Category Archives: biblical interpretation

How do I interpret 1 Peter 3:21?

My view of I Peter 3:21 is very simply…Baptistic.
The confusion comes when taking the verse by itself apart from the immediate context as well as the context of the rest of Scripture. When taken like this the verse seems to say that we are saved by the act of immersing ourselves in water.

In looking at this passage of Scripture it is best, as always, to look at context. What is the context? Peter has just told us that it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing bad. His proof is grounded in his view of the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ has already suffered for our sins, therefore, why should we suffer for them? Or put another way, since there is no more penalty from the Father for our sins, why subject ourselves to the penalty of man for sins by continuing to commit them?

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. (1Pe 3:18-22)

Since we have already set the immediate context, we must also set the Scriptural context. Since Scripture will never contradict itself, it is useful for explaining itself. John the Baptist said,

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Mat 3:11-12)

John the Baptist in these words draws a distinction between the external act of baptism as a sign and the internal reality of baptism as being sealed by the Spirit for the believer and the judgment of God on the unbeliever. This seems to fit the illustration of the flood that Peter describes in his passage. Everyone who got wet in the flood died. And yet the flood was a means of deliverance for Noah and his family. The floodwaters that destroyed the earth were the same waters that lifted the Ark above the earth for the salvation of Noah.
Peter then says as much in his short explanation,

“not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience.”

In other words, NOT the external action of Baptism, but the internal action of faith and repentance towards God (conversion) which is prompted by the Holy Spirit. He further tells us that this is rooted not in our actions but Christ’s actions performed in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.

We can also see the cross as a source of salvation for those who believe, but the same cross is a source of condemnation for those who reject Christ’s work there. This is Peter’s focus when he says that Christ is the Lord over all angels, authorities, and powers. Our comfort is that when we suffer for doing good, we have a just Lord in Heaven who will avenge us. This is also a cause for terror for unbelievers, because Christ has once suffered for sins, and without the appropriation of that work on their behalf, they will be punished all the more because of it.

Finally, in I Peter 4:1-2 Peter says this,

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
(1Pe 4:1-2)

Since Christ has suffered in the flesh, we also have suffered in His flesh. Baptism is an identification of ourselves with Christ’s sufferings. We are made one with Christ through the baptism in the Spirit (not water baptism). We are baptized into Christ. Immersed in Him. When Christ suffered, Peter says that I am to think of myself as suffering. Since we suffered with Christ we should stop sinning.
On the other hand, every person who has ever lived will be baptized. Unbelievers will be baptized in the Lake of Fire for eternity, while believers are baptized by the Spirit into Christ who was baptized in the wrath of God on the Cross. Only those who are baptized into the Ark (Christ) are saved from God’s wrath.

That’s my position in a nutshell. There’s also some exegetical stuff that no one wants to read through, if they’re anything like me.

You may continue to send me your questions through the week and I will attempt to answer them.

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Filed under Baptism, baptist, biblical interpretation, Gospel

David, Goliath, and the Purpose of Life…

Not a VeggieTales Gospel.

Mention David and Goliath to me and I immediately picture Junior Asparagus fighting a Giant Pickle.  Yes, I admit it.  I own nearly all of the VeggieTales videos.  So don’t imagine this is a rant against the videos themselves.  This is a rant against an evil far more sinister than vegetables pretending to be Bible characters.  This is a rant against Sunday School teachers, curriculum, and how our children are taught in our Churches.  It is precisley this evil that has given rise to what some have called the VeggieTales Gospel.

Surprisingly, the VeggieTales Gospel is much older than the VeggieTales videos are.  I was taught a VeggieTales Gospel on many different occasions as I was growing up in conservative, Bible-believing and preaching Churches in the Bible Belt.  What is this VeggieTales Gospel?  It is a Gospel that takes Old Testament stories of heroes and their faith in God to deliver and twists them into morality lessons.

Take David and Goliath, for example.  Over the years I heard about how that I should be like David and stand up against bullies, cut the head off of sin in my life (of which the applications can be endless as I remember one lesson where little Goliaths with various sins written on them were cut into pieces), help my friends when they are in trouble, and become self-confident.

All of those lessons are true, for the most part.  Sometimes you gotta stand up against bullies, you gotta help your friends, a little self-confidence never hurt anyone (as long as we remember that the Gospel requires that we have no confidence in the flesh), and, to paraphrase John Owen, ‘Ya gotta kill sin or sin’ll kill you.’

But what if I were to say that none of those applications are in the story of David and Goliath?  They’re not.  The story of David and Goliath is a story about God who takes down His enemies, God who delivers His friends, God who David trusts in, and God who takes care of our sin problem.  The application of the story is not, ‘Be like David’, but instead, ‘You are Israel on the sidelines waiting for a Deliverer.’

Do you get the picture?  Israel out there on the battlefront, playing like they’re ready to whip up on some Philistines, when in reality they are scared stiff.  They’re scared stiff for forty days as morning and evening a nine and a half foot monster walks out onto the battlefield to challenge them.  “If you came to fight, then lets fight.  If not, then let’s not waste our time here.  Just go ahead and surrender and we’ll go home and you can be our slaves.  Or you can send someone out to fight me and the winner gets to take the other side as slaves.”

