Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by Mark. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses twenty-one through thirty-nine of the first chapter. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you find Mark transitioning from writing and speaking of Jesus’ calling His first disciples to Jesus journeying and traveling to Capernaum. As you begin reading this particular passage of Scripture you find that Jesus and His first disciples—Simon and his brother Andrew, as well as James and his brother John—journey to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath day Jesus entered into the synagogue and taught. WHEN JESUS ENTERS INTO THE HOUSE! WHEN JESUS ENTERS INTO THE HOUSE AND TEACHES! What I absolutely love when reading this particular portion of Scripture is that not only do we find Jesus entering into the synagogue, and not only do we find Jesus entering into the synagogue and teaching, but we find those who were present on this particular day astonished at His teaching. The question we must ask concerning their astonishment and amazement at His teaching was why. Why were they astonished by His teaching? What was it about His teaching that caused them to stand in wonder and amazement? The interesting thing is that Mark records for us exactly what it was about Jesus’ teaching that so astonished and amazed them. If you read in the twenty-second verse of this passage of Scripture you will find Mark writing and recording the following words—“And they were astonished at His doctrine: for He taught them as one that authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). That which Mark writes and records in this portion of Scripture is quite interesting for when he writes of their astonishment and amazement as they sat and listened to Jesus teach, they were astonished at His doctrine. I can’t help but read this passage of Scripture and come face to face with the awesome and overwhelming reality of how incredibly important doctrine is. More often than not when we think of doctrine we think of theologians, or we think of ministers and leaders within the church. Rarely if ever do we think of doctrine as being necessary and vital to our own Christian walk, our own Christian faith and our own Christian journey. In fact, I would dare say that there are very few among us who even spend any amount of time focusing on ensuring that our doctrine is in fact authentic, genuine, real, and rooted and grounded upon that which is contained with Scripture. Those who stood present on this day weren’t necessarily amazed at the teaching itself—style, charisma, personality, and the like—but rather by the doctrine itself. Please mark and mark this well, for I am convinced that we in this generation place an over abundance of emphasis, worth and value on charisma, on personality, on style, on rhetoric, and the like, and we rarely if ever focus our time and our attention on the actual doctrine behind the teaching.
What is interesting about what Mark writes and records in this passage of Scripture is that it isn’t the first time we find those who sat and listened to Jesus teach being astonished. When you come to the end of the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find similar words written and recorded by this apostle of Jesus Christ. In verses twenty-eight and twenty-nine of the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find the following words written and recorded by the apostle Matthew—“And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at His doctrine: for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29). DOCTRINE ESTABLISHED AUTHORITY! DOCTRINE DEMONSTRATES AUTHORITY! DOCTRINE MANIFESTS AUTHORITY! DOCTRINE CONFIRMS AUTHORITY! As I am sitting here today I can’t help but consider how many of us consider charisma and personality as confirming and demonstrating authority rather than doctrine. We consider a preacher or evangelist who has an abundance of personality, and abundance of charisma, and who is enthusiastic when they speaks as being one who in fact has authority. The truth of the matter is that this isn’t at what Scripture suggests or reveals. We tend to think that the more someone shouts, the more someone uses inflections with their voice, the more someone uses wild hand gestures and motions, the more someone adds “uh” after various words in their sentences, the more that individual is anointed and is operating under the authority of the living God. There are countless men and women who think that charisma and personality are the true hallmarks and trademarks of one who has true and genuine authority given them by the living God, and the truth of the matter is that this simply isn’t the case. Charisma and personality has never and will never demonstrate and/or even manifest authority when one stands before a group of people and teaches and preaches—even if that individual teaches and preaches from the word of God. More often than not we have it all backwards when we think that personality and charisma demonstrates, manifests and reveals authority when one stands before a congregation or group of people to teach and/or preach. I have to admit that the more I sit here and think about this particular reality, the more I am reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote when writing his first epistle to the Corinthian congregation. In the second chapter of the first epistle which the apostle wrote unto the Corinthian congregation we find the following words written by the apostle unto this congregation of Gentile Christians:
“And I, brethren, when I came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
