By Olatokunbo Odunuga
Let us commence with the observation that our Christian terrain often permits or encourages errors, heresies, deception, and cultic brainwashing to thrive, all in the sentiment of “Judge Not”. Many seem to misunderstand Matt. 7:1.
I believe Paul is the most spiritual Christian of all time. In Gal. 2:11-14, he didn’t allow Peter to get away with malpractice, not even Barnabas, his “mentor” who brought him to the Church-fold. If Paul had taken our contemporary stance of ”don’t judge or criticise [even obvious dare-devil malpractices], leave them to God to judge”, only God knew how many in the early church would have gone astray aligning with wrong examples.
Many years ago, a colleague was telling me of an organization where the silent settlement was for the CEO to help himself by “eating” from the foreign exchange income of the organization while the deputy was to be “drinking” from the local currency counterpart. With that mutual understanding, there was relative peace and accord in that organization.
2.0 It may not be unlikely that one of the reasons why ministers are usually not inclined to gently or respectfully point out errors to their pastors is because, while the latter is drinking pepper soup from the resources of the church, the former are sipping the gravies. The ministers’ mouths are thereby kept shut. And of course, virtually in every denomination that chooses to be indiscrete, there would always be more than enough to satisfy the flamboyance and large appetite of the collaborators. Take for instance a denomination of a total of 200,000 medium-high income membership with an average monthly income of N200,000.
The monthly budgetted tithe will be N4,000,000,000 though not everyone complies and for the denominations where first fruits is entrenched, the January anticipated first fruits will be N40,000,000,000. For other denominations, the “revenue” can be higher or less. One can see why apart from the Catholic Churches and the Mainland Orthodox Churches, the administration and management of the Church Accounts are more often than not, communicated in small, still voices, especially among the young pastors. We have not taken into consideration the offerings, seed-sowing, dangerous seeds, inheritance sowing, prophet offerings, and numerous others imposed on the brainwashed and deluded followership.
Little surprise that new generation young preachers can be boasting of having acquired multiple jets! The kite some of these fiery young preachers may fly is that they make money from their books or have private businesses fetching them money. But one should wonder why secular full-time best-selling authors and business men who have been through Harvard or Lagos Business School, etc are unable to match their apparent business success and corresponding opulent life-styles.
3.0 There had been of recent dagger-drawn controversies on this tithing, which from the above arithmetical scenario can potentially bring to the coffers in a year several billion as tithe and first fruits. One camp believes it was under the Law; the other camp believes it is still relevant in the Christian dispensation.
But another issue is, does the latter camp utilise it according to divine prescription? In Deut. 14: 22, 26, 28, it was specified to be totally dedicated to the poor, the widows, the orphans, the aliens, and the Levites, though there are no Levites in the 21st century; and not one shekel or beka was to be diverted to any other purpose, no matter the exigency.
In the early church, “strange fire” of wrong teachings and malpractices were contended with. Apologetics i.e defence of the Church from the inflow of errors/heresies from without and Polemics i.e. defence of the church from internal doctrinal errors etc originated from the apostolic era.
For instance, a close study will show that parts of 1 John 4, 1 John 5, and Rev. 2:6,15 are Apologetics and Polemics by apostle John contending with Docetism, Gnosticism, Cerinthianism, and the Nicolaitans. In the same vein in Acts 17:18 ff, Paul contended with Epicureanism (philosophy of materialism) and Stoicism (philosophy of pantheism and fatalism). Even though those Greek philosophies were founded as far back as about 310 B.C., Paul was able to demolish their arguments.
The church fathers too were also up to the task in contending with apologetical and polemical issues in their days. That was where Adamantius Origen, Clement of Alexandria, John Chrysostom, St. Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, Tertullian, St. Ignatius, etc came to town. One does not metamorphose into being an apologist because one wishes to be. It places heavy demands on one’s time, energy and consecration, especially in an extensive study.
Take, for instance, Tertullian, who graduated at 13, “buried” himself in the scriptures so much so that he could recite nearly the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation with the punctuations. Men- pleasers or people seeking or lobbying for merited or unmerited considerations or favours from the institutional churches should forget it.
