In this column we have watched how Jesus lived rather than what he taught. We’ve been trying to clarify what it means to live as Christ did. In the course of writing I have come to see that included in this category are those insights that come from his demeanor under various situations as well as perspectives he held on different issues. They are not a part of what we would normally refer to as his teaching but they certainly provide an example for us to emulate. Today’s piece is one.
Jesus, along with Peter, James, John and Andrew, had gone up the Mount of Olives and, looking back, they saw the beautiful temple. This prompted them to ask him when all the things he had promised would happen. Jesus warned them about charlatans who would come, claiming to be the Christ. They would insist that the end was already here. “But before the end,” said Jesus, “there will be war, earthquakes and terrible signs in the sky” (Matt. 23:3-8 and parallels in Mark 13 and Luke 28). What Jesus “did” was to inform the disciples of the danger of false teachers.
Theological error exists wherever theological truth is proclaimed. Many of the problems of that sort in today’s church existed in the early days of Christianity. For example, Arianism got its start (and name) with Arius, an Egyptian priest who lived and taught in Alexandria in the third century A. D. It taught that Jesus was not the eternal Son but was created by the Father and therefore not divine. That doctrine is still alive in the more liberal wing of Protestant Christianity.
If Jesus were with us today I believe, from his response to the disciples regarding end times (see above), that he would “warn us about charlatans (i.e., liberal preachers and teachers) who would lead us astray” (Luke 21:8 in JIHOW, p. 206). Should we not do the same? One of the difficulties in being a biblical Christian is to unashamedly proclaim as true all that Jesus said was true. He warned his followers against those who perverted the truth, usually for some sort of personal benefit. Divisive? Yes, in a certain way. But truth needs to set free from all its perverted forms. Error is always a twisting of truth.
So the fact that Jesus warned his disciples about those who would come with a message that was not quite true, our responsibility is to know what is true and to being willing to die for it if necessary. That’s exactly what happened to Jesus on the cross!