Thursday, September 10, 2009

Observe Them

The following is similar to a previous posting of mine entitled Keep My Commandments but I feel compelled to share. One of my co-workers and I often discuss the Bible and he often comes and just sits down in my office and asks, "what are you studying right now." These conversations are often very refreshing and lead both of us to deeper thought and understanding of both scripture and one another. I truly cherish these conversations.

One such conversation took place yesterday and he was discussing how he had been studying the book of Matthew lately. He pointed out a scripture, one that most Christians know by heart, the great commission, Matthew 28:18-20. He pointed out how one word had caught his eye in his latest studies and that word was in verse 20 in the phrase "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." My co-worker believed that the word observe and obey were the same word and that Jesus was telling his disciples to teach people to obey everything that he had commanded his 12 disciples. He then took me to Matthew 10:5-15 in which Jesus sends out the 12 apostles to speak only to the Jews, showing the power that Jesus had bestowed upon them. In verse 8 of this passage, Jesus instructs the 12 "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons." My dear friend and co-worker was asking why in Matthew 28 would Christ instruct the 12 to teach others to obey his commandments, one of which was to do the things in Matthew 10:8 if those spiritual gifts were no longer able to be used today. This is a good question but one that can be easily dismissed upon further Bible study.

The word that my co-worker was confused with was the word "observe" in Matthew 28:20. This word observe that Christ used when speaking to the 12 in Matthew 28 is not synonymous with the word obey. Christ is not telling his 12 apostles to teach people to obey all the He had commanded and therefore is not teaching people to obey his commandment to do the miraculous spiritual gifts listed in Matthew 10.

The word observe used by Christ in this passage is the Greek word Tereo. The literal meaning of this word is "to attend to carefully, to guard, to take care of, to observe, or to keep one in the state in which it is in." That is not the same as obey. So the question then becomes what was Christ instructing his apostles to do here? Now that we have the original meaning of Christ's speaking, it is quite simple.

Christ is telling his 12 to teach people to keep what Christ commanded them safe. Do not allow it to be molested and twisted to meet the needs, wants, and desires of man. This would include false doctrine, taking away from Christ's words, and adding to Christ's words (the latter seeming to be the biggest problem in today's Christianity). Sadly, neither they nor we modern day Christian are doing too good a job of this. Fortunately, Christ only says to teach others to guard the truth of His words. As a survey of the New Testament shows us, it took less than one century for this problem to erupt and Christ's reasoning for his instruction to the 12 to become evident (read Galatians, 1 John, or 2 John to see this problem being addressed). John goes as far in 1 and 2 John to call people who fail to teach others only to observe the simple teachings of Christ as the Antichrist(s).

Is your Biblical teaching in line with Christ's instruction to his 12 apostles. Are you teaching others to simply hold sacred the words of Christ or are you teaching people to lead legalistic and completely obedient lives. Only one of those options is in line with Christ's teaching. Are we teaching people to accept Christ's love or to try and earn it? Sadly, I believe that a majority are teaching people to earn it. This is nothing more than fleeting vanity. May God help us to become Christians who teach others to guard Christ's teaching from corruption and selfishness.

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