Where the world comes to study the Bible

The Word-Filled Life

Developing the Mind of Christ

Introduction

The Bible is the Christian’s resource book, his manual for living, the light to his path, and the index for faith and practice. The Bible is God’s Word—His special revelation by which man is to cleanse and direct his way. As God’s revelation to man, it teaches man things he absolutely cannot learn about life and death apart from this very special revelation as Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 2:9-10.

1 Corinthians 2:9-10 But just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.” 10 God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

Psalm 119:9-11 How can a young person maintain a pure lifestyle?
By following your instructions!
10 With all my heart I seek you.
Do not allow me to stray from your commands!
11 In my heart I store up your words,
so I might not sin against you.

This revelation includes things such as the truth about God as a triunity or trinity (His essence, character, purposes, and plan); things about man (his origin, make up, fall, sin, and need); about the physical world and its true origin as the creation of the Creator and its future redemption; about Satan and the forces of evil in the world; about God’s plan of salvation for man through faith in the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ (salvation from sin’s penalty, power, and one day from its presence); the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit; and about things to come. Because of man’s finite limitations, his natural spiritual blindness, and his spiritual condition in sin, the Bible is (as the late Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer wrote) a book that man could not write if he would and would not write if he could.

Because of what it is and does, the Bible is the most important book of the Christian’s life. Note the following sampling of verses:

Matthew 5:18-19 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place. 19 So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.

2 Peter 1:18-21 When this voice was conveyed from heaven, we ourselves heard it, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 Moreover, we possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing. You do well if you pay attention to this as you would to a light shining in a murky place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, 21 for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Christians not only need to know their Bibles, but they need to know about their Bible. It is important to be carefully informed as to its value that they may be more motivated to use it and use it properly in view of its character, purpose, and origin. Because spiritual understanding, faith, practice, and obedience to God is dependent on the Bible, the doctrine of the Bible (bibliology) is one of the most important doctrines of Scripture that a person can know.

David wrote, “I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name” (Ps. 138:2, KJV) (emphasis mine). The NASB renders the second portion of this verse “For Thou hast magnified Thy Word according to all Thy Name.” The NIV has “for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.”

“According” or “above” (KJV) represents in the Hebrew text, the hiphil stem of the verb gadal plus the preposition al. This would normally mean “above” as translated by the KJV, but all these are possible translations. Regardless of which translation one accepts, the text is declaring the importance of God’s Word to both the knowledge and worship of God. Knowing God, which the mention of God’s name includes, is dependent on knowing God’s Word. As it is sometimes said, “a man’s name is as good as his word,” so God’s name and knowing God is dependent on the truth, faithfulness, and accuracy of His Word and one’s knowledge of the Scripture. With this in mind, let’s consider what the Bible is.

The Attributes of the Bible

Psalm 19:7-14 The law of the Lord is perfect
and preserves one’s life.
The rules set down by the Lord are reliable
and impart wisdom to the untrained.
8 The Lord’s precepts are fair
and make one happy.
The Lord’s commands are pure
and give moral insight.
9 The commands to fear the Lord are right
and permanent.
The regulations given by the Lord are trustworthy
and completely just.
10 They are of greater value than gold,
than even a great amount of pure gold;
they bring greater delight than honey,
than even the sweetest honey from honeycomb.
11 Yes, your servant finds moral guidance there;
those who obey them receive a rich reward.
12 Who can avoid sinning?
Please do not punish my unintentional sins.
13 Moreover, keep me from committing flagrant sins;
do not allow such sins to control me.
Then I will be blameless,
and innocent of blatant rebellion.
14 May my words and my thoughts
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my protector and my defender.

It Is God-Breathed: Inspired Revelation From God

A proper definition of inspiration must naturally be formed on the basis of the teaching of Scripture. With this in mind, Ryrie gives the following definition and explanation:

… God superintended the human authors of the Bible so that they composed and recorded without error His message to mankind in the words of their original writings.

Notice carefully some of the key words in this definition. (1) The word “superintend” allows for the spectrum of relationships God had with the writers and the variety of material. His superintendence was sometimes very direct and sometimes less so, but always it included guarding the writers so that they wrote accurately.

(2) The word “composed” shows that the writers were not passive stenographers to whom God dictated the material, but active writers.

(3) “Without error” expresses the Bible’s own claim to be truth (John 17:17).

(4) Inspiration can only be predicated of the original writings, not to copies or translations, however accurate they may be.73

The following data presents the testimony of the Bible concerning itself as the inspired revelation of God. This is testimony which needs to be heard, but should one not want to listen to this testimony—and many do not—they not only ignore the testimony of the Bible, the witness of the defendant to itself, but they also ignore a large amount of other evidence which has tremendous weight and substantiates this testimony of the Bible.

This evidence includes the inexhaustible depth of the Bible; its marvelous continuity from Genesis through Revelation; its world-wide circulation, the purity and ethics of the Bible; its unrelenting faithfulness to present truth and its refusal to hide the sin of its heroes; its relevance in all generations; the testimony of archeology; the fulfillment of prophecy; its prevailing power to change not only individuals, but whole societies; and its preservation and survival in the face of one attack after another to either destroy or discredit it.

This is particularly significant when we compare the Bible’s preservation with all the other writings of antiquity.74

The greatest testimony to the authenticity of the Bible as God’s Word is the Lord Jesus. Why is His testimony so important? Because God authenticated and proved Him to be His own divine Son by the resurrection (cf. Acts 2:22-36; 4:8-12; 17:30-31; Rom. 1:4). Christ clearly confirmed the authority of the Old Testament and promised the New Testament.

Note what Christ taught about the Old Testament:

  • Its Authority (Matt. 22:43)
  • Its Reliability (Matt. 26:54)
  • Its Finality (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10)
  • Its Sufficiency (Luke 16:31)
  • Its Indestructibility (Matt. 5:17-18)
  • Its Unity (Luke 24:27, 44)
  • Its Clarity (Luke 24:27)
  • Its Historicity (Matt. 12:40)
  • Its Facticity (scientifically) (Matt. 19:2-5)
  • Its Inerrancy (Matt. 22:29; John 3:12; 17:17)
  • Its Infallibility (John 10:35)75

With this in mind, let’s look at the testimony of the defendant itself. In any just court of law, the defendant has the right to be represented and heard.

The Fact of Inspiration

2 Tim. 3:16-17 Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.

All Scripture is inspired, literally, “breathed out ( qeopneustos) of God.” We could translate it, “all Scripture is God-breathed.” This points to the means and source of inspiration. Our English word “inspire” carries the idea of breathing into something. The Greek word, however, teaches us God breathed out the Scripture. Though God used human authors to record His message, the Bible has its source in God who breathed it out through the human authors. He used their vocabularies, experiences, and personalities, but He was the ultimate source and they were but the human instruments. More will be said on this below when we consider “the how of inspiration.”

The Extent and Nature of Inspiration

All Scripture, the entire Bible, Genesis through Revelation, is inspired and profitable. This points to the extent of inspiration. It is all inspired. Theologians often refer to this as plenary inspiration. The result is that the whole Bible is “true, tried, perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, more desirable than gold, and sweeter than honey” (Psa 19:7-9; 119:140). Such descriptions point to the verbal, plenary, unlimited inerrancy and infallible nature of the Bible (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9-13). Note the following verses where the argument hinges on one word (Gal. 3:16, “seed”; Matt. 22:31-32, “am”).

