Friday, February 7, 2014

Avoiding Ignorant Speculations – 2 Tim 2:23-26

But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. And 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, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the 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. (NASB)
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Gen 2:16-17 NKJV)
Speculations are conclusions based on incomplete information. Not all speculations are ignorant or foolish. The ones that are ignorant and foolish come because we have a desire to know more than we should or to do what we want instead of what God wants. Look back at the command gave Adam. He had freedom to eat from every tree but one. The tree was identified as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If he were to eat the fruit, he would die the day he ate. Note that this command was given to Adam before Eve was created. Since the command wasn’t repeated, I can speculate that it was Adam’s responsibility to educate Eve. I really don’t know for sure if God repeated the command after Eve was created. I would call this a reasonable speculation unless someone started a quarrel with me about it. If I entered into the quarrel, then the speculation would be foolish. It would be foolish because a quarrel arose and that in the great plan of God, it doesn’t matter one way or the other.
However, when you look at how Eve misquoted the command and Satan lied about the consequences we have Eve speculating on an outcome that was different than God clearly commanded. Foolish speculations often twist God’s word and promise outcomes that we want instead of what God wants. Simply stated, foolish speculations lead to sin.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. (Gen 1:5 KJV)
There are many people who read this verse as well as verses 8, 13, 19, 23, and 31 and speculate that a day is an era or long period of time. They conclude that this is the correct interpretation because the same word for day is also use as longer period of time than a physical day. They also look outside the Bible and see what appears to be a world that takes many years to accomplish the thing that God did in one day, such as trees and plants growing to maturity. On the surface, it appears that they are not speculating because they are including more facts. However, the truth is that they have actually ignored the initial facts in the verses, namely that the day is defined as an evening and a morning. In addition, the same phrase is repeated six times. They ignore that the same word is used elsewhere in the Bible to describe a 24-hour day. They ignore other miracles in the Bible where God demonstrates control over physical elements. Does it produce quarrels? It certainly has. Rather than a foolish speculation, this is an outward lie that seeks to deceive. It is heresy.
Devil’s Snare
Paul says that anyone who has engaged in foolish and ignorant speculations has been caught in the devil’s snare. As we look through much of the Bible, some of the things that God has condemned fall under the category of desiring to know more than He has revealed or wants us to know.
Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord … (Deut 18:10-12a NIV)
God has placed human sacrifice along with all the evils that seek knowledge from spiritual forces other than God. This is how seriously He views these things. Look at the list and you can see that these practices are far from dead. Every newspaper carries a horoscope. Witchcraft is now an accepted religion. Séances have been around as long as I remember.
There is something within each of us that desires to know the unknown, especially the future. When we turn to anything other than God to discover them, we will be directly against God’s Word. They all appeal to the sin that caused Eve to succumb to the devil’s scheme in the Garden of Eden. She wanted to know more than God had allowed.
The secret things belong to the Lord our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deut 29:29 RSV)
Moses warned Israel of the consequences of turning from God to these evil practices which result in worshiping demons who disguise themselves as gods or idols. After this warning He made it very clear that God has reserved certain things for Himself and has revealed many things to us. In essence, we need to be satisfied with what God has provided.
How Not to Quarrel
What should we do when we run into something like these speculations? Several versions of 2 Tim 2:23 tell us to refuse them while other versions say we shouldn’t have anything to do with them. While evolution is a foolish and ignorant speculation, at the heart of it is the denial of who God is and what He has said. It isn’t something that we can ignore. If it didn’t significantly question God’s Word and didn’t lead to sin, then there would be no point in addressing it with anyone. Any incorrect doctrine should be addressed and that is what Paul then tells us how to do.
A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. (Prov 19:11 NIV)
To keep from quarreling, we need to be kind and patient especially when the quarrel involves a personal attack. Gentleness in correction is required so that the one in error doesn’t become threatened and defensive. Arguments often lead to attacks on the character or intelligence of the opponents. The example of evolution is fraught with this. As I’ve been reading accounts of the Reformation, I see where many of the Reformers were brought to trial and burned at the stake. Their attitude of humility, patience, gentleness, and peace – even in the flames – won as many to the truth of the Gospel as did their use of Scripture in presenting their cases.
However, the ability to teach is required to correct errors from speculations. We are not all teachers. A good teacher is someone who is able to use various methods to teach. They have a gift to be able to present information in a way that others can understand. Above all, a teacher must be one who has a firm grasp on the Word of God as taught in the Bible (Titus 1:9).
Success or Failure
Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. (Acts 8:22 NKJV)
Simon’s desire to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit was done out of his awe in what he saw happen to believers when the Holy Spirit came upon them. However it appears that the root motive was a desire to restore his position of prominence in the community. Peter discerned that his sin was from bitterness and he was still bound up in his sinfulness. His situation was so grievous that Peter wasn’t sure that God would forgive him.
When a person’s foolish and ignorant speculations keep dragging him into arguments and quarrels, he may be a lot like Simon. There is something going on in his life that has led him away from a correct interpretation of the Word – often the desire to excuse a sin. Sometimes it is pride, a desire to be recognized by others, to be influential or regain influence, as was Simon’s problem.
Will we have any success in correcting such a person? Paul makes it clear that our success doesn’t depend on our ability to be convincing and eloquent in our approach even when we are exhibiting all the qualities of a good teacher. It depends entirely on whether or not God will give them the ability to repent.
Does God grant everyone the ability to repent from wicked thoughts or foolish and ignorant speculations? Absolutely not. The Greek word for perhaps[1] that Paul used is also used in many verses to convey the idea that it won’t happen or shouldn’t happen (Mark 4:12). However there is still a small opening of possibility conveyed that God will grant repentance.
Simon quickly asked Peter to pray for him. That was a good sign, but he should have gone to God, not Peter. He also asked that he wouldn’t perish along with his money. It appears that he wasn’t repentant but scared.
This is the state that we find ourselves in before we are saved. We have no ability to repent from our sins because we are absolutely dead to the things of God. They matter nothing to us. We prove that even when we “seek” God by trying to earn our way to him or when we utterly reject Him. Either way is foolish and speculation because these approaches reject what God has revealed in the Bible and that the only way to Him is through Jesus (John 14:6). It isn’t until God gives us the ability to repent that we are able to turn from our foolishness and be saved.
As Paul so clearly states, we have been held captive by the devil to do his will (2 Tim 2:26). When God gives us grace, and it is a gift, not by works (Eph 2:8-9), then we are able to be saved and live godly lives (Titus 2:11-12) that are not bound up in foolish and ignorant speculations.

[1] NT:3379 mepote (may'-pot-eh); or me pote (may pot'-eh); from NT:3361 and NT:4218; not ever; also if (or lest) ever (or perhaps): (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

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