Matthew 28:19 (NIV)- “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The last time I went to a Christian bookstore, I noticed that the majority of best-selling books were written regarding matters of spirituality, vocational living, and novels.
The trained eye will notice that oftentimes these “best-selling” books simply echo indistinguishable, philosophical principals that are common in all main religions. Sometimes, the principles that are marketed to Western Christians are sold as “new insights” from the author, when in fact, it can be proven that oftentimes these principles have been borrowed (plagiarized?) from religions that the authors would ironically refer to as “pagan.”
The parallels are too many to systematically mention here… but if you read some Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes, you will recognize that in many instances they are drawing from fluffy Eastern spiritualities and “New Age” concepts, such as the writings of Dr. Deepak Chopra.
Despite the hundreds of Christian bookstores across the nation, and the thousands of theologically-themed books readily available at our finger tips for just a few dollars… are we any more informed in regards to the Faith that was once delivered to the saints? (Jude 1:3)
Fact is that Western Christians are less biblically-literate than ever. Some theological leaders are referring to this as the greatest, disconcerting and preposterous scandal of today’s Western Church.
But in spite of all the righteously vociferous complaints- we still do not hear any viable solutions besides the suggestion that we should “read the Bible” more often.
Reading the Bible as often as possible (preferably in a disciplined manner) is beneficial to a certain point… But Christianity is not a “me and the Bible,” Lone Ranger religion. Much of Western Christianity (especially the radical reformational tradition) undergirds its notion of direct discipleship to Jesus Christ without “middle men,” by misrepresenting the contextual meaning of 1 John 2:27 (ESV)
“But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.”
If “teaching” were no longer necessary, then why did St. John write about doctrinal issues to the churches that he was supervising in Asia Minor? (Turkey) It is also interesting that in 1 John 2:20-21, the Apostle is telling his disciples that they “know all things” regarding the truth. Contextually speaking, St. John is not teaching that the anointing of the Holy Spirit supersedes disciplic instruction, but rather, that they do not need disciplic instruction in order to potentially KNOW the embodiment of ultimate truth- the person of Jesus Christ.
We can “know” a person for years…but be entirely ignorant as to the intricacies of his or her soul. In the same manner, Christians “know” the Person of the Truth, but in order to understand him, he must be “explained” to us. (see John 1:18 in the NASB and the Greek originals- specifically the word ἐξηγέομαι, Strong’s #1834, from which the word “exegesis” comes from.)
Eusebius of Caesarea was a Christian historian that was present during the First Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. and who authored his magnanimous work titled: Ecclesiastical History. (you can read it for free online)
In his work, Eusebius goes to great lengths in explaining the details of the Apostles’ work and their successors. An example of the importance of Apostolic Succession and its relationship with historical discipleship, is found in the catalog of the Roman Bishops, in book 5.6 of his History.
In an era of apostasy, heresies and teachings that proceed from lying demons (1 Timothy 4:1), its good to know where certain doctrines proceed from, and especially, who are the originators of particular doctrinal purports. The veracity of Christian doctrine is not founded upon one’s personal, interpretive lens (which is often distorted due to the life experiences that mold and influence our thinking processes) but rather, on our willingness to allow Apostolic teaching mold our minds by means of proper, Apostolic instruction. (Rom. 12:2; Heb. 9:5; 2 Tim. 2:2; 2 Thes. 2:15; 1 Cor. 11:2; Acts 8:31; et.al.)
Let me provide you an example of what I mean with the importance of disciplic succession. If you cannot solve the following doctrinal problem, then most likely, even though you are a sincere believer in the Person of Christ, you have not received proper instruction according to the disciplic movement that Jesus Christ envisioned for his Church. The doctrinal question below is simple…yet profoundly intricate and multifaceted.
Why did God require animal sacrifices for expiation of sins, when the blood of animals clearly did not possess the expiatory power to take them away ? (Hebrews 10:4) Also, if God considers it unjust to make an innocent person pay for the sins of another (Ezekiel 18:20), then how could it be righteous, just, ethical, virtuous and honorable for the Christ to innocently die as an offering of expiation on our behalf? (Isaiah 53:6,11)
If you cannot provide an Apostolically-sanctioned answer to this simple, doctrinal question…then you were never initiated into a disciplic religion, but rather, just another Eastern spirituality with a veneer of Westernization.