by Mike Ratliff
Προσέχετε ἀπὸ τῶν ψευδοπροφητῶν, οἵτινες ἔρχονται πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐν ἐνδύμασιν προβάτων, ἔσωθεν δέ εἰσιν λύκοι ἅρπαγες. ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν αὐτῶν ἐπιγνώσεσθε αὐτούς. μήτι συλλέγουσιν ἀπὸ ἀκανθῶν σταφυλὰς ἢ ἀπὸ τριβόλων σῦκα; (Matthew 7:15-16 NA27)
Beware of false prophets who come to you in clothing of sheep, but within are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or thistles from figs are they? (a personal translation of Matthew 7:15-16 from the NA27 Greek text)
Looking back at yesterdays post, How can we discern false teachers?, let’s look at a real example. I received in my inbox today a link to a “Tweet” made by Rick Warren:
Obedience teaches you more about God than a yr of study.“If u CHOOSE TO DO God’s will, you’ll know my teaching..” Jn.7:17
Here is the actual link to the “tweet:” http://twitter.com/#!/RickWarren/status/101382167078252544
Before I even got my Bible out to look at John 7:17 to read it then put it into context, I had an issue with what he was saying there. For instance, how can we even know what truth is and what it is we are supposed to obey unless we first know God and the knowing of God and learning about Him and His ways is through the study of “Theology,” which is what that word means in Greek. Also, God commands His leaders to preach the Word and to immerse the Church in it. Obedience flows from that. It is dangerous and a recipe for error to get this backward.
The best way to address the error(s) in what Rick Warren is saying here is to look at the passage he is misusing or abusing, which is John 7:17. Let’s put it in context.
14Ἤδη δὲ τῆς ἑορτῆς μεσούσης ἀνέβη Ἰησοῦς εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν καὶ ἐδίδασκεν. 15 ἐθαύμαζον οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι λέγοντες· πῶς οὗτος γράμματα οἶδεν μὴ μεμαθηκώς; 16 ἀπεκρίθη οὖν αὐτοῖς [ὁ] Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν· ἡ ἐμὴ διδαχὴ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐμὴ ἀλλὰ τοῦ πέμψαντός με· 17 ἐάν τις θέλῃ τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ ποιεῖν, γνώσεται περὶ τῆς διδαχῆς πότερον ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν ἢ ἐγὼ ἀπ᾽ ἐμαυτοῦ λαλῶ. 18 ὁ ἀφ᾽ ἑαυτοῦ λαλῶν τὴν δόξαν τὴν ἰδίαν ζητεῖ· ὁ δὲ ζητῶν τὴν δόξαν τοῦ πέμψαντος αὐτὸν οὗτος ἀληθής ἐστιν καὶ ἀδικία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν. 19 Οὐ Μωϋσῆς δέδωκεν ὑμῖν τὸν νόμον; καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐξ ὑμῶν ποιεῖ τὸν νόμον. τί με ζητεῖτε ἀποκτεῖναι;20 ἀπεκρίθη ὁ ὄχλος· δαιμόνιον ἔχεις· τίς σε ζητεῖ ἀποκτεῖναι;21 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· ἓν ἔργον ἐποίησα καὶ πάντες θαυμάζετε. 22 διὰ τοῦτο Μωϋσῆς δέδωκεν ὑμῖν τὴν περιτομήν – οὐχ ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ Μωϋσέως ἐστὶν ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ τῶν πατέρων – καὶ ἐν σαββάτῳ περιτέμνετε ἄνθρωπον. 23 εἰ περιτομὴν λαμβάνει ἄνθρωπος ἐν σαββάτῳ ἵνα μὴ λυθῇ ὁ νόμος Μωϋσέως, ἐμοὶ χολᾶτε ὅτι ὅλον ἄνθρωπον ὑγιῆ ἐποίησα ἐν σαββάτῳ; 24 μὴ κρίνετε κατ᾽ ὄψιν, ἀλλὰ τὴν δικαίαν κρίσιν κρίνετε. (John 7:14-24 NA27)
About the middle of the feast, Jesus wept up into the Temple and was teaching. Therefore, the Jews were marveling saying, “How has this man known letters, not having learned?” Therefore, Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not mine, but of the one who sent me. If anyone wants to do the will of God, he will know about the teaching whether it is of God or I speak from myself. The one speaking from himself seeks his own glory, but the one seeking the glory of the one who sent him, this one is genuine and unrighteousness is not in him. Has not Moses given you the Law? And none of you does the Law. Why are you seeking to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon. Who is seeking to kill you?” Jesus answered and said to them, “One work I did, and everyone marvels. Because of this, Moses has given you circumcision—not that it is of Moses but of the Fathers—and on a Sabbath you circumcise a man. If circumcision receives a man on Sabbath that the Law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I made a man entirely healthy on a Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with just judgment.” (a personal translation of John 7:14-24 from the NA27 Greek text)
The bold section is v17. What is the context? The greater context is Jesus mission to the Jews from John 1:18, to make God the Father known. All through his disputes with the Jewish religious leaders in the Gospel of John, we see our Lord use these same claims in the face of their rock hard unbelief. He came from the Father. His teachings were from the Father. His obedience was to do the Father’s will. His desire was to bring glory to the Father. Here in v17 we see that all who seek to do the Father’s will know that what our Lord is teaching is from God and not just from the Son. How will they know? If we go back one chapter to John 6:44-45, “οὐδεὶς δύναται ἐλθεῖν πρός με ἐὰν μὴ ὁ πατὴρ ὁ πέμψας με ἑλκύσῃ αὐτόν, κἀγὼ ἀναστήσω αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ. ἔστιν γεγραμμένον ἐν τοῖς προφήταις· καὶ ἔσονται πάντες διδακτοὶ θεοῦ· πᾶς ὁ ἀκούσας παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ μαθὼν ἔρχεται πρὸς ἐμέ.” Or, “No one is able to come to me unless the Father who sent should draw him, and I will raise him up in the last day. It has been written in the Prophets, and they shall be all taught ones of God. Everyone having heard from the Father and having learned comes to me.”
Those given to the Son are raised from spiritual death to spiritual life. They are given a heart of flesh where there was once a heart of stone. They are quickened unto eternal life. They were rebels and now they come freely to the Son. When they come, they agree with the Son just as the Lord said. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Now, compare this very short exegetical study with Rick Warren’s “Tweet.” Is he even remotely in the ballpark? No! In fact, he is actually using a passage totally out of context from the meaning he is trying to convey, which in and of itself is unbiblical. If I had access to Rick Warren and could approach him about this sort of thing, I would and I would caution him about this careless and unbiblical use of God’s Word and would also let him know that this sort of thing is evidence of a false teacher. If he was a genuine believer, his response should be one of humility and repentance, but I promise you that he and those around him will not respond to this little expose’ that way. No, it will be viewed as some sort of negative attack.
John Piper has done much damage attempting to validate this man’s ministry instead of calling him to accountability. Now, will Rick Warren listen to someone like me about his mishandling of God’s Word like this? Let’s see.
Soli Deo Gloria!