But Israel has a problem.  The man who had delivered them before, their King (Saul), no longer has the Spirit of God or the Word of God.  The Spirit of God left Saul when he disobeyed God’s Word spoken by His prophet. (1 Samuel 15)  Israel has not been left without a deliverer, however.  A young boy by the name of David has been anointed by Samuel with oil, but by God with the Spirit. (1 Samuel 16)

So here comes Spirit-filled David to the battle on the fortieth day.  He hears the giant defy the armies of Israel and recognizes that it is not only flesh and blood that is being defied, but that God’s name is being blasphemed.  And one thing David knows is this, God’s name is not to be blasphemed.  David then decides God has put him on earth in Israel at this moment for a reason.  He has placed David in a position where he may deliver God’s people from God’s enemies, and that he might magnify God’s name in all the earth. (1 Samuel 17:45-47)

Long story short, David, by the supernatural aid of God defeats Goliath.  The Anointed King of God’s people kills God’s enemy.  Sound familiar?  It should.  That’s what Jesus has done for us.  When we were in a helpless situation, God became man and defeated His enemy for us.  Not just because we are soooo special, but because our enemy is God’s enemy, and because by defeating this enemy, God’s name should be magnified in all the earth.

The battle is over.  We didn’t win it.  Jesus won it.  Let the nations rejoice and exult in the Name of the Lord our God!  That is the purpose of life, isn’t it?

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The Church Fathers and the Interpretation of Scripture

For the Early Church Fathers the interpretation of Scripture was not merely an intellectual activity. Biblical interpretation for the Fathers was a physical discipline accomplished by the whole person. To be sure there were extremes and misinterpretations present in their works to be avoided, but I believe there are a few principles that we would do well to learn from them.  Here are three applications that I believe are important for the days in which we live.

First, the interpreter of Scripture must be a Christian. The Fathers were not content to relinquish the words of Christ and His Apostles to the many heretics that desired to twist their words.

Unless, therefore, a man by God’s great grace receives the power to understand what has been said and done by the prophets, the appearance of being able to repeat the words or the deeds will not profit him, if he cannot explain the argument of them. And will they not assuredly appear contemptible to many, since they are related by those who understood them not?-Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho.

Irenaeus also in various sections of Against Heresies, condemns those heretics who would subvert passages from the Gospels. The very fact that the Fathers believed one must be a Christian first to interpret the Scriptures properly, and their work in preserving the the truth of the Gospel contained in the writings of the Apostles probably are the very reason that these heretics began to write their own pseudo-gospels, commonly referred to now as the ‘gnostic gospels’.

Paul himself in his first letter to the Corinthians tells us,

For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1Co 2:11-16 ESV)

To understand and properly interpret Scripture one must be a Christian who is indwelt by the Spirit of God.

Second, Scripture must be interpreted in the context of a Christian community. There are no ‘lone ranger’ Christians for the Church Fathers. If someone who claims the name of Christ is not involved in the community of believers, he cannot properly interpret Scripture. Further, the aim of interpretation is the edification of the whole community of believers and not the sport of idle speculation.

“But since they neglect every path of righteousness, and look only to this one point, namely, which of the propositions submitted to them they shall bind or loose, (like those persons who in the theatres perform wrestling matches in public, but not that kind of wrestling in which the victory is won according to the rules of the sport, but a kind to deceive the eyes of those who are ignorant in such matters, and to catch applause), and every marketplace must buzz with their talking; and every dinner party be worried to death with silly talk and boredom; and every festival be made unfestive and full of dejection, and every occasion of mourning be consoled by a greater calamity—their questions—and all the women’s apartments accustomed to simplicity be thrown into confusion and be robbed of its flower of modesty by the torrent of their words…since, I say this is so, the evil is intolerable and not to be borne, and our Great Mystery is in danger of being made a thing of little moment. Well then, let these spies bear with us, moved as we are with fatherly compassion, and as holy Jeremiah says, torn in our hearts; let them bear with us so far as not to give a savage reception to our discourse upon this subject; and let them, if indeed they can, restrain their tongues for a short while and lend us their ears. However that may be, you shall at any rate suffer no loss. For either we shall have spoken in the ears of them that will hear, and our words will bear some fruit, namely an advantage to you (since the Sower soweth the Word upon every kind of mind; and the good and fertile bears fruit), or else you will depart despising this discourse of ours as you have despised others, and having drawn from it further material for gainsaying and railing at us, upon which to feast yourselves yet more…

Not to every one, my friends, does it belong to philosophize about God; not to every one; the Subject is not so cheap and low; and I will add, not before every audience, nor at all times, nor on all points; but on certain occasions, and before certain persons, and within certain limits.” -Gregory of Nazianzus, First Theological Oration.

While Scripture is personally edifying, the attempt to divorce the Scriptures from the people of the Scriptures is disastrous to one’s spiritual life.

A final point, though not the final point, of application of the Fathers interpretation of Scripture is this…Scripture is to be interpreted as God’s Words.  There is a tendency today to read Scripture as man’s interpretation of God.  The truth is that Scripture is God’s revelation of Himself to man.

…and that we might receive the teaching concerning the transcendent nature of the Deity which is given to us, as it were, “through a glass darkly” from the older Scriptures,—from the Law, and the Prophets, and the Sapiential Books, as an evidence of the truth fully revealed to us, reverently accepting the meaning of the things which have been spoken, so as to accord in the faith set forth by the Lord of the whole Scripture, which faith we guard as we received it, word for word, in purity, without falsification, judging even a slight divergence from the words delivered to us an extreme blasphemy and impiety.-Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius.

Moreover, concerning the righteousness which the law enjoined, confirmatory utterances are found both with the prophets and in the Gospels, because they all spoke inspired by one Spirit of God.-Theophilus, To Autolycus, Book Three.

We have learned the plan of our salvation from no one else other than from those through whom the gospel has come down to us. For they did at one time proclaim the gospel in public. And, at a later period, by the will of God, they handed the gospel down to us in the Scriptures-to be the ‘ground and pillar of our faith.’-Irenaus, Against Heresies.

For the Fathers, the Bible is authoritative because it is the Word of God.  To interpret it otherwise causes us to lose it’s meaning and authority.