LETTER KILLETH IN CONTEXT
4.0 About the most visible person around the world that I know of as a sound apologist is Hank Hanegraaff, of Christian Research Institute in the USA. This brother is rightly called Bible Answer Man, teaching on the Radios daily in the USA and Canada. He has been a “thorn in the flesh” to many of the American gospel peddlers. And he had been regarded as meddlesome, and even in time past under occasional threats to his life.
I suggest you read one of his books- Christianity In Crisis, the 21st-century edition. If we have a man of such intellectual and spiritual status coupled with biblical depth and courage, many of the “babies” preaching the precious eternal gospel on the TV and through other media would go underground. We will then have on-air more ministers of the true gospel and fewer ministers of “mammonic” manipulations
5.0 The same misconception is in the aspect of “Letter Killeth” which for now I will not be able to exhaust but we would look at together in greater depth in the future. Some have justified indolence in the place of concerted and in-depth study with the escapist term-“Letter killeth” whereas 2 Cor. 3:6 is about something far remote from the extensive and passionate study of scriptures and other related studies.
That scripture is basically drawing a contrast between the Mosaic ministry of the Old Testament dead letters written on lifeless stones and the Apostolic ministry of the New Testament of the living Spirit engraved on the heart. After about 34 years of unparalleled anointed ministry, in a very unconducive place, chained between soldiers, in an underground Philippian jail, Paul was still calling for his books and his parchments (pre-canon hand-written scriptures)-2 Tim. 4:13. If Paul was not a scholar per excellence, Governor Festus would not have cried out in Acts 26 :24–
“Paul, thou art mad. Much scholarship is driving thee into madness” (ACV),
“Paul, you are crazy. All your education is driving you insane!” (AUTNT),
“Paul, you are off your head; your great learning has made you unbalanced” (BBE),
“You are mad, Paul! Much scripture is deranging you to madness”(CLV), “Paul, you’re crazy! Too much education us driving you mad”(GW), “Paul, you’re crazy! You have read too many books, spent too much time staring off into space”(Message Bible),
“You are mad, Paul! Your higher learning is driving you into madness” (Complete Apostles’ Bible).
If deep learning is considered unspiritual, why Colossians 3:16a, 2 Timothy 2:15, Jer. 15:16, Job 23:12, Joshua 1:8 etc? Why Sunday School and Bible Colleges in the first place?
6.0 The problem to me should be that if there is no spiritual dynamic and no lifestyle, then the study is empty. As much as I understand and appreciate the perspectives of revelations people often raise, l “fear” that an ungrounded young convert may misunderstand and think the Bible itself is inconsequential, errors or no errors (though as I regularly maintain, salvation is not in jeopardy) if one does not have scholastic aptitude because we have the Spirit. Otherwise, it may even appear to some of such “neophytes” that if we remove the covers of the Koran, Bhagavad Gita, or of any other eastern religion and wrap them with the covers of the Holy Bible, it would not make any difference.
And incidentally, there are portions in the Koran and books of other religions that are in tune with the Bible. I observed this because l have been “privileged” to teach Islam in the seminary. I have also in my pilgrimage practiced Yoga extensively, fellowshipped to an extent with the Hare Krishna, Rosicrucian Amorc, Grail Message, Christian Science, Eckankar, Mormons, Myon Sun Moon, etc. That is why I felt at home, so to say when assigned to teach Cults & World Religions in the seminary. But I’m now fully settled in Christ!-
Hearing from God not an alternative to a godly lifestyle
7.0 God in His sovereignty can speak to man, by His Spirit, without the Bible, or even from nature. God spoke in a dream to the oriental “wise men” who were neither Christians nor Jewish believers (Matt. 2:12). But hearing from God is not an alternative to a Godly lifestyle. Cain was in direct 2-way communications with God before and after killing his brother- Gen. 4:6-15.
