Christian Conduct – Debates

There is a post being shared around on social media about a notable “disgraced pastor” who also happens to be Calvinistic. (No, I will not mention his name or discuss what he is struggling with in his life.)

SOME of the comments seem to almost delight in his failings as if “our Soteriological side” somehow wins a point because this Calvinistic pastor got caught in sin.

This bothers my spirit so greatly that my stomach begins to ache.

What is it to be “disgraced?” And why would any beneficiaries of God’s matchless grace delight in it?

The only significant difference between that pastor and myself is that he is more popular and he was caught in his sin while being popular. We are all “disgraced” in that we all have sinned and brought reproach onto our God. Some of us just have not been caught in our shame yet or if we have no one cares because we are not speaking to large crowds or publishing many books.

Our flesh wants to point out how much worse another’s sin is in comparison to our own, but is it really? Look deeper. Is the sin that other person was caught doing really worse than your deepest secret thoughts and failings? If so, you may just be a more moral person than I am. Congrats. Be careful you do not rest on the assurances that morality brings. It will NOT sustain you and it certainly will not save your soul.

Paul teaches us in 1 Cor 13 that we should not delight in the failings of another and if we do it may be a significant red flag indicating our own deeper unresolved shame and guilt.

If you happened to be one of those who shared the post referenced above, please know I have no particular person in mind and I realize the motivation for sharing it may not relate at all to what I have written here…so if the shoe does not fit then please don’t wear it.

I just want to remind us of what it really means to believe and trust in the love and grace of God for all people, even disgraced Calvinistic pastors.

Below is an article share with me by a friend that may help us practice Christian conduct as we engage with others:


Christian Conduct – Debates

By Billy Wendeln

The purpose of this short article is to provide some guidance on our brotherly love when speaking with other Christians, even those who have gone away from the truth. We will be specifically looking at 2 Timothy 2:24-25.

Context

Paul is writing to Timothy, and telling him to continue as a soldier of Christ. Timothy is to teach other men what Paul has taught him (2 Tim. 2:1-3). Paul tells Timothy to remind these men of the gospel, and that they need to endure in their faith (2 Tim.2:11-13). He continues that these men should accurately handle the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15), and avoid disputes and discussions of worldly, and empty matters (2 Tim. 2:16). Paul then mentions some specific brethren who have done just that; they have gone away from the truth and their teachings have spread and upset the faith of some (2 Tim. 2:17-18).

Paul then provides a short allegory stating that among those who are part of God’s family, there are a variety of people. Some do really good work, some not quite as much, but all these are honorable. Likewise there are some people that may fall into dishonor, like the specific brethren he has just mentioned who are shaking the faith of some by their error in teaching; they are not bearing the proper fruit (2 Tim. 2:20). Paul says that even these brethren who are currently walking in dishonor can cleanse themselves of their unrighteousness and become an honorable vessel again (2 Tim. 2:21).

Paul continues that in order to avoid falling into dishonor, keep away from juvenile desires, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with others who call on the name of the Lord (2 Tim. 2:22). We should avoid foolish and uneducated debates because we can see they bring about quarrels and contention (2 Tim. 2:23).

Now, how are we to speak and conduct ourselves with those who are Christians, to include those who are presently straying from the truth?

 2 Timothy 2:24-25a

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition,

Paul is speaking about teaching and correcting believers who believe something false and currently oppose the truth. Paul is still on the same subject of brethren that have caused problems by foolish speculations and errors in teaching. Those in opposition here are other believers that are in error of the truth.

Paul says that we are not to be quarrelsome (machomai) with them. Let’s look at what this word means:

 to fight

  • of armed combatants, or those who engage in a hand to hand struggle
  • of those who engage in a war of words, to quarrel, wrangle, dispute

c.f. John 6:52; Acts 7:26; Jam. 4:2

We are not to engage in a “war” of words with those who have an opposing view. This type of quarrel has the tone of anger, resentment, friction, and strife. We should not be snide, derogatory, or mocking. We will see this clearly in the next three words that describe how we are to be.

We are to be kind, patient, and gentle.

  • Kind; epios: affable (friendly and good-natured), mild, gentle

This adjective denotes a tone and conversation that is friendly and good-natured. It is in essence, the opposite of our previous word. Synonyms of affable include friendly, cordial, warm, pleasant, nice, likable, personable, good-humored, good-natured, courteous, gracious, neighborly.

