Oct 08

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Just what does the word “liberal” mean as it relates to “the teaching of Christ?” It is hard to give a definition to the word liberal when it comes to “the teaching of Christ” from a dictionary. This is the case because the word is looked at from a political point of few most of the time. However, the following will help in our understanding as we pursue the subject. A liberal is a person who is: open-minded or not strict in the observance of orthodox, traditional, or established forms or ways. This definition has its short comings to be sure! Nevertheless, let’s take a look at it.
First, anyone who studies the Bible should be “open-minded,” in that we must be willing to change when we learn that we are wrong in what we believe. So, to be “open-minded” is to be willing to examine the evidence, then, stand with the truth!
Second, if the word “orthodox” means: “accepted as true or correct by most people: supporting or believing what most people think is true;” then, we must we understand it does not matter what “most people think is true;” no, the truth seeker, must be determined to find the truth and stand with it!
Third, the word “traditional” generally means: “based on customs usually handed down from a previous generation.” If this word is used to refer to “manmade traditions,” then, in religion they have no binding place! As Jesus said: “Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition” (Matt. 15:6). Yet, the apostles of Christ used the word, as Paul wrote: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15). So, it is not the word itself, but whose “traditions; is the “tradition” of man’s or of God! If of God, then, it is binding; it is truth and we must stand with it!
Fourth, we have “established forms or ways,” and once more, it is a matter of whose “established forms or ways;” if man’s, then they may and sometimes must be changed, but if God’s, then, they must not be changed in any way; for it is truth and we must stand with it!
Finally, the apostle John gives us the best inspired definition of what the word “liberal” means as it relates to “the teaching of Christ,” as he uses these very words. John wrote: “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9). The Greek word from which our English word “transgresseth” is translated, is “ parabainō;” and Thayer gives use four points to help us understand the word:
1) “to go by the side of;” here keep in mind that we are talking about “the teaching of Christ” and one going by the side of it and, therefore, not in “the teaching of Christ.”
2) “to go past or pass over without touching a thing;” in going past or over, a person “the teaching of Christ” he is not in “the teaching of Christ!”
3) “to overstep, neglect, violate, transgress;” here once more, the person “steps” outside “the teaching of Christ;” therefore, he does not abide in “the teaching of Christ!”
4)“so to go past as to turn aside from;” such a person has overrun “the teaching of Christ;” therefore, he has turned aside from “the teaching of Christ” and does not abide in it.
It should be clear to the reader, that the word “transgresseth” goes hand in hand with the word “liberal” when used in a religious context. It means that one has gone out of “the teaching of Christ;” it matters not if it is to the left or right. Finally, just here, it is to advance beyond the limits of “the teaching of Christ,” and this word contains an ironical allusion to the pretensions of the teacher’s having advanced to a higher degree of knowledge!
However, John did not stop with the word “transgresseth,” but he also used the words: “and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.” The Greek word for “abideth” is “menō” and means: “to remain … in reference to place” and the place is “the teaching of Christ!” So, what is the consequence of not abiding in “the teaching of Christ? This person no longer has God; in that he no longer has fellowship with God. He has lost his salvation!
The “liberal” is the person who goes outside “the teaching of Christ,” thus, losing all the benefits of “the teaching of Christ!” No, it is not likely that you will find a liberal who will even identify himself as a liberal, and surely not as one who has lost his salvation! Nevertheless, this is what a liberal is according to John!

Frank R. Williams

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