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Terse Verse


Thank You, Jesus!

by Stephen Rhoda

“Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed?  Where are the nine?’” -Luke 17:17

Are you guilty of the sin of “thenining”?  Before you consult your dictionary, let me admit that I made up the word.  The word “thenine” is a conjunction of “the nine,” a reference to the nine lepers who failed to give thanks to Christ for their healing by His hand.  So “thenining” is the sin of receiving the blessings of Christ without giving thanks.  The good thing is that it’s a sin from which we can readily repent and behavior that can be quickly corrected.  Healing from leprosy was a great gift, but it is also a blessing that pales in comparison to the blessing of salvation from sin.  How then can we fail to give thanks each day for what Christ has done for us, indeed, to live every moment in gratitude and devotion to Christ?  He has freed us from the wrath of God and brought us into an eternal kingdom of light and blessing.  If our lack of thanksgiving in prayer would not be the sure sign of our unbelief, then let us return to Christ regularly, if only with three words spoken from our hearts- “Thank you, Jesus!”

Great Sin, Great Love


Great Sin, Great Love

by Stephen Rhoda

“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much.  But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” — Luke 7:47

The reference here is to the “sinful woman” who came weeping to anoint the feet of Jesus as He sat in the house of a Pharisee, and the point is clear, that those who have known the forgiveness of Christ will love Christ.  It cannot be otherwise, that those who have heard the Gospel and have believed in Him will love Christ dearly!  And the greater our sin, the greater will be our love for Christ.

But is it required, therefore, that we have a history of scandalous sin?  Must those who love Christ be former prostitutes and drug dealers, thieves and murderers?  No, but we must know the peril and scandal of even “small” sins.  We must feel the weight of conviction and know that apart from Christ even “good boys and girls” and “saintly grandmothers” deserve to be cast into the outer darkness of hell.  Only then will we hear the Gospel with great joy and love Christ with a great love.

So among those who profess faith in Christ, some will say, “Don’t preach to me about sin!  I already know my sin, and I’m already a believer!  So just tell me how to live for God.”  But it doesn’t work that way.  There will no true humility within us, no sincere change in our lives, no lasting improvement in our behavior, apart from a great love for Christ.  And “he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  If we can’t figure out why we don’t pray, study God’s Word, and evangelize more, even while finding greater victory over sin, here is the answer: We need to love Christ more by growing in our knowledge of and conviction for sin.

The Heidelberg Catechism puts it this way — and here is a terribly important lesson from God’s Word — that the reason God wants His commandments “preached so pointedly” is “so that the longer we live the more we may come to know our sinfulness and the more eagerly look to Christ for forgiveness of sins and righteousness.” (Q & A 115)  So it might seem like a strange thing to pray, but let us pray (and study God’s Word) for a deeper understanding of sin, unto a greater love for Christ our Savior!

What is True Faith?


What is True Faith?

“And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.’” — Luke 7:4-5

In the opening passage of Luke 7, we find a compelling juxtaposition of two approaches to Christ.  Desiring the help of Christ to heal his servant, a Roman centurion sent the Jewish rulers of his town to appeal to Jesus.  When they came to Him, the elders thought to compel Jesus with these words- “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.”  But as Jesus approached the man’s house, the man himself came out to Him, saying, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.”  So- “He is worthy…” is set against the man’s confession, “I am not worthy…”  And Jesus says of this man, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

What about you?  Are you willing to confess before Christ, “I am not worthy of you.”  Indeed, nothing we have done or could do must serve as the basis for our approach to Christ.  We must not think to compel Him to help us by anything we have done.  We must plead for His saving ministry on the basis of His grace and mercy and our urgent need.  And by confessing our unworthiness, we make it clear that we are coming to Him in true faith, relying fully upon His grace.

You Are Quite Wrong


Terse Verse

Mark 12:27 – “You are quite wrong.”


