Untwisting Scriptures: Book 2 Patriarchy and Authority is available now! Subscribe to this blog to be the first to get notification of when the Kindle version (regularly $5.99) will be available as a free download.
And as you read this blog post, you’ll find an excerpt from the book sneakily inserted. And yes, it’s about Doug Phillips.
And now to our regularly scheduled broadcast . . .
The excitement of Bible study
Have you ever had the experience of studying a book of the Bible on your own?
That is, without using a study guide that someone else wrote? Without referring to commentaries? Just reading and praying and asking the Lord to open your eyes?
We’ve been told, perhaps, that this is dangerous, that we need to build our learning on the shoulders of those who have gone before, and I do understand that to an extent.
But I’ve also seen that the requirement to buttress every argument with some already-published and recognized author (even if it’s simply someone who was published because he’s good at marketing) can mean that I’ll be hampered in my ability to think for myself and be led of the Spirit on my own.
(This, by the way, is what happened to Martin Luther when he decided to read and study the Bible on his own.)
Doing it with Romans
So, sometime in the 1990s, I set out to study Romans. I wasn’t as regular then in asking the Lord to open my eyes to His truth, but I really, really wanted to understand His Word that He had given us, so He was gracious to me anyway.
I printed it out on paper, with plenty of space in the margins, and I put it in a red folder. (I still have it.)
I color coded words to try to find themes. I drew lines connecting common phrases.
On the facing pages, the empty pages, I drew diagrams and stick figures. I made charts and graphs and lists.
I knew other people had done all this before. Someone might have said to me, “Why re-invent the wheel?” But I knew what I was doing was not the same as invention. This was a seeking for heart understanding. This was a seeking to know God. I didn’t want to be spoon fed.
Every place I read something that I didn’t understand—and there were plenty of those—I put a question mark in the margin and asked God to help me understand it.
About a year or two after I finished studying through the book, I studied through it again. During the interim I had been studying other books of the Bible, so I found that a few of the question marks could be erased because I understood what these passages meant.
A couple of years later I did it again. And more were erased, with explanations provided.
By this time in my Christian journey, much of what I had thought was true (from fundamentalism) had been upended, and Tim and I were seeing so many things in new ways. By this time in my Christian life one of my prayers was for the Lord to strip away preconceived notions of what everything “had to mean” and show me what it really meant.
As I continued to study the Word of God and seek to know what He really said and what He really meant, more and more of Romans came clear to me.
Through Romans and the other Bible books I was studying, important Christian Life truths began to crystallize.
Living by the List
In Romans, one of Paul’s main themes is refuting the concept of Living by the List in order to find the path to God, or God’s favor, or a loving relationship with God. For Paul’s audience, the “list” was the Old Testament law and all the extra trappings that had been added on to it.
I grew up living by a list, so that was familiar. My list was the list of Independent Baptist fundamentalism, and I’m telling you it took me a long time to shake it—I was even in it to some extent while doing this study. (The fact that I’m still quite conservative in my Christianity isn’t meant to be taken as indication that I haven’t shaken Rules-as-Means-to-Relationship now—I have.)
As I studied Romans, I saw two clear responses to Living by the List.
Hypocrisy and self-satisfaction (Romans 2). Paul was addressing the Jews who lived by their list, but I could see that it applied to me. Especially if you make your list outward, superficial, easy to keep, and fairly short, you’re good. My list growing up consisted of what I didn’t do—I didn’t drink or dance or go to movies or play cards (that all sounds so antiquated now). And what I did do—I wore my skirts to my knees, for example, when the other girls wre wearing miniskirts. It was clear that I was better than everybody else. Right?
(At that time I was totally unaware of the far greater hypocrisy taking place in our churches and parachurch organizations.)
Or, on the other hand,
Discouragement and depression (Romans 7). If you as a List Liver start taking the Christian life more seriously and read the Bible in order to focus on the To-Dos as a way to gain God’s favor, and you don’t understand the Life of the Spirit, then discouragement and depression will be the inevitable result.
This was me when I was a little older because I could never repay Jesus, I could never speak to every lost soul I encountered, I could never live as right as I knew I should, I could never, never, never do enough. Heavy and heavier burdens.
I ended up being a curious mixture of Hypocrisy and Discouragement.
It took me longer to see that there are two more categories as well, maybe partly because I didn’t fit in those categories. But a lot of people do.
Because the Law “makes offenses abound” (Romans 5:10; 7:7-13) and declares everyone guilty (Romans 3:19) and brings a curse (Galatians 3:10-12) among other terrible things, and because I observed the lives of Christians who claimed to believe that List Living was the way to please God, I saw this:
Apathy. I think this comes from realizing that the List is impossible for us to do. Eventually, even though you may still go through some outward motions, you give up and turn your attention elsewhere. There are plenty of distractions all the time to help with that.
And then there’s the last one, which came clear as I looked at the descriptions in the book of Romans of the Gentiles, the ones who rejected the Law of God from the beginning. As I observed the lives of some of the children of those who had followed List Living, and others who had been faithful List Followers in an earlier day, I saw this:
Rebellion. Some may try very hard to keep the List. Some may observe or even experience the hypocrisy or the depression or the apathy (or all of them) among failed List Livers. Finally, ultimately, they see no life such as the New Testament appears to promise, and it makes them sick. (I didn’t know then that they may also become the brunt of someone else’s evil hypocrisy and be traumatized.)
They toss the whole thing and walk away.
So here they are:
It took me a while to see that there’s an acronym there, because it is HARD Living by the List.
What’s the answer?
The answer to the HARDness of Living by the List is to be found in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.
The List Life was never the way to relationship with the Father! The way to relationship with the father is by faith.
Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, nailed the List to His cross (Colossians 2:14). He lived and died to accomplish all the Law (ceremonial, civil, and moral, an artificial distinction that the Bible never makes) and to fulfill His own “List” of Love in us naturally, as we have faith in Him and receive His Spirit.
And His love plays out not in an impossible checklist, but through the power of His Holy Spirit in works of justice, mercy, truth, faith, and love.
His commands are accomplished naturally in me as He loves me, as I love Him, and as He loves others through me. The burden to DO is lifted. The HARDness is gone. This is where we can find true holiness in Jesus Christ.
This answer mentioned in the next Untwisting Scriptures book
Most of the chapters in this new book are taken from blog posts, but a few are new. One new chapter, chapter 6, is called “Doug Phillips in the Old Covenant.” It talks about how the erstwhile leader of “Biblical patriarchy” had his feet planted firmly in the Old Covenant, as did most of the patriarchalists.
And this was the reason his admonitions to daughters to stay home under their fathers, from Numbers chapter 30, was doomed to failure from the beginning.
This chapter of Untwisting Scriptures describes the superiority of the New Covenant in much greater detail than what I just gave here in this blog post. And it displays the beautiful truth that we as believers in Jesus Christ do not live in the Old Covenant, but in the New.
But here’s an excerpt from the end of the chapter:
As you understand it more deeply, by digging into the New Testament to see how the Lord wants us to live, you’ll also see that—unlike the Old Covenant—He has provided all that we need to do it. All that we need.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
For me, there came a time when I finally understood I didn’t have to figure out which Old Covenant commands to obey, and how. I didn’t have to spend time reading scholarly debates on how the Old Covenant Law applies to our lives. I could let it go. Because the Lord Jesus Christ has not only fulfilled all that law, but when we ask and seek, He will show us the new way under the New Covenant. And not only that, but when we look to Him in faith, He will also empower us to go in that way.
This is good news.
It’s called “the gospel.”