The last few ‘bible sharing’ posts have been on the theme of hearing God through the multifarious ways God uses to communicate with us. As I have studied and read on this subject, it comes to be clear to me that Christians need to be teachable if we wish to heard God’s words for us; not just His logos (written) words, but His current, up to the second rhema, or spoken words for us today.
Knowledge is undoubtedly a good thing, but Paul warns us to be wary of knowledge, for the sake of knowledge, especially Biblical knowledge, saying in First Corinthians 8:1“… Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.”
The leaders of the Jewish faith in the times of Jesus were the Pharisees and their court, the Sanhedrin, was the supreme court of ancient Israel comprising 71 members. By the end of the Second Temple period, the Sanhedrin reached its pinnacle of importance, legislating all aspects of Jewish religious and political life within the parameters laid down by Biblical and Rabbinic tradition. The Pharisees and the members of the Sanhedrin were the “Who’s Who” of Jesus’s society, all pious men who spent the majority of each day studying and memorising scripture. If any in Israel had knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures, they did; they has knowledge in abundance!
Yet Jesus said of them in John 5:37-40
“And He sending Me, the Father Himself, has borne witness of Me. Neither have you heard His voice at any time nor seen His shape. And you do not have His Word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He has sent. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life. And they are the ones witnessing of Me, and you will not come to Me that you might have life.”
The Pharisees studied, they memorised, but they could not hear even the logos Word of God from the scriptures, let alone the rhema word. They were blind and deaf to who Jesus was and what the Old Testament scrolls said about Him. Despite their undoubted and unmatched knowledge of the bible scripture, despite their undoubted intelligence, despite their undoubted discipline, they studied in vain, unable to find that which they sought – eternal life. Despite all of that, yet they missed the giver of eternal life who was walking in their presence and talking with the, The Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
Coincidentally, the disciples of Jesus got the message, though they were not well read Pharisees or members of the Sanhedrin, not perhaps even well educated. For, as Paul says in First Corinthians 2:13
“These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”
In other words, it was the Holy Spirit who taught them, and they were taught through application and experience. Unlike the Pharisees, the disciples of Jesus were teachable.
What God wants from Christians is obedience, and part of obedience is teach-ability. If we are not teachable, we will always be stuck in the past, in our old traditional man-made ways and never be where the Lord is today. If we keep our eyes on the Lord, we will inevitably move forward and progress in all we do.
Look at it this way: First need to have Knowledge. Then we need to have Application of that knowledge. Then we need to have experience of that knowledge and that application.
Suppose you go to a doctor with a pain which with his knowledge he diagnoses quite quickly. You are impressed. The doctor then explains that complicated surgery is the solution to the problem and that he/she has just finished reading about it in a medical journal. You are still impressed and ask “So, how many such cases have you dealt with?” “None,” replies the doctor, “Actually, you are the first I have ever seen. But don’t let that worry you, I just read this article …” You are no longer impressed.
Having all the knowledge and the application which the Pharisees possessed, could not even allow them to even hear God speaking to them from the Bible scriptures, never mind in daily life. Why? Because they had no experience.
The disciples, on the other hand, with a teachable attitude had some Bible knowledge which the Holy Spirit could add to and explain, had all seen firsthand in the presence of Jesus the application of that knowledge. Furthermore, all had experienced it with Him. The disciples had both seen and experienced miracles, and even performed them.
The experience of the Disciples meant that they could look back at the Knowledge and Application and ask, “Are we seeing this correctly? Do we have the right application here? What new thing is the Lord telling me here?”
As Jesus relied on His Father for guidance, so too did the Disciples come to rely on the Holy Spirit, rather than on their own knowledge and understanding.
There is an excellent example of this in action when the Holy Spirit teaches Peter that under the new covenant, unlike the old, all food is wholesome and good to eat. For Peter, this must have really shaken and tested him, yet he passed the test. For the Jews, Leviticus 11:1-23 and Deuteronomy 14:3-20 give extensive teachings of the laws which prohibits certain kinds of foods and all Jews took them very seriously. However, the fact that while on earth Jesus had effectively, but not explicitly declared “all foods are fit to eat – all foods are ‘clean'” (Mark 7:19), had been missed by Peter. The Holy Spirit therefore needed to come to him years later and make sure he got the original message from Jesus correct, in both its narrow and wider applications.