Matthew 5:17-18 Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place.

Matthew 22:31-32 Now as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living!

Galatians 3:16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his descendant. Scripture does not say, “and to the descendants,” referring to many, but “and to your descendant,” referring to one, who is Christ.

Regarding the true nature of inspiration and the attack that has gone on for years over the truth of inspiration, Ryrie writes:

While many theological viewpoints would be willing to say the Bible is inspired, one finds little uniformity to what is meant by inspiration. Some focus it on the writers; others, on the writings; still others, on the readers. Some relate it to the general message of the Bible; others, to the thoughts; still others, to the words. Some include inerrancy; many don’t. These differences call for precision in stating the biblical doctrine. Formerly all that was necessary to affirm one’s belief in full inspiration was the statement, “I believe in the inspiration of the Bible.” But when some did not extend inspiration to the words of the text it became necessary to say, “I believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible.” To counter the teaching that not all parts of the Bible were inspired, one had to say, “I believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible.” Then because some did not want to ascribe total accuracy to the Bible, it was necessary to say, “I believe in the verbal, plenary, infallible, inerrant inspiration of the Bible.” But then “infallible” and “inerrant” began to be limited to matters of faith only rather than also embracing all that the Bible records (including historical facts, genealogies, accounts of Creation, etc.), so it became necessary to add the concept of “unlimited inerrancy.” Each addition to the basic statement arose because of an erroneous teaching.76

The Value of Inspiration

Since all Scripture is God-breathed, being the product of an all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful and loving God, the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16 goes on to state that the entire Bible is profitable for four things: for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

(1) Teaching—“Teaching” is the Greek didaskalia and means “doctrine” or “teaching.” It is used in both the active sense (i.e., the act of teaching), and in the passive sense (what is taught, doctrine). In the pastoral epistles, Paul uses it of the act of teaching (1 Tim. 4:13, 17; 2 Tim. 3:10), and of what is taught as in sound doctrine (cf. 1 Tim. 1:10; 4:6, 16; 6:1, 3; 2 Tim. 4:3; Tit. 1:9; 2:1; 2:7, 10). As many of these passages show, especially Titus 2:1, our teaching must be in accord with sound doctrine. And for doctrine to be sound, it must be in accord with the inspired Word. Ultimately, teaching or doctrine—the content—refers to God’s fundamental principles for man’s life, both eternal and abundant, the basics, the fundamentals upon which life is to be built.

(2) Reproof—This is the Greek elegmos which means “proof, conviction, reproof.” The mos ending shows this is a passive noun which looks at the result of the process of the convicting ministry of the Spirit through the Word—personal conviction through exposure to truth. One might compare elegmos to another Greek word, elenxis, an active noun which looks at the process of reproving or exposing. Both need to go on in the life of a believer. The goal, however, is not simply the process. It’s the result—personal conviction. Like the light it is, the Bible reproves and exposes us to the various ways we violate the plan and principles of God in all the relationships of life, with God and with people such as in one’s family, in the church, and in society. Once we have been reproved and experience conviction (reproof) to the violations, we each face a very important decision. We can move toward God and respond to His correction and training, or we can rebel and resist. If we resist, then, as a Father, He disciplines us to draw us back to Him.

(3) Correction—This is the Greek epanorqwsis which means “setting up straight, setting right.” It stresses the restorative nature and capacity of Scripture and points to the more immediate work of the Word to set our feet back on course. The Psalmist wrote, “The law of the Lord is perfect and preserves one's life” (Psa. 19:7a).

(4) Training in righteousness—“Training” is paideia which basically means “training, instruction, discipline,” not in the sense of punishment, but in the sense of the disciplines that train and develop character, strength, skill, etc. This is undoubtedly more long range and refers to those truths that develop godly character and spiritual strength—growth truths and procedures like Bible study, meditation, and prayer.

The Purpose of Inspiration

The purpose is that “that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:17). The Bible offers us God’s comfort and His peace as it reveals His love, care, and mercy, but this is always in the context of conforming us into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29) and equipping us for a life of good works (Eph. 2:10). Equipping us is designed to produce righteousness and ministry rather than self-indulgence.

Being “fit” looks at the result or the intended result of a process, the aim in view. I think the process itself is seen in the word “equipped.” Note these three points about this word:

(1) “Equipped” is the Greek exartizw which means “to outfit, fully furnish, fully supply” as in fitting out a wagon or a ship for a long journey. It was actually used of outfitting a rescue boat.77 We might compare our Coast Guard vessels and their crews that are so well equipped to go out and rescue ships in trouble.

(2) “Equipped” is an adverbial participle which points us to the mode or the means of becoming “adequate,” “capable,” or “competent.” We might translate the verse as “that the man of God may be capable, by having been thoroughly equipped.”

(3) Finally, the verb is in the perfect tense which, in Greek, often looks at the results of preceding action or a process. In the context, the process is that of studying, knowing, and applying God’s inspired Word while the result is ability for ministry through spiritual growth.

God’s goal, in giving us His Word and our goal in studying and knowing God’s Word, is to thoroughly fit us out that we might become fully competent servants of God for every kind of good work in the midst of a dark and needy world, like thoroughly equipped rescue vessels on missions of mercy.

The How of Inspiration

2 Pet. 1:20-21 Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, 21 for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

No passage of Scripture tells us as much about the how of inspiration as does this passage in 2 Peter. Though all of 2 Peter 1 does not deal with the how of inspiration, there are four important things that it would be well to note about this first chapter and its context.

First, there is the context and purpose of this passage. Since God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the great and precious promises, i.e., the Word of God, Peter was writing to challenge his readers to diligence in becoming fruitful in their knowledge of the Savior (1:3-11). In other words, faith must not stand still; it must grow. Further, he wanted to remind them and us that our faith does not stand on the shifting sands of man’s cleverly devised fables or human ideas. Rather, it is grounded in the marvelous revelation of God in the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the written Word, the prophetic Word of God to which we do well to pay close attention.

2 Peter 1:12-21 Therefore, I intend to remind you constantly of these things even though you know them and are well established in the truth that you now have. 13 Indeed, as long as I am in this tabernacle, I consider it right to stir you up by way of a reminder, 14 since I know that my tabernacle will soon be removed, because our Lord Jesus Christ revealed this to me. 15 Indeed, I will also make every effort that, after my departure, you have a testimony of these things.
16 For we did not follow cleverly concocted fables when we made known to you the power and return of our Lord Jesus Christ; no, we were eyewitnesses of his grandeur. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father, when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory: “This is my dear Son, in whom I am delighted.” 18 When this voice was conveyed from heaven, we ourselves heard it, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 Moreover, we possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing. You do well if you pay attention to this as you would to a light shining in a murky place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, 21 for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

In the process of setting forth this focus, Peter mentions his personal experience of seeing the majestic glory of the transfiguration of Christ when he heard from heaven, “This is my dear Son, in whom I am delighted” (vss. 16-17). But He goes on to teach us something that is tremendously important, especially in our day when so much is made regarding personal experiences which often take precedence over Scripture. Note that in verse 19 Peter writes, “Moreover, we possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing. You do well if you pay attention to this…” We need to ask, “More sure than what?” More sure than even his experience of seeing Christ’s transfiguration. Now that which Peter, James, and John saw has become a part of the record of the Word and provides important revelation of the person of Christ. But the point is, our experiences, as bonafide as they may be, never take precedence over the authoritative Word of God because it is more sure, steadfast, and reliable. The Word is our authority and it alone must judge our experiences and determine faith and practice.

