Misunderstood about Torah
When presenting my beliefs on what the whole Bible says—and how that should alter how God’s people live and worship—I’m often accused of trying to earn my salvation through works. That used to bother me. Sometimes it still does. But I’m trying to grow in grace. And I have to remember that the apostle Paul was also misunderstood about Torah.
“And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.” 2 Peter 3:15-17 (emphasis mine)
People tell me during conversations that I must only rely on grace through faith for my salvation. I explain that I’m not trying to earn my salvation. Our salvation comes only by God’s grace through our faith in Yeshua’s (Jesus) atoning sacrifice. We can’t do anything to earn our salvation and that our own righteousness is “as filthy rags” to God. I explain that I keep Torah (God’s instructions) as best I can out of love and obedience to him…just as Yeshua (Jesus) commanded us.
And that’s when they tell me that I must only rely on grace through faith for my salvation…huh?
If you love me, keep my commandments. ~ Yeshua, John 14:15
My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. ~ Yeshua, John 7:16
Failure to Communicate
At that point, I don’t know if they aren’t listening to me, or they are so blinded by their doctrinal filters to hear me, or…I really don’t know. Whatever the reason, I’m not getting through to them what I see as plain meaning in the scripture. Some of the fault lies with me: I’m not communicating the simple truth of scripture in a way they can accept.
I think I know why this is…at least from someone with a similar background as mine. I grew up in a Baptist home. We had certain doctrinal beliefs that were all based on scripture. The denominational doctrine, therefore, holds equal weight to scripture. So if I say something that disagrees with their doctrine, I must necessarily be disagreeing with scripture…even if what I’m saying is based solely on scripture. In their view, I’m attacking God’s own word. They fail to miss that I’m only using scripture for my arguments, and trying to correctly identify the context of those scriptures.
Moreover, most Christians honestly seem to think that all scriptural interpretation and truth is complete, and no further examination of our core beliefs is necessary (perhaps the mass exodus of churchgoers over the last 20 years might say something about that…if we would pay attention).
But doctrine and scripture are not necessarily the same. If all denominational doctrine was sound and based only on the truth of scripture, then we wouldn’t have thousands of Christian denominations, all with varying beliefs on what scripture means.
In short, we can’t see the real truth while blinded by our own doctrines and traditions of belief. We’re unwilling to question our own beliefs about God because we think they’re firmly rooted in scripture. But are they? All church doctrine I’ve read points to a scriptural basis for each statement. But our doctrines often conflict with each other. How can that possibly be?
What’s the answer to our blind faith in our own beliefs? We need to read the Bible again with the proper context. And, sadly for most Christians, we need to consider actually reading the Bible ourselves…the whole thing.
We are not called to blind faith. Just as there is evidence of God’s existence, there is scriptural evidence either for or against all church doctrines. We must be willing to let go of our denominational doctrine if it does not agree with the entirety of scripture. If you bend on that principle, go ahead and rip out parts of your Bible and write in your own bit (it wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened).
You can’t just set aside passages that are “difficult” in light of current doctrinal beliefs. And you can’t blindly follow Bible teachers and preachers who claim a false authority over scriptures. And don’t create new things to explain away your difficulties with scripture (I’m looking at you, dispensationalist over there in the corner). It is our duty—our obligation—to test everything against the entirety of the scriptures.
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21
You CAN Handle the Truth!
But for those of us interested in truth—real truth—we must be willing to go wherever that leads. Isn’t that what we all want? It’s easy to say “yes” to that. It’s more difficult to live it out. I know. I had to do that, and it shook the very foundations of my worldview because of it. Sometimes it takes that type of shake-up to break loose from the bonds of deception. We all need that kind of shaking. It could lead to the revival we’ve all been praying for.