In other words, you should be exhibiting love.

  •  Patient; anexikakos: patient against those who are acting wrongly, badly, depraved.

This word is much more than your typical word for patient (makrothumeo). The typical use is one that is slow to anger, and to be of long spirit, not losing heart.

What we have here (anexikakos) however is our behavior towards someone who is NOT being patient, and is NOT acting kind, loving, or good natured. This adjective is from anechomai and kakos:

  •  Anexikakos; patient of ills and wrongs, forbearing
  • Kakos; of a bad nature; expressing behavior that is wrong, wicked, destructive, depraved.

As you can see, this patience is specifically towards another that is acting completely the wrong way. They are not kind, but instead are angry, resentful, mocking, and all sorts of other depraved behavior. We should expect this behavior, and should have self-control to be patient with them and their conduct.

  • Gentle; praotes: gentleness or mildness. This is a passive attitude towards another’s view or actions (see here).

Basically, despite what comes our way from the other party, we are to respond in a well-mannered way.

Summary

In talking with believers who hold an opposing view of us, we are to be skilled in teaching them the truth. However, our teaching must be accompanied by a mild, friendly and good-natured demeanor, patience against stubborn resistance and depraved behavior, and with a gentle attitude towards receiving their opposing view or behavior.

This is what we are called to do when teaching and talking with those who are against us and the truth (Eph. 4:15, 32; Gal. 6:1).

But that’s just not me!

Many readers may be saying this exact phrase. “That’s just not who I am.” Well, fortunately the Lord has given you His Spirit, and you are to walk by His Spirit:

Galatians 5:19-20

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions

Romans 8:5

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

Galatians 5:16-17

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

The point of this style of teaching and correcting is that it is from the Spirit of God.

By being kind, patient, and gentle, we are walking by the Spirit and bearing fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22-23). Moreover, we speak the truth in Spirit and in power (1 Cor.2:3-5). By speaking with the truth of the Spirit, we expose the lies; His light shines through us and exposes the darkness (Matt.5:14-16; 2 Cor.4:4-6).

It is only by the Holy Spirit that we speak the truth (John 15:26), and it is by the Holy Spirit that man is convicted (John 16:8). It is only the Spirit that can teach us the truth (John 16:13; 1 John 2:27).

By communicating with our brothers this way, we get out of the way, and allow the Spirit to do His work.

 2 Timothy 2:25b-26

if perhaps God may grant them repentance for knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.


In the broadcast below I discuss the Biblical teaching on kindness and charity in confrontation with other brethren. And HERE you will find a well written article from a good Calvinistic Southern Baptist reminding us of the need for Christlike cordiality in these discussions:

 

2 thoughts on “Christian Conduct – Debates

  1. This posting Leighton is so important! Thank you so much! You already know how I feel about the “message” that exists in how we deliver a message that we say represents the truth. I tell my students that if we do not speak the truth in love we misrepresent the truth.

    I am also reminded of a quote by a professor about moral failure in those called to minister God’s Word. I haven’t been able to prove it, but it intuitively sounds true – “Moral Failure leads to Doctrinal Perversion, not the other way around.” And, of course, moral failure includes the “pride of life” not just the “lust of the flesh”.

    Like

  2. Excellent article!!
    I am a full believer in “Attack the problem not people”. And unfortunately, attacking behavior is more than not a camouflage for the weakness of my own position, or a way to divert attention away from evidences of my own dishonesty, so that I can at least retain a facade of legitimacy at the table of discussion. Attacking behavior, is often highly strategic and calculated…..wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    I highly recommend Dan Ariely’s research work on dishonesty: youtube.com/watch?v=XBmJay_qdNc

    Two illuminating points the research reveals:
    1) Certain social groups create environments in which dishonesty is sanctioned, promoted and protected, because dishonesty is an integral part of the group’s success. But dishonesty requires a camouflage in order to retain a facade of trustworthiness. Even though this is the case, there are certain “indicators” that reveal the condition.

    2) Exposing people (especially Christians) to God’s standards of behavior, has proven to be very effective in reducing a reliance upon dishonesty as well as other sin-based behavior patterns.

    Wonderful Article!!

    Liked by 1 person

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