The NIV’s translation of verse 20 is much closer to the original Greek, more in accord with the preceding and following context, and clearly expresses the truth to be gleaned here. It reads, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.” This simply declares that whatever the prophets wrote or whatever we find in the Word, it was not the product of the author’s own ideas or human opinion. In verses 16-19, the issue being discussed is the source of the apostolic message. Was it human fable, or was it from God? Verse 20 answers the first part of this question. It was not from man. The second part of the question is found in the next verse. Note the connecting and explanatory “For” of verse 21.

Verse 21 teaches us that both God and man were involved in the production of the Bible, but in such a way that God was not only the ultimate source, but He both directed the writing and guaranteed the accuracy of the product. The human authors actively spoke God’s Word and they were more than dictation machines, but to insure the accuracy of what was spoken, the human authors were moved and carried along by the Holy Spirit. “Moved” is feromenoi, a Greek passive participle meaning, “to be carried, be borne along.” This word was used of a ship being carried along by the wind in its sail in Acts 27:15, 17.

Catching the import of this, Ryrie writes:

Though experienced men, the sailors could not guide it so they finally had to let the wind take the ship wherever it blew. In the same manner as that ship was driven, directed, or carried about by the wind, God directed and moved the human writers He used to produce the books of the Bible. Though the wind was the strong force that moved the ship along, the sailors were not asleep and inactive. Similarly, the Holy Spirit was the guiding force that directed the writers who, nevertheless, played their own active roles in writing the Scriptures.78

This verse, then, teaches us two things regarding the “How” of inspiration: (a) The will of the human authors never directed the writings of the Bible and (b) the Holy Spirit as the ultimate source ensured the accuracy of what they wrote in every way.

The Breadth of Inspiration

2 Pet. 1:3-4 I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence. 4 Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire.

It is clear from verse 4 and the reference to “his precious and most magnificent promises” that Peter has the Word of God in view in these two verses. First, there is the declaration that God “has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness.” Second, life and godliness come through the knowledge of God and the Lord Jesus, but such knowledge comes through the Word, the precious promises. In essence then, this points us to the breadth of what God’s Word covers, “everything pertaining to life and godliness.”

While God does not reveal everything that He could reveal, many things He has chosen to keep to Himself (Deut. 29:29), the Bible does cover all that man needs for life and godliness through its revelation of God and of Jesus our Lord. We have everything we need, nothing is missing. Consequently, being God’s inspired Word, the following is also true …

It Is Alive and Powerful

In this attribute of the Bible, we see the quickening and energizing power of the Word of God to regenerate and change or transform the lives of men as it reveals the very wisdom of God and brings men into a vital relationship with Him through its truth.

1 Peter 1:23 You have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.

It Is Perfect, Without Defect

(1) It is without blemish, complete, pure, tried, and thus truth, true.

Psalm 19:7 The law of the Lord is perfect
and preserves one’s life.
The rules set down by the Lord are reliable
and impart wisdom to the untrained.

(2) It is uncontaminated, flawless.

Psalm 12:6 The Lord’s words are absolutely reliable.
They are as untainted as silver purified in a furnace on the ground,
where it is thoroughly refined.

(3) It is thoroughly tested and found flawless by testing.

Psalm 119:140 Your word is absolutely pure,
and your servant loves it.

(4) Scripture declares its own inerrant and unadulterated character, unblemished by the myths and fallacies of man.

Psalm 19:8-9 The Lord’s precepts are fair and make one happy.
The Lord’s commands are pure and give moral insight.
9 The commands to fear the Lord are right and permanent.
The regulations given by the Lord are trustworthy and completely just.
John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth.

James 1:18 By his sovereign plan he gave us birth through the message of truth, that we would be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

It Is Sure and Trustworthy

The testimony of God’s Word is sure, that is reliable, trustworthy, with the inherent capacity to impart God’s wisdom to the simple, to those who come to him in childlike openness rather than depend on their own human wisdom.

Psalm 19:7 The law of the Lord is perfect
and preserves one’s life.
The rules set down by the Lord are reliable
and impart wisdom to the untrained.

It Is Right (Righteous)

As the righteous revelation of God, Scripture enlightens and brings men into a right relationship with the God for whom man was created. Nothing can give joy to the heart like knowing God through His righteous Word.

Psalm 19:8-9 The Lord’s precepts are fair
and make one happy.
The Lord’s commands are pure
and give moral insight.
9 The commands to fear the Lord are right and permanent.
The regulations given by the Lord are trustworthy and completely just.

It Is Great and Precious,
More Valuable Than Gold, and Sweeter Than Honey

In these pictures we see the inherent value of the Bible and our need to evaluate our priorities and pursuits.

2 Peter 1:4 Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire.

Psalm 19:10 They are of greater value than gold,
than even a great amount of pure gold;
they bring greater delight than honey,
than even the sweetest honey from honeycomb.

It Is God’s Channel of Faith and Deliverance

It is through the Scripture that God builds our faith and is able to bring us into the power of His life through the person of Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 10:17 Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.

2 Peter 1:4 Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire.

Psalm 119:9-11 How can a young person maintain a pure lifestyle?
By following your instructions!
10 With all my heart I seek you.
Do not allow me to stray from your commands!
11 In my heart I store up your words,
so I might not sin against you.

It Is Inexhaustible

No matter how deep we dig into the rich treasures of the Word, we barely scratch the surface. This is only to be expected since it is the revelation of an infinite God to finite man. Have you not said or heard others say, “You know, I have studied that passage for years, but I never saw that truth until today.”

Ephesians 3:2-8 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that by revelation the divine secret was made known to me, as I wrote before briefly. 4 When reading this, you will be able to understand my insight into this secret of Christ. 5 Now this secret was not disclosed to people in former generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, 6 namely, that through the gospel the Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus. 7 I became a servant of this gospel according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the exercise of his power. 8 To me—less than the least of all the saints—this grace was given, to proclaim to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ (italics mine).

Actions of the Word
(What It Does )

Picture 1: A Sword

The Greek word for sword is macaira, the short, two-edged sword of the Roman soldier. With this weapon a soldier was never left off balance, nor was he as vulnerable to the thrusts from the weapons of his enemy because it was easier to use.

Passages:

Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.

Principles Portrayed:

(1) The fact of our warfare or conflict: This is the emphasis in Ephesians 6. The Word of God is our offensive and defensive weapon against all of our enemies—the World with its anti-God influences, the Flesh and its many strong desires, and the Devil with his devilish schemes. With this picture God is warning us that without the Word we cannot defeat any of these enemies. The Scripture is our sword, a sharp two-edged sword, one we can wield effectively and actively without being thrown off balance as with the weapons of the flesh. It is significant that when the Lord was tempted by the Devil, He repeatedly parried the thrusts of Satan’s temptations with “It is written” (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10).

(2) This picture also portrays penetration: It portrays the capacity to cut deep and penetrate into the innermost part of our being and meet our innermost needs, the spiritual needs of the soul. This is the emphasis in Hebrews 4:12. The Word has the capacity to deal with our deep-seated problems of guilt, fears or anxieties, wrong motives, angers, frustrations, and our need for significance, meaning, and purpose.