So now that we are on our way to interpreting Scripture, remember to carry with you your faith in Christ, your place in the Church, and your dependence upon the God who reveals Himself.

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The Unity of Scripture

Now, we will all agree that there are divisions in Scripture, after all, the language of ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Testaments naturally lends itself to some sort of division. And Jesus does say, “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.” (Luk 16:16 ESV) But then in the very next verse he says, “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.”(Luk 16:17 ESV)

So, which is it? Is the Bible a book divided into separate stories and methods of salvation? Or is it a unified history of God’s eternal purpose of salvation through Christ? Could it be that it is both? Sorry to lead you on, because it’s not both.

The Bible is, however, one book that has been written in 66 acts, so to speak. (Unless you add Ruth to the end of Judges, and combine 1 and 2 Samuel into one book, 1 and 2 Kings into one book, and 1 and 2 Chronicles into one book, which would make the Bible one book written in 62 acts.) This fact of the Bible as one book can most clearly be seen as we study the opening chapters of Genesis in light of the closing chapters of Revelation. 66 works+45 writers+1500 years+the Holy Spirit=1 book, united around one central theme…and here’s where it gets hairy, what is that theme?

Many think that the one theme of the Bible is their own personal salvation. Others view Israel, or the ‘promised land’ (either Canaan or Heaven) as the central theme. Still others view the Church as the theme that unites all of Scripture. Don’t get me wrong, all of these are important themes in Scripture, themes that should never be downplayed in their importance, but none of these themes are the theme that unites the Bible as one book. So what is this theme? The theme that unites all of Scripture as one book is God.

Time for a theology lesson! The God of Scripture is a Trinity. That is, he is one in essence, yet distinctively three in person. So when I say that God is the theme that unites all of Scripture, I am saying that Scripture is united in it’s revelation of the Triune God. Now we could get specific and talk about all of God’s attributes and how they are revealed to us in the pages of the Bible, but I don’t have time to do that right now. Instead we’re going to g a little broader and catch the scope and significance of this one complete revelation of God.

Back to the theology lesson…The God who is revealed in Scripture is three persons, united in one substance, undivided yet distinct. One God, three persons. Nobody said it was easy to understand. But it is true, so it is to be believed. God is a Trinity. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The classic definition of the relationship that exists among the three Persons of the one God goes something like this…

God the Father is neither begotten nor proceeding. The Son is begotten but not proceeding. The Spirit is proceeding but not begotten. The Son is begotten by the Father and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son together. Though the Son is begotten by the Father, and the Spirit is proceeding from the Father and the Son, they are all three co-eternal and co-existent.

The Son is eternally begotten as the Father is eternally begetting, and the Spirit is eternally proceeding as the Father and Son are eternally sending. So the order is not first the Father, then the Son, then the Spirit. But they are each eternally existing since, the Father as begetting is eternally begetting, therefore the begotten Son must needs be from eternity. And as the Father and Son are eternally sending, the Spirit must needs be eternally proceeding. So when the Father is, so the Son and the Spirit united with Him are. And when the Son is, the Spirit and the Father united with Him are. And when the Spirit is, the Son and the Father united with Him are. These three are one God, united in nature and substance, distinct in person.

So what does all of this have to do with the unity of the Bible? I’ll tell you Monday.

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John Calvin’s Hermeneutic

These quotes by Calvin was recently listed on Pulpit Live Blog.

[The] error of allegory has been the source of many evils. Not only did it open the way for the adulteration of the natural meaning of Scripture but also set up boldness in allegorizing as the chief exegetical virtue.

[And in a different place]

Let us know that the true meaning of Scripture is the genuine and simple one, and let us embrace and hold it tightly. Let us . . . boldly set aside as deadly corruptions, those fictitious expositions which lead us away from the literal sense.   Online Source

Fact #1  Calvin was a Literalist.

Fact #2  Calvin was not an Allegorist.

Fact #3  Calvin was not a Premillennialist.

This means one of two things;

1. Calvin was an inconsistent Literalist, or,

2. Calvin’s Literal Hermeneutic did not make him a Premillennialist.

 Talk amongst yourselves.

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God’s Glory In Christ-My Hermeneutic

My hermeneutics have been attacked on more than one occasion. This post is where I am going to tell what the guiding principle in my hermeneutic is. It’s really very simple. God’s glory is the root of my hermeneutic.

I interpret all of Scripture though this lens. After I have read the text, determined it’s genre, and interpreted both literally and theologically I ask myself this question, “How does this text reveal God’s glory?”

There are several answers that can come from this question.
Here are a few examples…

1. In a text such as Isaiah 6, it is obvious that God’s glory is revealed as His holiness through the vision that Isaiah receives.
2. In Exodus 20, God’s glory is revealed by His requirements for the Jews to be set apart.
3. In Romans 3:10-20, God’s glory is revealed in the fallen state of man.
4. In Romans 3:21-26, God’s glory is revealed in the redemptive work of Christ.
5. In John 1:1-18, God’s glory is revealed in Christ Himself.

Points number four and five are the main focus of my hermeneutic. God has most perfectly revealed His glory through His incarnate Son.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (Joh 1:14-18)

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (Joh 14:8-9)

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Heb 1:1-4)

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2Co 4:6)

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, (Col 1:13-19)

This means that my hermeneutic now becomes Christological in nature. This conclusion is supported by the following verses.

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luk 24:25-27)

If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (Joh 5:31-47)

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2Ti 3:14-15)

From these verses we learn that Scripture is not only about God’s glory, it is about the One through whom He has most perfectly revealed His glory, that is, His only Son.
All of Scripture is about Him. I find Bryan Chapell’s statement most helpful when looking for Christ in the Scriptures.