Please pay close attention to that which the apostle Paul wrote in this particular portion of Scripture within this first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints When the apostle Paul was writing unto the Corinthian congregation he was very clear and deliberate with his words, as he declared unto them that when he came unto them, he came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom. What’s more, is that as you continue reading this brief passage of Scripture, you will find that he went on to write that his speech and his preaching was not with enticing of persuadable words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. What’s more, is the apostle Paul would go on to write and declare unto them that when he was with them, he was with them in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. In other words, when the apostle Paul stood before and preached among the Corinthian saints and Christians, he did not come with excellency of speech or of wisdom when he declared unto them the testimony of God. It’s absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that when the apostle Paul stood before these saints and Christians, his speech and his preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. In all reality, that which we can deduce and conclude from the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this passage of Scripture is that neither his speech, nor his preaching was with enticing and persuasive words of man’s wisdom. In fact, I would dare say that the apostle Paul would not have had the “charisma” and the “personality” that we desire when we listen to men preach the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ in this generation. In the Scripture the apostle Paul writes about those who will seek to have their ears tickled, and I am convinced that doesn’t simply refer to those who want to hear what they want to hear, but also those who want to hear in a certain manner. I am convinced that those who want and desire their ears to be tickled are those who desire to hear the preaching of the gospel with charisma, with enthusiasm, with personality, and with a certain degree and measure of enticing words. What’s more, is that those who desire their ears to be tickled are the same ones who will also desire their senses to be appealed to and tickled when they enter into the house of God to worship before Him. In order to truly understand that which I am writing and speaking about, it is absolutely necessary to consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote in his second epistle which was written unto Timothy who was his spiritual son in the faith. If you turn and direct your attention to the fourth chapter of the second epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy you will find the following words written beginning with the first verse:
“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:1-8).
As you read this particular passage of Scripture you will not only notice the apostle Paul writing concerning a time when men will no longer endure sound doctrine, but also after their own lusts they shall heap unto themselves teachers while having itching ears. Please don’t miss and lose sight of that which is written and contained within this portion of the epistle, for the apostle Paul writes concerning two distinct realities that are present within and present among countless churches today—particularly and especially churches within this nation of ours. The apostle Paul first writes concerning those who will not endure sound doctrine, but then he also writes concerning those who will heap unto themselves teachers having itching ears. WHEN SOUND DOCTRINE IS REPLACED BY ITCHING EARS! WHEN ITCHING EARS DESTROYS SOUND DOCTRINE! I am completely and utterly convinced that there are countless men and women in this generation especially who not only cannot endure sound doctrine, but as a result of being unable to handle sound doctrine, have developed within and among themselves itching ears—ears that seek that which appeals to their senses. Oh, I would dare say it is a tragic day when men and women can no longer endure sound doctrine and instead need their senses to be appealed to, and their ears tickled. It is a sad and tragic day within the church when men and women need charisma, personality and enthusiasm to hold and keep their attention. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints concerning that which they could handle, and that which they couldn’t handle—simply because they were spiritually immature. I recognize that Jesus declared that unless we become like little children we shall not and will not enter into the kingdom of heaven, but I am convinced there is a strong difference between being childish and childlike. I am convinced that there are countless men and women who are childish in the sense that their attention span is very limited, and can only be held and kept by those who exhibit strong charisma, strong personality, and display much excitement, shouting, yelling, pacing, and the like. If you journey to the third chapter of the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth you will find the apostle writing and declaring unto them concerning certain limitations and hindrances he had when he was among them, as well as when writing unto them. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the third chapter you will find the following words written by the apostle Paul unto these saints:
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet not are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).
