Tag Archives: interpreting the Bible

Beyond the Bible? 2

But the real question is this: Does He answer?  Does He communicate His desire?  Of course He does!  I have never heard a booming voice from the clouds, but I have heard in my mind very straight answers that sounded quite real.  I have also found that certain doors close and others open.  I have had answers come through other people.  I have had answers, many times, through a new look at His Word.  Because He cares for me, He answers me.  He leads me when I call on Him.  Sometimes I have to wait and listen.  At other times the answer comes right away and I know what to do.  He loves me; He is with me; and He speaks to me.

This is not something that should be surprising.  Because I have a relationship with Him, He is active in my life.  Do I always obey?  I wish!  Do I always do the right thing?  Well, sometimes I forget or neglect to ask.  Sometimes I don’t ask because I don’t really want to know at the time.  But none of those things changes the fact that He is real and active in my life.  Even if I choose the wrong path, He calls to me.  He pulls me back to Him.  He loves me.

And, yes, there are times when I don’t seem to get an answer.  Maybe it was because I didn’t want to hear what He said.  Maybe it was because I wasn’t ready.  I don’t know; but, if there is any fault, it lies in me.  In some of those times I have had to move ahead with my “best guess,” trusting that He will either move me in the right direction or make some good use of my mistake.

So how will He speak to you?  Don’t ask me!  Ask Him.  Just as every earthly relationship has varied and intricate dynamics, so your relationship with Him will be just between the two of you.  He may consistently lead you to the Bible or to a good friend or you may find many different ways in which He will speak.  Just trust that He will lead you.  He says that His sheep know His voice.  It may sound different to each of us, but we will know that it is Him.

Here’s the simple plan I use: Ask Him.  Submit to Him.  Trust that He will lead you.  When I say that you should submit to Him, I mean that you give the decision over to Him.  If you want your own way no matter what, if your mind is already made up, don’t waste your time asking Him.  He is not a rubber stamp to make you feel good about your own will.  When you ask, be willing to do what He says.  Listen to Him.

So, yes God speaks to His people through the Bible.  But He also goes beyond the Bible.  The Holy Spirit is in us to lead us.  He will arrange some way to get His will across to us—if we want to hear it.

I truly appreciate your comments!

(I am traveling these days.  This series of posts was quite popular a couple of years ago.  I hope you find them helpful.  Please feel free to comment as usual.  See you on the other side!  – Dave)

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Beyond the Bible? 1

Let me say at the outset that this is a dangerous topic.  I believe that God still speaks to His people today—personally and not just through the Bible.  However, I also believe that much of what is attributed to God has not come from Him.  There are believers who will claim that they have never heard the voice of God and there are believers who claim to hear Him regularly.  I have heard people justify their sin by saying that God told them it was okay.  I have heard so many conflicting things credited to God that I have said they either cannot all be truly from Him or He is schizophrenic.  (I do not think God is schizophrenic.)

So, I have to be careful.  If I say that God speaks to us regularly, as a matter of course, some will accuse me of being experiential only, which I am not.  If I say that God speaks to us only through the Bible, some will accuse me of believing that God is no longer active in our day, which I do not.  Nor am I particularly fond of the concept of balance.  The truth may be somewhere between the extremes, but it is not a balance of the two ideas.

With all of that said, I will say again that I believe God speaks to His people today in personal ways, not necessarily through the Bible.  I believe He is perfectly consistent and what He reveals to you or me will never be in conflict with what He has said in the Bible, but I think He wants to lead us in more specific ways than the Bible addresses.  For example, I read in the Bible that I should not kill or steal.  Plain as day and not really open to challenge.  But I cannot find anywhere in the Bible whether I should buy another car.  I know that I shouldn’t steal a car but, if I have the money, should I buy one?  Should I move across town?  Should I vote for Mr. Smith?  Should I visit my friend as I travel through his town?  You see, these are the specific questions that come up in life and the Bible doesn’t address them.

Oh, I know that some people say that Scripture addresses every situation through principles or general teachings.  These are the people who seem to have a verse for everything, no matter how they may have to twist or manipulate the verse to make it say what they want.  That kind of thinking is dangerous in itself.  So many people have been misled and used by teachers who warp Scripture to say what it had no intention of saying.

Instead, I think there is a better way to find the answers to my questions.  I ask Jesus.  Then I listen.  You see, I believe that Jesus is real and desires to be active in my life.  In fact, I believe that He is with me and He loves me.  I think I can take any concern to Him.  I believe Him when He says I should cast my cares upon Him because He cares for me.

…more coming…

I truly appreciate your comments!

