About three decades ago it was considered a sin for Christian women to wear trousers, at least in Nigeria. That belief persists in some Christian circles but wearing of trousers by women is largely a non-issue in Christianity today.
It was considered a sin to wear jeans as well, whether by male or female. You couldn’t go to fellowship in jeans, you were turned back at the entrance. It never bothered us to wonder about God’s perspective on Christian cowboys and ranchers in the West who habitually wear jeans. Is it that there are no Christian Texans or Christian cowboys if jeans are unlawful? Some imagined they resolved that dilemma by recourse to cultural relativism. By that doctrine God seemed to hold Africans to one standard and Americans to another.
In that period it was also considered a sin to wear jewellery. And for some the sinful exhibit was gold. Christians could wear every other metal except gold they said. The problem with that directive is that some women react to other metals except gold. Should these Christian women not wear jewellery then? The reason given for this strange directive in some fellowships does beggar credulity. Heaven is paved with gold they said and so it’s undignifying to wear the equivalence of tar. Revelation 21:21. And so emerged neo Mosaic rules even though the era of the Ten Commandments was over.
Men love to live by rules. If necessary we’ll invent the 11th commandment. There were so many of these rules in the early stages of Pentecostalism in Nigeria. There were even rules on relationship. The protocol was “engagement”. As misbegotten as some of those rules were, they were a guidance system. They served a purpose even if they were not in the spirit of the New Testament. The principle of the New Testament is dynamic response to the Holy Spirit. John 16:13. Those who came up with the rules were well-intended. They had a zeal for God but aspects of that zeal was based on poor knowledge. We only knew so much.
The rules were based on the level of understanding of scriptures in those days. We didn’t fully grasp New Testament realities. We couldn’t resolve the Old Testament vis-à-vis the New Testament. Such resolution needed theological proficiency. Jesus said, “Every student well-trained in God’s kingdom is like the owner of a general store who can put his hands on anything you need, old or new, exactly when you need it.” Matthew 13:52 MSG.
For those who travelled internationally there was a conflict about those rules. I do remember stepping into a young church in Manchester, England right after Law School and seeing women wear trousers. The church itself met in a bingo hall. That was novel in those days. The people wore jeans and there were no scarfs. The hair of the women were uncovered. Yet the Spirit of God moved powerfully in that service. People got born again despite not observing the Nigerian rules of righteousness. There were radical transformations in the lives of people. That was quite evident. I saw people with tattoos get born again in England in those days. God didn’t reject them. The pastor was a former drug addict who was trained for ministry by a former drug addict in his garage. That was the school of ministry. And that was the man’s specialty. He got drug addicts off drugs and trained them to serve God. He was sending missionaries around the world. He sent this pastor to the UK. But what struck me in that church in a bingo hall was the sense of liberty. There was an air of freedom. The Spirit of God was present in those church meetings.
Those regulations on jeans and trousers that were the rigour 30 years ago no longer hold sway, thank God. We now know the observance of those rules was not a measure of spirituality. Of course, we could blame the teachers for such teachings but truth is, such censure will be highly misplaced. Their zeal for God and willingness to sacrifice social acceptance was incredible. Theirs was not comfort faith. Besides, everyone could read the Bible.
God expects you to read the Bible for yourself, to examine what you’re taught in church, if indeed it is so. It’s why Bereans are mentioned in scriptures: “And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.” Acts 17:11 NLT. Here were two notable apostles sharing the gospel and the congregants still did their personal research. They were not swayed by the stature of Paul. They verified the teachings from scripture.
And so the real issue from an analytical perspective was how a great number of people came to hold on to wrong notions and how these notions spread and became so pervasive they created Christian “culture.” There is therefore such a thing as groupthink in Christianity. In psychology groupthink occurs when the desire for harmony and conformity in a group results in an irrational or dysfunctional outcome.
Groupthink should not be confused with unity of faith. This is what the Bible says about that: “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-13 NLT.
What the passage is actually saying is that the work of God’s ministers is developmental. They’re to raise the standard of knowledge in the body of Christ to a certain level across board. At the point it was written, there was an imbalance of knowledge in the body of Christ. Ministers were needed to teach the people so everyone attains a minimum standard of knowledge in the body, what we can call Christ’s mean. The church was in infancy. Doctrine had not been settled. It’s why the letters of the apostles were circulated around churches. The pursuit was attainment of a standard of knowledge across board.
Unexamined beliefs create groupthink. Unexamined beliefs multiply error across board.
There’s a reason the Bible admonishes us to be discriminatory with prophecies: “Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 MSG.
The Berean mention in scriptures is a repudiation of the belief of those who elevate the word of the pastor above the word of God. What then is the standard of veracity? What is the yardstick for spotting error? All sermons must be judged by God’s word. Being Berean does not reduce the standing of your pastor. If at all it confirms it. Sound doctrine fears no Berean examination.
But being Berean also places personal responsibility on the believer. You cannot claim to be misled if you have access to the Bible. You cannot hold anyone responsible for your faith. At the end of the day faith is very personal. The stature of the pastor is not what verifies the word of God, the word of God verifies the standing of the pastor. And there are many unexamined beliefs in the body of Christ. We tend to mistake the passion of delivery of a sermon for veracity of the sermon. An error passionately preached is still an error.
One of the commonest errors preached is with regard to the body armour of the Christian. Paul admonishes us that in facing the enemy we should wear full armour: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Ephesians 6:11 KJV The use of “wiles” in that passage already suggests the battle is an intelligence challenge. In seeking to make things clearer Paul illustrates his point using body armour as analogy. He mentions armour parts to bring his point home: “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:14-17 KJV.
The Christian does not exactly don an armour, Paul just uses armour for illustrative purposes. But we introduced absurdity about the passage of scripture. According to preachings on the scripture the loin is covered, the chest is covered, the feet are covered, the head is covered, but the back is not covered! God not protecting our back because there’s no armour on our back is an absurdity as you can imagine. The corollary to that which we preach about is that we should not turn our back on the enemy. But the Bible says it’s an intelligence battle so what relevance is the issue of whether we physically turn our back or not. It’s not medieval jousting.
Armour in Ephesians 6:14-17 is just used analogically. It’s not real! The problem is not so much interpretation of scriptures but grammatical construct. You don’t need to be a theologian to deduce that. In modern English this is what the passage is actually saying: “Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters.” Ephesians 6:13-18 MSG.
In other words, the armour of God consists of truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the word of God and prayer. The idea of a body armour with an exposed back therefore becomes untenable. And yet so many sermons have been preached about exposed backs in Ephesians 6:11. It’s wise to examine other translations of scriptures, especially modern translations to at least to get a sense of what the word of God is ACTUALLY saying. King James edition of the Bible is 17th century English. You need training in classical literature to understand it.
It’s not how many scriptures you can quote that matters but the understanding you have. Without understanding errors multiply. We must not subject ourselves to groupthink. We must examine teachings, examine our beliefs. That everyone says it does not make it sound. That it’s been preached for decades does not make it sound either. That an eloquent preacher preached it does not verify it. The only standard is the word of God.
God wants us to apply our intelligence as Christians. “God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can. For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say “Jesus be damned!” 1 Corinthians 12:1-3 MSG.
Use your intelligence. It’s Christian.
If you’ll like to receive Jesus into your life please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”
© Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org.It’s not how many scriptures you can quote that matters but the understanding you have. Click To Tweet