"All material is written by
Joe R. Price, unless otherwise
"And take...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17)
In this issue:
Why do people in the religious world often reach different and sometimes contradictory views on Bible subjects? Is it God’s fault for making the Bible too hard to understand? In the Baptist seminary where I took some graduate courses, the faculty and students typically believed that it was of no concern to God when men reached such opposing conclusions. It is not an overstatement to say that such an attitude represents the standard view among denominational leaders and preachers. They deny that God intended to bring us to unity by eliminating error and promoting a single way of truth through an appeal to the Scriptures as the sole and complete pattern for all faith and practice today. Whether it be through denying that the Bible is actually the inerrant word of God or through denying we can understand the Bible alike, the effect is the same - justifying the right of men to believe and practice different doctrines.
The inspired apostle revealed the design of God’s word and the responsibilities of man regarding that word. In 2 Timothy 2:15, he said, “Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth.”
The word translated “handling aright” (the Greek word orthotomeo) referred to teaching accurately, expounding soundly, or setting forth truthfully without perversion or distortion. For example, the Greeks used the word to denote the act of cutting a road with such precision that it went straight from its origin to its destination without deviation. Thus, Paul instructs that “the word of truth” must be used to declare God’s intended truth without deviation.
This end can only be reached as one gives all “diligence” in using God’s word. The King James version uses the word “study” to translate the word rendered “give diligence” in the American Standard or “be diligent” in most other English versions of the Bible. The original word carried the sense of “making every effort” to do a thing. Peter used this word to describe the degree of effort necessary for us to make our “calling and election sure” (2 Pet. 1:10).
The same word was used later in the epistle to depict the great concern each Christian should have in scrutinizing his life in comparison with the divine will in view of the second coming of Christ (2 Pet. 3:14). Therefore, the same diligence we have about our eternal salvation is commanded in our handling of the word of truth.
One is not diligent in the use of the Bible when he casually looks at it for a few moments two or three times a week or less. Neither is one diligent in the use of the Bible if he engages in a shallow, superficial handling of God’s word. Diligence demands a systematic and thorough examination of God’s word every day of one’s life. It requires constant attention (Psa. 12). If most people studied a subject in school as they “study” Bible subjects, confusion and contradiction would predominate in scholastic areas as they do in religion.
The story is told of a man who decided he would “study” the Bible using a quick and random method. He held his Bible out and let it fall open by chance to a page. Then, he closed his eyes and put his finger somewhere on the page. The verse his finger was on was the one from which he would take instruction. Using this procedure, he supposed that the Spirit would guide him. The first night, his finger fell on Matthew 27:5 where he read, “and he went and hanged himself.” Feeling somewhat depressed, he ended his reading at that point. The next night, the lot fell on Luke 10:37 where he read the words of Jesus in red letters, “Go and do likewise.” Remembering the reading of the previous night, he was quite disturbed at this instruction. However, he calmed himself that tomorrow night’s “study” would clarify things. The third night, his Bible fell open to the gospel of John in chapter 13. His finger came to rest on verse 27 where he again read the words of Jesus in red letters, “What you do, do quickly.” He immediately shut his Bible concluding that “Bible study” was not merely useless, but dangerous. What was the problem? He never gave diligence to rightly or correctly divide the Scripture. Such “hit and miss” attempts at reading God’s truth will inevitably lead one to erroneous concepts.
Applying the biblical solution will cause us to avoid error and the danger which comes from it. We must do as Paul commanded Timothy:
Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee (1 Tim. 4:15-16).
We find an example in the first century Bereans of those who followed this commanded path. The Scripture says of they “were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). They saw the need for true diligence in the use of God’s word and we must have the same diligence. Just as it takes work to study and properly understand a subject in school, it takes work to study and properly understand Bible subjects. There are no shortcuts that negate the need for diligence. If we are to unite in the proper understanding of God’s will, it will require such a diligent effort in study of His truth (Psa. 119:15-16, 23-24, 97, 147-148; Matt. 6:33; Phil. 3:8f).
Having established the need for diligence in our examination of the Bible, we still need to declare the intended goal of that diligent effort. That goal must be a correct understanding of God’s will for our lives. There can be no mistake about the fact that God expects us to understand His will for He commanded, “Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). When God has declared that understanding is expected, no less will be accepted!
Several years ago, I knew of a local church in another state when it became apparent that a number of serious problems existed. People espousing error and engaging in ungodly practices of every flavor were readily accepted. One man had been a preacher and an elder in institutional congregations and publicly taught his erroneous views regarding institutionalism and centralization. Two men among them taught that the devil worked miracles today and accepted many Pentecostal claims as actual cases of miraculous action. Then there was the man who claimed that a woman could be nude and yet “modest” by Bible standards (needless to say, some came extremely close to practicing what he preached). If that was not enough, the list could be continued with case after case of immorality, dishonesty, bitterness, hatred, strife, contentions, social drinking, drug abuse and you name it.
When pressed on how such evil could be tolerated given the biblical condemnation of such, the majority response was that God did not demand that we reach the same conclusions about these issues. Instead, they claimed, God would merely look at how we reasoned to our conclusion. There was no detectable difference between that and the old sectarian plea which tells us that we cannot understand the Bible alike and justifies the continued toleration of error and evil of every kind! Of course, these folk’s broad-minded approach to differences had its limits. One exceeded those limits when he concluded and preached that God would not tolerate ungodly conduct (1 Cor. 5). I discovered that when I was forbidden to preach my conclusions on those subjects.
The denominational world has found no stopping place in such reasoning. Consistency has demanded that they accept premarital sex, homosexuality, abortion and a countless host of evils because someone believed the Bible teaching on the matters did not constitute a binding pattern. Brethren who begin to travel that old sectarian road will end in the same destination. The Bible has the answer for what constitutes modest clothing. It can solve the issue of whether God approves of social drinking. The word of God can be properly used to declare the difference between attitudes which are acceptable to God and those He condemns. Our job is to give ourselves with diligence to the task of rightly dividing the truth on those issues declared in the message of truth. We can handle aright that word of truth if we make the diligent effort necessary. The proof? God says we can understand His will (Eph. 5:17). Will we believe Him or not? We can know and live God’s truth if we put forth diligent effort.
and End of the World
There were bomb threats this past week at both Ferndale and Squalicum High School. In the Ferndale incident, someone phoned in a bomb threat; at Squalicum High a fake pipe bomb was found and the bomb squad was dispatched. Both threats turned out to be bogus and no explosions occurred.
False warnings of bombs or other dangers can numb us to genuine warnings of real peril. When the threatened event does not immediately take place, some harden their hearts and conclude the warning was false and the danger invented. For instance, some scoff at the promised judgment of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:4). Those who do so ignore the evidence of divine judgment in the past and treasure up for themselves wrath when the Lord does reveal Himself (2 Pet. 3:5-7; Rom. 2:4-6).
The “day of the Lord” will be a day of cataclysmic proportion: “the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10, 12). Some will not be prepared. They will continue to ignore the warnings of God’s judgment against sin, thinking it fictitious and foolish. But, that day will not overtake the “sons of light”, for they vigilantly live their faith (1 Ths. 5:4-11). They await the Lord’s return with holy living and godliness (2 Pet. 3:11-14).
We are thankful the bomb threats at area high schools were false. Are you ready for the great explosion that will happen when Jesus returns? The warning is real; the destruction assured. Knowing these things, what kind of person will you be? (2 Pet. 3:11)
Created by Chuck Sibbing -
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA