The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

John 10:10 ESV

Monday, August 6, 2012

Grace and Truth - They're Inseparable

A while back when reading 2 Timothy 2:23-26, I realized I had found an apologetic protocol for engaging those who have misunderstood or rejected truth. Verses 23-25a of the New Living Translation says,

"Again I say, don't get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments [controversies] that only start fights [quarrels]. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth.”

The protocol is fairly simple in concept, though perhaps more difficult in practice. We begin by avoiding a quarrel. A quarrel is not just a discussion between those of two opposing viewpoints, but “an angry argument or disagreement” or a “verbal conflict between antagonists.” Engaging in a quarrel leaves a lot of room for pride, self-righteousness and any number of other fleshly responses.

Then we are instructed to be be kind which certainly enhances our next effort to gently correct or instruct the one opposed to the truth.

This sets the stage for the apologist, identifying the attitude with which we are to respond to those who oppose the truth. It’s a tall order, but well within the grasp of the believer if we take the ministry of the Holy Spirit seriously. He has given us a panoply of graces, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23), to both subdue our pride and flesh but also grace us with a winsomeness and attractive demeanor. Verses 25-26 continues,

“correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (ESV)

The ultimate objective is two fold - a change of heart, should God in His sovereignty grant repentance, and freedom, an escape from the devil’s trap.

“Come to their senses” has been translated “may return to soberness,” parallel both to the plight of unbelievers described in 1 Corinthians 4:4, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers,” and the need for being “rescued from the domain (kingdom) of darkness and the kingdom of his beloved Son” in Colossians 1:13 (ESV).

Those who remain under the dominion of satan have lost the ability to see reality and therefore grasp the truth. Therefore, this apologetic protocol recognizes the need for an escape from the “snare of the devil” similar to Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6,

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (ESV)

This protocol, then, involves both sharing the truth of the gospel and living the gospel by the way in which we share the truth.

Paul instructed the Colossians,

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:5 NIV)

It comes down to this, grace and truth are inseparable, both in the message we proclaim and the manner in which we proclaim the message.