Such was the indictment of Jesus against the Sadducees who denied the resurrection, and here is the proof that Jesus did not come just to accept people as they are.  He confronted sin and error as an act of love for sinners, so that even if we adopt the simplistic approach of “What Would Jesus Do?” — we must be willing to identify sin as sin, as defined by God’s Word, and to call for repentance.  But simple repentance is not even the ultimate point, basically because no one can repent sufficiently to achieve righteousness and escape the judgment of God.  The point of being told “You are quite wrong,” is to be driven to our knees before God, crying out for His mercy in Christ.  Of us it must be said, “You are quite wrong,” but of Christ it must be said, “He, and only He, is fully right.”  And the great blessing of the Gospel is that those who repent AND believe in Him are credited by faith with the righteousness of Christ.

A Devotional



Which Mountain Did He Mean?

by Stephen Rhoda

Bible Reading: Mark 11:20-26

Mark 11:23

“Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.”

Here is a glorious promise from our Lord, but not because it assures us of quick, dramatic victories over the “mountains” of our lives, that is, our troubles and struggles.  We may be tempted to hear Jesus promising that whatever we want, we can get, in exchange for a perfect faith, but this will leave us always navel-gazing at our faith.  After all, if the “mountain” doesn’t move, there must be something wrong with our faith, right?  If the illness isn’t healed, or the debt doesn’t go away, or the trouble remains, there must be doubt in our hearts.

But what is the context made clear by Jesus Himself?  In verse 25, Jesus adds, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”  In other words, the biggest mountain that needs to be moved is the mountain of our sin.  To be forgiven by God is no less than a mountain being “thrown into the sea.”  And our failure to forgive others is the doubt, that is, the indicator of unbelief, that may give us to see that the mountain still stands opposed; we are still in our sin.

Until we see the glory of the Gospel, that is, how significant and astounding it is for God to forgive sinners for the sake of Christ, we will be left to focus on other lesser mountains.  We will be left to clench our “faith muscles,” grunting and straining at the effort of faith.  Picture a child trying to lift a thousand pounds; this is the image of someone trying to muster up the faith to move the perceived mountain they face.  But the point of this verse is not that “faith can make anything happen.”  The promise of our Lord is that salvation comes by faith, and that is a glorious and delightful truth, far more glorious than the moving of our molehills in this sad life!

A Devotional



Understanding God’s Judgment, Receiving God’s Grace

by Stephen Rhoda

Bible Reading: Matthew 21:33-44

Matthew 21:41

They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

If you invited someone to be your house guest and they proceeded to claim and seize your property, ignoring you and even denying your existence, would you allow that person to stay?  And would you invite them back into your house a second time?  If not, then you can understand why a good God will one day judge the world with righteousness and justice. 

When Jesus told the parable of the tenants, the leaders of the people recognized the outrageous behavior of these wicked people.  They called for the maximum penalty for those who would seize someone else’s property as their own while failing to acknowledge the true owner.  What they did not recognize was themselves and their own behavior as represented by the wicked tenants.

People today are no different, except perhaps to be even more blind.  We struggle to understand how a good God will judge the world one day and punish sin, and some deny that such a thing will ever happen.  But mankind is exactly represented by the wicked tenants.  We live every day within God’s creation.  We breathe God’s air, we eat God’s food, and we take pleasure in the goodness of all that God has made.  And all the while we fail to acknowledge God as the owner of all things, and we neglect to give Him thanks for what He has created and given us to enjoy.  Some outrightly deny that God even exists, but all deny Him the fullness of what is rightly due Him.

Should we then expect God to be so weak-willed and gullible?  Should He simply shrug and allow such behavior to go unanswered?  No, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give Him the fruits in their seasons.”  Just as we would never invite back a rude and obnoxious house guest, so God will not admit into His new creation those who have seized and abused His first creation and denied His ownership and even His existence.  Thus, even our own sense of justice proves the rightness and sureness of His judgment upon this world.

How then shall we escape?  The call of God’s Word is to repent and believe in Jesus Christ.  Once again, God has provided what we need and we can trust Him for it.  In Christ God has provided forgiveness for our rebellion and even the credit of Christ’s perfect obedience.  The question is whether we will acknowledge our dependence upon God and His grace or continue in the outrageous behavior that we know must be judged and punished by a good God.

