Tag Archives: Truth

Armed and Dangerous

 

One can only imagine what it would have been like to have the Apostle Paul as a mentor and father figure, not only in the faith, but in life as well.  We can observe and note how this may have been through the letters that he wrote to his young protege Timothy.  His care, encouragement, and desire to impart wisdom is evident, particularly in a well-known passage from 2 Timothy 3.  In the midst of encouraging Timothy to follow and emulate the pattern of his life, Paul encourages him to continue in the faith and to recall his younger days when he was acquainted (literally know or understand) with the sacred writings.  Presumably, this mention of sacred writings leads the Apostle into a brief discourse on the nature of Scripture, which is our passage under consideration in this post.

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Two questions immediately jump out at the reader, first is what is defined as Scripture and second, who is the man of God.  The remainder of the passage seems fairly straightforward.  Whatever the Scriptures are defined to be, they are breathed out by God, theopneustos, literally that they are God-breathed or from the mouth of God.  It would not be difficult to see how the parallel concept of Scripture as the Word of God is likewise valid.

Scripture is the generic word, writings, but its contextual use in the New Testament is always a reference to the inscripturated revelation of God.  We find references to Scripture time and again in the gospel accounts of our Lord’s earthly ministry.  Here, as with nearly all of the other uses, it is a reference to the Old Testament or TANAK.  This fact was never in question.  The difficulty comes by way of trying to understand if Scripture can refer to the New Testament.  Without creating a brand new post for that defense, suffice it to say that there is internal evidence that this is indeed the case, particularly when one considers 2 Peter 1:16-21; 3:16; 1 Timothy 5:18 as well as the overwhelming number of references, allusions, and echoes of the Old Testament, not to mention the words of Christ Himself.  It is therefore without question that both Old and New Testament’s collectively may be referred to as Scripture.

We then arrive at four given functions of Scripture.  The Apostle informs Timothy that the Scriptures, which have come from the mouth of God, are profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.  Strong’s defines profitable as helpful or serviceable, advantageous, each of which help to draw out more clearly the idea that is being conveyed here.  Combining this with our four functions and we see that the Scriptures are a helpful, even more – advantageous, companion for teaching or instruction, which elsewhere Paul has described as communicating doctrine (Titus 1:9).

Likewise, the Scriptures are helpful for both reproof and correction, which sound similar and would seem to be communicating a similar concept.  In reality however, it is likely that the former means the Scriptures are advantageous for correcting doctrinal errors and reproving those who would hold to beliefs that are contrary.  The latter however uses a different word, which the ESV translates as correction, which better communicates the idea of correcting moral behavior.  Together then, we see that the Scriptures are helpful for correcting both doctrinal deficiencies and moral deficiencies of character.

Finally, we arrive at our fourth function of Scripture, that it trains in righteousness.  Elsewhere in Scripture when this word for training is used, it is in the context of discipline and instruction, as with a Father to a son (Eph. 6:4; Heb. 12:5, 12:7, 12:11).  Turning to Strong’s again and we find that it also connotes the idea of cultivation.  In farming, this would include the entire process from plowing the ground to planting the seed and watering all the way to the production of the fruit.  It is easy then to see how the Scriptures would function in this way in the life of a believer, from the rather painful discipline of plowing the hard heart to the joyful producing of spiritual fruit.

All of this brings us to our second question, who is the man of God.  If we relied on some common understandings of this passage, we would be left with a limited application of the man of God referring exclusively to pastors or preachers.  But that’s too technical of a definition and would be a sad outcome leaving the rest of the “lay” population of believers on the outside looking in at this magnificent discourse on the nature and purpose of Scripture.  Along this line of thought, the everyday believer would figuratively hand over the Scriptures to the professional man of God so that they could be used properly for the functions as described.  But though the Scriptures are a sword, they are not the sword in the stone waiting only for the professional Arthur to come along.  The Sword of God fits all hands of believers who by faith wield it in the power of the Spirit, particularly for the functions mentioned here.

The man of God, as the footnote in some Bibles indicate, also means the messenger of God and echoes a common Old Testament reference.  Essentially it is the man (anthropos), belonging to God (possessive) that articulates or communicates the truths of God’s Word, the Scriptures.  This could occur on a street corner, at a dinner table, in a gathering of believers, 1 on 1, 1 on 50, anywhere that a person takes a stand and proclaims the Word of God.  Which brings up a second point.  Anthropos here is not restricted to males only.  It is most often used generically as a reference to mankind.  So, therefore, women need not feel inferior that the power and function of Scriptures are limited to men only.  This promise is for the man or woman of God who communicates the message of God using the Word of God (1 Timothy 2:12 & 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is for another day).

