6 Reasons Why You Should Write In Your Bible

Posted by on Nov 26, 2014 in Bible, Featured

6 Reasons Why You Should Write In Your Bible

Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help Christians think through the doctrine of Scripture and provide practical guidance on not only how to read the Bible but to deal with objections and attacks on the Bible.

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I’m always surprised by how many people don’t write in their Bible.

Underlining, circling, boxing, highlighting, jotting notes in the margins — all of it — is very helpful to my soul. I love taking ink to the book.

Some folks don’t write in their Bible because they feel weird about it — don’t worry; you aren’t defacing or treating the Bible as common. No way. Writing in your Bible provides handles to help you navigate the Word and drive it into your head and heart. I think it’s a great way to honor God and his word; signs of a feast (Jer. 15:16).

Here are six reasons why I think you should write in your Bible.

1) Marking up the Bible helps you see what’s there.

It’s one thing to read and it’s another thing to see.

Underling, circling, etc. is a great way to help you behold what is going on in a particular text. Marking repetition, key words or phrases, even making your own cross-references is a great way to see what’s what in the text.

If I’m going to focusing on one chapter or a paragraph, I bust out my arsenal of pens. If I’m reading a whole book or a very large section of Scripture, I’ll keep my standard black pen ready for the verse that knocks me in the face and begs me to pay it some attention.

2) It’ll help you process what is there.

Once you see it, you’ll be able to think and plow through it like vegans at a salad bar. Writing in your Bible puts up landmarks, and as you work your way through an Epistle you can look back and see the connections and help you process the context, the flow, and what is the theme of the book, chapter, section, or verse.

Beholding (seeing) leads to meditating, pondering, and processing.

3) You’ll remember more of the Bible.

There is some cognitive super-power that awakens in our brains when we put ink to ink. Studies have shown that underlining, highlighting, and jotting comments stores a nano-bit of the information for later use. Marking up a sentence is a form active reading; it engages more of our mental capacity and memory.

4) You can find what you found.

Have you ever scuttled through pages trying to access a verse that rocked your noggin and heart but couldn’t find it again?

Bummer.

When you mark up a sweet connection in Titus where Paul rifles a pointed phrase through all three chapters — you won’t lose it. It’s outed and etched in the margin.

Proverbs 16 is chock-full of God’s sovereign goodness. I underlined all the sovereign flexes and wrote “sov” in the margin — now I can quickly find them, exult in God’s glory, and encourages others from Proverbs 16.

5) Create Your Own Cross-references.

Bible publishers are kind of enough to help us with their prefab cross-references. Thanks guys. I love my home-brewed connections too. The knot gets tighter when you cinch it yourself.

Your handwritten connections will increase your retrieval of verses and will fortify your knowledge of the intertwined Genesis to Revelation.

6) Most importantly, it will help you worship God with your heart and mind.

Obviously we can worship God without writing in our Bibles. No doubt.

And I know that when I circle words, see what’s going on under the hood of a paragraph, and how it fits in the context of Biblical Theology — it moves me to worship God. Reading with a pen in the holster is a great help to my devotion and doxology of the Triune God.

So what do you think? Why do you write in your Bible? . . . Or why don’t you?

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Spurgeon, Inerrancy, and What We Still Need Today

Posted by on Nov 25, 2014 in Bible, Featured

Spurgeon, Inerrancy, and What We Still Need Today

Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help Christians think through the doctrine of Scripture and provide practical guidance on not only how to read the Bible but to deal with objections and attacks on the Bible.

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Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s influence today is felt more than ever, as he is the most published Christian author in church history.[1] Helmut Thielicke helpfully points out the impact and influence of Spurgeon’s ministry when he notes that, “The fire Spurgeon kindled turned into a beacon that shone across the seas and down through generations, was no mere brush fire of sensationalism, but an inexhaustible blaze that glowed and burned on solid hearths and was fed by the wells of the eternal Word. Here was the miracle of a brush that burned with fire and yet was not consumed.”[2]

Dr. Albert Mohler explains that “the defining characteristic of Spurgeon’s ministry was an undiluted passion for the exposition and proclamation of God’s Word.”[3] Spurgeon’s influence is felt today because he was a man of the people, a man whose infectious love for the Lord Jesus Christ spilled over into all he wrote, said and did. Spurgeon’s influence won him many friends and many critics but it is undeniable that his influence is felt on evangelicalism today because of his passionate pursuit of proclaiming the glory and majesty of Christ in everything he said and wrote.