Dear Struggling Christian


Dear Struggling Christian

by Stephen Rhoda

Romans 7:22-25

I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Here is the recurring confession of every honest Christian.  Reaching the end of another week, we look back on the evidence of weakness and sin.  We fall short of the glory of God weekly, even daily, and by the Spirit of Christ within us, we lament our sin and groan, “Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?”  Surely there are some who will object to this, or even worse, who will shrug in apathy, not finding, nor desiring, such faith within them.  But this is written for the trembling Christian under the conviction of sin that he or she might find comfort and take courage in the fight!

So let the convicted Christian know that the struggle with sin is itself a sign of life within and evidence of true faith.  The point is not to excuse or belittle sin but to understand that sorrow for sin and even hatred of sin are the fruit of the Spirit of Christ within us.  Psalm 51:17 even says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart.”

Also, let the convicted Christian know and understand that this struggle will continue throughout his or her life. It is part of the experience of true faith that, so long as we remain in this “body of death,” we must struggle against sin, not surprised by our weakness and yet confident of victory in the fight, for “we know that our old self was crucified with [Christ] in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6), until we are raised up to new bodies free of sin and corruption (1 Corinthians 15:42-43).

Finally, let the convicted Christian know how to fight!  The first step is to close down the channels of influence that work to normalize sin.  Being entertained by sinful behavior, whether on a screen or in print, will keep us from recognizing sin as a matter of gross rebellion against Christ.  Next, we must answer the call of Philippians 4:8 to fill our minds with all that is good and honorable, which surely is a reference to the Word of God and the teachings (doctrines) of Scripture.  Entertainment is not inherently wrong or unnecessary, but as a rule of thumb, we ought to spend no less time in the Word each day than we spend on entertainment.  If we have two hours in a day to watch television or play games, then an hour or more of that time should be given to reading and meditating upon the Word of God.  Third, let us pray.  The prayers of Psalm 139:23-24, Psalm 141:3-4, and Matthew 6:13 must be prayed regularly, and not by rote utterance and polite form, but with the pleading heart of one who seeks the mercy of God, loves Christ, and despises sin.

So what is faith?  What is sin and obedience?  What is the authentic Christian experience?  These questions must be answered and these terms defined, not by the world or even by popular Christian writers, but firstly and finally by the Word of God.  Dear Struggling Christian, take heart!  Take up the Word, spend much time in prayer, and fight on as one promised the victory and glory of Christ!

2011 Question of the Year


2011 Question of the Year

by Stephen Rhoda

In Mark 8:29 Jesus asked His disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”  We are using and applying this question as the Ephphatha Reformation Ministries’ 2011 Question of the Year, “Who Do You Say that Christ Is?” — and we hope that this will stir the desire in many Christians to know Christ better and to confess Him more eagerly.

In Philippians 3:10 the Apostle Paul exclaims, “I want to know Christ” (NIV).  Clearly the call of God’s Word is to know Christ and to grow in our knowledge of Him.  Most basically, the call is to “remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in [the] gospel” (2 Timothy 2:8), but obviously we can remember only what we have first known.  So we must study God’s Word to know Him, thus to remember Him, even more, as Hebrews 12:2 calls us, to fix our eyes on Christ.

Such verses, along with countless others, make it clear that Christianity is about Christ and that saving faith is faith in Jesus Christ.  Thus we need to challenge people, even those who are active in the church, to consider whether they know Christ and to ask themselves what it means if they do not desire to know Him better and are not eager to confess His name.  Each of us, in fact, must compare his or her faith to that of the Apostle Paul, who confessed, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain… [for] my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:21,23)

The truth is that the entire Bible is about Christ.  His coming is first promise already in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:15, where God says to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  This proclamation is called the “proto-evangelium,” which means, “first Gospel,” because here is the first announcement of the good news of Christ’s coming and saving work.  Thus Satan is cursed to “crawl on his belly” in the knowledge that his doom is sure.  A man would one day come to bruise or crush his head, and this is the reference made by the demons in Matthew 8:29 when they asked Jesus- “Have you come here to torment us before the time?”  And so Paul teaches us in Colossians 2:15 (NIV), that “having disarmed the powers and authorities, [God] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”  And in the end, Revelation 20:10 says that the evil one “who deceived them [will be] thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur…”

So did you notice the progression: From Genesis 3, to Matthew 8, to Colossians 2, to Revelation 20.  These are certainly not the only passages and verses that could be drawn in with regard to this biblical theme, but even these four show us that God’s Word is about Christ, from beginning to end, Genesis through Revelation!

