Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Experts on old or dead Christians

Jonathan Moorhead (From the Head of the Moor) in a recent post commented that every "Christian should be an expert on at least one Christian from church history."
First, there are those (hyper-spirituals) that say that we should not become experts on other Christians but rather be experts on Christ. This comment shows how deep they have walked with Christ that they have not realized yet--from Biblical examples--that we are to learn from those that have gone before us! Paul makes it clear that it is commendable to follow the examples of others.

2Th 3:7-9 ESV For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, (8) nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. (9) It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.

The writer to the Hebrews says it very similarly:

Heb 13:7 ESV Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

Paul makes it even more clear when he writes to the Corinthians in 1 Cor 1:1: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ."
Further, I believe the reason for the inclusion of the "Heroes of the Faith" in Hebrews 11 is to give us examples of how to run the race of life giving us real examples. Based on all these examples of Hebrews 11, chapter 12:1 exhorts us to "lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" since "we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses" as given in chapter 11.
When we do follow the examples of others who have run the race before us, it should encourage us to look "to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb 12:2)
Second, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses, who would one choose? There are literally thousands to choose from! From the earliest times, there are men like Athanasius, Augustine and then Luther, Zwingly, Knox, Owen, the Puritans, Edwards, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, Stott, Lewis, Schaeffer to name but just a few. The task would be absolutely enormous and time consuming to attempt to become an expert on a spiritual giant of the past.
On the other hand, Paul did not write of running the race for nothing. Running a race is not easy, even for an experienced runner! It is always just a difference in pace. When our walk with Christ is "as easy as pie" and we do not find it difficult at times, then I am wondering which walk we are walking.
When we become experts on the lives of "dead saints" then it will help us in the dark days when we realize that we are not alone and that others have come out of those dark days quite successfully.
Who will I choose to study? I don't know yet, but I will start searching for just such a person!
Just thinking...


Jonathan Moorhead said...

Good thoughts William. Your exhortation is much more biblical than mine :-)

Matt Gumm said...

John Piper would agree with you.

"One of my seminary professors suggested to us back in 1970 that we find one great and godly teacher in the history of the church and make him a lifelong companion. That's what Edwards has become for me. It's hard to overestimate what he has meant to me theologically and personally in my vision of God and my love for Christ."

Full Sermon

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