This Far and No Farther
I've been thinking recently about the extent to which we should pursue truth. One of the verses that I fear describes our day is Hosea 4:6. But I'm also cautious about pushing into areas that we may not be intended to understand, given Deuteronomy's "the secret things belong to the Lord." So I've stayed away from some topics. One of these, until more recently, has been the finer points of eschatology. I held to my historic, post-tribulational pre-millennialism because, well, it was historic. But a couple of years back when I was teaching during our Sunday night service I was convinced (the word "con" is in there) into a series on eschatology. I found the study very helpful for me, though I'm not sure the congregation would say that it benefited them greatly. It even encouraged me to do a study through 1st and 2nd Thessalonians in Sunday School. (None of this has moved me from my historic premillennial position, but it has given me a much better understanding of some of my a-millennial and post-millennial friends. )
It also reminded me of the great benefit, particularly in our age, of through a book expositional teaching. This forces you to deal with topics you otherwise would choose to avoid. That's one reason I chose to go through Thessalonians. I had avoided it because of the way it is typically used to support a pre-trib pre-millennial position. Some of those in my Sunday school class might not appreciate hearing these verses from another perspective. But teaching through the two epistles I found the eschatology isn't as prominent as one might expect (it's definitely there, but not the majority of the epistles), and that the other topics in the epistles had much to say to us. "All scripture is profitable." So, while it is true that "the secret things belong to the Lord," Deuteronomy goes on to say that "the things revealed belong to us and our children."
Therefore, the Bible defines our "this far and no farther." We may disagree on where the Bible draws that line on some issues, but if it is the Bible we teach, our lines shouldn't differ greatly. I frequently get in discussions over whether or not the doctrines of grace (the five points of Calvinism, election, etc.) should be taught. Some will say that it can be taught, but you need mature believers. After all, babes need milk and election is too tough for babes to chew. Others reject the idea of teaching it entirely. Not to anyone. Ever. All the while admitting that it is what the Bible teaches. The problem is that it shows up so often in Scripture. Regardless of the intended audience. John wrote his gospel with the expressed intent of bringing people to faith (for lost people), but some of the clearest passages on election are in John's gospel. When we faithful teach through books of the Bible, we have to teach what the Bible teaches.
There are many examples in the last few decades of men who have done this and who have had a great impact on their congregations and conservative Christianity as a whole. I think of the late James Montgomery Boice, the late Dr. S. Lewis Johnson, John Piper, and John MacArthur as four outstanding examples of expository preachers whose messages are reaching far and wide. I also appreciate that these are (were) men who stood against attacks on Biblical authority from several different fronts, and yet maintain joy and a peaceful spirit. Why? Because they were saturated with the Bible that they taught. Because the things revealed enable us through the power of the Spirit to live godly lives.
So, how deep do we wade in the waters? As deep as the Word takes us. If we stay shallow, then there is much of the wonder and splendor of God we will never know. We also will be hindered in our pursuit of a godly life. On the other hand, if we go too deep, out past the Biblical markers, we might lose our way. May our Lord, in His mercy, grant to us a deeper knowledge of Himself, that we might not be destroyed.