Therefore, the 2011 Question of the Year is “Who Do You Say that Christ Is?”  Each month we’ll be studying the question itself and/or answering the question a bit further, as an encouragement to all to study the Word and to grow in their knowledge of Christ.  I hope you will participate by regularly visiting the website and reading the weekly articles and monthly blog, but more importantly, by taking up the Word eagerly to know your Savior Jesus Christ.

How to Avoid Nominal Christianity

How to Avoid Nominal Christianity

by Stephen Rhoda

There are at least two verses in the Gospels that ought to make all church-goers stop and ponder long and hard about their faith and the faith of their children.  The first verse is Matthew 7:21, in which Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.”  The second verse is Mark 8:38, in which Jesus says, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Notice in the first of these two verses that some will say, “Lord, Lord.”  The double form of “Lord” indicates that such persons are sincere, perhaps even passionate, about their faith.  Yet the teaching of Jesus is that their faith is not real and that they are not saved.  And notice in the second verse that one must stand for Christ before the world without shame if Christ would smile upon them in the day of His coming again.  Therefore, Jesus’ reference is at least to those who are mere church-goers and to those who are unable or unwilling to name the name of Christ in their conversation with others.

Both of these verses give fair warning of the deficiency and grave danger of “nominal Christianity,” and our response to such warning should be to “examine [ourselves], to see whether [we] are in the faith,” as we are specifically called to do in 2 Corinthians 13:5.  And as we long and labor to see faith formed in the hearts of our children, we ought to beware lest they attain only to a nominal faith.

What is a “nominal Christian”?

So first of all, let’s define “nominal Christianity” more carefully.  Most literally, a “nominal Christian” is one who is Christian in name only.  They may call themselves a Christian and others may think of them as a Christian because of the customs they keep and the general morality of their lives, but they lack a relationship of loving and joyful dependance upon Christ for their salvation.

Therefore, “nominal Christians” may perhaps be defined more pointedly by what they don’t do.  They don’t acknowledge the just judgment of God for sin.  They don’t cling to Christ for salvation.  They don’t love Christ as shown by their lack of time spent in the Word seeking to know Him better and spending time with Him in prayer.  And maybe the most observable characteristic of a nominal Christian is that they don’t speak of Christ in their conversation with others.  They may speak of “God” and “the Lord.”  They may claim to be “Spirit-filled” according to some definition of that expression.  But they are unable or unwilling to name the name of Christ eagerly and joyfully before others, even before other Christians.

Now, if they are unable to name the name of Christ, perhaps they need to grow in their knowledge of Christ in order to possess true faith.  Faith requires knowledge because you can’t believe in something or someone that you don’t know.  So those who are unable to name the name of Christ need to know and understand that Christianity is about Christ and that saving faith is not just a matter of faith in “God” but faith in Christ.  But if they are unwilling to name the name of Christ, then it’s likely that they are ashamed of Christ.  Either way, they are “nominal Christians” and still without saving faith.

Is this diagnosis too harsh?  Only if it’s wrong.  If it’s a correct diagnosis according to God’s Word, then is this not the most loving ministry you could provide someone, to help them see that they are “so close and yet so far”?  Even more, we ought to ask whether Jesus was being harsh and unloving when He issued the clear warning, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes…”

Avoiding Nominalism

So here is the way to avoid “nominal Christianity.”

First, get into the Word of God and don’t quit reading and studying until you have a clear understanding of the Gospel and what true faith is.  If someone says, “But I don’t have time,” my answer is that this is too important not to make the time!  If you were diagnosed with some disease that threatened to kill you, would you tell your doctor, “I don’t have time for the treatment”?  Wouldn’t you cancel a vacation, take leave of your job if necessary, and devote yourself fully to getting better?  Would you skip treatments in order to watch television or go golfing?  But even more, understand that nominal Christianity will kill you in the worst possibly way.  Here your eternal salvation is at stake.  The outcome is heaven or hell.  You must believe in Christ to be saved, and you must know Christ and the Gospel in order to believe.  So study the Word of God and pray fervently for the knowledge, understanding, and conviction of true and saving faith.