(I am traveling these days.  This series of posts was quite popular a couple of years ago.  I hope you find them helpful.  Please feel free to comment as usual.  See you on the other side!  – Dave)

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The Grid at Work – response to a comment

I received a comment on one of my posts the other day and I hesitated to approve it simply because it was written almost as a spam advertisement.  It had little to do with my blog, except as an opportunity for the writer to set me straight.  After some thought, I decided that it was an excellent example of grid thinking, which we have just considered.  I do not know who the writer is, although a link to a pro-Catholic website written by a Michael Gormley was placed at the end of the article.  I have not included it because I didn’t want to encourage the spamming. If the actual writer would contact me, I would revise this post to include his or her name.

So, here’s the format.  The intro and the bullet points belong to the writer.  I have added the full text of most of the verses he/she used and have indented them.  Under the verses, in italic blue print and indented again, are my notes.  I have no intention of entering into a long debate with this person, but it seemed to be a worthy exercise in dealing with and exposing performance grid thinking.

Remember: only the entries in blue are mine!

 

WHAT YOU MUST DO TO BE SAVED

To be saved, you must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31).

However, that’s not all. Sacred Scripture clearly shows other things you must also do to be saved:

You must endure to the end. Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:13, Mark 13:13.

And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 10:22

But he who endures to the end shall be saved. Matthew 24:13

And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. Mark 13:13

There are a couple of concerns here.  First, none of these verses suggests that we should endure to the end in order to be saved.  In other words, endurance does not cause salvation.  To be saved, as written here, is clearly in the passive.  It is still what God does for us.  But there is something more important for a proper interpretation.  To be saved, in Greek, can mean something like “to be vindicated.”  If we understand the context of the verses, they refer to those who suffer for their identity with Jesus.  They will be mocked, reviled, and hated—but in the end they will be vindicated.  Some will die before that vindication is seen publicly, but some will not and those who last through the suffering will, in the end, see Jesus coming in His glory. 

You must accept the Cross (suffering). Matthew 10:38, Matthew 16:24-25, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, Luke 14:27.

And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. Matthew 10:38

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25

(Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23 simply duplicate the other verses.)

And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:27

First, I have no hesitation in saying that I am not worthy of Jesus, nor could I, on my own, be His worthy disciple.  These verses only suggest that we are saved by His grace and love, rather than our good actions.  Second, repentance means that we look at ourselves and see our failure.  When we reject the efforts of our flesh to accomplish what is necessary for salvation, we die to our accomplishments and worthiness.  We are called to die, as Bonhoeffer said.  As we die with Christ, according to 2 Timothy 2:11, we live with Him.  I suppose this is actually a requirement for salvation, but it is nothing of us.  My cross would mean nothing toward my salvation except that His cross would give me life.   

You must be baptized with water. Mark 16:16, Titus 3:5, I Peter 3:20-21.

He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.   Mark 16:16

not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,   Titus 3:5

who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.
There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,   1 Peter 3:20-21

This is a strong example of the grid at work.  Those who believe that baptism saves will see that in these verses, even though the Titus verse says nothing about baptism.  Once again, the cause and effect relationship is used to support the grid.  In Mark the deciding factor is clearly faith, but those who use the works grid see baptism as the key.  Peter is very careful to tell us that his use of baptism does not suggest water as washing the flesh, but he is talking about faith and repentance.  These verses actually say nothing to support the idea that baptism is necessary for salvation.

You must be a member in God’s true church. Acts 2:47.

praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:47

Notice the confusion about cause and effect here.  Is it inclusion in the church that causes salvation or salvation that causes inclusion in the church?  There is a true Church and it is made up of those who have been saved throughout history.

You must confess your sins. James 5:16, I John 1:9.

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Those who are not in the Catholic tradition understand the confession of sins to be part of true repentance.  It is simply the acknowledgement of our need.  Because we are, by nature, sinful, we need a Savior.  Once our sin has been acknowledged and we admit our need for the Savior, the regular confession of sin, to a priest or a pastor, is not necessary.  The Holy Spirit, who is alive within us, convicts us and works in us when we wander from His will.  Again, these verses say nothing of salvation. 

You must keep the Commandments of God. Matthew 5:19-20, Matthew 7:21.

Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:19-20

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Matthew 7:21

Good luck with this!  If our salvation requires us to be perfect in keeping the will of the Father we are in trouble.  But that is not what these verses say.  The first passage speaks of exceeding the righteousness of the Pharisees, which would be a particularly difficult thing to do if we judged our righteousness according to their standards.  But, if we see them the way Jesus saw them, as hypocrites who used the law to appear more righteous than others without having a true relationship with God, then there may be hope for us.  Still, the requirement of righteousness is more than just avoiding hypocrisy.  Any sin would be too much.  Any infraction would keep us from Heaven.  So, we understand that our effort is hopeless and we throw ourselves on the mercy of God in Jesus.  When we do that, and die to our fleshly pursuit of righteousness, then Jesus gives us His life and His righteousness.  (See Romans 3:21-31; Romans 5:17; Romans 10:3; et al)

You must heed the words of St. Peter, the first Pope. Acts 11:13-14, Acts 15:7.

