For an introduction to this series, click here.
November 1, 2007
Paul tends to throw a lot of disparate thoughts into the end of his epistles.
"Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people." (3:1-2)
Every once in a while (thankfully not very often) I run into a Christian who is obsessed with politics. And you can't be an honest Christian and not be frustrated by politicians. So they come to all kinds of crazy conclusions, like they shouldn't pay their taxes or they need to arm themselves in order to protect themselves from government persecution or intrusion they seem to know is coming. This is not the attitude Paul wants us to have. As Christians we are to live as best we can with the authorities. Some people develop a complex. They think that if the fire marshal tells them they need to put lighted "Exit" signs over the church doors then they are being persecuted. This is not persecution. It may be a hassle, but the fire marshal is not telling you what you are to teach or not teach.
"For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (3:3-7)
This passage is the testimony of every Christian. We were lost in sin, living depraved lives. But God saved us from all of that.
"The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned." (3:8-11, ESV)
It should be self-explanatory, as Paul says here, that Christians should lead lives characterized by good works. But some people, even some who claim to be evangelicals, say it is not reasonable to expect Christians to follow up their salvation with good works. Most of these people take the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints to an extreme. Certainly we cannot fall from grace by our actions, but there are too many scriptures that tell us to make our salvation sure for us to assume that just because someone made a profession and joined the church they are a Christian and on their way to heaven.
The last part is a solemn warning. Doctrinal purity is essential to the church, and we need to take all steps necessary (within reason) to make sure that our churches are preaching the truth. While no two people will agree perfectly on every issue, there are some things that are absolute. It's not OK if we have people in our church, especially in positions of spiritual authority, who, for example, teach that the Bible has fables in it that were never intended to be taught as absolute fact, but they became fact because of misguided tradition.