Take heart believers, God has equipped us in this twisted and corrupt generation to proclaim His Word.  Not only has He fulfilled His promise in giving His Holy Spirit, but He has armed us with the Sword of the Lord, His Scriptures, which have proceeded from His very mouth.  These Scriptures complete and equip the man or woman of God for every good work.  We are not adequate for such things on our own, literally we are unarmed.  Thus the power of Scripture to equip, or to furnish us with the means necessary to do the good work that God has set before us.  Be bold and confident in the Lord.

Experience or Truth?

“16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:16-21

A week or so ago I wrote a post entitled “The Danger of Abandoning Sola Scriptura”  and in it discussed the very dangerous and confusing practice of “hearing God’s voice” through internal promptings or messages such as that taught in the Experiencing God study, as opposed to using the Word of God as sufficient for all guidance and truth.  The former practice, perhaps without even knowing, is essentially claiming to receive prophetic word directly from God with no basis to support it.  This is commonly referred to as “extra-biblical” revelation.  The Bible contains the prophetic word of God written by Holy Spirit inspired men and it is “closed revelation”, meaning nothing new should ever be added to it as we read in the familiar passage of Revelation 22:18-19 18I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”  When claims are made that God is continuing His revelation to people this is really saying that the Bible is not closed, but can continue to be added to.  For example, a pastor named Jack Hayford once claimed that God had revealed the coming of a new era to him, namely the second coming of Christ.  This private revelation of additional information on Jesus’ second coming literally adds to the closed revelation of the Bible and is in fact an unsubstantiated claim.  Now this is on a larger scale through a quite spectacular claim made by a somewhat well known pastor.  What then is the difference between someone like Hayford, Oral Roberts or Pat Robertson making a claim that God had given them special revelation versus an everyday person claiming the same thing to a lesser degree?

The Apostle Paul writing in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 is defending his apostleship against those false apostles who crept into the Church at Corinth.  In this passage Paul begins to tell the people that he has been given visions and revelation of heaven, though he subtly shifts the attention to “a man he knows” in order to steer clear of boasting.  In verses 6-7 he completely avoids telling of his vision, “6Though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. 7So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.” 2 Corinthians 12:6-7 Why doesn’t Paul go on to give great detail of his vision of heaven?  Because he wanted his words and his ministry to speak for themselves, if anyone had ever a cause to boast about revelation it was here, with Paul.  In fact, because of the great vision given to him, God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh to humble him and prevent him from boasting of what he experienced.

In our passage included above from 2 Peter, we get insight into one of the greatest recorded revelations that man has ever witnessed, namely the transfiguration of Christ.  Peter, James, and John were all witnesses and heard the audible words of the LORD say, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Matthew 17:5  Yet notice what Peter says here; in verse 16-18 he has described what the disciples saw, but in verse 19 he makes a much stronger assertion.  “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word.”  This something “more sure” than the experience they witnessed is the prophetic word of God, in this Peter references the Old Testament, but the New Testament is likewise implied in this statement as it is a continued revelation of God’s Word.  These 3 disciples were part of an experience that was never again repeated, yet Peter is shifting the weight from that experience to the truths of the Word of God.  Dr. John MacArthur provides the following on relating experience to truth: “My experience and your experience is not the test or proof of biblical truth. It is the reverse. Biblical truth must validate or invalidate any experience.”  He goes on to say, “Once you allow experience to be the test of truth, then you can’t limit doctrine to the pages of Scripture.”  It would’ve been easy for Peter to build a theology around those things which he saw and heard, but instead he comes back to the Word of God as the foundation and asserts that it is sufficient to guide people, “which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.

As Peter continues his discussion on revelations received by men, he states that “that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  First he clearly affirms that the prophecy of Scripture did not come by way of man’s interpretation then he backs up to say that no prophecy is ever produced by the will of man but by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  I often wonder if in an attempt to commune with God, those who would follow the strategies and practices of “hearing God’s voice” aren’t employing a will of their own into the experience.  In essence, their strong desire to feel an impression or to hear an internal voice actually promotes the experience.  The question becomes though, how could anyone ever determine whether said impression or voice is: 1) Not from the flesh or 2) Not from Satan?  Let alone whether it is actually God speaking or moving.  Herein lies another danger because these experiences are “self-feeding” meaning that as they occur, regardless of the source, they feed into the person’s pursuit to “hear”, “listen”, or “obey” and continually push the person down this path of confusion.         

Pastor MacArthur describes a true spiritual experience as follows, “A true spiritual experience would be the result of the quickening of truth in the Christian’s mind. In other words, the Spirit, all of a sudden gives dramatic life to a truth. It does not occur in a mystical vacuum.”  Truth does not occur outside of the Bible, so the truth which the Spirit quickens in the mind of a believer comes directly from the Word of God.  Conversely MacArthur describes a false spiritual experience as “the experience that supposedly leads me to the truth. This must be true because look what I experienced. That’s backwards.”   Experience should be in response to the truth brought forth by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, not the other way around.  An old truth that I so frequently quote is, “your experience is never a substitute for your theology.”    

