On The Simplicity Of Truth
One of the challenges the preacher/teacher must face is, expressing with clarity that which is complex. If we act on the same purpose and motive as Paul, who asked for prayer "that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak," (Col. 4:4), we take the work seriously and want to say things with such clarity, all who want to learn can understand.
I was keenly aware of this recently when attempting to either find or formulate a simple definition of Gnosticism. I taught Colossians, followed by First John, so thought it was necessary to explain this false religious system, refuted by Paul and John. I sought a simple definition of Gnosticism, but had to face the extent of the problem, when I read the definition offered by J.P. Arendzen. Observe, this is one sentence:
"A collective name for a large number of greatly-varying and pantheistic-idealistic sects, which flourished from some time before the Christian Era down to the fifth century, and which, while borrowing the phraseology and some of the tenets of the chief religions of the day, and especially of Christianity, held matter to be a deterioration of spirit, and the whole universe a depravation of the Deity, and taught the ultimate end of all being to be the overcoming of the grossness of matter and return to the Parent-Spirit, which return they held to be inaugurated and facilitated by the appearance of some God-sent Savior."
My academic friends will probably accept this as an excellent definition. It does include the key elements of Gnosticism. Yet the definition cannot be regarded as simple, especially for presentation to the typical audience. Perhaps a simple definition cannot be found for a thing that is complex.
When men assemble a religious system, they are usually not too concerned about simplicity (example: Catholicism). God's plan, however, is marked by beautiful simplicity.
1. Man has a problem He cannot solve by Himself, SIN (Rom. 1:1-3:23).
2. God sent Jesus to die for us, providing the solution to our problem (Rom. 3:24-26).
3. This Good News calls for a response of initial obedience of faith, followed by faithfulness in life (Rom. 6).
The gospel plan demands no quasi-intuitive knowledge of the mysteries of the universe, ability to unravel a magic formula, learning creedal terminology, memorizing the numberless intermediate spirits, or sorting through the hierarchies of aeons or peons.
You read the Bible, discover your problem and gratefully apply God's solution. "He who believes and is baptized will be saved," (Mark 16:16a). Any questions?
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 9.12; December 2002