Problems We Face—Use and skill:

In Ephesians 6:17 Paul is telling us we need to take up our armor. This means learning to know our sword and how to use it by daily practice.

In Hebrews 5:12 the author is dealing with the problem of negligence. Because of the amount of time these believers had been saved, they should have been teachers of the Word. They had neglected the assembling of themselves together to hear the Word, however, and were woefully unskilled in the use of Scripture.

Hebrews 5:11-12 On this topic we have much to say and it is difficult to explain, since you have become sluggish in hearing. 12 For though you should in fact be teachers by this time, you need someone to teach you the beginning elements of God’s utterances. You have gone back to needing milk, not solid food.

Picture 2: A Critic, Judge

Passage:

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.

Principles Portrayed:

This teaches us that the Word is God’s personal analyzer of our lives. It is a critic, a judge of what is right and wrong. It tells us how we are doing, where we are going wrong, why, and how to correct it. Just as a performer has critics of his performance, so the Word is a critic of both our attitudes and actions, our performance, our inner life, and our overt behavior.

Problems We Face:

We must be a people who have ears to hear and submit to the judgment of the Word on our lives. We need to be a submissive people, but as John R. Stott accurately writes,

Seldom if ever in its long history has the world witnessed such a self-conscious revolt against authority. … What seems new today, however, is both the world-wide scale of the revolt and the philosophical arguments with which it is sometimes buttressed. There can be no doubt that the twentieth century has been caught up in a global revolution … All the accepted authorities (family, school, university, State, Church, Bible, Pope, God) are being challenged. Anything which savors of ‘establishment,’ that is, of entrenched privilege or unassailable power, is being scrutinized and opposed.79

Questioning what people say, if we use God’s Word as our index, is not always bad and is even commended by Luke in Acts 17:11. But if we are not careful we can be caught up in the mood of the day and become insensitive and unresponsive to the preaching and teaching of the Word. We treat it as though it were merely someone’s opinion and we can become too impressed and filled with our own opinions. Stott continues,

Now everybody has his own opinions and his own convictions, and considers them just as good as the preacher’s. ‘Who does he think he is,’ people ask—silently if not aloud—‘that he should presume to lay down the law to me?’80

But the issue is does the message (whether in a book, on a tape, or from a pulpit) reflect the truth of Scripture? Is it based on Scripture and sound exegesis according to grammar, context, and the analogy of Scripture, or is the preacher or teacher abusing the Word? Is he guilty of eisegesis, reading into it his own ideas to promote his own agendas?

Picture 3: A Lamp, Light

Passages:

Isaiah 5:20 Those who call evil good and good evil are as good as dead,
who turn darkness into light and light into darkness,
who turn bitter into sweet and sweet into bitter.

Isaiah 50:10-11 Who among you fears the Lord?
Who obeys his servant?
Whoever walks in deep darkness,
without light,
should trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on his God.
11 Look, all of you who start a fire
and who equip yourselves with flaming arrows,
walk in the light of the fire you started
and among the flaming arrows you ignited!
This is what you will receive from me:
you will lie down in a place of pain.

Psalm 36:9 For you are the one who gives
and sustains life.

Psalm 119:105 Your instructions are a lamp that shows me where to walk,
and a light that shines on my path.

Psalm 119:130 Your instructions are like a doorway through which the light shines.
They give insight to the untrained.

Proverbs 6:23 For the commandments are like a lamp,
instruction is like a light,
and rebukes of discipline are like the road leading to life,

Principles Portrayed:

The purpose of a lamp is its light-bearing capacity. In Scripture, light has a three-fold use and significance:

(1) The Operational Use: This use of light emphasizes the action of light. Light gives illumination or sight. Light shines in our lives to dispel darkness, to illuminate our path or our walk step-by-step. Light keeps us from stumbling and running into those things which can harm us. Light, as such, is protective.

(2) The Intellectual Use: This use of light stands for the concept of truth and is opposed to error and that which deceives and deludes. It is through the light of the Word that we are able to recognize and avoid the myths and heresies of a satanically-inspired and deluded world. A reporter asked a pedestrian if he knew what the two greatest problems in the world were. The man answered, “I don’t know, and I don’t care.” The reporter replied, “You’re right, how did you know?”

What we do not know about God’s Word not only can hurt us, but in time it will. Why? Because throughout history people have fallen victim to lies—myths that become accepted as truth. Say it often enough and in the right setting and people will eventually begin to believe it—believe it or not! Where do these myths come from? They come from the brainwashing we receive daily from our cultural environment as well as the rationalizations (a nice word for the lies we often tell ourselves to get our own way).

Let me share a few myths:

  • The myth that God is pleased with our religiosity—that all we have to do is put in our appearance at church once a week, sing a few hymns, get a rosy glow, and look interested in what the preacher has to say. But as one whose life was meshed with God’s Word and speaking to the Pharisees, the Lord Jesus quoted Isaiah and said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.” (Mark 7:6-7; 1 Cor. 11:17ff).
  • The myth that we can ignore God’s Word and be okay. But the Word says, “Oh, that today you would listen as he speaks! 8 Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of testing in the wilderness.” (Hebrews 3:7-8a). The author is showing us that if we do not listen to the Spirit of God daily, we are going to be influenced and hardened by sin.
  • The myth that temptation is some overt, momentary solicitation to evil and that our strength lies in what we do at that moment—when the truth is that victory is based upon growing in faith, in attitudes, conditioning, and patterns, that have been forming for weeks, months, even years.
  • The myth that because we hear thunder and don’t see the immediate wrath of God that we are getting away with sin and can neglect spiritual priorities.

Note the following illustrations:

Because they wanted to settle east of the Jordan where they could pasture their herds, Moses warned the tribes of Reuben and Gad concerning failure to help the rest of the nation drive out the inhabitants of the land,

Numbers 32:23 But if you do not do this, then look, you will have sinned against the Lord. And know that your sin will find you out.

In Galatians Paul wrote,

Galatians 6:7-8 Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows, 8 because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

In Ecclesiastes 8:11-12 we read these words,

When a sentence is not executed at once against a crime,
the human heart is encouraged to do evil.
12 Even though a sinner might commit a hundred crimes and still live a long time,
yet I know that it will go well with God-fearing people—for they stand in fear before him.

(3) The Moral Use: In this use we see the final product of light is righteousness. In Isaiah God reminds us that our ways are not His ways—and they are not because our thoughts are not His thoughts. Righteousness and morality simply cannot exist in a doctrinal vacuum where God is not known in truth because it is the truth, it is the light of Scripture which sets us free (Isa 55:8f).

Problems We Face:

No lamp is useful unless it is switched on and directed to one’s path or on the details of one’s life (cf. Matt. 5:14f). Being a light to others begins by living in God’s light (the Word) ourselves. We must know how to use our lamp. It is not really our lamp until we have studied it and are willing to apply it. The world is full of darkness, but the lamp of the Word—God’s truth—dispels the darkness of the world. It is instructional for us to note Paul’s warnings and commands in Ephesians 5 where he warns us that it is all too easy for us to walk in darkness even though we are children of light. It requires an active response and commitment to the Word before we will expose our lives to the light of Scripture.

Jeremiah 10:23 Lord, we know that people do not control their own destiny.
It is not in their power to determine what will happen to them.

