Lately I’ve had cause to reflect on what I believe the Bible teaches about what the plan of God is for us as Christians after salvation, a reflection from the point of view of making a defense. If you’ve read my old blog for any length of time, you probably know that I believe scripture teaches we are, in fact, called to a very specific plan and mode of operation: we are to submit ourselves to the prepared pastor teacher God has assigned to us and sit, filled with the Spirit, under his teaching, which, according to scripture should be done on a near daily basis. In this way the water of the word and the work of the Spirit transforms our thinking into our Lord’s, as per Ro 12.
It is a long, gradual process. In between classes, we are attacked by our flesh, the world system in which we live and sometimes agents of the kingdom of darkness, though that happens most frequently when one first becomes interested in following this mode of operation and then later when one has begun to move into spiritual maturity. The scripture terms this eusebeia, often translated “godliness,” the latter a word that’s frankly never really meant anything to me. Being good? Being like God? Being pious — and what is pious, for that matter?
A study of the word itself helps. Eusebeia comes from eu (well) and sebomai (to be devout) Thayer defines it has having reverence and respect for God, and characterized by being devoted to the fulfillment of religious obligations or mandates. Thus, perhaps a better, more meaningful translation and one my pastor uses is “the spiritual life” or “the spiritual lifestyle.”
Vine’s Expository Dictionary notes that the releated word eusebes (also from euand sebomai)
“directs us [not toward piety of the inner being but] rather to the energy which, directed by holy awe of God, finds expression in devoted activity.”
It’s a manner of living where everything is directed toward God. Since you are what you think as Proverbs 23:7 says, this direction begins with thinking. What you think directs everything else. And if your thinking has been transformed into His thinking, and you spend much of your day filled with the Spirit and thinking His thoughts, obeying His commands, then you are living the spiritual life. So the primary objective is to take in the instruction that will cause one’s thinking to be changed — i.e., daily. It is a slow, incremental process since it’s estimated that in any given lesson, people are actually able to recall only about 5% and able to apply a mere 1%.
I don’t think this is the usual meaning people ascribe to the word “godliness,” nor is this the usual lifestyle most Christians pursue or even believe they should be pursuing. In fact my experience is that many argue against it as being fanatical, not supported by the word, weird, excessive, etc. Besides, the argument goes, what about 1 John 2:27, which says,
“As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”
Yes, there it is… you have no need for anyone to teach you. That does seem to contradict the view that says you must be taught on a daily basis.
But what about Eph 4:11 – 15?
“And He gave some as apostles…and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
The and between “pastors” and “teachers” is not accompanied by a definite article before teachers and so, according the Granville-Sharpe Rule, should rendered with a hyphen to indicate that both nouns refer to the same person. Hence, “pastor-teacher.”
2 Ti 4:1,2 makes it clear that pastor-teachers are supposed to be teaching. (“Preach in season and out of season.”)
I Thess 5:12, 13 instructs us to “appreciate those who have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction.”
I Pe 5:1-3 instructs pastors to feed the flock…”not lording it over those allotted to you.”
Okay, but where does it say it has to be daily?
Well, that is not quite as obvious, but still clear I think, if you pause to consider. First we have the example of Jesus, who taught daily (Lk 9:14;22:53), as did Paul (Acts 17:11; 19:9), the early church met daily (Acts 2:46) and even in the OT the devout were advised to wait daily at the gates where doctrine was taught (Pro 8:34)
Job considered doctrine or the teachings of the word of God to be more needful than his daily food (Job 23:12). We are told to live one day at a time. God gives us our daily bread, referring not just to the physical food we need each day but also the spiritual. The manna given to the Israelites in the desert is a picture of the provision of daily spiritual food. Jeremiah wrote of the metaphor specifically: “Your words were found and I ate them…” (15:16)
It’s interesting to me that people consider the gathering together to listen to God’s word on a daily basis as fanatical, but no one has a problem with people gathering daily to eat food. They don’t even have any problem with a daily walking or running group gathering together to exercise. In fact, daily exercise is preached everywhere these days as needed for good health. And if you should want to be a first class athlete (or artist or doctor or pianist or anything) it’s expected that you will put in daily practice time in that field . Of all things to be world class in in life, shouldn’t it be so with our Christian walk?
Okay…but what about that verse about not needing a teacher? Well, I believe that’s refering to the fact that as Church age believers we each have the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who, if we are under His control, makes whatever the pastor-teacher is teaching understandable. The Holy Spirit is the one who guides you to your pastor teacher, and it is His message you are receiving through the man. It’s not the man, it’s the message. In fact, I’ve been in correspondence with a pastor-teacher recently who told me that sometimes his experience of presenting a message is very much like my experience of writing The Enclave — you feel as if you have little idea what you’re doing, and yet the hearers are hit right between the eyes with information precisely targeted to issues they are dealing with.
As a message recipient, I have to say this happens to me constantly. Something I tusseled with earlier in the day, some question that arose in reflection, an argument, a difficulty, a discussion… hardly a day doesn’t go by that I don’t put on class live at the appointed time and somewhere in the message the exact issue is addressed. In such specificity it is truly like God is talking right to me.
And if you consider that the pastor-teacher, being filled with the Spirit himself, and having spent hours and days and weeks and years studying the Word and preparing his messages, then Spirit-filled when he delivers them to, ideally, an audience of Spirit-filled believers ready to receive them… you begin to see that the whole operation is the Spirit’s and not the man’s at all… Hence it’s not the man you need to teach you but the Spirit.