaism is over”, when that statement is taken to mean God has gone back on His promises to Israel.

If that means God is not using Judaism to reach the world with the gospel, then I stand corrected, in part, for it is clear that preaching the gospel message is the mission of the body of Christ and will be until that spiritual entity is taken away at the Rapture. However, I read in Revelation 7 that God picks out 144,000 Jewish men and ordains them for a special ministry, which apparently ends with millions of people from every tribe, tongue and nation having become believers under that ministry—along with the ministry of the two witnesses, who are also Jews, apparently. (An obvious question here, for the “post-trib” and perhaps even the “mid-trib” and “pre-wrath” folks, is “why doesn’t God use the Church for His witnesses? After all, were not those believers specifically given the Great Commission of proclaiming the gospel? We know why, but that “why” still has a deep and reverberating echo that seems to go unanswered in the face of those who twist the Scriptures to their own liking.)

So, it appears that God is not finished with the Jews, contrary to what some of the early Christians—and many having that line of thought today—seemed to envision for God’s plan. As Paul discusses in Romans 11, God has set them aside for a time while He “takes out of the Gentiles a people for His name” (Romans 11:1-2 and 25, and Acts 15:14). It is also worth noting, here, verse 18 of that chapter in Acts: “Known to God from eternity are all His works”.

There are other inputs to the argument from those of the “replace-ment” camp, but a question or two come to mind. If God has turned from His promise to the nation of Israel, that He would restore them to their land and has turned His promises to the Church, why is the Church not residing in that land? Why are the Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, et al, not there instead of the Jews? And why does the Replacement Theology folks want the land to be held by the Palestinians and not the Church? What god are they dealing with?

Now back to the initial issue. One could find by careful study of the Bible just how God looks at the issue: “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘thus says the Lord GOD: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD,” says the Lord GOD, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land” (Ezekiel 36:22-24).

It is certainly worthy of consideration, if God does change His mind on His promise to Israel, how can one be sure of his promises elsewhere, such as Philippians 1:6, “…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Why can’t we let God be God, eternal, sovereign, true to His Word, unchanging, fully trustworthy?

Jesus said of the Comforter, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13). So, it looks like the Bereans truly were the honorable ones: “These [Bereans] were more fair-minded [honorable] than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Not a bad idea, especially when, with God, we are ONE-on-one.