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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

ECM and Teaching--Can We Use Authority?

[The caveats were gettting out of control. Therefore, I encourage you to check a former post to see that I desire to not be mean, rude or condescending.

I don't think all of the ECM is guilty of these issues. But the ECM has brought some of these issues to light. These issues, however, are prevelent in other areas of our fellowship as well.

If nothing else, I'm thankful that these issues caused me to look deeper into some passages.]


ECM and Teaching--Can We Use Authority?

In the last post, I suggested that Scripture teaches that it is perspicuous. Many today espouse a "hermeneutic of humility" that contradicts this point. Others, claim the Bible is clear and understandable (again, do not assume this means some texts are not difficult), yet they find that clear teaching is not as effective. Either people are turned off by past preachers who hammered every topic with iron clad confidence (even in areas where the Bible is silent), or our learning style has changed. Therefore, many preachers today choose to be vague. Ambiguity is in, clear directives are out. Many advocates of this teaching style claim a pretty prestigious line of teachers. In fact, aren't they simply teaching like Jesus did?
Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.--Matthew 13:13
Therefore, if we present a captivating story, it will draw our audience in. They may not comprehend all of the details and perhaps they may even misunderstand elements, but at least they will be listening. Is it concerning that people may not understand? Certainly. But Jesus acknowledges this tendency and yet prefers to use parable as a teaching method. Isn't it a good idea to follow in His footsteps?

Let's consider a few details about the text:
    1. Christ's Idiosyncratic Ministry--Christ did not speak in parables to help them understand His teaching, the text suggests He used parables to keep them from understanding Him. It has not been granted that the audience would know the mysteries of the kingdom. There are a number of reasons for this:
      a. God's sovereign choice (Romans 9:14-18). God is glorified to reveal that He will grant understanding to some and not grant it to others.
      b. Predetermined Plan (Acts 2:23). The Israelites had to reject their Messiah so that He could offer His life for their sins. Only by being rejected could Christ become our reconcilliation.
      c. To Fulfill His Word (Isaiah 6:9-10). Jesus tells His disciples that He teaches in parables to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah. Not only is His crucifixion God's predetermined plan, His speaking in parables is one of God's predetermined forms to keep the crowd from listening.
    Christ's ambiguous teaching was for our benefit. However, the sacrifice has been made, and there clearly is no longer any need for us to prevent people from coming to repentance. I am shocked that so many who claim "humility" fail to see this giant distinction between their ministry and His.
    2. Non-Missional--Therefore, the parables were actually to prevent people from understanding the mysteries of the Kingdom. One must acknowledge that Jesus chose non-propositional story telling as a Kingdom stagnating teaching method. The Kingdom was not expanded (though it was further initiated) through this literary device.
    3. Solved Mystery--Jesus is not content to leave His elect in mystery. Consider:
      a. Mystery--Many people perk up when they read the phrase "mysteries of the kingdom of heaven." However, they seem to ignore that His disciples were granted to know these mysteries. Jesus did not desire for them to remain mysterious.
      b. Knowledge Granted--Jesus tells the disciples that it has been granted to them to know the mysteries of the kingdom. They are not smarter or more clever than the others, they have simply been chosen.
      c. He Teaches Clearly--Lost in Jesus' admission to using parables is that He does so while clearly teaching propositionally. He explains why He teaches in parables, explains that they are different and then explains the parable...piece by piece. His propositional teaching, only available to the disciples (v 10), was the means through which God desired to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.
      d. Good Soil--When Jesus is explaining His parable, He declares that the seed that fell on the good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it (Matthew 13:23)! His very parable was about people who would understand His teaching (and that the majority would not).
Yes, Jesus often spoke in parables. But he had a unique mission and even desired that some would misunderstand. Those who choose to model their teaching after this typically ignore these issues. Furthermore, they tend to neglect that Jesus explained many of His parables to His disciples. They often consider His parables ambiguous and claim to be following His pattern. However, they also tend to ignore that His teaching had amazing authority! In fact, the crowd observes His authority in teaching just after He has told them that the wise man hears His words and obeys them.

But the proponents of this "new humility" will counter, Christ maay have taught with authority, but certainly we cannot. We have no authority! This would be humble if only it did not place the person in direct conflict with Christ. For His instructions were:
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."--Matthew 28:18-20
He does not call us to teach them all I have commanded, but teach them to obey all that I have commanded. This cannot be done in vague terms. A person must be introduced to Christ's commands and introduced to practical application. But how can we do this? Don't forget...

He has all authority.

And He is with us to the end.

It's time for us to teach like it.

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