UNTYING THE GORDIAN KNOT
April 1, 1987 Issue
In ancient times Phrygia was a country in Asia Minor. According to the scriptures Paul preached in a region called Phrygia on his second missionary journey. (Acts 16:6 and 18:23) One of the ancient kings of this land was said to be one Gordius, a peasant, who made himself king because a Greek oracle declared he had been so chosen by the gods.
Gordius was uncommonly skillful at, of all things, tying knots. He used a most ingenious and intricate knot to tie his ox-cart to a pole; consequently, after his death a legend grew up declaring that the man who could untie that difficult knot would become ruler of all of Asia. Many came and tried to untie the knot, but no one was successful.
When Alexander the Great went to war against the Persian Empire he passed through Phrygia and, hearing the legend of the Gordian Knot, he tried his hand at loosening it. He struggled with the cleverly tied knot for a few minutes, but like the others before him he could not unravel it. Suddenly he stepped back, drew his sword, and with one swift blow he cut through the knot. Alexander then declared himself the rightful ruler of Asia and, of course, went on to conquer the Persians and the rest of the known world.
Because of the foregoing story the expression "Gordian Knot" has come to refer to a difficult and intricate problem that can only be solved by bold and resourceful action.
Dear readers and brethren, Christianity today is tied into a Gordian knot - a knot that it appears no one can untie. In his books, The Primary Encyclopedia of American Religions, Gordon J. Melton declares that there are 1,187 different religious bodies in the United States. Surveying the denominationalism, sectarianism, and digression of the religious world it seems an all but impossible task to ring unity to Christianity and turn people back to the religion of the New Testament. Often we spend our lives picking and clawing at a knot that refuses to be loosened.
It seems to me that bold and resourceful action is called for. Instead of weakly (and vainly) tugging and pulling at the problem we need to draw back the Sword of the Spirit and slash through the cleverly tied knots of error and falsehood. In II Corinthians 10:3-5 Paul avers that we have at our disposal the most powerful weapon in the world the Word of God. With it we can pull down strongholds and cast down imaginations. This double-edged sword is the only thing that can sever the Gordian knot of religious error.
Moreover, instead of slowly sawing through erroneous doctrines, sometimes we need to cut through with one swift blow. I was once involved in a very laborious and tedious discussion with a brother about using fermented wine in the communion. We argued on and on to no avail. Finally I said, 'Look, were getting nowhere like this. All I want you to do is show me where the Bible says the early Christians ever used fermented wine in the communion. Prove that "gennema" refers to a fermented drink. If you cannot do that your endless parade of arguments fall."
Brethren, instead of arguing on endlessly in our effort to restore primitive Christianity let us strike boldly and forcibly with a call for scriptural authority. If the Gordian knot of error is ever to be unraveled it will only be done because fearless servants of the Lord are wielding the two-edged sword and striking home with a "thus saith the Lord."
Unity among professed believers will never be accomplished by ecumenical councils, unity forums, fellowship breakfasts, and union meetings. Such forums do not seek unity based on what the scriptures teach, but in spite of what the scriptures teach. They only pull the knot tighter and the task becomes more impossible still . The truth is what we need. Biblical preaching, biblical studies, biblical debates, biblical writings these are the bold and resourceful actions called for.
Let us be about the task then, wherever we are, of untying the Gordian knot. Take the Sword of e Spirit and whack away at it! May we say along with Paul, "I demolish theories and any rampart thrown up to resist the knowledge of God." I Corinthians 10:5 Moffat's translation)
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