He even raised a prayer request to God which was granted (Gen. 4: 13-15) and he was enjoying divine insurance. Even after he had committed murder, left God’s presence, and became a wandering vagabond, he was able to acquire a wife, who gave birth (not barren). Cain built not just a house for his family but a whole city!- (Gen. 4:16-17).This is also a lesson to us that prosperity does not necessarily imply that God approves the person.
However, for His children, one of the most prominent modes of communication is by rhema as they study His Word. I think it may be the motivation for a study that had so far generated over 1,000 versions of the Bible. I also think that, to all intents and purposes, a clearer picture of any document should be preferred to a blurred one.
To be sincere, I have listened to sincere and genuine preachers with great anointing that one may virtually “see” oil dripping from their foreheads but sometimes their messages are based, centred, and circumferenced on obviously mistranslated scriptures. I highlighted a few of them in paragraph 6 of the KJV-NIV Controversy. That is why I would rather study Bible versions whose translations are closely faithful to the original Autograph and for God to reveal and bless therefrom.
8.0 Many of the Christians who affected their generations post-apostolic periods were Bible scholars, though there were and still are rooms for the “fishermen”. John Bois, a member of the KJV Translation team used to study from 4 am to 8 pm daily (16hours); Rev. Finis Jennings Dake studied 7-8 hours daily consistently for 43 years and he was a family man with three children. Dr. John Sung completed his Bachelor’s degree in two years with a First Class, Master’s in 9 months at the top of his set, completed Ph.D. in 6 months, went through a 3-year Bible College course which he completed in 9 months with all-round distinctions.
He was so ablaze and passionate for Christ that the authorities of his institution considered him crazy and he was confined in an asylum for 190 days. While confined, he said that he read the Bible 40 times using different Bible study methods. After about 7 years of lecturing and preaching, he personally threw his degree certificates and credentials into the Atlantic Ocean, so that he would not be tempted to go back from preaching to lecturing.
9.0 There are still more worth considering. The Prince of preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon at 20 had the largest followership in the whole world in his generation. He would be pleading with those inside the Church not to turn up in the church till a fortnight so as to give room inside the auditorium the following Sunday for the thousands hanging on the adjacent trees and roofs. He organized a banquet when he read the Bible the 100th time.
George Mueller, the acclaimed greatest man of faith in contemporary times outside the Bible, read the Bible 200 times on his knees and 200 times at his desk. At 90, he was still preaching all over the world. Prof. Zacharias Fomum of Cameroon who passed on about nine years ago on the 70th day of a 100-day fast was spending about 5 hours daily for Bible study, without defaulting in the 7 hours devoted to lecturing in the University of Yaounde. At weekends and all public holidays, he devoted about 10 hours to Bible study.
John Wesley warned the early Methodist ministers to study hard or get out of the ministry. Watchman Nee’s study habit was unmatched in his generation. Many may not be familiar with D.L. Moody. The man was reputed to have placed each foot on two continents -America and Europe and shook both for Christ. He held a crusade in January 1876, with an attendance of 1,050,000 including U.S. President Grant and some members of his cabinet; 4000 were saved. He was the one who started the very first-ever Bible School in about 1890.
10.0 With regards to the origin of Bible college and seminary, some suggest that there was a seminary in the days of Samuel and Elisha but I have some reservations about that because those were called “sons of prophets” and “company of prophets”. I don’t think they had test-books and handouts; no Bibles, not even the Torah which individuals couldn’t own. Printing came into existence in the 16th Century AD invented by John Wittenberg. I dare not relate the scholastic exploits of Robert Dick Wilson. If I do, excitement may cause some of my readers to “jump through their windows”.
These were men of the Spirit, of the Word, and with lifestyles (living epistles). And for them, the letter that killeth couldn’t and didn’t kill them. They were not pre-occupied with seed-faith or other peripheral ephemeral “sowing seed” dynamics as the contemporary tele-evangelists. I will repeat the statement by Dr. Myles Munroe spoken in an audience I was part of. He said if one is anointed and is not studying deeply, such people would only have anointed ignorance! May God grant us grace and light to show ourselves approved unto Him. Shalom!