In the Steps of the Savior
Every year most American go through the exasperating experience of filing for income tax. I know of nothing more frustrating than reading the convoluted language of the IRS forms to figure out which provisions apply to me. I am beginning to think that the legal jargon of the IRS laws are a plot to force all of us to employ lawyers for assistance.
Evidently, the lawyers of Jesus' day also sought to obscure the clear point of God's law by clouding the issue with complex definitions and provisions to qualify that law. Let's notice one such instance recorded in Luke 10:25-37. Jesus encounter with one lawyer went as follows:
God's law was plain enough for anyone to understand. Its charge to all was clear. Unless one complicated the simple commands of God, their meaning was obvious.
However, this lawyer realized that he was not loving his neighbor if that law was understood in the normal sense of the words. Luke tells us of this lawyer's response:
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" (v. 29).
You see, he wanted some more provisions added to cloud the obvious meaning of the word "neighbor." He knew he was guilty, but sought a way to get off on a technicality in the law - a legal loophole of sorts.
Jesus responded by bringing him right back to the clear instruction of God's law put in the language of the common person. He told of a man who was beaten by some robbers and left for dead along side a road. Then he told the lawyer about three men who passed by the beaten man. In essence, Jesus gives the lawyer a multiple choice question about the meaning of a loving neighbor.
Choice one. "Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side" (v. 31). Though the priest was highly esteemed as a follower of the law, his actions showed him to be a violator of that law with regard to the obligation towards his fellow-man which confronted him on the road. The priest was not a loving neighbor!
Choice two. "Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side" (v. 32). The Levites were supposed to be servants of God, but this one's actions showed him as anything but a true servant. The Levite was not a true neighbor, either!
Choice three. "But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him" (vs. 33- 34). Yes, he took care of the beaten man's immediate needs, but he also did more. Luke says:
Though Samaritans were viewed as lawbreakers, this one clearly obeyed God's law. He loved his neighbor enough to care for him and spend two day's wages (two denarii), or more if needed, for his neighbor's future care.
Jesus then asked the lawyer to draw the conclusion. He asked, "So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?" (v. 36).
The lawyer understood the point. He replied, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise" (v. 37).
There is no convoluted, legal jargon in Jesus' commands to us today. We must simply obey His will as plainly declared in the Gospel. Whether those commands regard the need to love our neighbor, the requirements of godliness in morality, or the plan of salvation, we must look to the clear teaching of Christ and obey it.
The appeal of true Christians has always been to the clear teaching of God's word to establish doctrine and practice. Faithful brethren have noted the simplicity of Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38 regarding water baptism when talking with Baptists. They have rightly appealed to Matthew 28:18 in showing the Catholic that all authority in heaven and on earth resides in Jesus, thus leaving no place for papal authority. When erring brethren introduced the centralization of power with eldership from so called "sponsoring churches," it was because of the plain words of 1 Peter 5:1-2 and Acts 20:28 that brethren urged the innovators to cease their unauthorized practice. In each case, the Scripture was rightly seen as the authoritative and understandable answer.
Today, there is a great need for us to preach this truth to ourselves just as we have tried to do to others. It is alarming to hear brethren who say we cannot be sure that God really created the earth in six literal days at the beginning as He said (Gen. 1 & 2; Exod. 20:11; 31:17; Mk. 10:6; Psa. 33:6-9). Brethren, what is so difficult to understand about those passages? Not only that, we hear that Jesus teaching on divorce and remarriage in Matthew 19 lacks sufficient "clarity" for us to understand alike. When one reads the account, the people at that times seemed to understand it fine even though they did not like it (Matt. 19:3-12). If you wonder whether Matthew 19:9 is understandable, let someone read it who is unfamiliar with the Bible and ask them what it means. It may surprise you to see how clearly they understand Jesus' teaching in comparison to some who have read so many convoluted theories that they have forgotten the simple text! The same could be said of present efforts to receive some in sinful practices into fellowship in contrast to Ephesians 5:11. What part of "NO" is so difficult to understand?
The Bible says, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:2-3). Let us not seek loophole in Christ's commands, but let us hear and heed His message of truth.
e-mail this author at HarryO@ij.net
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