Second, avoid spiritual jargon and mere “God-talk.”  Christianity is about Christ, and saving faith is faith in Christ.  So confess Christ and name His name in your conversations with others.  Instead of saying things like, “I love the Lord,” say, “I love Christ,” exactly because Christ is your Lord and without using His name no one will necessarily know who your “Lord” is.  Instead of just talking about “God,” talk about Christ, exactly because Christ is your God and without using His name no one will necessary know who your “God” is.  Remember that nominal Christianity is marked by spiritual generalities and not specific confessions of Christ.  So name the name of Christ!

Third, be prepared to suffer for Christ.  Jesus warned His disciples, “A servant is not greater than his master.  If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).  The question is not whether believers in Christ will suffer for their Master, but when.  And be prepared that the most intense and pointed ill-treatment may even come from other “Christians.”  In the same sermon, Jesus also told His disciples, “Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think He is offering service to God.  And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me” (John 16:2).  As one moves from nominal Christianity into true faith, it will highlight the hypocrisy and error of others, and they will not take kindly to it.  Don’t expect to keep every friendship you have, but do expect that God will use you to save others as well, some perhaps who have already lived a long life in the church but apart from Christ and true faith.

Fourth, teach your children what they need to know to believe in Christ as well.  It’s not wrong to make use of the ministry of others to help train your children, but it is wrong to turn over the instruction of your children to others, even if it’s good instruction.  So instruct your children diligently in the Word of God (Deuteronomy 6:7).  Teach them the meaning of their baptism, which is to say, teach them the Gospel and the covenant faithfulness of God to His people from generation to generation, but teach them as well the absolute necessity of their own faith in Christ.  Warn your children of God’s judgment for sin, and call them to flee to the cross and believe in Christ.  Point out the difference between a nominal Christian and a believer of Jesus Christ.  And don’t be surprised by their resistance and how slow they are to believe, but see such things as indicators of the truth of God’s Word: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child” (Proverbs 22:15)and “it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16).  So teach your children about Christ and pray for them every day, because only by God’s Word and Spirit will they come to faith in Jesus Christ and be saved.

Finally, continue in the Word of God.  Study to teach your children, and study to hold yourself accountable to the Word.  Read and study not

to be spiritual and to get “fulfilled” but to be a faithful disciple of Christ and to preserve your soul (1 Timothy 4:16).  And beyond your personal study of God’s Word, study with others as well in the church.  Approach a more studied brother or sister in Christ and ask if they will study with you to teach you.  Or approach another believer for the sake of mutual discipleship.  Remember that even as God works in us by Word and Spirit, the Spirit draws us into community with other believers, so that “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

Conclusion – Now What?

If you’ve read this far, perhaps you’ll consider further this conclusion.  None of this will matter if pride controls us.  It’s pride that leads us to say, “Never mind.  I’ll do it my way.”  It’s pride that insists on picking and choosing what to receive and what to reject from God’s Word, which is exactly what nominal Christianity does.  It’s pride that says, “I’m in good company, and I don’t care to lose my place of favor with others and the opportunity to pursue my own goals.”  But once again, a gracious God has not left us without warning and truth.  Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”  And in John 14:6, Jesus makes it clear- “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

How So Like Children?

How So Like Children?

by Stephen Rhoda

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 18:3

As Scripture interprets Scripture, Matthew 18:3 must be heard as teaching us about the nature of true faith.  Not that this verse uses the word “faith,” but entering the kingdom of heaven is certainly a reference to salvation and God’s Word is clear that sinners are saved by faith.  So Matthew 18:3 is teaching us that we must become like little children in order to have saving faith.

But how so like children?  The question is important to answer rightly because Matthew 18:3 has been detrimentally misinterpreted in our day.  When Jesus called His disciples to become like little children, He was referring specifically to the humility of children and not to being simple and uneducated.  Regrettably it’s the latter interpretation that some have used to support their preferred version of the Christian faith which jettisons doctrine, diminishes Bible study to “sharing,” and puts an ultimate premium on sheer emotional experience.