In Philippians 1:10 the word sincere is the Greek eilikrinhs . While the entomology and derivation of this word has been questioned, one suggestion is that it is composed of $eilh , sunlight, and krinw , to judge. It means to judge or see by the light and describes what can stand the judgment of the light of the sun. It refers to a man whose life is free from falsehood and deceitfulness. In ancient times the word was used of the practice of shoppers concerning articles in the marketplace. Ancient shops were dark and imperfections in a piece of furniture or a vase could easily be hidden and covered over with wax or paint. Because of this practice, shoppers would take the article out into the sunlight to see if the merchandise was free from flaws, to see if it was eilikrinhs . Friends, this is what we all need. We need to daily and weekly expose ourselves to the sunlight of God’s holy Word.

Philippians 1:10 so that you can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ,

Picture 4: A Mirror

Passages:

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

James 1:22-25 But be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves. 23 For if someone merely listens to the message and does not live it out, he is like someone who gazes at his own face in a mirror. 24 For he gazes at himself and then goes out and immediately forgets what sort of person he was. 25 But the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there, and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out—he will be blessed in what he does.

Principles Portrayed:

A mirror is a reflector of one’s likeness. It reflects our image. Fortunately, unless it is twisted or deformed in some way, a mirror does not lie. The Bible is a perfect mirror—it reflects reality, the reality of what we are. A color photograph can be touched up here and there to hide a mole, wart, wrinkle, or scar, but a mirror shows us exactly what we are. But fortunately the Bible, as a mirror, has a dual purpose or a dual reflection.

When a little boy stands in front of a mirror with his dad, he sees himself and his dad whom he would like to be like when he grows up. It provides him with a model for how he would like to look. God’s Word is like that. It not only shows us who and what we are, but it also shows us the Lord Jesus—our example and goal. But this only happens as we learn to focus on Him in the mirror of His Word and walk by the Spirit.

Problems We Face:

Like the other pictures of the Word, a mirror must be used properly or it has no benefit. By the non-use or misuse of our mirror, we can fail to benefit by this marvelous gift of God for our transformation and healing. I am reminded of the morning miracle my beautiful wife performs daily in the presence of a mirror. In fact, think about what most people would look like if they gave no heed to what they saw in the mirror each morning before they washed, brushed, curled or used a little makeup.

The emphasis in James 1:19-25 is that we cannot afford to be superficial believers who take just a casual look at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word. It is too easy for each of us to do that through mere religious activity like going to church and Sunday school or spending ten minutes in a daily devotional booklet. Contextually, James is talking about having a faith that is active and productive so that it results in spiritual deliverance and practical demonstrations of righteousness in transformed living.

Note James 2:21 where James asks the question, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?” James is not contradicting Paul. When Paul talks about justification by faith he is referring to justification before God, but James is writing about justification before men, the practical proof and manifestation of real fellowship with God in contrast with mere religiosity.

The Greek word for “justified” is dikaiow . This word has two main uses. (a) It may mean “to declare, pronounce righteous or treat one as righteous.” In this sense it means to declare guiltless, to acquit of a charge. Paul uses dikaiow or the idea of justification in this sense. Because of the work of Christ and through personal faith in Christ, our sins are forgiven, the penalty of sin is removed, and we are declared or pronounced righteous in Christ. (b) But dikaiow may also mean to show or exhibit or prove that one is righteous.81 This is the sense in which James uses the term. With this in mind, read James 1:19-21.

The subject here is the positive production of God’s kind of character, positive righteousness or transformed living accomplished through faith in our new regenerated life in Christ. As regenerated people who have faith in Christ, our lives should be different.

James 2:1 My brothers and sisters, do not show prejudice if you possess faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

James 1:18 By his sovereign plan he gave us birth through the message of truth, that we would be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

But if our faith in the living Christ is to actively appropriate His life in ours in a consistent life-changing way that demonstrates our justification, the new life must be brought into a right relationship with the living Word, which, like seed that is planted, germinates and takes root, grows and produces (another picture), resulting in spiritual deliverance. This is the thrust of verse 21.

In James 1:22-25, James tells us that unless we are carefully using God’s Word to bring about personal deliverance and spiritual change, we are deceiving ourselves and circumventing (bypassing) God’s purpose and design.

“Prove” in the NASB is a present imperative of the Greek verb, ginomai. It means “become” and refers to a process of learning to apply the Word consistently. The KJV reads, “But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only …” “Doers” is poihths and refers to productive action according to a design.

“Not merely hearers” is literally “and not hearers only or alone.” “Only” or “alone” is the Greek monos which means “to be without a companion.” Bible study and religious activity must be married to application and positive righteousness and ministry or it leads to deception.

“Who delude themselves.” “Delude” is paralogizomai from para, “along side” or “by, past,” plus logizomai, “to think, reckon, calculate.” James is warning against thinking in such a way that one passes by the truth and its design or purpose and thus becomes deceived.

How do we deceive ourselves? We deceive ourselves when we think one thing while the opposite is true (cf. vs. 26). In this way we actually circumvent the truth and annul its design. Scripture is designed to bring Christlike change. If this is not happening, then, we become further deceived by remaining dupes and pawns for Satan’s tricks and the world’s deceptions because we refuse to get with God’s Word (cf. vs. 27). If we don’t live deeply and reflectively in the Word, we are going to be affected deeply, even subliminally by the world. So what is God’s design?

  • Reading and Hearing the Word which should lead to …
  • Reflection as in meditation on the Word, contemplation which should result in seeing our image and His (revelation from God).
  • Response (positive response to God) should lead to …
  • Reformation (transformation and production through personal application).

But

  • Revelation without an adequate response (meditation and application) leads to …
  • Rebellion through misconception, deception, pretense, indifference, and betrayal, etc.

Or we face the alternatives:

  • Rote—catechistic religion, mechanically learned religion (Isa. 29:13). This is the mere memorization of rules and regulations or doctrines and precepts. It looks at a fixed course or routine and repetition without attention to meaning and application. This leads to:
  • Rut—mere religious habits, going through the motions without spiritual reality. Rut is walking in a religious routine of ritual and memorized sayings and ideas, but without spiritual and personal appropriation—failing to become hearers and doers. This leads to:
  • Rot—failure to produce. Christians who are basically nonproductive and may eventually experience God’s discipline. Rot can of course be caused by the spiritual deadness of religious unbelievers, like the Pharisees of Christ’s day—white washed tombs. They were painted white on the outside, but rotten and dead on the inside. The concept is also applicable to carnal Christians who, though saved, fail to abide in the Vine (John 15) and thus fail to produce.

Picture 5: Rain, Snow, Water

Passages:

Isaiah 55:10-11 The rain and snow fall from the sky
and do not return,
but instead water the earth
and make it produce and yield crops,
and provide seed for the planter and food for those who must eat.
11 In the same way, the promise that I make
does not return to me, having accomplished nothing.
No, it is realized as I desire
and is fulfilled as I intend.

Jeremiah 17:5-8 The Lord says,
“I will put a curse on people
who trust in mere human beings,
who depend on mere flesh and blood for their strength,
and whose hearts have turned away from the Lord.
6 They will be like a shrub in the desert.
They will not experience good things even when they happen.
It will be as though they were growing in the desert,
in a salt land where no one can live.
7 My blessing is on those people who trust in me,
who put their confidence in me.
8 They will be like a tree planted near a stream
whose roots spread out toward the water.
It has nothing to fear when the heat comes.
Its leaves are always green.
It has no need to be concerned in a year of drought.
It does not stop bearing fruit.