“In its context, every passage possesses one or more of four redemptive foci. Every text is predictive of the work of Christ, preparatory for the work of Christ, reflective of the work of Christ, and/or resultant of the work of Christ.” Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the expository Sermon (1994; Grand Rapids: Baker Books), 275.

1. Predictive: these passages include specific prophecies, Messianic Psalms, and many of the ceremonial laws, which make no specific reference to Christ and yet are revealed to be about Christ when we read the New Testament.
2. Preparatory: Some of the Old Testament passages were meant to prepare God’s people for the coming of Christ. God’s covenants with man in Old Testament were preparatory in this sense.
3. Reflective: According to Chappell,

“Where the text neither plainly predicts nor prepares for the Redeemer’s work the expositor simply should explain how the text reflects key facets of the redemptive message…What does this text reflect of: God’s nature that provides the ministry of Christ; and/or human nature that requires the ministry of Christ?” Ibid., 277.

4. Resultant: These are passages that tell us how we should live based upon Christ’s work. It is important to recognize that these are not guidelines for earning God’s favor, but the results of the heart set free by Christ. (Points 1-4 summarized from Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, by Bryan Chapell, pp.275-279.)

Now, none of what has been written in this post is to the neglect of the literal interpretation of Scripture. It is all founded upon the literal reading of texts in their historical contexts. It is not a method of reading Christ into the text (eisogesis), rather it is finding where He really is in the text. For example, in Genesis 1 the words ‘Christ’ or ‘Messiah’ or even ‘Son of God’ does not appear. But if we read John 1 literally we find that He is there. And further, if we read the passages listed above literally, then we must conclude that Christ permeates the pages of both the Old and New Testaments. And to interpret Scripture ignoring this fact is to miss the point altogether.

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The Purpose Of Theologizing And Exegesis

I’ve been reading a book by Christopher Hall titled, Reading Scripture With the Church Fathers. It comes highly recommended by me, so buy it and read it, although if you are a Dispy I suspect that you might not like it as much as I do, but you should still buy it and read it because it’s awesome.

Anyway, as I read this book, I was reminded of the high view of the Church that the Fathers had. Not only did they believe that you should not interpret Scripture outside of the fellowship of the Church, they also believed that the Scripture that you interpreted from within the fellowship of the Church should have the lay-person as it’s goal.

This isn’t to downplay the priesthood of the believer or anything like that. In fact, it is just the opposite. For the Fathers, everyone should read and study the Scriptures for themselves. But those who are in the teaching ministry of the Church, whether Pastor or Sunday School teacher, should have as the goal of their study the transmission of the truth of Scripture to the lay-person.

I find myself increasingly aware of many ‘scholars’ who do not have this aim. Their commentaries or theologies are written for the academic elite. And while I benefit greatly from them, I find myself drawn more and more to those who have spent their lives working among the lay-people of the Church.

For example, John MacArthur, John Piper, and R. C. Sproul. These men think big thoughts, know the Scriptures and how to properly exegete them, but they also recognize that their job is to bring those big thoughts and proper exegesis to the guy who sits in the back of the church with only a sixth grade education and works at the car wash through the week. They recognize that their main responsibility is to equip that guy for a daily Christian walk and not to equip the ‘scholar’ with more scholarship so that he may become intellectually exalted in his field.

The point is that the Scriptures and Theology belong to the Church, and rightly taught they produce both worship to God and a life that is conformed to the image of Christ. In other words, Theology leads to doxology and orthodoxy to orthopraxy.

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Inspiration, Inerrancy, And The Internet Monk-Conclusion, Concluded

I feel a bit like a Triablogger about now, except they’re smart and I’m not. But I have been wordy. I promise to wrap it up now, even if I don’t finish, this is the last post in this series.
Before I finish up, I wanted to let you know why I have stayed up late at night working on these posts. There are basically three reasons.

1. I believe Michael Spencer is a Christian, confused, but a Christian. I am under obligation by the Law of Christ to watch out for him. (James 5:19-20, Galatians 6:1-2, Jude 22-23, 2 Corinthians 13:11)
2. I am obligated to watch over other Christians who may read Spencer’s essay.
3. I know Christians who have read Spencer’s essay.

Now, back to the bidness at hand…

Though I really didn’t have the time or space to really flesh it out, I think it is abundantly clear that the N. T. authors and the Early Church Fathers believed in the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. In other words, they believed that God actually spoke His words by the Holy Spirit through the writers of Scripture. And this included not only the O. T., but, as we have seen in Peter’s example of Paul, (2 Peter 3:15,16) the N. T. writings as well.
B. B. Warfield put this point rather nicely in his essay titled The Inspiration Of The Bible,

This church-doctrine of inspiration differs from the theories that would fain supplant it, in that it is not the invention nor the property of an individual, but the settled faith of the universal church of God; in that it is not the growth of yesterday, but the assured persuasion of the people of God from the first planting of the church until today; in that it is not a protean shape, varying its affirmations to fit every new change in the ever-shifting thought of men, but from the beginning has been the church’s constant and abiding conviction as to the divinity of the Scriptures committed to her keeping. It is certainly a most impressive fact, – this well-defined, aboriginal, stable doctrine of the church as to the nature and trustworthiness of the Scriptures of God, which confronts with its gentle but steady persistence of affirmation all the theories of inspiration which the restless energy of unbelieving and half-believing speculation has been able to invent in this agitated nineteenth century of ours. Surely the seeker after the truth in the matter of the inspiration of the Bible may well take this church-doctrine as his starting-point.

