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During the Christmas holiday (2015), Perry Noble, a local pastor, who had a national voice, preached a message debunking the idea of the word “commandments” in the Ten Commandments. He said the Lord gave him the message in a matter of minutes, but before preaching it, he asked his co-pastors if he should, to which they encouraged him to do so.
What he did reminded me how often I get those midnight thought visitors that bring thoughts for me to ponder. This scenario has happened to me many times and in a similar way that Perry described. I can sympathize with him. I will be in bed late at night, and the Lord will give me an idea. It could be a turn of phrase that sheds a different kind of light on an old theme.
In many of these situations, I would start typing. How could you not? It is fresh, new, and invigorating. Through the years, I have learned that when I finish with my midnight reflections, it would be best not to push play but pause. It has proven to be a wise move to let such things simmer before I put them out for public consumption.
In nearly every case, what seemed to be a fully baked idea was only half-baked after I came back to it a day or so later. This pastor pushed play when he should have pushed pause, but I have no rock to toss at him about this method since I have left the bakery too soon too many times.
The new light that broke through to him, which led to the Ten Commandments rewrite, was regarding the word commandments. He said the word commandment did not appear in the Hebrew. He admitted that he was not a Hebrew scholar. Neither am I, so I will not enter into that discussion.
The truth is, it does not matter if the word commandment is in the Old Testament and was perplexed as to why it was the premise and point-of-departure for a sermon. He believed since it was not, he could change it to rewrite all ten of the commandments. The pastor has built a false continuum—because of a specific condition—commandment does not appear in the Hebrew, I can make this change.
Suppose a person wanted to argue that the word Trinity was not in the Bible. According to this pastor’s logic, based on the word Trinity not being in the Bible, it is okay to reprogram God from a Trinitarian being to any kind of being he wants to contrive.
You could use the word commandment. You could call it a saying. You could call it a truth. You could call it wisdom. The more vital issue is your rejection of an English word gives you the right to change the meaning of the text.
To change the meaning of the text” is not only unwise, but it is dangerous. This pastor did a lot more than changing the word commandment; he changed what God said. He rewrote the ten commandments.
It would have been better to read the ten commandments and given an application. Preachers do this every Sunday, a good practice. But because he changed the word and the meaning, his application was unfruitful. For example, he rewrote the first commandment to mean, “You do not have to live in constant disappointment anymore.”
That is not what that verse means, though it is possible to make that application. For example, if you put no other gods before yourself but only trusted, served, honored, and obeyed the one true God, the chances of you living in constant disappointment would be slim.
As a biblical counselor, I have seen many disappointed people struggling in how they trust, serve, honor, and obey the Lord. In many of these people’s lives, they had a horrible relationship with their dads. They end up mapping their experience with their dad over their view of and experience with God. This kind of mapping inhibits them from fully trusting the Lord.
Their fathers rip off their children. These disappointed people have only one view of a father, and it is not a good one. This kind of thing happens all the time, and the result for them is an ongoing disappointment. When they come for counseling, I do not quibble over whether the ten commandments are commandments or sayings.
What I am interested in is what has been interfering with their relationship with the Lord. What have they put before God? What has been more important to them than God, which has led to their disappointment?
We find the two greatest commandments (sayings) in Matthew 22:36-40, and I can promise you that if you do not obey these two commandments by making them the essential things in your life, you will be disappointed.
Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.
I live in the public domain, and I know what it is like for people to correct me in an uncharitable fashion. Everybody (seemingly) has access to a platform today, which gives them a voice in the public square. With this kindness from the Lord—a public platform—comes personal responsibility for His children to steward their voices well.
I am writing about this issue because someone asked me to do that. However, it is not my job to be nasty or uncharitable toward others, especially those who live in the same body in which I inhabit. I hope that my readers will love me enough to correct me when I am wrong, but they will do so with respect, care, and a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1-2). I have tried to do the same regarding this pastor.
As I respond with grace, I must also do so with courage and conviction. The number one problem that I have encountered in helping people with problems is their inability to apply the Bible to their personal lives practically (Proverbs 4:23).
The starting point for Bible application is sound Bible knowledge. It is analogous to drinking water from a well. Drinking the water is the application part, while the water in the well is the source part. To have a good application, you must have a good water supply.
If the water is polluted, then you will become sick. To practically and powerfully live out the Bible is similar. If the source (theology) is contaminated, what goes into your heart will not help you. When someone purposely, regardless of motive or intention, begins to alter God’s Words, God’s children must speak up. What other choice do we have?
The general rule of thumb for correcting the wrong things we do is the sphere of confession should be as large as the sphere of the offense. Meaning, all the people affected by our wrong actions should be made aware of our change of heart through humble confession.
Practically speaking, those who experience my sin should hear my confession—how I agree with God that what I did was wrong. All the affected or offended parties should receive the same opportunity to know that I am changing my thinking and actions on a specific matter.
For example, when I sin against my wife, and my children overhear or experience my sin, it is wise and right for me to confess my sin to my wife and my children while asking them to forgive me. This process has happened many times in our home and has proven to be the most effective and biblical way to clean up my messes.
Unfortunately, there were thousands of people who experienced this man’s adulteration of God’s Word. Nevertheless, the most effective and God-honoring thing he can do at this point is to make a loud, broad, humble, and public announcement that acknowledges his mistake. He should allow the body of Christ to respond with grace in a balanced manner in which they have decried his actions.
There is a delicate dance going on here. We live in a culture that balks at any criticism whatsoever. The Christian community is especially vulnerable to this tension. Nevertheless, we must press on to this right end.
There is too much at stake. James told us this (James 3:1) and the writer of Hebrews said similarly (Hebrews 13:17). Leaders will receive a stricter judgment because of the high privilege of soul care. I would not be loving to those in authority if I did not love them enough to graciously share my perspectives with them, especially when I do not agree with them.
Disagreeing with someone is not wrong. Having a sinful attitude toward those you disagree with is wrong. May God give us the wisdom, courage, and kindness to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
The response from Perry Noble, who preached the sermon: A Letter to the Church I Love.