1Co 4:3-6 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. (4) For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. (5) Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (6) I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.
You are looking at just PART of the books that John Piper has written. Recently a member of our church packed them all up and brought them to me. Well, I am glad to report that the person saw Piper’s errors some time ago. I am keeping these for now as we research his books for false teaching, specifically his works-based false gospel.
But here is my point, and this is why I put this picture here. One of the characteristics of an errant preaching, writing, teaching ministry is that, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, the person goes “beyond what is written.” That is to say, they teach authoritatively (supposedly with Scriptural authority) on just about every nut and bolt of life. They tell you very specifically “how to” –
- Have sex
- Educate your children
- Arrange your meals
- Use your leisure time
- Surf the web
- Do your work
- Purchase a car
- Get (or not get) a divorce
And on and on and on they go. I suppose we could add another “how to” – they tell you how to think. And if they are really good at doing all of this in a charismatic and convincing manner, they gain a following (often a very large following) of people whose experience of “Christ” goes no further than, “well, let’s see what John Piper says about that.” This is dangerous.
Yes, God’s Word can be applied to every aspect of our lives, and should be. Whatever we do, Paul says we are to do to the glory of God. But in walking with Christ, each individual Christian is indwelt and led by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit enables us to take the “condensed soup” of Scripture, expand upon it properly, and apply it to our own lives. It is the proper task of a pastor or theologian to assist us in understanding God’s Word with the goal (Ephesians 4:11ff) of seeing us grow up into the fullness of Christ so we don’t keep getting knocked off course by every trickster that comes along.
But so many go too far. They go beyond what is written in Scripture. In doing so, they quite often take us back under the law and bring us into bondage. Or they swing quite the other direction and lead us down their road of libertinism (I’m ok, you are ok, most anything is ok. Have a good time).
This going beyond what is written is often put into play when church leaders or other Christians or famous writers of enough books to fill a big box or two, begin to feel that they need to inject themselves into the lives of their people, control them, tell them…function as their conscience and even try to be the Holy Spirit. Many of you have had this happen. Here comes Mr. or Mrs. “builder of a fence around the Law so we are sure no one sins” poking their nose into your life. “You know, I noticed that you said/did such and such. I don’t agree with what you said/did. I will tell you what you should say/do.” And this very same thing can be done from the pulpit or in the myriads of books that the more skilled Holy Spirit players write.
I am not saying that we are to be total rebels and cast off any accountability to one another. If a professed Christian is abusing his wife (and he isn’t a Christian if he is), that guy needs to be confronted and held to accounts. Evil needs to be exposed. Error in teaching must be corrected. But what I am addressing here is specifically this business of “going beyond what is written” and judging one another in areas that the Lord has told us all to just cool our jets and wait until the Day comes when He will sort it all out.
There is something just not right – scary even – about one human being writing over 60 books, many of which are “how-to books” and even “how you must think” books. Books that come at you from the angle of “Look at this new thing I have discovered in the Bible.” Or worse, they present a “new thing” claiming that it is still just the orthodox old thing, but in new wrappings. What kind of a person is going to be produced if they were to read all 60 of John Piper’s books? Or 30 of them? Or 20? Or 10? (I sound like Abraham dealing with God over Sodom:).
Why are we doing so? That is, why are we focusing on John Piper in these posts? Because of his huge influence on so many Christians and their thinking. Because this influence has contributed to creating an environment in our churches that we at this blog have to work to expose every single day. An environment that oppresses the weak and enables the wicked. A works-based twisting of the gospel will do that every time because it takes our eyes off of the finished, glorious work of Jesus Christ and sets our focus upon what we must DO to be right with God.
1 Cor 4:6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.