I remember before I preached my first sermon in the church my father was then pastoring, he had me teach in children’s church before stepping behind the pulpit and preaching unto adults. I remember him telling me that If I could keep the attention span of a child, I could keep the attention of adults. The reason behind such a statement is actually quite simple, for if you’ve ever notice the attention span of a child, you will notice that it is very limited and incredibly short. That which I was learning was that if I could keep the attention of those who naturally have short attention spans, I could keep and hold the attention of adults who generally and typically have a much longer attention span. With that being said, however, I am convinced that there are a number of men and women among us in our churches today who are childish in the sense that they have incredibly short attention spans. What I mean by this is simply that their attention is lost when teaching and preaching is not married with charisma, with personality, and with enthusiasm and excitement. There are countless men and women who do not have the ability to hear and listen to teaching and preaching if it is not produced with and form a place of charisma and excitement. There are those among us who need loud and boisterous personalities standing in front of them behind the pulpit in order for them to be connected to and “receive” from them. There are men and women who have itching ears and who need their senses appealed to and tickled in order for them to receive from those who would stand before them. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the epistle which was written unto the saints found at Ephesus. If you turn and direct your attention to the fourth chapter of the epistle written unto the Ephesian congregation you will find the following words written beginning with the eleventh verse:
“And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, Evangelist’s; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body filly joined together and compacted by that which every joint suppliers, according to the effectual workin in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the defying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Notice within the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian saints and congregation that he encouraged them to be no longer and no more children who are tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. In all reality, that which the apostle Paul was writing and speaking of within this particular passage of Scripture is a deep Christian maturity that takes us beyond childish interests, and that which can only be appealed to only by those who appeal to our senses and our emotions rather than our heart and spirit. Perhaps the single greatest question I have to ask is how much of the preaching that is presented unto us in this generation appeals to our senses and emotions rather than our heart and spirit. How much of the preaching you are presently sitting under actually appeals to the heart and spirit—the inner man which communes with and worships the Father in spirit and in truth—rather than appealing merely to your senses and emotions? I would dare say that if the preaching and ministry you are sitting under appeals only to your senses and emotions and doesn’t touch your heart and the inner man of your being, that teaching and preaching is not only selling you short, but might also be conditioning you to remain in a place of spiritual immaturity and childish thinking and behavior. Taking this concept a step further I feel it absolutely necessary to journey to the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. If you begin reading with and from the eleventh verse of the fifth chapter you will find the author of this epistle writing concerning Christian maturity and moving beyond that place of childish thinking and behavior and into a place of true and authentic growth before the Lord. Consider if you will the words which are found in this passage of Scripture beginning with the eleventh verse of the fifth chapter:
“Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that Seth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belonged to them that are of fuel age, even those who by reason of use have their senses excerpted to discern both good and evil. Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinkers in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringers forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which bearers thorns and briers is rejected, and is night unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteousness to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have minister to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 5:11-6:12).
When I think about and when I consider that which both the apostle Matthew, as well as Mark wrote concerning Jesus’ teaching, I can’t help but be absolutely and completely gripped and captivated by the fact that when those in the synagogue, and when those who sat before Him heard and listened to His teaching, they weren’t astonished with how He taught, but were astonished with His doctrine. ASTONISHED BY DOCTRINE! What’s more, is that as you read the words which both men wrote in their respected gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, you will find them both writing and documenting that those who heard and those who listened to the words which Jesus taught and spoke weren’t astonished at how He taught—namely, as one with charisma, as one with personality, as one with a ton of excitement and enthusiasm—but rather by His doctrine. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this reality, for it brings us to the main and underlying focus of any manner of teaching and preaching. There would be those among us who would declare unto you that it is all about charisma, it is all about personality, it is all about excitement, it is all about enthusiasm when one stands before you teach and preach, and such a declaration and way of thinking is completely and utterly false and misleading. I am completely and utterly convinced that instead of and rather than being astonished with and by charisma and personality, we are to be astonished with and by doctrine. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—when was the last time you were astonished at doctrine rather than astonished by personality and charisma? When was the last time the doctrine found within and behind someone’s teaching and preaching truly caused you to marvel and stand in awe rather than how well they spoke, and how eloquent and persuasive they were with their words? Those who were present in the synagogue on this particular sabbath were not astonished with Jesus’ eloquence, with Jesus’ personality, with Jesus’ enthusiasm, or even with Jesus’ personality, but rather were astonished with His doctrine. The question we must ask ourselves when considering this particular reality is what was it about His doctrine that caused them to be astonished and amazed. If you read both the words which the apostle Matthew writes, as well as the words which Mark wrote, you will find that Jesus’ doctrine astonished and amazed them because He taught as one having authority, and not like the scribes who they generally and typically listened to. Oh, this brings me to an incredibly important question concerning that which we sit before and listen to in our churches today—namely, how many of us sit under scribes who teach with charisma, with personality, and with enthusiasm excitement rather than sitting under the teaching of Jesus which is founded upon authority and sound doctrine.