Spurgeon’s influence is still felt today in evangelicalism, because he was a man of conviction. Spurgeon did not seek after controversy but rather picked which battles he entered into with great care only choosing to enter into those battles which compromised the Christian faith. Spurgeon’s example is instructive to Christian ministry leaders as many supposed evangelicals today claim to follow in the line of evangelicalism, but do not have a high view of the Bible. If the story of Church history has taught evangelicals anything it should be that when a high view of Scripture is upheld then Jesus will be brought glory. The example of Spurgeon is especially important in this regard as he had a high view of God’s Word and of His Son Jesus Christ. Spurgeon proclaimed the Word of God in a time when truth was under attack, much like today, but did not compromise.

Dr. Albert Mohler explains “Spurgeon was a man, possessed by deep passion for the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”[4] Spurgeon’s passion for the Word of God and the person of Jesus consumed all of his waking hours. Spurgeon’s conviction to preach the Word of God without compromise is needed among evangelicals today more than ever. In recent days some voices are calling for a “big-tent” evangelicalism that is more inclusive than exclusive. One voice, Dr. Roger Olson, teaches that “evangelicalism has no definable boundaries.”[5] He continues explaining that “evangelicalism is a broad tent that includes a great variety of people all facing toward the center.:[6] The problem with Dr. Olsen’s comment, as Dr. Mohler rightly notes is that “the center is not explained.”[7]

Dr. David Bebbington defines evangelicalism in four ways:

First conversion, or “the belief that lives need to be changed”; second, the Bible, or the ‘belief that all spiritual truth is to be found in its pages”; third, activism, or the dedication of all believers, including laypeople, to lives of service for God, especially as manifested in evangelism (spreading the good news) and mission (taking the gospel other societies); and finally, crucicentrism, or the conviction that Christ’s death was the crucial matter in providing atonement for sin (i.e. providing reconciliation between a holy God and sinful humans.)[8]

Dr. Roger Olson (in his explanation of big-tent evangelicalism) teaches that “those who defend inerrancy have not learned their lesson from history.”[9] The problem with this statement by Dr. Olson regarding inerrancy, as will be demonstrated in the following paragraphs, is that it is historically incorrect and misleading. Evangelicalism should not be defined broadly but rather narrowly by a high view of Scripture and the person and work of Jesus Christ.

“Affirming the total truthfulness, trustworthiness, and authority of the Bible is a first order-theological issue.”[10] Dr. Mohler notes that “first-level theological issues are most central and essential to the Christian faith.”[11] He continues explaining that:

“Without an unqualified confidence in the Bible as the revealed Word of God, the Christian Church is left without any means of knowing what the gospel is and what the Christians are to believe and teach. Without affirming biblical inerrancy, the Christian Church is left without any adequate way of expressing a confidence in the Bible’s truthfulness and trustworthiness.”[12]

The early church fathers to the 16th century Protestant Reformers across Europe, and up to the present day conservative evangelicals, have all affirmed verbal plenary inspiration, and inerrancy.

Clement of Rome (A.D. 80-100 taught, “You have looked closely into the Holy Scriptures, which are given through the Holy Spirit. You know that nothing unrighteous or falsified has been written in them.” (1 Clement, XLV. 2.3.) Augustine wrote to Jerome (A.D. 394), “It seems to me that most disastrous consequence to follow upon our believing anything false is found in the sacred books, that is to say, that the men by whom the Scriptures have been given to us, and committed in writing, did not put down in these books anything false.” (Cited by James Olive Buswell, Outlines of Theology, 24.)  Calvin thought of Scripture as “the sure and infallible record,” “the inerring standard,” “the pure Word of God,” “the infallible rule of His Holy Truth,” “free from every stain or defect,” “the inerring certainty,” “the certain and unerring rule,” “unerring light,” “infallible Word of God,” “has nothing belonging to man mixed with it,” “inviolable,” “infallible oracles.” Inerrancy was the view of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, as well as of the entire church; inerrancy is the ‘central church tradition.” (John D. Hannah, ed., Inerrancy and the Church (Chicago: Moody, Press, 1984), ix.). The Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) was founded in 1949 and had a singular doctrinal statement at its founding that affirmed inerrancy: “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. (“Evangelical Scholars Remove Robert Gundry for His Views on Matthew,” Christianity Today, February 3, 1984.)

