Friday, February 23, 2007

An Elephant and Salvation of Works versus Grace

In 1986, Mkele Mbembe was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University. On a hike through the bush, he came across ayoung bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air.

The elephant seemed distressed; so Mbembe approached it very carefully. He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot, and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Mbembe worked the wood out withhis hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot.

The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face,stared at him for several tense moments. Mbembe stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled.

Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Mbembe never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty years later, Mbemb was walking through the Chicago Zoo with histeenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of thecreatures turned and walked over to near where Mbembe and his son Tapuwere standing. The large bull elephant stared at Mbembe, lifted itsfront foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man. Remembering the encounter in 1986, Mbembe couldn't help wondering ifthis was the same elephant. Mbembe summoned up his courage, climbed overthe railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up tothe elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Mbembe's legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn't the same elephant.

Now why would I post this?

Because it is funny.
To warn that often some will teach a form of godliness but denying its power.

These people in #2 do this out of selfish ambition. Often they are educated and have much knowledge. Yet knowledge is not the same as understanding. Many think one can just read the Bible and understand it and on one level that is true. Even knowing the original languages can open certain nuances, and even can open texts of their intentional meanings as opposed to their translated versions. (These most often are just little things or they could be rather big things as in whether verses are stating that Paul is saying “the god of this world (age) has blinded their eyes” (2 Corinthians 4:4) or as Irenaeus states show be read, “For, God of this world (age), has blinded their eyes.” Irenaeus states that for Paul to say that there is a “god of this world” would be contrary to what Paul believed and that Paul was affirming that there is One God… and He has blinded their eyes. After reading this I reread the passage and actually saw that the flow was better and still consistent in that God is Sovereign and He blinds, or turns some over to depraved hearts. The traditional translation has given to much bad theology and to giving Satan much more power than he really has. This idea of god of this world runs through almost all translations and is more in line with Gnosticism than Christianity and is the influence of Platonism/Dualism that runs even today in much of Christian thought. Beware it is far from and contrary to the true teachings of Christ Jesus.

Religion is like this elephant in the story above. We put too much trust in knowledge but forget we do not know everything. Often we are acting more like little gods as we trump about our own knowledge of the Bible and leave many in the ditch beaten, robbed and near dying. We think of ourselves as greater or more holy because we have religion, or that we are “Christian”… forgetting it is by Grace we are saved and not by works… we are only holy because Jesus is Holy. We cannot make or add to our own holiness and make ourselves more holy than Jesus has already done. Many teach that we must also sanctify ourselves… yet it is God who sanctifies us. Sanctify simply means to set apart for a purpose, and that purpose is to do the works God has prepared for us to do… never forgetting these are HIS WORKS and not ours. This should humble us as we submit and do HIS WORKS and die to our own.

If you play with the elephant… and not know which elephant is truly the right elephant you will still die for the wages of sin is death. The man thought he could do a good work and then later stand on that good work as he trusted the elephant to embrace him for what he did… but in the end the elephant killed him.

I am not saying we are not to do good works. On the contrary I am saying make sure the works you do are truly God’s good works and that you are not building on the foundation of Jesus a house of stubble that will burn up. I am warning that you do not stand on works to prove your salvation. But let your salvation be proved by doing God’s good works as He has His will and desire placed in your heart.


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1 comment:

Adam Roe said...


I'm a bit late to game on this post, but you make an outstanding point!

...... never forgetting these are HIS WORKS and not ours. This should humble us as we submit and do HIS WORKS and die to our own.

We must never take the view that God justified us in the past and we now "get busy" with our sanctification. Though we cannot lose sight of the objective element of justification, it's important to keep in mind that we enter into a relationship with the Lord (mystical union). Our sanctification is, thereby, a natural outworking of that relational element of justification.

Blessings to you,

P.S. If you don't mind, I'd like to put you on my blogroll.