This month’s teaching brings stern advice from the Apostle Paul to his son in the Gospel to maintain the Faith and continue to love (2 Tim. 1:13-14). My research and experiences over the years has led me to question the basis of where the body of Christ is concerning sound biblical teaching. We are faced with dangerous theological distortions all the time from various sources. The best way to administer poison is to hide it in something good. So, false teachers are not standing up waving a flag saying they are teaching false doctrine. No, they are mixing truths, lowing standards, and secretly denying major doctrines of the Faith. The Word of God is said to be “nourishment, energy, and development” in truth. Any sort of theological poison morsels that are planted in the midst of a solid base of truth will upset the balance. We must be on guard by studying (2 Tim 2:14-15), praying (Eph 6:18), and trusting God (Heb 11:6).
When I researched what we term, “The early or primitive church,” I was amazed at the amount of cautions and warnings regarding false teachers. They were constantly commanded to guard their faith and salvation. We are also challenged to build ourselves up through prayer and discernment.
Jude v20, “but you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith, by praying in the Holy Spirit” (Net Bible). Jude v3 suggests that we should contend for the Faith – this means we should fight, question, and stand firm against heresies that arise in opposition to the faith of the Church. Jude states, “ Dear friends, although I was eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write to you and urge you to continue your vigorous defense of the faith that was passed down to the saints once and for all.” (ISV)
The Apostles expected believers to be able to discipline themselves in doctrine and maintain strong Christian values. However, it became evident quickly that this was not going to happen without teachers and prophets (Acts 13:1). Ancient documents of the Early Church demonstrate that the Church Fathers all believed in the primacy of a one universal church under apostolic authority. According to the scriptures, the apostles were given the necessary authority to train teachers and appoint elders or pastors to spread the faith (Acts 20:28).
By the turn of the 1st Century, there were a number of Epistles (letters) and Gospel accounts circulating around the community of faith (who called themselves Christians,) but not all of them were recognized as inspired. Many of these writings were not eye-witness accounts or were not considered in succession from the Apostles teachings. All of them were written by 125 AD, and those recognized as inspired by 200 AD. The complete canon (Old and New Testaments) was listed by the Councils of Hippo (393 AD) and Carthage (397 AD).
The issue of trusted leadership has been questioned in character and skill since the inception of the church. Just who do we trust with our Faith? Do we trust clergy to inspire us? Do we trust scholars to investigate for us? Do we trust teachers to exegete correctly? Do we trust prophets to reveal to us? Do we trust modern day apostles to establish us? Or do we simply trust the Holy Spirit to lead us (John 16:13)? The real question is if the Holy Spirit is not working through any of the above mediums, how does He speak? More important, who can determine when and where He reveals Himself?
The doctrine of “Divine Revelation” in its’ theological and religious context has raised a host of controversy. Basically, there are two concepts of this term. Natural or general revelation and special revelation define the categories of study in this field. General revelation refers to God’s self-disclosure in creation, providentially orchestrated history, and in human nature or moral law. It is general in the sense that it is equally available to all people, everywhere, all the time. It is less specific information about God, however, than is found, say, in the life and teaching of Jesus and the explicit commands, teachings, etc. in the Bible.
Special revelation is that which is given to us through Prophets, the Bible, and even visions and dreams (Num. 12:6-8). The ultimate in special revelation is the incarnation of Jesus because He came to reveal the Father to us (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22; Heb. 1:1-3) and to communicate to us the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4) by which comes salvation. Special revelation can be given with or without words. I don’t propose to have all the answers, especially in this limited space. However, I hope I have challenged your mind to pray, study, and maintain your Faith.