The remark by Dr. Olson that, “Evangelicals who defend inerrancy have not learned their lesson” is untenable in light of the historical fact that the church fathers, the Reformers, and conservative evangelicals have all affirmed verbal plenary inspiration and inerrancy of the Word of God throughout the history of the Church.[13]

The attack on inerrancy is nothing new since it goes back to the 19th century during the time of Spurgeon. Spurgeon countered the attacks on the Word of God by stating, “Brethren, we shall not adjust our Bible to the age; but before we have done with it, by God’ grace, we shall adjust the age to the Bible.”[14]

Dr. Mohler writing on Spurgeon notes that “the famous preacher found himself engaged in several heated theological disputes and resisted any compromise on substitutionary atonement, the authority and inspiration of Scripture, eternal punishment for unbelievers, original sin, and the absoluteness of Christianity.”[15]

At the end of the day those who want to redefine evangelicalism and reshape it in their own mold do so at their own peril. Evangelicals today would be wise to follow the example of Spurgeon who stood on the Word of God and called his readers to “read not so much man’s comments, or man’s books, but read the Scriptures, and keep your faith on this, — “God said it.”[16]

Conclusion

The ministry of Spurgeon is instructive to Christians today because Spurgeon was a man aflame with the glory of the grace of God. Spurgeon made an impact because of his passion for and stance on evangelical truth, which he contended for, defended, and proclaimed with all of his might to the glory of God. Men of passion and conviction are needed in evangelicalism today, men who will contend, defend and proclaim the truth of substitutionary atonement, the authority and inspiration of Scripture, eternal punishment for unbelievers, original sin, and the absoluteness of Christianity.

Godly men of passion and conviction will be maligned and persecuted– as was Spurgeon, but they must follow the example of Jesus and men like Spurgeon who modeled for Pastors, ministry leaders, and believers how to stand firm in the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. While truth is under attack today on many fronts inside and outside the church, an even greater need and threat is arising from within its ranks, and that is found in the need of men to stand up and be counted.

Every generation of believers must determine if they are going to stand for biblical truth or lay down their swords and accept the lie of liberalism. While there is much to be commended in recent days in evangelicalism especially in the growing movement of Christians, ministries and churches that are discussing what is the gospel and its implications; there is still much to be alarmed about as many are questioning and casting aside the authority of the Word of God either through how they use the Bible, what they think about Adam being a historical person, or their stance on gender roles. This generation of believers will have to decide– as did Spurgeon– if they will stand on the Truth of the Word of God and lift up the Son of God among the nations, or whether they will lay down their sword and succumb to the lie of liberalism.

At the end of the day, Spurgeon was right “believers must never adjust the Bible to the age, but the age to the Bible.”[17] Believers have been given the Word of God not to speculate on, but to study, to mediate upon, contend for, defend and proclaim to the nations. The Word of God always stands in judgment of men never do men stand in judgment of it. This fact reveals the fundamental problem going on inside and outside the church by exposing as Spurgeon knew in his time that the issues of today are old issues rooted in who is authoritative, God or man. As with every generation before and everyone after it, the Truth of God’s Word will remain authoritative, unchanging and unrelenting as it seeks to lift high the name and glory of Jesus among the nations.

As the Word of God did its work in Spurgeon’s time so today evangelicals can be encouraged that the Word of God is sharper than any two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). The Word of God is the means God uses by His Spirit to pierce the heart of the convinced atheist, rejecters like Judas, and deniers like Peter. Evangelicals today need to stand firm in the grace of God and the Word by looking to the example of men like Spurgeon and be encouraged that God by His grace is still working to bring people to Himself and build His church for His glory and praise.

 


[1] Eric W. Hayden. “Did You Know: A Collection of True and unusual facts about Charles Haddon Spurgeon.” Christian History, 10:1, #29, (February 1991).

[2] Helmut Thielicke, Encounter with Spurgeon, trans. John W. Doberstein (Cambridge, MA: James Clarke & Co., 1964) 1.

[3] Albert Mohler, He Is Not Silent: Preaching In A Postmodern World, (Chicago, Moody, 2008), 163.

[4] Albert Mohler, He Is Not Silent: Preaching In A Postmodern World, (Chicago, Moody, 2008), 163.

