Some may remember the old TV series Dragnet with the main character Joe Friday. His famous and oft quoted line was, “Just the facts Ma’am.”
Actually, those words were never uttered by Jack Webb who played Friday. He used phrases like, “All we know are the facts, Ma’am,” or “All we want are the facts Ma’am.” Somewhere and someway, his words were popularized by the phrase we know as “Just the facts, Ma’am.”
Popular culture, even history, has a way of distorting the facts. Not to the point of believability, but often to the point that they are familiar but not quite accurate. Any student of scripture will encounter this tendency on many occasions. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi’s quote of an apparent verse in the OT, “The Bible tells us in the Old Testament, ‘To minister to the needs of God’s creation is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us.’” Now that concept may be true – as stewards of God’s creation, it is imperative that we act responsibly. But there is no particular verse that resembles her quote.
Our Sunday School class is entering a study of Galatians. Consequently, that is where I’ll be spending much of my time these next few weeks. That Pauline letter presents some interesting issues regarding it’s date, to whom it was addressed, and the particular issues Paul confronts.
The most interesting debate centers on who Paul was writing to when countering particular false teachings. You can line up Bible scholars a foot deep on both sides of the issue. Each with merit to their arguments. However, does it impact the message of Paul? Not significantly. Does coming down on one side or the other, diminish the dastardly effect of an oh so slight difference in the truth being planted among the believers there – wherever “there” is? No, not at all.
There is little doubt that Paul’s emphasis on salvation – justification by faith and works – is the central issue of the letter. Though some Jews were wanting new converts to be circumcised and bring themselves under the law, this was a violation of the true Gospel that Paul had presented to them earlier. Yes, justification is by faith and the only thing necessary to compliment that was to avoid meat offered to idols, avoid blood, refrain from what was strangled, and avoid sexual immorality. (Acts 15:22-29)
Oops…did I say “justification by faith and works?”
It doesn’t take much when it comes to slight of hand or word, to distort the truth of the gospel. The truth which is…”By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2:8-9).”
As followers of Christ – new or experienced; as students of the word, as hearers and doers, staying attentive to what the Bible says is the truth is essential. For seldom does it square with what the our culture says.
“Just the facts Ma’am.”