In the last 2,000 years could historic Christianity have developed, and currently be holding fiercely to, some inaccurate traditions which are placed in higher authority than Scripture? Is it possible that our theology, the way we view YHWH, is off the mark slightly, or a lot? We see throughout history that churches have obviously taught false doctrines…is there the slightest chance that American evangelicalism might be building on a foundation of church fathers, commentaries and their traditional applications of the Scriptures. Instead should we not base our foundation on Yeshua, and approach Scritpures as He did and live by the Torah and the Prophets? Is He not the cornerstone of God’s true Temple?
If it is even remotely possible that our understanding might be out of line in certain areas what is our response? What should be our response? For many years I have avoided searching for myself, because, first, the task seemed daunting, and, second I wasn’t sure I wanted my beliefs to change based on what I found. It is not easy to admit that our understanding of YHWH and His plan may be incomplete. It is not easy to admit that, even though we know well that we are not yet perfect, YHWH may still desire to show Himself in a deeper and fuller way; in a way that He has not yet revealed to us.
When confronted with this reality we need to passionately seek the one true God, through his Word. We should search the Scriptures that the early believers searched, the Torah and the Prophets and humbly ask YHWH to continually soften our hearts as his Spirit continues to grow us in knowledge of himself.
The account of Peter and Cornelius is a great example for us to explore as we seek to understand the ways of God.
Acts 10-11:18 recounts the dream that Peter has about clean and unclean animals. Upon having this dream Peter tells God that this is against his convictions, he has never eaten unclean things. His beliefs about God and how God desires him to serve are challenged. God responds that what he made clean Peter should not say in unclean. Peter still is confused, but thankfully the Spirit continued to reveal the point of this message.
“but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. ”
“So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. ”
“And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction.”
The law that Peter, and all righteous Jews, followed that outlined clean and unclean foods wasn’t being questioned. Peter is told directly by the Spirit, and then Peter explains multiple times to others, that this dream represents people. God never made people to be clean or common. He wanted no distinction between Jews who followed the Messiah and Gentiles that desired to follow. Up until this time Gentiles were traditionally not aloud to associate with Jews. God revealed at this time that all people who were God-fearing and did what was right would be acceptable.
This was earth-shaking for Peter. But even before he understood it he pondered it and the Spirit revealed the interpretation. What I’m struck with is that immediately, as his tradition of separation from the Gentiles was challenged and revealed as inaccurate, and without hesitation he followed the Spirit’s leading. He went to Cornelius’ house without making distinction. He would face people who didn’t like this revelation, people who still wanted to uphold traditions. But once Peter shares with them the story from beginning to end, of how God showed him the error with their doctrine and traditions involving Gentile cleanliness, I love what happens.
“When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
If the early believers in the Messiah could have had misconceptions based on current Jewish traditions, if even during the apostles’ time the early churches had those preaching false doctrines, could our current doctrines and theology be inaccurate as well?
How can we tell if a doctrine is false or a misinterpretation? (Acts 17:11) We search the Scriptures that the early church searched, before the letters from the apostles, and in fact in response to the teachings of the apostles, we keep searching the Torah and the Prophets. The Torah and the Prophets do not conflict with the words of Yeshua or the teachings of his apostles.
Are we constantly searching the Scripture and testing every doctrine and tradition to guard against false teaching? Are we relying on the foundation of 2,000 years of historical Christianity, which, honestly, much of that history saddens me? And if there are teachings that do not line up with how YHWH has expressed himself through his Word what is our response? Would you give up traditions, no matter how “clean” they seem, in light of the revelation that the Spirit is doing in you as you search the Word?