Ephesians 5:26 to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word,

Principles Portrayed:

(1) The Picture of Cleansing: The word “prunes” in John 15:2 is the Greek word, kaqairw, literally, “to cleanse.” It was used of pruning useless branches. Read Matthew 15:1-20 and 12:33-35. Do you get the picture? The Pharisees were meticulous about their external religious activities, but they were filthy inside because they were neglecting the water of the Word which would cleanse their hearts and fill them with what was good.

Psalm 119:9 How can a young person maintain a pure lifestyle?
By following your instructions!

John 15:2-3 He takes away every branch that does not bear fruit in me. He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit. 3 You are clean already because of the word that I have spoken to you.

Scripture reveals what is wrong with us and provides the proper motivation for change. But it also provides us with the power for change through the truth that it reveals to us in Christ, thus, cleansing our lives from sin and the defilement of this world.

(2) The Picture of Refreshment, Renewal: Like a cool drink of water on a hot day, the Word refreshes and renews the inner man.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not despair, but even if our physical body is wearing away, our inner person is being renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison 18 because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

(3) The Picture of Production: Apart from the Word of God, we are like a man wandering in the dry, parched desert, exhausted, sapped of energy and spiritual strength, dried out by the heat of life as he is faced with its pressures and his own inability to count for God. Without the Word to guide, renew, refresh, and inspire us, we will invariably end up expending our energy for the husks of the world.

We may gain much of the world and its riches, or perhaps spend life in its pursuit, but, either way, if God’s Word is not the wellspring of our lives, we will waste our lives as far as God’s purposes are concerned. But with the Word as the river or wellspring of life, we become like the man who trusts the Lord in Jeremiah 17:5-8 and Psalm 1:2-3.

Jeremiah 17:5-8 The Lord says,
“I will put a curse on people
who trust in mere human beings,
who depend on mere flesh and blood for their strength,
and whose hearts have turned away from the Lord.
6 They will be like a shrub in the desert.
They will not experience good things even when they happen.
It will be as though they were growing in the desert,
in a salt land where no one can live.
7 My blessing is on those people who trust in me,
who put their confidence in me.
8 They will be like a tree planted near a stream
whose roots spread out toward the water.
It has nothing to fear when the heat comes.
Its leaves are always green.
It has no need to be concerned in a year of drought.
It does not stop bearing fruit.

Psalm 1:2-3 Instead he finds pleasure in obeying the Lord’s commands;
he intently studies his commands day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by flowing streams;
it yields its fruit at the proper time,
and its leaves never fall off.
He succeeds in everything he attempts.

Problems We Face:

We tend to be like a man in the desert who sees a mirage and thinks it is the means of quenching his thirst. Similarly, men often pursue what they think will give them happiness and fulfillment, and the pleasures and possessions of the world. But it is a mirage. It is an illusion placed there by Satan which men believe because they aren’t properly rooted by the streams of the Word. Such have sought to live their lives by trusting in their own resources and have cast themselves out into, as it were, a wasteland of human solutions and delusions. They haven’t learned to recognize the difference between true happiness and mere pleasure.

A man may commit adultery or fornication and experience sexual pleasure, but by no means does he experience true happiness. And, as it is true in sexual fornication, so it is equally true with every form of spiritual fornication where men prostitute themselves to the world and turn away their ears and hearts from their God. Are you a tree planted by the streams of living water? Or are you like a tumbleweed without stability being tossed about by every wind of influence and temptation?

Picture 6: Food, Bread

Passages:

Job 23:12 I have not departed from the commands of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my allotted portion.

Jeremiah 15:16 As your words came to me I drank them in
and they filled my heart with joy and happiness.
That is because I belong to you.

Ezekiel 2:8 As for you, son of man, hear what I say to you: Do not rebel like that rebellious house! Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.

Ezekiel 3:1-3 He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you see in front of you—eat this scroll—and then go and speak to the house of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth and he fed me the scroll. 3 He said to me, “Son of man, fill your belly and your insides with this scroll I am giving to you.” So I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.

Principles Portrayed:

(1) Sustenance, Strength, Endurance: Just as man needs physical food to sustain his health and life and give him strength, so God has created us that our spiritual life must be fed and nourished on the spiritual food of the Word. The following are two passages that attest to this.

Job 23:12. “I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my allotted portion.” In answer to the accusations of Eliphaz, Job declared he had faithfully followed the path of God. How? Because of his relationship with God’s Word. To him it was like the necessary food of life.

Jeremiah 15:16. “As your words came to me I drank them in and they filled my heart with joy and happiness. That is because I belong to you.” Jeremiah found strength in the midst of his persecution by the nation because, unlike the nation who had repudiated God’s Word, Jeremiah eagerly welcomed it like food and enjoyed it as the nourishment of his soul.

These two passages demonstrate the necessity of a life fed and sustained on the resources of God’s Word in order to run the race that is laid out before us—God’s plan and purpose for each of us in the midst of the ups and downs of life.

Under this same picture of the Word as our necessary food, these verses demonstrate the importance of God’s Word for motivation, courage and strength, and capacity for ministry. Living on the Word, because it tunes our ear into God’s voice, produces the burden, the willingness, and the courage necessary for ministry regardless of our fears or the obstacles we face. Scripture brings us in touch with the heart of God.

See Appendix 1 for a short exposition of Ezekiel 2:8; 3:1-3, 14.

When we aren’t living in the Word and allowing it to saturate our hearts and minds, we will either (a) fail to minister or, (b) we will minister for the wrong reasons and always without a sense of God’s purpose and without the joy of the Lord.

One of the things which hinders our response to God, to His Word, and the ministry God wants us each to have as He works and leads in our lives is slavery to the details of life or preoccupation with the “good life.” The parable of the sower, the soil and the seed illustrates this in Mark 4:18-19:

Mark 4:14-20 The sower sows the word. 15 These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: Whenever they hear, immediately Satan comes and snatches the word that was sown in them. 16 These are the ones sown on rocky ground: As soon as they hear the word, they receive it with joy. 17 But they have no root in themselves and do not endure. Then, when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, immediately they fall away. 18 Others are the ones sown among thorns: They are those who hear the word, 19 but worldly cares, the seductiveness of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it produces nothing. 20 But these are the ones sown on good soil: They hear the word and receive it and bear fruit, one thirty times as much, one sixty, and one a hundred.

(2) The Insufficiency of the Details of Life: This picture of the Word as our necessary bread is also designed by God to portray and teach the fact of the insufficiency and futility of the so-called details of life, or even the normal physical necessities of life. It teaches us that man cannot (and was never designed to) live by bread alone. Bread stands for the normal necessities and details of this life by which man attempts to find happiness, fulfillment, or strength.

Deuteronomy 8:3 So he humbled you by making you hungry and then feeding you with unfamiliar manna. He did this to teach you that mankind cannot live by food alone, but also by everything that comes from the Lord’s mouth.

“He humbled you by making you hungry.” God led Israel into the desert where they had no alternative but to trust Him or murmur against Him. In the desert they could not produce their own food: they had to depend entirely on the Lord. This was both humbling and instructive. But God had a special purpose—“that He might teach you (and so also us) that mankind cannot live by food alone …” This meant that their food, their clothing, everything (vs. 4) was the result of the decree or command of God and His sovereign provision.