[5] Roger E. Olsen, “Postconservative Evangelicalism.” In Four Views On The Spectrum OF Evangelicalism, 163. Edited by Andrew David Naselli and Collin Hansen. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

[6] Roger E. Olsen, “Postconservative Evangelicalism.” In Four Views On The Spectrum OF Evangelicalism, 179. Edited by Andrew David Naselli and Collin Hansen. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

[7] Albert Mohler, “A Confessional Response to Postconservative Evangelicalism.” In Four Views On The Spectrum Of Evangelicalism, 196. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

[8] Mark. A. Noll, David W. Bebbington, George A. Rawlyk, eds. Evangelicalism: Comparative Studies in Popular Protestantism in North America, the British Isles, and Beyond, 1700-1990 (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

[9] Roger E. Olsen, “Postconservative Evangelicalism.” In Four Views On The Spectrum OF Evangelicalism, 182. Edited by Andrew David Naselli and Collin Hansen. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

[10] Albert Mohler , “Confessional Evangelicalism.” In Four Views On The Spectrum Of Evangelicalism, 91. Edited by Andrew David Naselli and Collin Hansen. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

[11] Albert Mohler , “Confessional Evangelicalism.” In Four Views On The Spectrum Of Evangelicalism, 78. Edited by Andrew David Naselli and Collin Hansen. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

[12] Albert Mohler , “Confessional Evangelicalism.” In Four Views On The Spectrum Of Evangelicalism, 91. Edited by Andrew David Naselli and Collin Hansen. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

[13]Clement of Rome (A.D. 80-100 taught, “You have looked closely into the Holy Scriptures, which are given through the Holy Spirit. You know that nothing unrighteous or falsified has been written in them.” (1 Clement, XLV. 2.3.) Augustine wrote to Jerome (A.D. 394), “It seems to me that most disastrous consequence to follow upon our believing anything false is found in the sacred books, that is to say, that the men by whom the Scriptures have been given to us, and committed in writing, did not put down in these books anything false.” (Cited by James Olive Buswell, Outlines of Theology, 24.)  Calvin thought of Scripture as “the sure and infallible record,” “the inerring standard,” “the pure Word of God,” “the infallible rule of His Holy Truth,” “free from every stain or defect,” “the inerring certainty,” “the certain and unerring rule,” “unerring light,” “infallible Word of God,” “has nothing belonging to man mixed with it,” “inviolable,” “infallible oracles.” Inerrancy was the view of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, as well as of the entire church; inerrancy is the ‘central church tradition.” (John D. Hannah, ed., Inerrancy and the Church (Chicago: Moody, Press, 1984), ix.). The Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) was founded in 1949 and had a singular doctrinal statement at its founding that affirmed inerrancy: “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. (“Evangelical Scholars Remove Robert Gundry for His Views on Matthew,” Christianity Today, February 3, 1984.)

[14] Charles Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry: Addresses to Ministry and Students (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1906), 230.

[15] Albert Mohler, He Is Not Silent: Preaching In A Postmodern World, (Chicago, Moody, 2008), 167.

[16] Charles Spurgeon, From “The Plea of Faith,” The New Park Street Pulpit, Vol. 2 (London: Passmor and Alabaster, 1856), 273-280.

[17] Charles Spurgeon, An All-Around Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1906), 230.

 

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Five Truths About Why Inerrancy Matters

Posted by on Nov 24, 2014 in Bible, Featured

Five Truths About Why Inerrancy Matters

Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help Christians think through the doctrine of Scripture and provide practical guidance on not only how to read the Bible but to deal with objections and attacks on the Bible.

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Throughout history, the Church has rarely seen an attack on the inerrancy, inspiration and authority of the Bible of the magnitude of modern debates—debates which really only gained academic credibility in the last two centuries and popular consensus within the last generation. And make no mistake, the attack against inerrancy is inextricably linked to inspiration—certainly in the way we have traditionally responded to our critical scholars. By proving the words of the Bible are accurate, we are, at the very least implicitly, answering the attack on the inerrancy of Scripture. Therefore, the answers to inerrancy and inspiration will be given together.

Inspiration, like its sister doctrine, inerrancy, is not something invented by theologians and forced on the Church—the arguments for them arise from the Bible and are based upon the internal consistency of the Bible. And make no mistake, the Scriptures are equated with God’s revelation in words (Matt. 19:4-5; Heb. 3:7; Acts 4:24-25; see also 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21).