And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’ Acts 11:13-14

And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. Acts 15:7

Pretty easy to see the grid here.  Not only do these verses say nothing about salvation, they also say nothing about the priority of Peter.  They do tell us that Peter was an apostle, gifted and charged with taking the gospel to the Gentiles.    

You must eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus Christ. John 6:51-58, I Corinthians 10:16, I Corinthians 11:23-29.

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 1 Corinthians 10:16

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;  and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.  1 Corinthians 11:23-29

I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”
Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.  This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”  John 6:51-58

The first two passages simply tell us that Jesus wants us to remember what He did.  To help us remember, He established the Lord’s Supper.  It seems clear that He desires for His people to remember in this way.  However, there is nothing that suggests this is a requirement for salvation.  The last passage is about far more than communion.  In fact, this is what communion is given to symbolize, the fact that we have died and the life of Christ is in us.  If that is not true, if you are not dependent on His life, then you are not saved. 

Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to His call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life. CCC 1996, John 1:12-18, John 17:3, Romans 8:14-17, 2 Peter 1:3-4.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.  For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.  John 1:12-18 

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. John 17:3

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. Romans 8:14-17

as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1:3-4

These are great verses, verses which show plainly that it is not by our own effort that we are saved, but by the gift of God who freely gives us “all things” in Jesus.  It is fascinating to jump from baptism, church membership, obedience, communion, etc. as requirements for salvation to these wonderful assurances that it is all the work of the Lord for us. 

The only Church that meets all the requirements of Salvation is the Holy Catholic Church.

Huh?  I thought we were talking about people being saved.  Now the church is saved?  But, according to this way of thinking, becoming part of the Catholic church saves simply because the church seeks to maintain a set of standards and rituals.  For some this is so powerful that church affiliation overrides all practical, lifestyle, and confessional evidence to the contrary.  

So, there you have it.  An excellent example of the kind of grid thinking that clouds a person’s reason and causes him to become legalistic and judgmental.  Even the way this was sent to me, with no name and a list of Scriptural “darts,” is how legalistic grid thinking works. 

(I am traveling these days.  This series of posts was quite popular a couple of years ago.  I hope you find them helpful.  Please feel free to comment as usual.  See you on the other side!  – Dave)

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The Grid – Addendum Two

Jesus challenged the Pharisees and the Jewish teachers by telling them: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.”  (John 5:39)  He was telling them that the Scriptures are not enough.  God never intended for people to exchange a relationship with Him for a love for the Bible.  God intended for the Scriptures to lead people to Jesus.

Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God!  Jesus is the One who saves us.  God did not become a book.  He came to us in the Person of Jesus.

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;  who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,  having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”   Hebrews 1:1-4

Jesus is God.  The Son took on human flesh to show us the Father.  Yes, this is one of the most marvelous mysteries of our faith, so full of wonder that we may never be able to fully comprehend it.  We may not understand, but we must believe.

Nowhere does the Scripture claim for itself the place of Jesus.  If our faith is only focused on the Bible, and we think that through it we will have life, we will miss the truth of the One who gave the Bible to us.  It is Jesus, and Him alone, who deserves our worship and our hearts.  Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

The goal of the Christian life is not memorizing or studying Scripture.  The goal of the Christian life is to know Jesus.  To walk with Him and know His love.  To live in Him and with Him and for Him.  To enjoy Him and glorify Him.

Now, I understand that what I have written will be rejected by some people and others will have some difficulty in letting go of the inappropriate place they have given to the Bible.  All our lives we were told that the Bible is the center.  But that is not true.  Jesus is the center.  The Bible points to Him.

I truly appreciate your comments!

(I am traveling these days.  This series of posts was quite popular a couple of years ago.  I hope you find them helpful.  Please feel free to comment as usual.  See you on the other side!  – Dave)

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The Grid – Addendum One

I ended the last post with these words: “He who is the Truth is in us.  He will guide us from within.”  This needs some emphasis and explanation.

Let me first establish a context.  I have been a theologian for many years.  I have a PhD in Theology.  I understand the incredible importance of the Scriptures.  I believe that the Scriptures are the Word of God given through His Holy Spirit for the blessing of His people.  I read the Bible; I teach the Bible; I love the Bible.  I probably hold a higher view of Scripture than most of my readers.  I even use words like “inerrant” and “infallible” when I refer to the Scriptures as given by the Holy Spirit.

But, listen: I don’t believe the Bible is the ultimate revelation of God, nor do I believe that the Bible will save anyone.