God speaks and our needs are either provided or withheld. Man is dependent not just on bread, but on God who makes our bread available. But that’s not all.

This also included God’s purpose for Israel as a nation. The Word that proceeded out of God’s mouth not only set forth His decree as to provision for the physical needs of life, but it included His purpose for Israel to function as a nation of priests to the nations of the world. Remember, the nations had, under Satan’s lies and delusions since the garden of Eden, turned away from God. They had sought to live, in essence, by bread alone, independently of God. They sought to act as though God did not exist (Gen. 3:11). It was because of this that God called Abraham out of Ur through whom would come the nation of Israel who in turn would be: (a) God’s representative to the world, (b) the custodians of God’s Word, and (c) the channel of the Redeemer (Ex. 19:5, 6; Deut. 4:4-8; Rom. 9:4-5).

One of the great motivations and reasons for living is an awareness of God’s purpose, to know life has meaning and goes beyond the day-to-day details and routine. For life to have meaning, men need to sense the destiny and hand of God on their lives. Life without that is a life of futility, as the book of Ecclesiastes makes clear.

Man is totally dependent on God and His Word—on that which proceeds from His mouth. We are dependent on His commands, promises, and purposes, not just for our daily bread, but for an adequate sense of living. Since this is so, shouldn’t we be living in constant dependence on the Lord by living in His Word? God’s Word is our source of faith and our means of occupation with the Lord and His heart.

Romans 10:17 Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.

We were not created to simply make a living and luxuriate on the physical blessings of life independently of God, or even in dependence on God. We were created to function according to God’s purposes, to live through Him and for Him. Anything other than that is utter futility. It’s the picture of the gerbil on the proverbial wheel—constantly on the go but going nowhere. To drive this picture home more convincingly, let’s look at a few more passages.

The place where the events of Numbers 11 occurred was called Kibroth-hattaavah, “graves of craving.” Craving the details of life led to the untimely death of a large number of the people. But more importantly, the people were nostalgically yearning for Egypt and their past in the world rather than focusing on getting into Canaan and God’s purpose for the nation. The complaining of verse 4 started with the rabble, those who were not Israelites and had come with Israel out of Egypt. But as verse 10 shows, this was like leaven, soon spreading throughout the camp.

As Americans with the abundance of food and variety of choices we have, we might be tempted to sympathize with the complaints of the Israelites, but neither God nor Moses did (cf. vss. 1, 10). Please note that with this complaining and these nostalgic remarks concerning the past, the people were actually expressing their opposition to God’s purposes: (a) to bring Israel into Canaan so they could accomplish His priestly purposes for the nation, and (b) to learn the lesson of Deuteronomy 8:3—that they must learn to live in joyous dependence on the Lord, His holy purposes, and in what He was doing (cf. 11:20).

Psalm 106:14-15 In the wilderness they had an insatiable craving for meat;
they challenged God in the desert.
15 He granted their request,
then struck them with a disease.

Luke 12:23 For there is more to life than food, and more to the body than clothing.

(3) The Principle of Hunger: As Deuteronomy 8:3 and Numbers 11:4f show us, God often has to let us experience trials and the emptiness and the indigestion of the world’s diet before we will become hungry for His truth and dependent on Him.

Numbers 11:4-6 Now the mixed multitude who were among them craved more desirable foods, and so the Israelites wept again and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we used to eat freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now we are dried up, and there is nothing at all before us except the manna.”

(4) The Principles of Mastication and Digestion: We need to slowly chew the Word and thoroughly digest it. This means not only study, but careful reflection and meditation with a view to application. We need to ask questions such as: what does this mean? What does it mean to me? How should it affect my life?

Problems We Face:

Satan, the old serpent who deceived Eve (like the snake in the grass that he is) works night and day to deceive men into thinking they can live by bread alone, that man can get by without God and His Word. This is secularism—seeking to live without God in arrogant dependence on ourselves and the details of life.

Deuteronomy 8:11-20 Be sure you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments, ordinances, and statutes that I am giving you today. 12 When you eat your fill, when you build and occupy good houses, 13 when your cattle and flocks increase, when you have plenty of silver and gold, and when you have abundance of everything, 14 be sure you do not feel self-important and forget the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt, the place of slavery, 15 and who brought you through the great, fearful desert of venomous serpents and scorpions, an arid place with no water. He made water flow from a flint rock and 16 fed you in the desert with manna (which your ancestors had never before known) so that he might by humbling you test you and eventually bring good to you. 17 Be careful not to say, “My own ability and skill have gotten me this wealth.” 18 You must remember the Lord your God, for he is the one who gives ability to get wealth; if you do this he will confirm his covenant that he made by oath to your ancestors, even as he has to this day. 19 Now if you forget the Lord your God at all and follow other gods, worshiping and prostrating yourselves before them, I testify to you today that you will surely be annihilated. 20 Just like the nations the Lord is about to destroy from your sight, so he will do to you because you would not obey him.

Today, for the most part, our nation has forgotten God. It has turned away from the absolutes of the Word to a secularistic outlook that seeks to live on the details of life and the husks of the world. Unfortunately, this outlook and condition is not limited to the unbelieving world, but like Israel of old, it has saturated the mindset of much of Christianity. Because of this, Israel failed in their ministry as a nation of priests to the nations, and like Israel, the Christian community is failing in its ministry of outreach to a lost and dying society. The following are some important questions we should ponder:

  • Are we more hungry for the material goods of the world than for the spiritual food of the Word?
  • Do we have time to eat our physical food daily, but no time for the spiritual food of the Word?
  • Do we have time for the news, but no time for the Bible?
  • Do we have time for our favorite TV shows, but no time for Bible class on a regular basis?
  • How is our appetite? When the dinner bell is sounded, when it is time to assemble together to feed on the meat of the Word, are we eager to come and put our feet under the table of Bible study? Or are we ruining our appetites for the Word with the junk food of a secular society?

Picture 7: Gold and Silver

Passages:

Psalm 19:10 They are of greater value than gold,
than even a great amount of pure gold;
they bring greater delight than honey,
than even the sweetest honey from honeycomb.

Psalm 119:72 The law you have revealed is more important to me
than thousands of gold and silver shekels.

Psalm 119:127 For this reason I love your commands
more than gold, even pure gold.

Proverbs 8:10-11 Receive my instruction rather than silver,
and knowledge rather than choice gold.
11 For wisdom is better than rubies,
and desirable things cannot be compared to her.

Proverbs 8:19 My fruit is better than pure gold,
and what I produce is better than choice silver.

Principles Portrayed:

In none of these passages is Scripture actually called or directly likened to gold or silver, yet, because of the comparisons and contrasts with gold or silver, these precious metals form another picture with which we may liken God’s Word.

(1) Supreme and Intrinsic Value: Two of the most valuable and precious commodities of the ancient near East were gold and silver. To compare God’s Word with either formed an obvious picture that would dramatize the supreme and intrinsic value of His Word. The Word—like gold and silver—has value the world over. Both are rare and beautiful metals with intrinsic value—especially gold. While other things may lose their value, the Word, like gold, is valuable any place and at any time. In fact, the biblical emphasis is that Scripture is much more valuable than gold, even the purest of gold.