In order to understand rightly what Jesus was teaching, we need to include the verses before and the verse after this statement from Jesus.  In verse 1, we are given the context of this teaching.  “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’”  Notice that they weren’t asking, “Who is the smartest in the kingdom of heaven?” thus prompting the call from Jesus to be uneducated like a child.  The context is a moment of overt pride and self-exaltation based on their relationship to Christ as His disciples.  So to call His disciples to humility — not to childish ignorance — Jesus called a child to Him, stood the young lady or young man before them, and said, “Unless you turn and become like children…”

Then, in verse 4, Jesus interprets His own statement clearly and without any ambiguity about His meaning.  “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”  Simply put, the call to become like children is the call to humility, not simple-mindedness.

But even more, it’s exactly the humility of children that often makes them aggressively curious and delightfully teachable.  Children are like sponges, wanting to absorb everything around them.  So when the church jettisons doctrine, for adults as well as children, we leave adults in spiritual immaturity and we neglect to disciple our children exactly at the time when they are most teachable.

In order to read Matthew 18:3 as an excuse not to grow in the knowledge of God’s Word, one has to pull these words of Jesus out of their immediate context, and even more, out of the context of the entire Bible.  From the first day, our relationship with our Creator has been one requiring knowledge.

In the garden of Eden, the evil one called into question the knowledge of God, tempting Adam and Eve to set aside the command of God and to pursue the sheer experience of eating forbidden fruit.

As God took Israel to be His people, He gave them His Law, instructing Moses to write it down for the people and calling them to learn and teach it to their children.  Deuteronomy 6 says- “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”  And in the same chapter, Israel was warned that when they entered the promise land and received the blessing of God, they must “take care lest you forget the LORD.”

And so, when Israel later sinned, it was because they indeed had forgotten the knowledge of God.  Psalm 106:13 says- “But soon they forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel.”  And verse 21 says- “They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt…”

Then, consider the Gospels, which record the historical events of Christ’s coming and the fulfillment of His ministry.  Simply in Jesus’ use of the institution of discipleship, we hear the call to hear, study, know and remember the Word of God.  A disciple of Christ is a student of Christ and of His Word!

Finally, in the writings of the Apostles, over and over again we hear the call to grow in the knowledge of God through His Word.  The book of Romans is, granted, a book requiring careful study, indeed a lifetime of diligent reading and reflection, but that in itself is the evidence that to be a Christian is to be a student of the Word of God.  And in Romans 12:2, after eleven chapters of careful doctrinal instruction, the Apostle Paul calls his readers to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”  But in our own day, throngs of church-goers are seeking Sunday after Sunday to be transformed by the renewal of their hearts, amid worship services providing little biblical teaching and doctrinal preaching.

Another clear call to grow in knowledge is found in Colossians 1:9-10, which again ties together doctrine and practice.  Paul first makes it clear how he prays for the church, “asking that you be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”  Secondly, Paul calls the Colossians to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

Finally, in this terribly non-exhaustive listing, is 1 Peter 2:2, which makes it clear that it wasn’t just a matter Paul being more intellectually orientated.  The Apostle Peter quotes the Prophet Isaiah to say of God’s Word- “The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”  He then makes it clear that “this word is the good news that was preached to you,” and in the end, he calls upon his readers, “like newborn infants, to long for the pure spiritual milk.”

Regrettably, therefore, it’s a lack of knowledge that leads even further to a lack of knowledge.  It’s God’s Word that calls us to study and know and remember the Word of God, but it’s an existing ignorance of God’s Word that starts the downward spiral of immaturity in the church.

Jesus said, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  But far from being a call for adults to prefer recess over the classroom, here is the call to humility, teachability, and a diligent study of God’s Word.  In the end, doctrine is not optional, and theology cannot be left to certain types of Christians who care about it.  Christianity is the result of divinely revealed content through divinely inspired Scriptures.  Faith requires knowledge and the growth of faith necessitates a growing knowledge and understanding of God’s Word.