I am firmly convinced that sound doctrine is what demonstrates and reveals true and genuine authority when one speaks—regardless of whether one is speaking from behind the pulpit, or whether one is speaking naturally to a brother or sister in casual conversation. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not our doctrine is truly founded upon the principles which are found and contained within the word of God, or whether our doctrine is founded upon the wisdom of men. I can’t help but be reminded once more of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first epistle which was written unto the saints which were present at Corinth. When writing unto the Corinthian congregation in his first letter the apostle Paul wrote the following words:
“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the use, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jew a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence. But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:17-31).
When I consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints, I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the prophet Isaiah wrote in the twenty-ninth chapter of the prophetic book which bears his name—words which Jesus the Christ would use in His ministry when speaking of the scribes and Pharisees. If you begin reading with and from the tenth verse of this particular chapter you will find the following words:
“For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: and the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do Ho our me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid” (Isaiah 29:10-14).
In the first chapter of the New Testament gospel concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ I find myself being gripped with the fact that when those who were present on this day sat and heard the teaching of Jesus in the synagogue, they weren’t astonished at His style and manner of teaching, but rather with and by His doctrine. It was His doctrine—doctrine which I might add was received directly from His Father in heaven—that truly astonished and amazed them, for it was His doctrine that truly demonstrated authority when He spoke. I feel compelled to bring us back to that which I previous wrote in this particular writing, for when you read this passage you will not only find that they were astonished at His doctrine, but also that He did not teach them after the same manner the scribes did. When Jesus opened His mouth to teach and to speak, there was something unique, something different, something authoritative about the doctrine which was at the center and foreground of His teaching. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote when writing his second epistle unto Timothy his spiritual son in the faith. Beginning with the tenth verse of the third chapter you will find the following words written by the apostle:
“But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long suffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live boldly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto 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 perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:10-17).
With these words we are not only confronted with the reality of Paul speaking unto Timothy concerning his being aware of his doctrine, but we also find the apostle Paul declaring that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine. Oh, pay close attention to those words and mark them well, for if we are going to have true and proper doctrine we must be students of the divine word of God which is inspired by God as holy men wrote as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. The apostle Peter wrote the following words: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shine the in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:19-21). The only way to have correct doctrine is to be students of the divine word of God which is inspired by God Himself as He breathed upon men through and by the person of the Holy Spirit. The only way that we can truly have proper doctrine is if we give ourselves to studying and understanding the divine word of God, and give ourselves to allowing and asking the Holy Spirit to reveal unto us that which is contained therein. They were astonished at and astonished by His doctrine, for He taught them as one having authority. Oh, are men and women astonished by our doctrine as it is found at the center of that which we speak when we talk to them? Are men and women astonished by our doctrine and our speech as we speak as those who have authority, and not like others? How we answer these questions will determine the chart and course of our Christian walk and our influence among those whom we interact with. The apostle wrote concerning His speech and His preaching, and we must come face to face with the level of our speech which is found before and among men. There are some among us who may never preach as the apostle Paul did, or even teach as Jesus Christ did, yet we must carefully and thoroughly examine our speech and whether or not at the very heart and foundation of our speech is true and proper doctrine inspired by the divine word of God which was breathed upon by the Holy Spirit who gave men authority to pen the words which we have before us. Where are those churches which cause men and women to be astonished with and by doctrine rather than with and by charisma an personality? Where are those men and women who will allow their doctrine to be inspired by the divine word of God, and will allow their doctrine to be at the very forefront of their speech which appears before others? Oh that we would once more be astonished by doctrine and would move beyond our childish ways and our childish thinking and needs, and would press on toward full maturity and growth before the Lord.