Offenses and Offenders
January 23, 2015
I came across this excerpt from Martin Luther’s Tabletalk today. It is under the chapter heading “Offences”:
We little know how good and necessary it is for us to have adversaries, and for heretics to hold up their heads against us. For if Cerinthus had not been, then St. John the Evangelist had not written his gospel; but when Cerinthus opposed the godhead in our Lord Christ, John was constrained to write and say: In the beginning was the Word; making the distinction of the three persons so clear, that nothing could be clearer. So when I began to write against indulgences and against the pope, Dr. Eck set upon me, and aroused me out of my drowsiness. I wish from my heart this man might be turned the right way, and be converted; for that I would give one of my fingers; but if he will remain where he is, I wish he were made pope, for he has well deserved it, for hither to he has had upon him the whole burthen of the Popedom, in disputing and writing against me. Besides him, they have none that dare fall upon me; he raised my first cogitations against the pope, and brought me so far, or otherwise I should never have gone on. (381-382)
I often find myself weary with all of the offences to the faith within our own so-called evangelical camp. It is good to stop and think for a moment about how God uses adversaries to the truth to awaken us from a dreadful state of drowsiness to our own confession of hope. This makes me grateful to be offended when false teaching makes it’s way into the church. It sends me back to the Word. It also reminds me to cling to Christ.
Heb. 12:15 reads, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” This is a reference to Deuteronomy 29:18, a strong rebuke against false teaching that leads to apostasy. In our culture of tolerance, it seems that the one pointing out a false teaching can get more criticism than the person proclaiming a different gospel. The one contending for the truth appears to be the offender of niceness. Speaking out in discernment is viewed as divisive to the unity and peace of the church. But this admonition in Hebrews is one that the church needs to take very seriously, as we see this root of lies exposed in Deuteronomy as a poisonous fruit that can bring disaster to the covenant people.
From this verse in Hebrews we see that God’s covenant people are to “see to it” to shepherd one another. Like brothers and sisters, we are to look after one another in our perseverance to the end. So part of our striving for peace with everyone is to promote holiness in one another. We are to make sure no one is flirting with false teaching. How well do we strive to take care everyone is on the right path in the race, and that they are getting back up when they fall down?
We can’t run a race to the end in a drowsy state. I’m thankful for those who have gone before us holding fast to our confession of hope. I am glad they have clearly responded to adversaries of the faith. The Son of God told us we would have adversaries. And he has already successfully dealt with them so we will not grow weary.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Heb. 12:1-3)