After quoting various Fathers of the Church he continues,

Of course the church has not failed to bring this, her vital faith in the divine trustworthiness of the Scripture word, to formal expression in her solemn creeds. The simple faith of the Christian people is also the confessional doctrine of the Christian churches. The assumption of the divine authority of the scriptural teaching underlies all the credal statements of the church; all of which are formally based upon the Scriptures. And from the beginning, it finds more or less full expression in them. Already, in some of the formulas of faith which underlie the Apostles’ Creed itself, we meet with the phrase “according to the Scriptures” as validating the items of belief; while in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, amid the meagre clauses outlining only what is essential to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, place is given to the declaration that He is to be found speaking in the prophets – “who spake by the prophets.” It was in conscious dependence upon the immemorial teaching of the church that the Council of Trent defined it as of faith in the Church of Rome, that God is the author of Scripture, – a declaration which has been repeated in our own day by the Vatican Council, with such full explanations as are included in these rich words: “The church holds” the books of the Old and New Testaments, “to be sacred and canonical, not because, having been carefully composed by mere human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority; nor merely because they contain revelation with no admixture of error; but because, having been written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author.”

The whole essay is well worth reading and rather hard to quote from, as it is all very quotable.

Suffice it to say then, that the testimony of the Church, from Jesus to Warfield, has consistently been to affirm the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. To stray from this dogmatic assertion of the Church is to stray from Jesus Christ who believed and taught it.

So what does all this have to do with infallibility and inerrancy? I know I’m compromising here, but I think the Catholics actually got this one right. (Exept for the part about oral tradition being inspired as well.) While asserting that the Scriptures were indeed written by man, and being approved by man, they also affirm that the Scriptures are without ‘admixture of error’. The fact of inerrancy for Vatican I lies in the fact that the Scriptures were written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, which in turn means, ‘they have God for their author’. The Scriptures are not the Word of God because man approved them, nor are they the Word of God because they are inerrant. Instead, man approved the Scriptures and the Scriptures are inerrant because they are the Word of God.

If inspiration does in fact mean ‘God-breathed’, as we found Paul to believe in 2 Timothy 3, then it must necessarily follow that these words that ‘God breathed’ are without error. It cannot be any other way. God cannot lie. Either he did inspire the whole Bible, as Paul asserts that he did, All Scripture is breathed out by God…”, he says, therefore we must recognize it as such, regarding it to be “…profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) It doesn’t get any clearer than that, folks.

Now, the obvious objection to this is, “Yes, but couldn’t those verses also mean that some of the O. T. was actually inspired, and that only those Scriptures that were breathed out by God are inerrant, and therefore, profitable for teaching, etc.?” This verse taken alone could certainly be translated to say something similar to that. But if we take it in the context of Paul’s staements to Timothy, then the obvious response is, “No.” Those verses cannot possibly mean that, and here is why.
What does Paul mean when he says, “…sacred writings…” (hiera grammata), in verse 15? Is he referring to only parts of the O. T., or to the O. T. as a whole? Actually, neither. The emphasis in verse 15 is on the letters (not correspondence, but the actual characters) of the text. Paul shows this emphasis in Galatians when he bases his interpretation of God’s promise to Abraham on a single letter. (Galatians 3:16) Paul is reminding Timothy of the fact that he actually leaned the Scriptures letter by letter.
If this is the case, that Paul is referring to the actual letters of Scripture in verse fifteen, then in verse 16, the obvious emphasis is the ‘God-breathing’ of the O. T. as a whole, “All scripture…” (pāsa graphē).
Paul affirms a literal, verbal inspiration of the Scriptures in 2 Timothy 3:15. In verse 16 he affirms a plenary inspiration. Paul is teaching Timothy that every letter of the whole O. T. is ‘God-breathed’.

Now if Paul believes that every word is ‘God-breathed’, is it any mystery whether he would believe that it is therefore inerrant? Obviously he does believe that Scripture is inerrant. (Titus 1:1-2) So the question that we must answer then is this…Do we believe Paul? If Paul was wrong about the verbal, plenary, inspiration of Scripture, then was he wrong about justification? or the person of Christ? or the resurrection? (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

I’m sticking with Jesus, the Apostles, the Fathers, the Creeds, and the Bible’s own testimony of itself on this one.

So, how do we sum up this series?
Well, for Michael Spencer and others like him, we must issue a call for them to turn from their faulty view of Scripture to the true, holy, Apostolic, and Universal (See? I didn’t say Catholic!) faith in the Scriptures as the Inerrant, Infallible Word of God.
For those of you wondering, “How do I interpret Scripture then?” Let me give you the first step. Interpret Scripture as though it is God speaking…because that is exactly what Scripture is. God speaking to fallen humanity. And the second step is, obey what you understand. God will not reveal any other truths in Scripture if you are not faithful in the truths you know. The first truth we learn is the Gospel. God created you for his glory, you sinned, God sent his Son in to the world who lived a perfect life, and was crucified for your sin. God raised him from the dead giving us the assurance that he is the coming judge of the world, and so he demands that you turn from your sinful acts and take him as your only hope for life. Learn and obey that, and then there will be more truth for you to learn and obey. But don’t expect to learn truth if you are not willing to obey.
Finally, for the rest of you, remember that God has spoken, and you need to hear what he is saying.

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Inspiration, Inerrancy, And The Internet Monk-Part Three

Part the Third, How do I Interpret the Bible?

Ever think of the Bible as….a grocery store? I worked at grocery stores for a long time. People come into the store with their grocery lists, and they know what they are looking for. They need some bananas, ice cream, a case of root beer, a head of lettuce. They run up and down the aisles finding what they want, find everything on the list, check out and go home.

That’s how evangelicals increasingly approach the Bible. They have a list of what they need. Parenting principles. Verses for healing. Advice for marriage. Rules for children. Stories to inspire. Challenges to give. Information on Heaven. Predictions of the future. We run into the “Bible” looking for these things, and when we find them, we leave.