How Jesus Understood (and Understands) the Bible

As we look to Scripture, it’s crystal clear that Jesus recognized the authority and inerrancy of Scripture—indeed, the way He uses it explicitly affirms their inspiration. He made constant appeal to it when tempted by Satan (Matt. 4:1-11) and used it often in His ministry to defend His actions (Matt. 11:15-17, 26:54-56). This demonstrates the authority Jesus placed in the Scriptures, but we are not left to make assumptions on the basis of Jesus’ actions alone. He, on at least four occasions taught the Scriptures in such a way as to make clear His position on inerrancy.

In a confrontation with the Sadducees over the doctrine of the resurrection, which that group denied, Jesus silenced His opposition, arguing the entire resurrection belief on the tense of a simple verb, “to be” (Matt. 22:32). Jehovah had told Moses at the burning bush, “I am the God of Abraham,” but as Jesus implied, Abraham had been dead 480 years when the statement was made. Arguing that God was the God of the living, not the dead, Jesus claimed life after death must be true. Jesus used the tense of a verb to prove Abraham was not simply physically dead, but was living in the presence of God. The fact that Jesus used a word and it’s tense to demonstrate His deep confidence in inspiration and inerrancy.

The final statement of Jesus that we will look at pertaining to inerrancy occurred during His Sermon on the Mount. In identifying His relationship to the Law, Jesus said, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18). Most scholars agree the reference to a jot and tittle referred to the yod, the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet and a small id distinguishing several similar letters. Dr. Gaussen notes, “All the words of Scripture, accordingly, even to the smallest stroke of a letter, are no less than the words of Jesus Christ.”1 Dr. Ed Young notes, “If, therefore, the inspiration of the Bible is plenary, it should be evidence that it is one which extends to the very words.”2

Five Truths About Why Inerrancy Matters

The question of ultimate authority is of tremendous importance for Christians, which is why understanding it matters so much. By way of conclusion, I want to look at five ways that inerrancy affects our Christian lives:

First, inerrancy governs our confidence in the Truth of the Gospel. A pilot will ground his aircraft even on suspicion of the most minor fault, because he is aware that one fault destroys confidence in the complete machine. If the history contained in the Bible is wrong, how can we be sure its doctrine or moral teaching is correct? The heart of the Christian message is history. The Incarnation (God becoming man) was demonstrated by the Virgin Birth of Christ. Redemption (the price paid for our rebellion) was obtained by the death of Christ on the Cross. Reconciliation (the privilege of other sinners becoming a friend of God) was gained through the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. If these recorded events are not true, how do we know the theology behind them is true?

Second, inerrancy governs our faith in the value of Christ. We cannot have a reliable Savior without a reliable Scripture. For example many people teach that the Gospels and that the recorded words of Christ are occasionally His. If this is true then how do we know what we can trust about Christ’s teaching? If this is the case as these teachers want God’s people to believe then it follows according to their logic that the Gospel stories are merely wishful thinking or the personal views of the Gospel writers. If this is the case then believers cannot base their faith on Jesus, but rather on the opinions of men.

Third, inerrancy governs our response to the conclusions of science. Those who believe the Bible has errors are quick to accept scientific theories that prove the Bible is wrong. When we allow the conclusions of science to dictate the accuracy of the Word of God one places the authority of science over the Word of God. The consequence of doing this results in having to invent new principles of interpreting Scripture in light of science turning history into poetry and facts into myths.  Another result of this line of thinking is that people will not know how reliable a passage is but instead decide what to make out of it. On the other hand those who believe in inerrancy test all theories including scientific theories according to Scripture.

Fourth, inerrancy governs our attitude in the preaching of Scripture. Denying biblical inerrancy leads to a loss of confidence in Scripture in the pulpit and the pew. The problem is not science or education it is the cold deadness of theological liberalism. Doubting the Bible’s history opens one to calling into question it’s words, which results in people losing confidence in Scripture. The people of God don’t want opinions they want to know what God has said from His Word.

Finally a church without the authority of Scripture is like a crocodile without teeth. It can open its mouth as wide and as often as it likes—but who cares? Thankfully, God has given us His inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word. His people can speak His Word with authority and boldness, and can be confident, because His Word contains His instructions for His people lives.

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6 Reasons Not to Read a Book

Posted by on Nov 24, 2014 in Featured, The Gospel and the Christian Life

6 Reasons Not to Read a Book

I am still a voracious reader. But I read much less than I once did. One year I had a goal of reading and reviewing over 100 books. Now I read much less and seldom review books. There aren’t many new books that I purchase and read.

