Taking God at His Word
Friday of Pentecost 21
14 October 2016
Theology often approaches unscaleable peaks and unassailable heights. Theology approaches with words the unapproachable nature of God. Why can't we just keep a simple faith, which does not attempt to speak of the unspeakable? Hilary of Poitiers attributes a rising level of theological sophistication to the misunderstandings of Scripture that were floating around the ancient world in the mid-fourth century. Only because of false interpretations were Christians forced to stretch the power of human language to accommodate ideas too deep for words.
 
The problem was not in Scripture, which was the unassailable truth, but in the perversion of the scriptural faith. Scripture could not become subject to the arbitrary and self-willed interpretations of the heretics. Discussion of deeper theological content was forced upon the church to defend the truth contained by Scripture and perverted by false teachers. The clear Word of God has never been enough for people, they always want to say, "That's impossible. What it must really mean is..." Perhaps we should just take God at His Word.
 
In the meantime, we expect our church leaders to defend the truth. Our bishops "must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it" (Titus 1:9). Our leaders are not being contentious or argumentative when they defend the truth, but following the requirements of our gracious God, who has given us the eternal truth in His Word. Not only should we expect them to teach the positive truth, but also to gainsay those who teach falsehoods. The sheep need both to be fed and also defended from the wolf. The teacher who refuses to defend his sheep will only be fattening them up for the wolves.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Hilary of Poitiers
 
"The errors of heretics and blasphemers force us to deal with unlawful matters, to scale perilous heights, to speak unutterable words, to trespass on forbidden ground. Faith ought in silence to fulfill the commandments, worshiping the Father, reverencing with Him the Son, abounding in the Holy Spirit, but we must strain the poor resources of our language to express thoughts too great for words. The error of others compels us to err in daring to embody in human terms truths that ought to be hidden in the silent veneration of the heart.
 
"For there have risen many who have given to the plain words of Holy Scripture some arbitrary interpretation of their own, instead of its true and only sense, and this in defiance of the clear meaning of words. Heresy lies in the sense assigned, not in the word written; the guilt is that of the expositor, not of the text. Is not truth indestructible? When we hear the name Father, is not sonship involved in that Name? The Holy Spirit is mentioned by name; must He not exist? We can no more separate fatherhood from the Father or sonship from the Son than we can deny the existence in the Holy Spirit of that gift which we receive.
 
"Yet men of distorted mind plunge the whole matter in doubt and difficulty, fatuously reversing the clear meaning of words, and depriving the Father of His fatherhood because they wish to strip the Son of His sonship. They take away the fatherhood by asserting that the Son is not a Son by nature; for a son is not of the nature of his father when begetter and begotten have not the same properties, and he is no son whose being is different from that of the father, and unlike it. Yet in what sense is God a Father (as He is), if He have not begotten in His Son that same substance and nature which are His own?"

Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 2.2-3
Titus 1:5-16

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you- if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
 
For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.   (ESV)
Prayer
O Father, You have revealed Yourself in the Son who is God of God through the Holy Spirit. Help us to confess Christ as your always begotten Son who also bears our humanity and rescues us from our sin. Amen.
 
For Scott and Maryann Murray who will be celebrating their 33rd wedding anniversary tomorrow, that the Lord who joined them would give them many more years of joy in the blessed estate of holy marriage
 
For all who are undergoing chemotherapy, that they would receive strength to bear the therapy
 
For the gift of holy marriage, that we might honor this gift from God by encouraging our children and grandchildren to marry
Art: Durer, Albrecht   The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2016