This “grocery store” view of the Bible is built on the idea that the Bible is an inspired “library” of true information. A “magic book” as some have called it, where passages contain unquestionable information and authoritative rules. This approach to the Bible is flattering to the human ability to catalog information, and it is used in many churches to build confidence that the use of scripture puts a person on a foundation of absolute certainty.-Michael Spencer

Where to begin? There is some good stuff in this section. Too many times we look at the Bible as a grocery list. That’s true. Not that we shouldn’t sometimes. But our focus in Biblical Interpretation should not primarily be, “What does the Bible say about ——?”
I suspect that I say this for a different reason than Spencer. Spencer says the ‘grocery list’ method is improper because the Bible isn’t a ‘library’ of true information. Based on what Spencer has already said in this essay, it’s pretty clear what he means. The Bible contains errors, and should not be trusted as being infallibly true.
I say that the ‘grocery list’ method isn’t proper because God did not write an encyclopedia. The Bible isn’t arranged by topic. It is a progressive revelation of God. This revelation of God is, however, built upon a foundation of true words from God. Listen, if I can’t trust what the God has said in his Word about the origins of the universe, or the history of the exodus, or the even the virgin birth, how is it that I can trust what he has said about himself?

Spencer then goes on to use the analogy of a cake, and the Bible contains the ingredients for the cake.

All these ingredients, of course, are the contents of the Bible. The eggs are Genesis 1-3. The flour is Leviticus. The salt is Proverbs. The sugar is Psalms. And so on. These are good ingredients. Crucial ingredients. Now…we need to ask an important question: What are we baking?

The cake the Bible is baking is Jesus Christ, the mediator of our salvation, and the Gospel that comes in him.-M. S.

The problem with Spencer’s analogy is that it does exactly what he has set out not to do. The Bible has become a ‘grocery list’ that we carry to the store and pick out the right ingredients in order to make our cake. Only in this case, our cake is Jesus. Spencer tries to use this to show us that he really does believe the Bible is inspired, but the fact of the matter is that when he has denied inerrancy, he has also denied inspiration. God has spoken, he has used true words, and he has done this to reveal himself. The final Word of revelation comes in the incarnation of the Logos, the eternal Son of God. (Heb. 1:1-3)

One of the first times I brought out my thoughts on this approach to the Bible was at a seminar for local pastors, where I was asked to teach Genesis 1-11. I am sure most of the men in the room were ready for the usual approach to Genesis, with lots of hat-tipping to the creation-evolution controversy and explanations for how these events could “really happen.”

Instead, I said that Jesus was the one for whom and by whom all things were made. I said Jesus was in the beginning with God. I said we are made in God’s image, in a way similar to the way Jesus is the image of the invisible God, and that this is why Jesus is made like us so he can save us. I said Christ came to destroy the works of the devil. I said Jesus loves us when we are cast out of paradise, and he left paradise for us. I said Abel was a picture of Jesus, and his offering a portrait of faith. I said the ark was Christ, and the flood the wrath of God Jesus endured for our sake. And so on, for four hours.

At the end, one man said I was trying to be “provocative.” Let’s hope so, because the grocery store approach to Genesis is boring me and turns preachers of the Gospel into lecturers in creation science.-M. S.

This really resonates with me. Christ is the reason for creation. Too many times I have heard ‘Christ-less’ sermons preached form these passages, and I appreciate the fat that Spencer desires to make Christ the focus of his preaching. My problem with his statements here, are with the fact that he seems to be unwilling to let Scripture say what it says. How can I pretend to preach Genesis 1-3 and not mention the controversies surrounding the creation narrative? These are the opening passages of Scripture and the point at which the Scriptures are under attack in our day. I’m just wondering why we can’t preach both the fact that the Bible says that God created the world in six days and at the same time preach Christ!?

Why can’t we preach Christ Jesus from Genesis? Why do we talk about the length of days and the location of Eden and whether women should submit, when the whole story exists to send us to Jesus to be clothed in his righteousness? Do we really think God wanted us to have a book of inspired science and trivia? I need a savior, not a set of facts. As Robert Capon says, if the world could be saved by good advice, it would have been saved ten minutes after Moses came back from Mt. Sinai.-M. S.

The logic here is truly dizzying. “I need a savior, not a set of facts.” The reason you need a Savior is that Genesis 1-3 are true. Do you really not see the connection? God created us from dust to worship him, and in Adam we all rebelled. We deserve death, but God promises a Savior. You can’t accept the last part as true if you are unwilling to accept the whole as truth.

On Judges.

Supporters of the traditional view of Biblical inerrancy find themselves in a quandary with an issue like the terrible violence in the Old Testament book of Judges. The quandary comes when the text must bear the burden of God-spokenness. How do we understand the inspiration of a book that reports- even advocates- violence that is clearly at odds with Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount.

What we see in Judges isn’t to be harmonized with Christ, so that Christ becomes a warrior-judge defeating the “pagans.” It is this kind of sinful violence that will be judged by Christ, when his Kingdom beats all swords into plowshares, and brings God’s peace to the universe.-M. S.

First, Inerrancy has no such quandary. There is no reason we can’t believe that Judges is true history without saying that God affirmed everything that happened in the book. Inerrancy is not to say that God affirms sin just because an otherwise righteous person may have committed it.
Second, over and over in Judges the writer says that God raised up judges to deliver Israel from their enemies. We’ve either got to accept that writer is being truthful in those statements and in the rest of the history of the judges, or we’ve got to dismiss him as a liar and we know what that does to the trustworthiness of the history related in Judges.
Third, Christ is a warrior-judge who will deliver his people from their oppressors. He comes to judge the world.

