A Voice in the
When talking about Biblical Doctrines that are controversial in some circles, the intellectually-minded often counter with comments such as, "If that is a Scriptural Doctrine, why didn't the 'Church Fathers' speak of it?" Or, perhaps, "None of the 'Great men of God' recognized it... why not?"
Perhaps the following object lesson from my past will help our understanding. My lifetime "essence" as a "musician" began when I was a child. Jasha Heifetz was "king of the mountain" as violinists went. My dad had recorded off the radio Heifetz playing the Mendelssohn Concerto. I listened to that tape so many times I "Knew" that performance. In later years when I got an RCA recording of Heifetz/Mendelssohn, it was still "Heifetz." Uniquely.."Heifetz."
Then, when I was in college as a music major, it was announced that a "Student of Heifetz" would be performing the Mendelssohn with the school orchestra. I went to the concert with High Expectations of something rather "fantastic!" After all, this was a Heifetz "successor." Right? ...Wrong!! The performance was the Biggest Disappointment I could have imagined! Our "in-house" violin instructor could have done Much better!
What was wrong? This man was "next to" Heifetz. Why was it so awful?! So... "wrong?" Simple. While he had been next to Heifetz...he was NOT Heifetz. There was only ONE "Heifetz." ...and there will never be another.
In the same way, there were only 12 Apostles, who laid the foundation of the Church. (Eph2:20) This foundation was Jesus Christ. (1Cor3:11) They were given the duty to lay down Church doctrine. (Gal1:9,1Cor11:23,15:3,Jude1:3) And they, the Apostles, were given the Doctrine from Christ, through the Holy Spirit. (Gal1:12,Jn16:13) Do we elevate the Apostles because of this? No. They were mere men, too. They had a specific job for a specific time...to write down God's Word for future generations.
Even Jesus' disciples did not understand things from Scripture even though they had followed Him for three years and heard Him teach. He had to say, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! (Lk24:25) So, why should we automatically assume that a "successor" of an Author/Apostle would understand the Scriptures any better than the direct disciples of Jesus, themselves, had earlier?
Many things in Scripture were written for "later times" than when they were written. (Dan12:4,9-10) So, some doctrines which earlier Christians didn't really "see" were not for "their time" either. But now, as we approach the end of the age, these doctrines come to light, because they are for us..."now."
Just because these doctrines are "now" being understood, doesn't necessarily mean anything regarding the earlier Saints. It's been in the Scriptures all the time. And now it's time to understand them. Jesus then, after the fact, "expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself...all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." (Lk24:27,44) You see, Jesus, although He had "all authority," and was the Author of Scriptures, and could have said, "I say to you," instead, pointed the disciples to the Scriptures. Things they had missed.
So, what of people like Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Josephus, Martin Luther, John Calvin...and whoever else you might be impressed with and want to emulate? They wrote many impressive things. Were they "inspired" according to 2Pet1:21? No. We already noted that the teaching "had been given" and John in Rev 22 gives a solemn warning from the Holy Spirit about changing what's been given.
Is it OK to read the writings of all these people? Sure. Why not. If their writings differ from Scripture, what do we believe? Someone's commentary ABOUT Scripture, no matter how close to Its "author" they might have been? Or, Scripture, Itself?
What if a person refuses to "see" proper Scriptural teaching, even after being clearly shown? To Daniel God said about the prophecies for the "time of the end"..."none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand." (Dan12:10) Perhaps this explains the widespread misunderstandings about the Rapture...
Great "men of God" are often elevated above measure. But Jesus said, "Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave;(Mat 20:26-27) Peter, when being bowed to said, "Stand up; I myself am also a man."(Acts 10:26) Even the angel, when John bowed before him, said, "See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!"(Rev 19:10)
Jesus promised, "But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak;(Mat 10:19) When the uneducated fishermen were brought before the intellectual elite, and they spoke boldly, it was noted that "they had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13)
THAT, too, IS OUR GOAL. The Holy Spirit teaches us. We don't "need" human wisdom to know God's truth...or to know what someone else believed. (1Jn2:27) Peter had been to the depths of denial of Christ, and Jesus was restoring him. And yet feeling, I'm sure, awkward with residual guilt at being singled out in front of the rest, asks, "What about this man?" And Jesus retorts with a 'never you mind anybody else'..."You follow Me."(Jn21:22)
Never mind the "Church fathers" or some other Great "men of God." Don't go seeking after this commentary, or that noted author. Rather, get to know "Jesus Christ and Him crucified."(1Cor2:2) ...knowing that we get to know Him through the ..."Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:15-17)
Calling his disciples with, "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men" ...He reprimanded sinking Peter, diverted by the boisterous waves, "WHY DID YOU DOUBT?"...and when he said, "what about him...?" ..."YOU FOLLOW ME!"
This same Jesus would say today, I'm sure, 'these are poor substitutes for Me' ....... "YOU FOLLOW ME!"