The story from Acts 10:10-16 occurs when Peter is on a housetop, praying:
“And he became very hungry and desired to eat. But while they made ready, an ecstasy fell on him. And he saw the heaven opened and a certain vessel like a sheet coming down to him, being bound at the four corners and let down to the earth; in which were all the four-footed animals of the earth, and the wild beasts, and the reptiles, and the birds of the heaven.
And a voice came to him, saying, Rise, Peter! Kill and eat!
But Peter said, Not so, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.
And the voice spoke to him again the second time, What God has made clean, you do not call common.
This happened three times, and the vessel was received up again into the heaven.”
Did Peter doubt what the vision might mean? Certain yes, for v17 continues “And while Peter doubted within himself what the vision which he had seen might be …. “ Also note that the Holy Spirit had already given the vision three times to Peter, but even so, there was still doubt in the mind of Peter. However, with the intervention of the Holy Spirit calling Peter to the house of Cornelius, a gentile living in Caesarea, the rhema word of God got through to Peter. Not only did Peter recognise that all food was from God and good to eat, but that all people were from God and there could be no separation in them, saying in Acts 10:28 “…God has shown me not to call any man common or unclean.”
Even although Jesus himself had told Peter that it was permissible for Christians to eat all foods, Peter was still held under the bondage of traditional interpretation of scripture. Even when the Holy Spirit gave Peter the vision, it was repeated three time, and then the Holy Spirit still need to take him to Cornelius, as he pondered and considered the vision.
But what is interesting, is that in Acts 10:10-16, Peter was clear it was the Lord speaking to him. He did not condemn this as a demonic attack, even though the vision was in complete contraction to the laws of the Jewish peoples written in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
I suggest that if this vision had been received by a Pharisee, the outcome would have been totally different, and the visions would have been assigned to dustbin of Satanic attacks against the Laws of Moses.
The difference for Peter, was that he was teachable. Thus, the Holy Spirit was able to teach him that that Lord was doing a new thing and invite him to come along and celebrate that new thing. Peter eventually got the point; not only that all food was good to eat, but that all of mankind belonged to the Lord and that Jesus had died for all of them, both Jew and Gentile.
Some may argue that such things cannot happen today because we have the New Treatment, while Peter only had the Old. In principle, this is technically incorrect, for while Peter did not have a copy of the New Testament, he was actually there when the Lord spoke in Mark 7:19. Peter had actual firsthand experience of the New Testament as it unfolded. In essence, as he has lived it, he ought to have had no need to read it! But even being there and hearing the words of Jesus, Peter was living in error and needed to be corrected. The Holy Spirit needed to breakdown the stronghold of the supremacy of tradition, which Peter had allowed to built up in his mind, and open him instead to the true understanding of what which Jesus actually spoke.
That, dear Brothers and Sisters, I would argue, is where many of us are, even today. Many Christiana allow the stronghold of the supremacy of tradition to overrule our lives and suck the life out of the Word of God.
The Bible is always true and no Christian will doubt that; even though we may not always understand it fully at the time. But an interpretation of the Bible may be untrue, even if its application is correct. Similarly, an interpretation may be true, but its application, unbiblical. In this we need to Holy Spirit to speak to us continually, such that we will not be either deceive, or be deceived. We need the Holy Spirit to confirm both biblical interpretation and application, for it is easy to get it wrong. To achieve this, Christians need to be teachable. Being teachable, means we need to be humble enough to put our trust in the Lord and listen to Him for His new rhema word for us. It means putting God first in our lives and recognising that our traditions and interpretations are only as good as God says they are.
When we do this, we become more like Paul who was able to recognise the voice of God and his visions as by being from God, despite his traditions and old teachings crying out to him a different message. If Paul was able to learn to hear and recognise the voice of God, I believe we too, can learn!
Amen and Amen.