I’m also checking more books out at the local library on very diverse topics. And I’m reading more for entertainment than because I have to.

This is intentional.

With my previous reading habits I noticed a few things happening. For one, I was getting stressed out with a stack of free books that I had agreed to review. Many of them I wouldn’t have bought even at a .99 Amazon sale. Secondly, I wasn’t really chewing on what I was reading.

But more than anything I realized that I’m going to die someday. I started to think through the words of Ecclesiastes 12:12, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” I realized that there is a type of learning and reading that is pointless because it dies with you. So I asked this question over my reading:

Is my reading done for Christ or for me?

I realized, thankfully, that a good amount of my reading is done for the sake of Christ. I read to be better equipped to help others. I read to enrich my relationship with the Lord. I read to enjoy God’s creation. I read to be better at writing.

But some of my reading was pointless. And so I gave myself permission to stop reading. Here are 6 reasons not to read a book.

  1. I will not read a book just to say that I’ve read it. That’s pride. Pride is dumb.
  2. I will not read a book to stay relevant. I’ll never keep up. And because of the timeless and always relevant gospel I don’t need to.
  3. I will not read a book solely to win an argument. Winning most arguments is a waste of time. There might be exceptions to this general rule—but for the most part reading for the sake of winning an argument is the type of knowledge that puffs up.
  4. I will not read a book to try to accomplish something that only Christ can do. If I’m struggling with how to be a good husband a book might help. Or maybe I just need to pray and apply what I’ve already learned.
  5. I will not read a book simply because it is free. Send me all the free books you want—but if it’s terrible or even unhelpful to me I won’t read it and I won’t review it.
  6. I will not read a book because I started it. If the book isn’t good or it isn’t helping then I’ll put it down.

There are other reasons not to read a book—but here are six rules that keep me from reading more books than I ought.


photo credit: moriza via photopin cc

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Hope in His Word

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in Bible, Featured

Hope in His Word

Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help Christians think through the doctrine of Scripture and provide practical guidance on not only how to read the Bible but to deal with objections and attacks on the Bible.

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Psalm 119:4, “Remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope.”

Whatever your special need may be, you may readily find some promise in the Bible suited to it.

Are you faint and feeble because your way is rough and you are weary? Here is the promise-”He giveth power to the faint.” When you read such a promise, take it back to the great Promiser, and ask Him to fulfill His own word.

Are you seeking after Christ, and thirsting for closer communion with Him? This promise shines like a star upon you-”Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Take that promise to the throne continually; do not plead anything else, but go to God over and over again with this-”Lord, Thou hast said it, do as Thou hast said.”

Are you distressed because of sin, and burdened with the heavy load of your iniquities? Listen to these words-”I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions, and will no more remember thy sins.” You have no merit of your own to plead why He should pardon you, but plead His written engagements and He will perform them.

Are you afraid lest you should not be able to hold on to the end, lest, after having thought yourself a child of God, you should prove a castaway? If that is your state, take this word of grace to the throne and plead it: “The mountains may depart, and the hills may be removed, but the covenant of My love shall not depart from thee.”

If you have lost the sweet sense of the Saviour’s presence, and are seeking Him with a sorrowful heart, remember the promises: “Return unto Me, and I will return unto you;” “For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee.”

Banquet your faith upon God’s own word, and whatever your fears or wants, repair to the Bank of Faith with your Father’s note of hand, saying with the Psalmist, “Remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope.”

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Exegetical Analysis of 2 Timothy 2:15

Posted by on Nov 20, 2014 in Bible, Featured

Exegetical Analysis of 2 Timothy 2:15
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Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help Christians think through the doctrine of Scripture and provide practical guidance on not only how to read the Bible but to deal with objections and attacks on the Bible.

*****************

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” -2 Timothy 2:15

Much ink has already been spilled on Paul’s instructions to Timothy, however, I felt the urge to take a look at the specific words and phrases used by Paul, if anything to get a sense of just how strong this exhortation is and more importantly, to reiterate why consistent, purposeful, sound Bible study is the function and responsibility of every believer. Apologetics which is providing a defense of why and what you believe as well as theology, the study of God to include all of the facets of theology that are to inform and impact all aspects of life, are not solely the purview of academics or those occupying the pulpit. While Timothy was certainly functioning in the role of a church leader, the command to study God’s Word has been given as a command to all believers. With that in mind, in this article we will focus on what Paul is saying to us to include at least a cursory look at Scripture’s overarching command for all of God’s people to actively read, study, and apply the truths of Scripture to their lives and the world around them.