Is your experience a valid test for truth?  Or is the Word of God the only source for truth?

Jeremiah 23:16 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes.  They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.’”

Palm Sunday Pt. II – Symbolism and Stirring Emotions

There were a few key symbols that I pointed out in yesterdays Palm Sunday post, that I wanted to discuss in more detail.  The first was the choice to ride into town on a donkey colt, one that had never been sat upon.  To me, this means that the young donkey hadn’t even been broken in.  I think this points to the majesty of Jesus and shows His power and command over the animal.  I started thinking, what was the significance of it never being ridden, as we read in Mark 11:2, “…on which no one has sat.” The reason for this is that it has been set aside, or consecrated, for the specific purpose of transporting Jesus into the city of Jerusalem.  As we read in Numbers 19:2 Moses and Aaron were commanded by God to instruct the Israelites to bring them a heifer without blemish, one on which a yoke has never been placed.  The same principle applies here; the donkey hadn’t been “blemished” with a bridal and bit. 

So why was the donkey the chosen transportation?  Why not a horse and an entrance full of the grandeur fit for a King?  We’ve pointed out that the implication was to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, but why was a donkey referenced in the Old Testament?    Here’s where I think we need to understand a few things about Jesus’ time here on earth.  The people of Israel were looking for a king to deliver them from their oppression of the Romans.  The Old Testament had foretold of the Great King that would deliver the Israelites.  When Jesus was born, even Herod felt threatened by news of His birth and eventually ordered all of the children under the age of two to be put to death.  What the people misunderstood was that their King, was actually their Messiah, who came not to deliver them from their Roman oppression, but from the oppression and condemnation of sin.  The prophecy of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey was to signify that He was not coming as a warrior to lead a revolution, but as a Savior to lead in redemption.  The amazing parallel is to look at this first entrance into Jerusalem with Christ’s second coming, where He will be on a white war-horse (Revelation 19:11-16).  The first coming was with peace and humbleness on a donkey, the second coming is with the armies of heaven to judge and make war, quite the contrast of the King of Kings.      

The third and final point that I wanted to make was one that I had thought about yesterday, but omitted, because it stirred me emotionally and I thought it deserved specific attention.  When we read of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, it’s filled with beautiful imagery and symbolism of a King.  To read of the people singing praises as they laid down their clothes in submission and palm branches of triumph and victory, truly is a stirring scene and I wanted to paint that picture, as though all who read of it were there experiencing this with them.  But the truth is we know what this entrance is leading to.  Yes it is filled with the hope that Jesus brings us with His death on the cross and yes our sins would be buried with Him and we would be raised in newness of life with His resurrection.  But I can’t help but feel the sadness and emotions that Jesus was experiencing during this procession into the city.  To know that the sins of the world would soon be on Him.  To know that His heavenly Father would soon turn His back on Him, unable to look at the sin, as Jesus would cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 To know that my sins would help hammer the nails into His hands and feet…. 

We get a glimpse of the emotional pain Jesus was experiencing as He overlooked Jerusalem and began to weep saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:42-44 He wept for His people, knowing that if they had not rejected Him, how much easier it would be for them.

I think more than anything this triumphal entry signifies that soon our sins would be redeemed, that Jesus would triumph over those sins, triumph over the cross, and triumph over death.  How glorious His entrance must have been to the people that didn’t understand what was about to happen, but how heartbreaking must it be to those of us that know what was about to happen and that we were the cause.  But for this we’ve been given hope.  Hope in the bloodshed on the cross, that if we believe that Christ died for our sins, those same sins that helped nail him to the cross, and we repent of those sins, He will be faithful and just to forgive those sins; and that if in our belief of Christ’s death, we believe too that He rose again and we ask that he washes away our sins with His redeeming blood to cleanse us from all unrighteousness; and we receive Him into our hearts as Lord and Savior of our lives, then our hope is in Him; and how infinitely more glorious will His coming for the Church be.

If you’re ready to be forgiven of your sins that nailed Jesus to the cross and you believe that He died for those sins, just as I describe above, won’t you pray now and repent of those sins and ask Jesus to come into your life.  Your prayer might go something like this:

Dear Lord, I’m a sinner.  I recognize that as a sinner I’m not worthy of your mercy and grace.  But I believe that Your Son Jesus died on the cross for my sins and I believe that He rose again.  I repent of those sins and I ask now Lord for Jesus to come into my heart and forgive me of my sins and I accept him as my Lord and Savior.

In Jesus name, Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, I pray that the Holy Spirit seals that decision in your heart and sets your feet firmly on the path of continued growth in Christ.

Christians if you know of someone that has yet to make that decision and you’re struggling with ways to bring it up or talk to them about it, maybe something as easy as forwarding them a web address might help.  Because I believe in Isaiah 55:11, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  I know God can work through my sometimes clumsy prose and use it for His glory and maybe, just maybe, lead 1 to Christ.