On Homosexuality.

Primarily, my approach would say that when sin is compared to the law of God, we see it differently than when it stands next to the grace of God in Christ. Let’s use the thief on the cross as an example. The thief was guilty of breaking the law, and was being punished as a result. Compared to the law, the soul that sinned was dying. On the other hand, coming to Christ who is dying for sinners, this man is a believer welcomed into the gates of paradise. His sin is forgiven by Jesus, and not even mentioned. This is the same lesson of the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Compared to the law, sin is a large matter. Compared to Christ, it is overwhelmed in grace.-M .S.

I agree with a lot of what Spencer says about homosexuality. It is very clear that homosexuality is sin, but it is equally clear that adultery, lying, disobedience to parents, etc. are sin as well. And Christ can cover it all. He died for it all.
But then again, the biblical position on homosexuality is under attack, in ways that adultery, disobedience to parents and lying are not. Everyone recognizes these to be sin. The adulterer knows he/she is sinning, that sin may be justified in their minds, but they still recognize it as immoral behavior and many times that is exactly what entices them about it. But in homosexuals we see a different trend. They demand that their behavior be accepted as normal and moral. They have made great strides in even evangelical churches pushing this agenda. It is only right that Christians proclaim the truth about homosexuality more loudly at this time. It is sin. It is only when we preach this that we can offer homosexuals hope for their souls through Jesus.

Next, The Conclusion: What Does Inspiration Really Mean?

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Inspiration, Inerrancy, And The Internet Monk-Part Two

Part the Second, How Can I Say The Bible Is Inspired?

This is a very good question. Since it is apparent that Spencer does not affirm inspiration in the same way that most evangelicals would, I come away confused by his desire to use the word to describe his view of Scripture. Let’s see what he has to say.

Let’s pause and take stock. I’ve said the Bible is a thoroughly human book in which human beings, involved in an experience they identify as God, select a “canon” of literature that contains a conversation about this experience of God. It is important, however, that I put forward some idea of inspiration, since orthodox Christianity requires some way to understand how God speaks in the Bible.-M. S.

Spencer’s summary of what the Bible is precludes any understanding that it is actually the words of God. He says the Bible is a thoroughly human book. With that part of the statement I can agree, and would fight for if I had read it out of context. The Bible is thoroughly human. Every one of the author’s were humans. They all wrote with their own style and used their own words, yet every on of those words are God’s words. But continuing on in Spencer’s essay, he clarifies what he means when he says that the Bible is a thoroughly human book. Essentially, he says the Bible is man’s attempt to find God. They were involved in an experience (‘God’) and they desired to express their own experience. This subjective view of Scripture cannot logically produce any objective truth. Which is going to lead Spencer down another dark road later in this section.
He states his reasoning for including a doctrine of inspiration, ‘orthodox Christianity requires some way to understand how God speaks in the Bible.’ I have two problems with this. First, Spenser appeals to an outside source for how we should view the Bible, namely, orthodox Christianity. In reality, our view of Scripture is shaped by Scripture itself, and this view produces orthodoxy.
Read any book. The way to understand the book lies in the book itself, not any outside source. Any outside source (discussion, essay, book report) about the book is based upon the book itself and not upon any other source (although other sources may be cited). As more people read the book and write about the book, more resources for better understanding are available and should be used, but these do not change the fact that the sources themselves are based upon the book. (On a side note: I doubt that Spencer would accept this illustration. His view of literature of all kinds is that it meaning in the literature is open for interpretation by the reader, and the readers interpretation may not be the author’s meaning.)
Scripture produces orthodoxy precisely by requiring a certain view of itself. In this case, Scripture claims to be ‘breathed out by God’. (2 Tim. 3:16) We must view Scripture as if it is the breath, or words, of God, even if it we do not believe that it is (I do). There is no other way to understand Scripture. If we do not seek to understand Scripture on it’s own terms, then there is no way to fully understand it.

From the beginning of the essay, Spencer has compared a collection of books called, the Great Books of the Western World, with the Bible. In both, he says, a conversation can be heard. He now contrasts the conversation in these books with the Biblical conversation…

The original Great Books essays stated that the conversation occurs without any set dogma or point of view. The student of the Great Books is free to listen to the conversation and come to any number of conclusions about God, government, reality or human nature.

The Biblical conversation is different. While the reader is free to draw conclusions, the conversation itself is compelling in its conclusions. Because this conversation continues to a point of hearing a unique Word from God, there are limits to what we may legitimately say is being said. The proper understanding of language, culture, history and text is part of this limitation. The Biblical conversation allows great freedom, but there is also agreement that when this conversation is heard honestly, it has a common stream and focus at its center. A stream and focus that reveals a particular God, his ways, his character, his message and ultimately, his Son.

Spencer, to his credit, seems to imply that he believes that there are certain non-negotiables, or’ dogmas’, in Scripture that are not open for interpretation. But to his discredit, it is only those parts which he believes point us to Christ. So his view of Scripture is a little different than his post-modern view of other books. For Spencer, while meaning is normally found in the eyes of the beholder, sometimes this is not the case. This inconsistent view is just another one of the problems with Spencer’s method. Who discerns the difference between the dogma and the non-essential? Spencer will answer this later.

Of course, we should have modest expectations of agreement on this kind of unity in the Bible, and any community of believers that claims to hear a detailed scheme of belief in the Bible is probably listening to some parts of the conversation differently than other communities. Still, even with the diversity of conclusions we will find in listening, the Christian communities that lay hold of this conversation as “their own,” have considerable broad agreement in what the conversation communicates. On the focus of that conversation, there is no contention.

