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Lord's Day Liturgy

Self-Contradiction

There are two similar and brutal phrases in the pastoral epistles, both coming from the observation of the apostle Paul, both sharing the idea of multi-level communication.

[people will be] having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:5)

They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works. (Titus 1:16)

What does it mean to “deny” the power of godliness? It means to play at it, to pose when others are watching, but to collapse when the real decisions need to be made. All they have is “appearance” or “form” (NASB).

In the second case they “profess” with their mouths. It’s the same word as in 1 John 1:9 translated there as “confess” (homologeo). They’re saying they know, but not only do they show ignorance, their behavior is a refutation of their claim.

Both passages provide us with categories to recognize denial. There is form with power and form without it, there is confessing backed up by works and confessing that isn’t. The problem isn’t the appearance or the profession, the problem is the duplicity.

In his book The Reformed Pastor, which is an extended application of Acts 20:28, Richard Baxter wrote:

it will much more hinder your work, if you contradict yourselves, and if your actions give your tongue the lie, and if you build up an hour or two with your mouths, and all the week after pull down with your hands! This is the way to make men think that the Word of God is but an idle tale, and to make preaching seem no better than prating.

Self-contradiction is a danger for pastors, for parents, and for any who have only a partial profession.