Thesis:The problem of "highmindedness" is no small matter.
Introduction:As we have been working our way through Paul's presentation of the difficulties of life by faith, I have been impressed with how focused he seemed to be on the "problem" of people thinking too highly of themselves. In our current context, he demanded of his Gentile readers that they "boast not against" the Jews who had so obviously missed the boat "T"heologically (11:18). Then, within two verses, he turned right around and wrote as though his readers "skipped" that demand. He insisted in 11:20 that his readers "be not highminded". Then, in just five verses further on, he pointedly declared that if his readers were "ignorant" of what he was writing to them, they would be "wise in their own conceits" (11:25), not as a "possible" problem, but as an almost inevitable one. Clearly Paul felt like "being smug" is a constant temptation.
So, how did he handle it?
Interestingly, he handled it by pushing the "insecurity" envelope. There is something here we need to try to understand. So, this evening we are going to look into this approach by the apostle.
I. The "Thing" That Creates the "Problem".
A. There are two factors involved.
1. There is the "How could they be so stupid?" factor that was raised by the failure of the natural branches.
2. There is the "Isn't it wonderful to be a qualified recipient of the blessings of God?" factor that was raised by the kindness of God in allowing the Gentiles to participate in the "fatness" that the root produces.
B. These two factors dovetail into one "perception" issue.
1. This "perception" issue is that "I am not that stupid because I am receiving great blessedness from God".
2. Paul calls this one "perception" issue "fearless highmindedness".
a. As early as Deuteronomy 9:6 this "problem" surfaced and it was still there in Deuteronomy 31:20.
1) In Deuteronomy 9:6 Moses told Israel that their reception of the great blessedness of the land was not because they were deserving of it.
2) In Deuteronomy 31:20 Moses was told by God that the nation would take the great blessedness and turn on the God Who had given it to them (this was not a "they might" kind of thing; it was a prophecy that was as sure as the sun arising in the morning).
b. This "problem" is identified by Paul by his denial that the "branch" supports the "root".
1) This statement indicates that it is not hard at all for men to get the issues completely out of order.
2) The "order" is the fact that the Creator sustains His creation, not the other way around.
3) And, as silly as it sounds, it is not hard at all for men to begin to think that their abilities, in terms of reason and action, are the cause for their experience of good insteadof God's kindness.
II. The "Solution" as Presented by Paul.
A. There are also two factors involved in this concept.
1. There is the factor upon which Paul actually insisted: fear.
2. Then there is the underlying factor which makes the "fear" legitimate.
a. Paul did not hesitate to declare that God would not spare any branch that became "fearlessly highminded".
1) That Paul brought this up over and over indicates two things: one, that this is a pronounced tendency, not easily overcome; and, two, that this tendency is almost universally personally denied.
2) That God will not spare "highminded branches" is not overturned by the biblical doctrine of election.
a) That the "elect" are secure is not a debateable point.
b) The problem is in one's "self-identification" as one of those who are "elected".
b. Nor did Paul hesitate to insist that the determinative factor of "faith" is not, of itself, a "settled" issue and, if it reverts, there is no "safety".
B. There is a major issue raised by Paul's "solution": fear generates the very opposite of what is required.
1. Fear, by its essential nature, is self-absorbed.
2. Being "afraid" simply means that the "fearful" is unloving.
3. How can Paul insist upon being "afraid" when it is counterproductive?
C. The realities of "fear" and "love".
1. The absence of fear only has three roots.
a. One root is the smugness of superiority (I'm not afraid because I can handle that).
b. Another root is the absence of concern about what is potentially going to happen (I am not afraid because whatever loss is possible is unimportant to me).
c. The third root is the presence of confidence that though I cannot handle what is potential, God has addressed it with "Promise" (which means He not only can, but will, handle it).
2. The command to "fear" is simply a demand that the individual come to grips with his/her inadequacy.
a. This is not a long-term requirement in the sense that Paul is insisting that his readers live in fear.
b. Paul was only insisting that those of his readers who were smugly complacent about the "faith" they had in their "faith" were to be "afraid".
c. No one has to be "afraid" who is not "highminded".
3. The insistence upon "fear" is nothing more than a starting point for real faith.
a. Those without the Spirit have no capacity to "love", so whatever motivation they will have to "believe" God will have to come out of the capacities they do have.
b. The capacities of men without the Spirit center around their concern about themselves and the Gospel makes a phenomenal promise about self-preservation as a starting point for a real relationship with God.
4. By implication, the demand for fear is a tacit declaration that the "faith" that is keeping the branch in the tree is less than genuine and that puts the branch in serious danger.
III. The Reality Paul Presented Contradicts the Highmindedness.
A. Paul says that God is going to reattach the branches at some point.
B. God will do this as the formerly pruned branches come to a genuine faith.
C. This will totally contradict the attitude of the highminded because they do not want those hateful branches reattached.