At this point I want to separate myself from any kind of Christianity that sees the Bible as teaching a highly sectarian view of Christianity at the exclusion of other views. I am not shocked that Catholics and Lutherans find the words “This is my body” to mean something different than Baptists do. I am distraught that any of these parties would fail to see that we are all listening to the same texts, and disagreement isn’t because some of us are all that much smarter or better listeners. It’s because we listen to different parts of the conversation, in different ways, and we are allowed to do so.

I love confessionalism. But I despise confessionalism that doesn’t understand and respect what other confessional communities are doing in listening to the conversation. This is why, for instance, I am not personally torn up by the infant baptism debate. Listening to the Biblical conversation, there appear to be two completely plausible conclusions on the subject. I have convictions on which is right, but I have no conviction that the other fellow is so wrong that I can treat him as if he isn’t approaching the same text as I am, with the same amount of worthy respect and reverence. M. S.

This is the dark road that I mentioned earlier. For Spencer, everybody is right. Lutherans, Catholics, and Protestants are all right about body and blood of Christ in Communion. Baptists and Presbyterians are both right about Baptism. Never mind that these all contradict one another. They are all right because that is how each tradition interprets them differently. This is the most confusing part of Spencer’s essay for me. On the one hand, he loves confessionalism, but on the other, he despises the fact that the confessions are adhered to. So, while I adhere to the LCBF as the confession of choice, I must also view the WCF as equally valid. Granted, the two are very similar, but if I hold the WCF to be as equally valid as the LBCF, I am what James calls a double-minded man, unstable in all my ways. (James 1:8)
This road leads to an ecumenical understanding of Scripture, where we are all free to believe what we want, and at the same time, we can all be right. Contrary to Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21, everyone who says, “Lord, Lord”, does get to enter heaven!

Next, Spencer makes a few claims. He put these in bold and they pretty well summarize his view of Scripture.

Scripture is inspired if God has, on some level and in some way, directed its production so that it says what he wants it to say.-M. S.

Yes, he has directed its production and it does say what he wants it to say. My difference with Spencer on this point is that I say every word is exactly what he wanted to say. He wanted to tell about how he created the world in six days, and he did. He wanted to tell about how Adam and Eve sinned, how he destroyed the earth with a flood, confused the languages, called Abraham out of Ur, promised a Messiah, delivered Israel out of Egypt, gave Israel the promised land, and sent his Son into the world to be the sacrifice for sinners, and he did. He wanted to reveal himself by his own words and he did. Every word is his word, every promise his promise, and every book his book.

Only the activity of God in bringing a final Word into history and into the conversation can cause this conversation to have divine implications totally beyond the human realm of origin and explanation.-M. S.

Agreed. And I also agree that Christ is that final word and the interpretive principle by which we must understand the Scriptures.

Scripture is INSPIRED BY the PRESENCE OF CHRIST throughout the conversation.-M. S.

Disagreed. Scripture is inspired because it is the words of God. And since it is the words of God it must necessarily be about what he intended it to be about, and that is Christ.
I’m wondering, where does the Holy Spirit fit into Spencer’s view of inspiration? Unless I missed it, Spencer has written an entire essay about the Bible and has not once mentioned the Holy Spirit. If holy men were moved to speak and write God’s words by the Holy Spirit, shouldn’t this merit some discussion? (2 Peter 1:21, Acts 4:25, 1 Cor. 2:13) Not if you deny inerrancy.

But if we start seeing content in that Old Testament removed and separated from Christ, we are looking at texts apart from anything that will save us. They may inform or motivate, but they will not save. And this conversation is about the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.-M. S.

So some of the Old Testament is not about Christ. What about Christ’s words,
“And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luk 24:25-27)
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words? (Joh 5:39-47)
And Paul’s words to Timothy,
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2Ti 3:14-15)
And finally, Peter’s words,
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” (1Pe 1:10-12)
Everything in the Old Testament is about Christ. Not some of the texts, or most of the texts, but all of the texts. They reveal Christ to us. They tell us of our need for Christ, the promise of Christ, the mission of Christ, how Christ came to us, what Christ will be, when Christ will come, and how to live in the expectation of Christ’s rule.

Spencer concludes this section by finally answering the question he started with.

My entire Christian experience, I’ve been reading attempts to defend the inspiration of the Bible logically, and apologetically. Christians fear the question “How do you know the Bible is inspired by God?” more than almost any question. I do not fear that question anymore, because I have a simple answer.

“I don’t know what you mean by inspired. If you mean, how do I know it’s right and true in everything it says, then I don’t believe in that kind of inspiration. But if you mean how do I know that the Bible is God’s true communication to me, it’s simple. The Bible shows me Jesus. The reason I believe the Bible is inspired is that it shows me who Jesus is and what Jesus means. That’s the answer to all the questions that matter to me.”- M. S.

What an answer! The Bible is fallibly inspired by God. God speaks to me to reveal Christ to me, but he doesn’t use truth to do it. This is absurdity. God cannot lie, an yet his word isn’t trustworthy! (Titus 1:2)
One quick word about the truthfulness of Scripture. There are lies in Scripture. But where those lies are recorded we are sure that they are recorded with accuracy. When Job’s friends speak, we are sure that their words are accurately recorded, but God comes at the end of the book and tells Job that they are wrong. The Scriptures will always differentiate between truth and falsehood. Does this mean that parts of Job are not inspired then? That they are not the words of God? Absolutely not! The Holy Spirit inspired the writer to include those words just as he inspired the rest of the words in the Bible. They are true records of actual events that God uses to reveal himself to us.
I know this is hard to understand, but unlike Spencer, I don’t want to jettison truth just because it is hard to understand. (2 Peter 3:15-16)

Next, Part The Third, How Do I Interpret The Bible?

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