Where Zeal Becomes a Blinder to Truth
In this study I'll share a bit of history on why much of Judaism rejected Jesus Christ, and why the Lord came against what is called 'the traditions of the elders.' What you will see in this study is a parallel situation with the United Pentecostal Church as well as with other legalistic sectarian groups.
On the plus side we will also note how some of these overbearing groups have come to their senses and have made great turn around, such as the Worldwide Church of God. Even the Seventh Day Adventists have gone through their shake up.
Anyway let's consider the background where excessive zeal can become a destroyer of a true faith walk.
This is Bible Study DU021 - Where Zeal Becomes a Blinder to Truth.
The 'Traditions of the Elders' is a reference to what the Hebrew were taught was the 'Oral Torah' of God. Of course all this was based on a lie. The teaching was that Moses was given two Torahs at Sinai. One was the written Torah; the other was an Oral Torah.
According to the teaching, the Oral Torah was to serve as a fence around the written Torah so that the people would not be able to break any of the Laws of Moses. These 'extra' laws would serve as a guardian fence.
The fact is that the Oral Torah had its beginnings when the Jews were brought back to the land of Israel under the leadership of Nehemiah and Ezra. The Law of Moses had been forgotten altogether. When the Law was rediscovered it sent shock waves through the people. (I'll just give a synopsis without quoting too much Scripture.)
In the public reading of the Law, the priests had to give explanations so the people could better understand God's laws. That in itself was a good thing. However, what happened is that an excessive zeal began to work, and these 'explanations' to the law went beyond the Law of Moses.
Here is an example: "On that day they read aloud from the book of Moses in the hearing of the people; and it was found written in it that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God . . . So when they heard the law, they excluded ALL foreigners from Israel." (Cf. Nehemiah 1-3 nasb. Cap for emphasis only.)
Did you catch the excess? It is true that foreigners had certain restrictions under the Law of Moses, but it really depended on the group. Keep in mind that the Hebrew word 'foreigner' also speaks of the mixed peoples who came out of Egypt with the Israelites.
In all this there were Laws that gave special preference to those who were considered 'guests' or 'aliens' in Israel. The Hebrew word for 'alien' speaks of a non-Israelite, a sojourner, a stranger, or someone who is not native to the land of Israel. Many of these people joined themselves to the God of Israel and were accorded the same rights as the native Israelite.
However, when the returning Israelites 'excluded all foreigners from Israel' this became the seedbed for a distain for Gentiles. This feeling carried over into the time of Jesus. It gets even worse as the Talmudic writings were put in place. The Talmuds are based on the traditions of the elders.
(I can share much more on this if the terms Torah and Talmud are not understood by members. Here is an example of what the rabbis put in their writings: 'Thank God I was not born a woman, a dog, or a Gentile.')
Do you see why John the Baptist spoke of the Sadducees and the Pharisees as a 'brood of vipers,' and why Jesus told His disciples to beware of the leaven [teachings] of the Pharisees? (Cf. Mat 3:7; 16:6)
The Oral Torah became a blinder to the people. This is why Jesus told the disciples to leave the Pharisees alone, that they were blind leaders of the blind. The only way you can help someone who is spiritually blind is for the Lord to open his or her eyes.
What then does this have to do with the United Pentecostal Church? You have a very similar thing in place with every works-righteousness group. The UPC have their own traditions of the elders. Because of this they have replaced the true gospel message with a gospel of their own making. This is what the Oral Torah did with the Law of Moses.
It all comes back to a misplaced zeal. Paul addressed this with Israel when he wrote, "Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.
"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Cf. Rom 10:1-4 nasb.) Then Paul goes about to declare the message of believing and confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.
Think about it for a moment. Who would have known more about the blindness of Israel than a man who was once under the same blindness? Was not Paul the greatest persecutor of the church before the Lord struck him down on the road to Damascus?
How about our members on DepartingUPC? Who would know more about UPC blindness than you folk who have been processing your lives out of that blindness? The same 'blind' zeal that you once had for UPC false teachings can now be turned into a zeal for the true message of salvation.
That is exactly what happened to me. I have the same feelings for UPC people as did Paul have for blind Israel. Once some of you get past your anger and bitterness, your feelings will be replaced with compassion for your Pentecostal kinsmen.
The point is that you cannot rush out and take the blinders off of anyone. That is God's business. But you can become wise in reaching out to many of these folk. Over the years the Lord has given me the right words to say, and I've seen many UPC people get their eyes opened to the covenant of grace and to the true message of our completed salvation in Christ.
Now to the bigger question --- Is there any hope for an entire organization for the leadership to have their eyes opened? This is a yes and no answer. When the Worldwide Church of God made their turn to true evangelical Christianity, they had a number of split offs. It always happens that way.
Truth divides. When Walter Martin was working with the Seventh Day Adventist Church, it looked like the SDA was about to make a turn out of their misplaced doctrines, but a reversal took place. Yet in all this you always have individual churches that sit on the borderlines. Many do leave these organizations just as we see happening with the UPC.
What I want you to see in this study is why the United Pentecostal Church is losing so many ministers and churches today. These losses are not something that the UPC likes to have broadcasted. Doesn't really matter. The move is on. It may be one church here and another there, but when the light of truth begins to dawn, it is near impossible to shut the door.
One other thing I might mention. The Assemblies of God is also in a transitional time. One of their local officials shared with me awhile back that the AOG is taking a hard look at their doctrines concerning speaking in tongues and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is all hush-hush.
Just keep in mind what the apostle said about the truth. There is nothing you can do against it. Charles Hadden Spurgeon said it as well as it could be said. (I've often shared this.)
When he was asked to write a defense of the gospel, he responded, "The gospel does not need to be defended. It is like a caged lion. Just turn it loose and it will take care of itself." (A near quote.)
"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission."
This study was originally shared on January 27, 2007. It was written by Pastor Buddy Martin, a former United Pentecostal Church minister, who founded Christian Challenge International. Writings are the copyright of Buddy Martin and reprinted on this site by permission.
Page added January 28, 2007
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