The Apostle Paul begins 2 Timothy 2:15 with the command “be diligent”. It must be noted that some translations use the word study. The Greek word that is translated as “be diligent” or “study” is spoudazō which means “to hasten, make haste or to exert one’s self, endeavor, give diligence.” Spoudazō is a verb and its use by Paul connotes the concept of a need for action, the necessity on the part of the individual to actively engage in an effort that requires a large degree of focus and effort that will involve the entirety of the person who is actively pursuing that which is the subject of this diligent level of study.

The second aspect of this passage is the phrase “to present” or “to show”. This phrase consists of the Greek word paristēmi which means “to present (show) by argument, to prove, with the added element of the quality which the person or thing exhibits.” As with the idea of being diligent or studying, paristēmi is a verb that connotes a sense of action on the part of the individual. It is not a passive concept whereby someone might have to venture a guess as to what you are doing. Conversely, this verb demonstrates the idea of actively presenting something to someone else again with the added element of a necessary quality to the nature of what you are presenting.

This of course begs the question as to what we are to be presenting given the verb paristēmi demands by definition the individual actively is doing something. While most would submit that what is to be provided is an argument for what we believe and why and while that statement certainly is factual, Paul actually states we are to first diligently present ourselves approved to God, with the natural progression of being a workman who does not need to be ashamed which also naturally flows into the process of rightly dividing the word of truth. So what does this idea of presenting ourselves as “approved to God” mean? The Greek word Paul uses that is translated as approved is dokimos, a word that means accepted, pleasing, or acceptable. In its use in the New Testament in such a context as 2 Timothy 2:15, dokimo describes an individual who is mature in the faith, a person of integrity. This idea of maturity springing forth from a devotion to Scripture hearkens back to passages such as Psalm 19:7-8 which declares “The Torah of Adonai is perfect, restoring the inner person. The instruction of Adonai is sure, making wise the thoughtless. The precepts of Adonai are right, rejoicing the heart. The mitzvah of Adonai is pure, enlightening the eyes.” (CJB) What Psalm 19:7-8 demonstrates is essential for understanding what it means to be approved to God as noted in 2 Timothy 2:15. One who is approved by God is one who loves the law of God, His Torah, the entirety of God’s word. It is this attitude of devotion, the daily washing of yourself in the Word of God, the writing of God’s Word on the tablet of your heart that allows for the restoration of the inner person. What this means is what makes a person mature in the faith is devotion to the commands of God outlined in His word. Maturity is demonstrated and being approved to God as a workman is found in the life of the person who loves God’s Word. It is this love and devotion to God’s Word that moves the believer from a place of being pĕthiy (simple) to being wise.

Now that we have established what diligence means, how to present ourselves to God and what it means to be approved to God, it is time to investigate what being a workman means. Paul uses the Greek word ergatēs, a noun that means a laborer. Here we have the continued theme of an activity that involves work, a daily task on the part of the believer. This is the same noun Jesus uses in Matthew 9:37 when He declared “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” In order to understand what Paul is getting at in this discussion of being a laborer, we have to back up a verse to 2 Timothy 2:14 which states “Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.” What Paul is doing is providing the reader with a comparison between a disapproved worker and an approved worker. The disapproved worker is one who strives after or speaks with words that have no profit which in effect is damaging to the hearer. Philip Towner, in his commentary on 2 Timothy, provides some salient commentary on what this is all about noting:

“The translation quarreling about words (or striving about words) expresses one side of a single Greek word that can also mean fighting with words. The one term sums up their activity as a whole, content and method. Their fight with words and disputable doctrines caused strife and division. The outcome of their efforts was negative in two respects. First, because of the spurious nature of the words and their improper motives, their arguments produced nothing of value. Second, the greater danger was that poorly grounded believers might be influenced by personality or cleverness of words to accept some novel view that could ruin their faith. Their quarrels about doctrine and word fighting did nothing to build up the church or the individual. In contrast stands God’s approved workman. What makes this worker different from the false teacher? First, this one’s life and work must be oriented toward God. The opponents looked to people for approval, but God’s servants must seek it from God. This orienting of oneself toward God involves an active (do your best, or make the effort) and conscious (present yourself) decision. Avoiding the ways of the false teachers and remaining true to the gospel in teaching and life from the test that faced Timothy. God’s approval would rest upon the one who passed this test.”[1]

As we can see, the disapproved workman only desires a demonstration of their own intellectual persuasiveness, focusing most often more on methodology or the cleverness of their articulation of words, often forgetting that true wisdom comes solely from God and His Word. The approved workman is diligent to commit themselves as a laborer to be constantly diligent to focus on God and what He says in His Word, using any talents of writing, discussing, or other gifts to the glory of God rather than for personal recognition.

