Intro: Read Eph 4:17-24 – 7 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of* the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
What does it mean to really learn something? Sometimes there is a test! There is a difference between knowing about something and knowing through experience. To know what God says begins in a study of the pages of the Bible. But it certainly does not end there. One must seek to do what is found therein in order to truly understand. The true test of knowledge comes in the practice of what is intellectually understood. This level of learning is what God has always expected of His people. The apostle says that the Ephesians had learned Christ to the level of obedience that would change the way they lived.
A. This is what God expected of Joshua, as the new leader of Israel, and of all His people. Josh 1:8 – This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Israel’s relationship with the Book of the Law involved two important elements:
- “That you may observe” – the word “observe” here is also translated as “be careful” (NIV). They were to pay close attention to everything God said. The details were important. True obedience has always involved carefulness. In verse 7 God phrased it this way – Josh 1:7 – Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.
- “to do” – But careful details are useless knowledge if we do not put them into practice. Jesus denounced the Pharisees as those who did not know His Father. They were meticulous about the details of the law, but unwilling to obey it themselves. Matt 23:3-4 – 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe,* that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
I. The Atmosphere of true Learning: Eph 5:15-17 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
A. In Paul’s analysis carefully(circumspectly) walking according to God’s direction and making the best of our opportunities (redeeming the time) are a part of understanding the will of God.
1. no one knows love, unless he is loving another; no one knows forgiveness, unless he forgives another; no one knows honesty, unless he practices daily integrity.
2. Therefore those who truly desire to know God’s will seek it with a view towards complete compliance.
II. Seeking the Truth to Do It –
A. I Cor.3:1-3 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?
1. The Corinthians’ lifestyle prohibited their learning the truth, and digesting it. Carnality (envy, strife, divisions) is not an environment for learning and spiritual development. Truth simply would not fit into their minds. Learning provides for doing, and then doing provides the atmosphere for more learning. notice Heb 5:12-14 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
a. – by reason of use we learn to discern. Those who are not doing right lose interest in learning or studying the Bible. It is viewed as “so much useless book learning”.
III. Knowledge Without Action – There is an inherent deficiency in knowledge that does not act.
A. Jesus compared it to a wise & foolish man.. Matt 7:24-29 24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” 28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
B. James 2:14-17 14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
1. James says that only faith that works is profitable… the real application of this passage goes beyond the necessity of baptism -it is written to Christians about how they live up to their teaching & learning. What a tragedy to have a worthless faith.
a. it speaks to the level of “good intentions” that never get done.
IV. Hearing Without Doing: What does it mean to truly receive the word of God?
A. James 1:19-25 19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
1. Receiving God’s instructions involved laying aside filthiness & wickedness. A call to repentance. This effort of renewal requires a clear picture of who we really are. Those who learn, but do not do, fail through self-deception. It is easy to forget who we really are if we are not doing God’s will. James says we learn only as we do!
V. The Responsibility to Seek the Truth is Personal
A. The word Of God is directed to each individual, in interpretation & practice. 1 Peter 4:11- 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. – “if any man speak” How can I obey this unless I know what the oracles of God say?
1. Not all who claim to believe in the inspiration of scripture accept the right & responsibility of the individual to interpret the Bible for himself. (Roman Catholic Hierarchy- The church alone has the right of Interpretation) Eph 3:1-5 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles-2 If indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:
a. Paul expected all the Ephesians to be able to understand the mystery of the Gospel. But that was not to lead to the church as the authority or voice of interpretation! Read James Tolle ..
“Too often we allow “our practice” or “our doctrine” to be the determining factor as to what we accept as religiously and spiritually valid rather than our own, personal, individual study of the Bible. Oftentimes we are asked by our friends and neighbors what the church of Christ teaches about a particular subject. If we truly recognize infallibility being in the divine word rather than in the church, our response will be, “Let us examine the Bible to find out what it has to say, if anything, on this subject.”
We might be surprised if we took a good, honest look at ourselves to find out how much of our religious thinking is the result of “what we have been taught all of our lives,” or “what most of us believe,” or “what we are supposed to believe,” rather than an essentially unprejudiced, candid answer to the question; what saith the scriptures?
2. We should encourage open study & discussion of Bible topics, and the investigation of other ideas about the scriptures.
a. The Practice of what the Bible requires is also an individual responsibility, (some activities are joint activities, but they ultimately rely on my individual participation) teaching, saving the lost, exhorting the fallen, lifting the weak, helping the needy, …whose job is this? Can another do it for us?
3. Acts 4:18-20 “And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
a. Commitment to personal freedom in the search for divine truth is commitment to the freedom all Christians enjoy in Christ (John 8:36). When any Christian exercises his freedom in Christ to freely inquire after truth, he recognizes that his basic loyalty is to Christ rather than to man, and that any loyalty to man enjoined on him by the scriptures must always be in accord with his loyalty to Christ. Acts 5:29 – But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.
Conclusion: God calls on us to walk by Faith, not by sight. – In some future lessons we will look closer at this principle. But recognize today that we cannot substitute intellectual knowledge for true learning and discipleship to Jesus. Jesus said, You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free (Jesus is the truth). Do you know Jesus? What is the test?