The nation of Israel was God’s chosen people of the Old Testament (Deut. 7:6). Christians are God’s chosen people of the New Testament (I Pet. 2:9). Judaism was the religion given to Israel by God. Christianity is the God chosen religion for His chosen people of this age. The nation of Israel was a physical kingdom; Christians make up a spiritual kingdom (I Pet. 2:5, 9; John 18:36). One was born into the nation of Israel by being born to citizens of that physical kingdom, descendents of Jacob. One must be born again to enter into the spiritual kingdom (John 3:3). This new birth is a spiritual birth, not a physical one (John 3:4-6). This brings us to our topic of consideration, Christianity is a taught religion.
The Hebrew writer quoted from the prophet Jeremiah concerning the new covenant that would be given to Israel (Heb. 8:7-12; Jer. 31:31-34). He said concerning this new covenant, “And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and ever man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest” (Heb. 8:11). Many have had difficulty understanding what both Jeremiah and then the Hebrew writer meant by the statement. To understand the point one must realize that as Israelites, one was born into the Jewish family, and then had to be taught about the Lord and His requirements for them. However, one must first come to know the Lord and His will for them before they can be born again, thus becoming a Christian. The teaching comes first for Christians, where it came later for Israelites.
Though many seem to scoff at, ridicule or deny the use of intellect in the realm of Christianity, placing most of the emphasis on their feelings and their emotions, it is the intellect that must be used to bring one to Christ. At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, the text says, “And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying” (Matt. 5:2). Later, Jesus himself said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (John 6:44-45). The Jewish council commanded that Peter and John not “speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” to which Peter and John answered, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye, For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:18-19). Only a short time later, it is said of these apostles, “Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people” (Acts 5:25). Paul reminded the Ephesian elders of “how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you,, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house” (Acts 20:20). Jesus once said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Jesus did not say, “ye shall feel the truth and the truth shall make you free”. It is with the intellect that one “knows” the truth.
However, not all teaching is God approved teaching. The only teaching that will bring about the salvation of the soul is the preaching and teaching of the gospel of Christ. Many are the warnings in the New Testament concerning the teaching of that which is error. Jesus said, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9). Paul left Timothy at Ephesus instructing him to “charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (I Tim. 1:3). Speaking of the doctrine of Christ, John said, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (II John 10-11).
The learning of error results in being in error. Saul of Tarsus was taught the old Mosaic Law. He said he had been “taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers” (Acts 22:3). He was taught the law of physical Israel and he was an Israelite. When an eloquent man by the name of Apollos came to Ephesus, he taught the scriptures, but “knowing only the baptism of John”. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they corrected his error. However, those he had taught prior to being corrected had been taught wrong. When Paul arrived in Ephesus, he found twelve men that were the product of that erroneous teaching.
The teaching of the truth of God’s word is the God ordained way to salvation. Paul wrote, “…it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (I Cor. 1:21). To the Romans Paul said that the gospel of Christ is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). However, the teaching is only half the battle. The learning is the other half. In the parable of the soils (Luke 8:11-15) it is obvious that all that are taught do not learn. Jesus quoted Isaiah as saying, “By hearing ye shall hear, and not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matt. 13:14-15).
One simply cannot be a Christian without learning God’s word. Being taught wrong will result in being wrong. It is the responsibility of each of us to do as the noble Bereans as they “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). (Send any questions or comments to: [email protected])
Robert C. Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.