Occasionally, as I would visit with young pastors about what they believe, I would find someone who believed that the Bible was somehow God.  They worshipped the Bible.  They believed that studying the Bible was the highest Christian achievement.  They memorized the Bible and could quote long passages.  Some of them read the Bible exclusively; they would read no other book.  Recently I read a Facebook comment on a friend’s account where the writer said, “The KJV is Jesus Christ in book form.”  Although I had never heard it put so bluntly before this, this is the faith of the bibliolater, the one who worships the Bible as an idol.  They go too far.

You see, the Bible is holy because of its association with the One who is holy.  Just as the Temple of Solomon, the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, and other objects were holy because God chose to associate Himself with them, so the Bible is holy.  The words of the Bible, properly understood through the Holy Spirit, are the words of God.  But the Bible is not God.

When people begin to worship the Bible, they fall into the trap of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees knew the Scriptures.  They studied the Scriptures carefully and faithfully.  To them, the Law was the ultimate revelation of God.  Yet, when God stood before them in the Person of Jesus Christ, they not only couldn’t recognize Him, they rejected Him and hated Him.  The Pharisees thought they would find salvation through the Scriptures, but they missed the point.  The purpose of the Scriptures of God was to point us to the Person of God.

More coming…

I truly appreciate your comments!

(I am traveling these days.  This series of posts was quite popular a couple of years ago.  I hope you find them helpful.  Please feel free to comment as usual.  See you on the other side!  – Dave)

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The Grid – Freedom to see

The fifth of five parts:

      So I go back and read Scripture now with these things in mind:

     God loves us.  He wants to give to us.  We are not able to achieve on our own what He wants to give us.  All He wants is for me to love Him and, through Him, to love others.

When I read Scripture that way, it opens up new and wonderful things.  No longer do I see only His anger and my guilt.  Now I see how He has reached out over and over in love to His people.  Sin is no longer the focus of my life or of the Scripture.  There is no excuse for sin, but no guilt for those who are in Christ.  Now I see how trying to live on my own has messed it all up.  I read Scripture with new eyes and new joy.

It is important for God’s people to read His Word.  But it is also important for us to remember that the Scriptures are the Word of the Lord who loves us.  The Lord knows that His Word is often misused.  The Pharisees and other Jewish leaders misused it.  The early Christians encountered false prophets who misused it.  He said that He would guide us into truth personally.  (John 16:13)  In fact, He went farther than that.  He who is the Truth is in us.  He will guide us from within.  (John 1:17; 14:6 and 2 John 1:2)  In Him, and only in Him, we have freedom to see the truth that the Bible presents.

Comments??

(I am traveling these days.  This series of posts was quite popular a couple of years ago.  I hope you find them helpful.  Please feel free to comment as usual.  See you on the other side!  – Dave)

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The Grid – Being transformed in our thinking

The fourth of five parts:

      So, how do we change the grid that causes people to see only shame and wrath?  That’s the question.  How can we keep a respect for the Word while opening the heart to see what is really there?  People shouldn’t have to stop reading the Bible in order to hear grace.  In fact, they should be able to find grace throughout the Bible.  How do we help them?

Perhaps the first thing is to remember that we are them.  Very few of us escaped learning the performance system.    Almost all of us were taught to read Scripture through that same grid.  So we pray and ask Him to guide us.  He wants us to see the truth of His love.  Trust that He will lead you into His Word.

It has helped me a great deal to have a set of axioms, firmly supported by Scripture, with which to interpret Scripture.  That is just another way of saying that Scripture interprets Scripture.

For example, I know that God loves us.  In fact, I know that His fundamental motivation toward us is love.  I get that from Jeremiah 31:3 and 1 John 4:8 and 16.  I also know that He chooses us and draws us to Himself in love.   That’s clear from Deuteronomy 7:7-8 and Ephesians 1:4.  It was nothing that I did that caused Him to choose me, it was simply His love and grace.  (Check Ephesians 2:8-9 and 1 John 4:10.)  Sin is not the issue.  He chose me while I was still a sinner because I could not make myself otherwise.  (Romans 5:8 and Ephesians 2:4)  Nothing will separate me from His love.  (Romans 8:35)   His primary desire is that I would love Him.  That tells me that He desires a close relationship with me.  Throughout Deuteronomy and the giving of the Law we are told that God wants us to love Him. (Deuteronomy 6:5; 10:12; 30:15-16, 19-20; see also Matthew 22:37-38).  He also wants the motivation of my heart toward others to reflect His love for them.  He wants me to love others.  (1 John 4:7; 5:8)

More coming….     Comments??

(I am traveling these days.  This series of posts was quite popular a couple of years ago.  I hope you find them helpful.  Please feel free to comment as usual.  See you on the other side!  – Dave)

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