This approved workman is described by Paul as one who does not need to be ashamed. The word translated ashamed is used only once in the New Testament and that is in 2 Timothy 2:15. It simply means having no cause to be ashamed. Those who have their complete focus on knowing God and making Him know will have no reason to be ashamed. There will be no lack of desire to share the message of the gospel. This mature, approved, diligent workman will not hide their light under a bushel. They will have great confidence to do that which Christ commanded in Matthew 28:19-20, namely “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV) They will have great confidence that due to their diligent study of God’s word, they will be able to wield this sword of truth against the enemy and additionally, they will be able to share the hope that is within them to those who so desperately need deliverance from the darkness and bondage of sin. Ultimately, it will be their complete passion and joy to study God’s Word and to share with a great degree of God given wisdom elements of the faith. Since apologetics is really the application of God’s truth to all of life, this passion for Truth will inculcate every fiber of their being and every aspect of their life.

Paul concludes this passage with the phrase “rightly dividing the word of truth.” This idea of rightly dividing comes from the Greek word orthotomeō which means to teach the truth directly and correctly. How is one able to teach the truth of God’s word directly and correctly? It is only by being a diligent, prepared, unashamed workman devoted to a life focused on God and His Word. Any other approach will result in flailing around with the Word of God which always results in an incorrect approach to matters of theology. This is not like a broken clock where somebody can get it right at least twice a day. Sharing the truth of God’s Word is serious business and requires the utmost care and discipline. This is especially true for those called by God to be in a position of authority or called to shepherd the people of God. The Apostle James in his epistle notes “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1) So as you can see, this is serious business. New Testament scholar Ralph Earle rightly notes “The context suggests that Paul is warning against taking the devious paths of deceiving interpretations in teaching the Scriptures.”[3]

Paul further notes that it is we who are to rightly divide, namely the word (logos) of truth (alētheia). The logos as we have noted is the Word of God. Alētheia refers to “the truth as taught in the Christian religion, respecting God and the execution of his purposes through Christ, and respecting the duties of man, opposing alike to the superstitions of the Gentiles and the inventions of the Jews, and the corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers even among Christians.” What this definition refers to is the difference between the truth of God’s Word and the machinations of humanity. Towner again provides excellent commentary, noting in regards to the right handling of truth, “Our correct handling of the biblical text includes first understanding the original message in its original context, which requires knowledge of the biblical languages and the historical-cultural-social setting that the author addressed (or depending on those who do have such knowledge). But the task is not finished until the original message has been brought across the centuries and applied freshly in our own situations.”[3] For those who immediately might react to such a statement with “Well I do not have a knowledge of Hebrew or Greek so that must mean I am off the hook”, let me advise you that many tools are available to the laymen for studying the original languages and the historical, social, and cultural background. For the purposes of this study, I utilized www.blueletterbible.org, a site which provides the user with the meanings and usage of the original languages. Additionally, there are many quality study Bibles on the market that provide excellent background information to every book of the Bible. In our day and age, it is only an attitude of laziness that suggests one cannot access tools to be a diligent workman, rightly dividing the word of truth.

What does this all mean? Hopefully this study of 2 Timothy 2:15 has provided you with a better idea of what Paul was trying to get across not just to Timothy, but to every believer since. It is our duty as believers to be diligent, to present ourselves approved to God, to be a workman, a laborer for truth, to be a people who are able to wield the sword of truth in an accurate manner. This is the calling of every believer and not just a select few academics, professors, or pastors. May the Word of God become your passion and may you have that desire to grow in maturity in the things of God.

References
[1] Philip Towner, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: 1-2 Timothy & Titus (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1994), 181-182.
[2] Ralph Earle. “Commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon. Edited by Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 402.
[3] Towner, 182.

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