by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 1 Study # 3 March 20, 2011 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
Thesis:The biblical concept of "false brethren" is one of people who "believe" that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, but also "believe" that the appropriation of that reality consists of human diligence in obedience to divine imperatives.
Introduction:In our last study, I attempted to make a case for the idea that "faith" is the crucial intermediate reality of any form of "salvation". That case is rooted in the fact that not even apostleship guarantees fidelity to the twin truths of the Gospel which Paul preached to the nations. Paul's "private" presentation of the Gospel to the leaders of the Church in Jerusalem was rooted in fear that even apostles would crater on the facts of the Gospel. This means that they could. This also means that, if they did, "salvation by faith" would, as a key doctrine of salvation, die out among men and, consequently, "salvation" would not come to men even though Christ died for our sins and rose again on the third day.
In this study, I want to pursue Paul's "fear" and its root: if apostles could be brought to rejection of the Gospel of salvation by faith, where is any sense of security? Clearly, if our salvation is "rooted" in the truths that Christ died for our sins and rose again, we are "secure"; but, if our salvation is rooted in "faith" in those truths, how are we "secure" at all?
I. The Obvious Danger.
A. Any time anyone poses the possibility that "faith can fail", insecurity is inevitable.
B. Any time anyone posits the inevitability of insecurity, there is a huge danger that men will react by setting of certain "rules" that, if kept, will bring security back into place.
C. Any time anyone posits certain "rules-keeping" as the solution to insecurity, there is really no "faith" in the Gospel.
D. Thus, Paul has created a danger in his attempt to address a danger.
II. Paul's Answer to the Dilemma.
A. In general terms, there is no solution to any dilemma that is fundamentally rooted in the hate that is the driving force of self-preservation.
1. The root of all sin is the exaltation of one's own interests above those of others.
2. Any message that does not address this root cannot carry the day.
B. In specific terms, those who have not "believed" in the truths that demolish the fixation on self-preservation are "false brethren".
1. The issue of a "false brother".
a. Luke, in his record of the events to which Paul points, says of Paul's opponents that they "believed" (Acts 15:5).
b. But Paul, in our current text, calls those same individuals "false brethren".
c. Thus, our task is to develop a theological construct that allows both of these biblical statements to stand.
1) One solution moves in the direction of allowing Luke's words to dominate in the context of a "single event" of "faith".
a) This "context" is the theological construct that argues that if a person "believes", that person, ipso facto, is justified forever.
b) This solution allows the "false brethren" to be "justified by faith" and eternally saved.
c) But this solution forces the meaning of "false brethren" to be "actual brethren who are being false to their true identity" (like Peter being an actual apostle but engaging in a kind of hypocrisy that denies the truths of the Gospel, making himself a "false apostle" -- a man being false to his true identity).
2) Another solution moves in the direction of allowing Paul's words to dominate in the context of a "process" faith.
a) This "context" is the theological construct that argues that there is a process to "faith" that does not bring its biblical result (justification) until that process is accomplished and "faith" has become an irreversible element in the core of one's faith system.
b) This solution allows the "false brethren" to be described as having "believed" without attributing eternal justification to their faith.
c) But this solution forces the meaning of "believed" to be "incipient" (without any comment on whether it reaches it goal) so that "false brethren" means "a person who falsely presents himself as a brother while not actually being a brother".
3) My solution.
a) According to Luke's record in Luke 8:13, there is a "faith" that only lasts for a while.
i. Now, unless one insists upon the theological construct that a "point in time" of "belief" inevitably results in justification, this "belief for a while" allows Luke to describe those whom Paul calls "false brethren" as having "believed" without comment upon whether their "faith" has saved them.
ii. This "faith for a while" can easily mean that those so described initially "believed" in the truths of the Gospel without sufficient understanding and are now representing a contradiction of that Gospel (which is exactly what Luke reports in Acts 15:2).
b) According to John's record in Revelation 14:11; 15:2; and 20:4, any "faith" that does not restrain a person from receiving the mark of the beast does not "save".
c) According to Paul's declaration in Galatians 6:12, one of the motivations of the false brethren is their intention of escaping persecution for the cross of Christ (putting them in direct danger of receiving the mark).
d) According to Galatians 4:19 there is a "process" in regard to "faith" that has two distinct implications: until the "formation is complete, all "faith" is subject to the possibility of destruction; and, when that "formation" is complete, Paul can cease being fearful that his labor has been in vain (Galatians 4:11).
e) According to Philippians 2:12-13, the real issues of a completed faith involve both a human aspect and a divine aspect.
i. The divine aspect is God's work within us.
ii. The human aspect is a fearful/trembling determination to keep "faith" in view of its roots in God (as long as I am the root of my faith, I will never escape my fixation upon self-preservation).