Thursday, August 24, 2017

Scripture: Necessity

Scripture: Necessity
   The Bible is necessary. General revelation, as discussed in a previous post, is not sufficient to reveal God or his plan of redemption. Scripture, therefore, is necessary for knowledge of the gospel and to know the will of God for maintaining spiritual life. General revelation does not reveal the sins of men or the person and work of Christ. It cannot tell man how to live or glorify God. Something else is needed. That something else is the written word of God, the scriptures.
    The Bible is necessary for salvation. The gospel must be heard. In order to believe in Christ he must be proclaimed and heard. “For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!' But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?' So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Rom. 10:13-17) “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (Jn. 3:18)
   The Bible reveals that Christ alone is the way of salvation. “Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” (Jn. 14:6) “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
   It is in Scripture that we learn that Christ is the only mediator between God and man. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1Tim. 2:5-6)
   Salvation is through the word of God. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Rom. 1:16) “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1Jn. 5:13)
   The word of God teaches us that Christ died according to the scriptures, that he was buried, and that he rose again according to the scriptures. “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you-unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures...” (1Cor. 15:1-4)
   The word of the cross is the power of God for salvation. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1Cor. 1:18)
    John wrote his gospel in order for people to know that Jesus is the Christ and have life in his name. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (Jn. 20:30-31)
   Christ crucified is the message that must be proclaimed. “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1Cor. 1:22-24)
   The scriptures reveal that Christ was to suffer and rise from the dead, and that repentance be proclaimed in his name throughout the world. “Then he said to them, 'These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.' Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.'” (Lk. 24:44-47)
   Many more passages could be referenced, but these should suffice to demonstrate that the Bible is necessary for salvation. The word of God must be preached, taught, heard, learned, believed, and obeyed.
   The Bible is also necessary in order to know the will of God. It is the will of God to trust him and not lean on one's own understanding. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5)
   It is God's will that believers: rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in everything, not quench the Spirit and despise prophetic utterances, examine everything, and abstain from evil. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” (1Thess. 5:16-22)
   God wills for us to be imitators of him and to walk in love. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph. 5:1-2)
   It is the will of God to put on his armor. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph. 6:10-17)
   Elders and deacons are to be qualified according to the revealed will of God. “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.” (1Tim. 3:1-13)
   It is the will of God for Jews and Greeks to repent of sin and trust Christ. “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:20-21)
   God's will is for believers to be doers of the word and not merely hearers. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (Jms. 1:22)
   God's will is for believers to submit to authority. “Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (1Pet. 2:13-15)
   God wills for believers to guard themselves from idols. “ Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1Jn. 5:21)
   Examples could be multiplied, but these are sufficient to show that we need the word of God in order to know his will. How are we to live lives that are glorifying to God and benefit others if we do not have his will recorded in the Bible? The word of God is necessary. So, read the Bible. It is necessary for your salvation as well as your sanctification; for your growth in godliness as well as your knowledge of the will of God.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Scripture: Clarity

Scripture: Clarity
   Scripture is not difficult to understand. Granted, there are some difficult passages, but overall, the Bible is understandable and can be comprehended. The word of God is clear and unambiguous. Scripture is written in such a way that it can be taught to and understood by ordinary believers, even children.
   The clarity of Scripture is grounded in the being of God. Because of who God is, he is able to clearly communicate to his creatures. He knows our abilities, capabilities, weaknesses, and capacities and is able to make himself known and understood.
   God is in control; he is sovereign. If God intends to communicate to his creatures, then he is in perfect control and this communication will be successful. God cannot fail. An unclear revelation from God would not succeed. So, God reveals his will clearly and intelligibly. God always accomplished his purpose. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Is. 55:10-11)
   God is authoritative. If the word of God is authoritative and to be obeyed, then it follows that it must be clear and evident. The clarity of Scripture must be true in order for believers to understand and unbelievers to be without excuse. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Rom. 1:20)
   God is present or near his creation. He is immanent. The presence of God with believers is in and through Christ. Believers meet Christ in the gospel, or the clear words of life. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... 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.” (Jn. 1:1, 14) “For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, 'Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'' (that is, to bring Christ down) or 'Who will descend into the abyss?'' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:5-9)
   The clarity of Scripture is affirmed by the Bible. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 instructs parents to teach their children the commands of God and to discuss them. God's commands must be clear in order for them to be taught and understood by children. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
   Psalm 1:2 addresses one who meditates on God's law day and night. Scripture must be clear to be pondered. “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
   Psalm 19:7 and 119:130 teach that even the simple can understand the word of God. “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.”
   Jesus referred his listeners back to the Old Testament. This would be fruitless if they were unable to understand it or if the Old Testament was incomprehensible. “ He said to them, 'Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless?'” (Matt. 12:3-6) “And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.'" (Matt. 22:31)
   The New Testament epistles were written to churches and congregations. The idea was that the believers were to read and understand the word of God communicated through his apostles. “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” (1Cor. 1:2) “ Paul, an apostle-not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead- and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia.” (Gal. 1:1-2) “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.” (Jms. 1:1) “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” (1Pet. 1:1-2)
   God even declares that his word is plain. “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” (Deut. 30:11-14) “But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing.” (2Cor. 4:2-4) “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith.” (Rom. 16:25-26)
   Adults are commanded, no matter how weak or unlearned, to read and meditate on Scripture in order to be instructed. Again, Scripture is clear. “ You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me...” (Jn. 5:39) “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11) “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” (Ps. 119:15) “Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.” (Ps. 119:27)
   The understanding of Scripture is a spiritual ability, not intellectual. Indeed, it is supernatural. Natural man can read and understand the words in the Bible. They are, after all, words with definitions that anyone can comprehend. But, to really understand the word of God, to truly comprehend, know, enjoy, believe, apprehend, and grasp it, takes the supernatural work of the Spirit. “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.” (1Cor. 2:14) “But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.  But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” (2Cor. 3:14-16)
Scripture must be clear because it is to be: food (1Pet. 2:2), taught by believers to other believers (Col. 3:16), a light to our path (Ps. 119:105), loved (Ps. 119:140), used as a weapon (Eph. 6:17), a purifier (1Pet. 1:22), proof of Christ's divinity and that life is in his name (Jn. 20:31), an example (1Cor. 10:11), and a source of assurance (1Jn. 5:13).

   The word of God is clear. It is easily understood when read, prayed over, and meditated upon. Also, the Spirit illumines the minds and hearts of believers giving understanding and comprehension. Take up and read the word of God.