Why is it so valuable? The Psalmist writes, “The law you have revealed is more important to me than thousands of gold and silver shekels.” (Ps. 119:72). In Psalm 19:1-6 the Psalmist discusses the glories of the creational revelation of God and how creation reveals the fact of God and declares His glory. But then, he goes on in verses 7-14 to discuss the inscriptural revelation of God, the Scripture and its character and nature—what the Bible is and does. Because of the attributes and actions of the Word, in the midst of this the Psalmist exclaims, “For this reason I love your commands more than gold, even pure gold”

Scripture is the supreme value of life because it is the Word of God’s own mouth. It is the very revelation of the living God. It is inerrant, infallible, true, tried, and completely trustworthy. It is God’s Holy Word and contains the words of life.

But there is even more that this picture portrays. This picture comparing Scripture with gold teaches us that the Bible, even more than gold, has a redemptive value and a purchasing power that gold or silver can never have.

(2) Redemptive Value or Purchasing Power: Because gold has value, it has purchasing power. Things can be acquired with gold. You can have possessions, land, houses, clothing, gadgets, jewels, furnishings, power, and pleasure with gold. But there is a limit to what money or gold can buy. That which actually counts the most, money or gold is unable to buy. For this we need a different kind of gold, the gold of the truth of the Word of God. In fact, a preoccupation with the gold of this world and what it can buy will keep us from the gold of God’s Word and from the blessings of God.

It is through the Word that we find the Gospel message of our redemption purchased for us, not by the gold and silver of the world, but by the precious blood of Christ. Money can buy neither salvation from sin’s penalty nor deliverance from sin’s power, only faith in the grace of God in Christ can give that. And it is the Word—more precious than gold that perishes—that produces faith.

1 Peter 1:18-19 You know that from your empty way of life inherited from your ancestors you were ransomed—not by perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but by precious blood like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, namely Christ.

Further, as a part of the salvation which the Word gives, it is through the Word that we are able to redeem the time and acquire those things which the world cannot give like security, true happiness, forgiveness of sin, freedom from guilt, an adequate purpose for living, and insight for living. The wisdom of God’s Word is available for all. It is there for the taking, but only those who love her and seek her will find her. Proverbs 8:17 says, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” Only those who, recognizing the Bible’s value, will go digging for the gold and silver ore of the Word will be able to enrich their deposits of spiritual discernment and capacity for life.

Proverbs 2:4-12 if you seek it like silver,
and search for it like hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand how to fear the Lord,
and you will discover knowledge about God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom,
and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding.
7 He stores up effective counsel for the upright,
and is like a shield for those who live with integrity,
8 to guard the paths of the righteous
and to protect the way of his pious ones.
9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity—every good way.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
and moral knowledge will be attractive to you.
11 Discretion will protect you,
understanding will guard you,
12 to deliver you from the way of the wicked,
from those speaking perversity,

This picture of the Word as gold, indeed, as more valuable than gold, necessitates another action on our part—the reevaluation of our values and priorities.

(3) The Reevaluation of Our Values: What do we do when we find something valuable? Read carefully Matthew 13:44-46. This picture of the value of the Bible as gold and silver instructs us to seriously examine and evaluate our values and priorities in life. It challenges us to ask some heart-searching questions.

  • What do I value most? If I say it is God, the Bible, my family, etc., do my actions and the use of my time demonstrate it?
  • What am I pursuing and what am I expecting from the so-called good life?
  • What are we expecting from the world? Are we expecting too much? Are we putting our trust in its gold rather than in the gold of the Word which teaches us about the Lord and draws us to Him?

Isaiah 55:1-3 Hey, all who are thirsty, come to the water!
You who have no money, come!
Buy and eat!
Come! Buy wine and milk
without money and without cost!
2 Why pay money for something that will not nourish you?
Why spend your hard-earned money on something that will not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me and eat what is nourishing!
Enjoy fine food!
3 Pay attention and come to me!
Listen, so you can live!
Then I will make an unconditional covenantal promise to you,
just like the reliable covenantal promises I made to David.

This Old Testament passage in Isaiah 55:1-3 has a very special message for us. It does three things: First, it issues a special invitationthat God offers all men. Second, it challenges us to a careful evaluationof the places we have placed our trust, and of our values and pursuits. Finally, it calls us to an investigationof God’s Word to find the real values of life. (See Appendix 2 for a brief exposition of Isaiah 55:1-3.)

Picture 8: Fire

Passages:

Jeremiah 23:29 Is not my message like a fire that purges dross? Is it not like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? I, the Lord, so affirm it.

Jeremiah 20:9 Sometimes I think, “I will make no mention of his message.
I will not speak as his messenger any more.”
But then his message becomes like a fire
locked up inside of me, burning in my heart and soul.
I grow weary of trying to hold it in
and I just cannot do it.

Principles Portrayed:

Fire is used for the concepts of warmth, for tempering and hardening metal, of the smelting process in the production of precious metals like gold and silver, of burning away stubble in preparing a field for production, of burning and consuming what is worthless and to be destroyed, and of cooking food for palatability and consumption. When God compares His Word to fire, what’s the point? What does He want us to learn from this figure or picture? Fire is a picture of:

(1) Warmth: God has designed His Word to warm our hearts for Him, to change hearts that are cold or lukewarm to hearts that are on fire for God, that are burning with His truth, with His values, purposes, and concerns, and sovereign love, grace and control.

(2) Cleansing: The Word burns away and cleanses what is impure and superfluous (useless) in our lives as it is allowed to purify our values, priorities, purposes, attitudes, thinking patterns, and standards of right and wrong (Jer. 20:9).

(3) Judgment: In Scripture, fire is often associated with judgment. God’s Word judges our lives but if we do not judge our lives by the Word, we will eventually be judged by the Lord through His fatherly discipline and eventually at the Judgment (Bema) Seat of Christ in connection with receiving or not receiving rewards. (For a study on the Bema, see Part 1, Lesson 7.)

1 Corinthians 11:28-32 A person should examine himself first, and in this way let him eat the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few are dead. 31 But if we examined ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned with the world.

1 Corinthians 3:13-15 each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. 14 If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

“Is not my message like a fire?” declares the LORD? (Jeremiah 23:29 ). The context of Jeremiah 23 is that of false prophets who refused to spend time in the counsel of God listening to His Words, giving heed in personal obedience, and proclaiming His truth to the people (23:18, 21-22). Instead, they were pronouncing a vision of their own minds. They were rejecting the warnings of Jeremiah claiming there would be peace and prosperity and no Babylonian captivity. God, therefore, declares that His Word would be to them like a fire, efficacious and powerful and the basis of their own downfall or destruction. Just as a fire consumes chaff, so God’s Word would consume the false prophets.

Problems We Face:We too often fail to judge our lives by God’s Word. We fail to allow the Word to burn away the stubble of our own ideas, agendas, goals. If we fail to allow the Word to do its work, then we will face the consequences.

Picture 9: A Hammer

Passages:

Jeremiah 23:29 Is not my message like a fire that purges dross? Is it not like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? I, the Lord, so affirm it.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 For though we live as human beings, we do not wage war according to human standards, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down arguments 5 and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.

Acts 20:32 And now I entrust you to God and to the message of his grace. This message is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Principles Portrayed:

Besides being good for busting your finger, we all know that a hammer has two main uses— construction and destruction. But when God likens His Word to a hammer, what is He portraying by this picture? Again in the Jeremiah passage, the problem is the same as seen above, the problem of false prophets who were operating on the vision of their own minds. This meant they were rejecting God’s Word through His true prophets, that they were trusting in their own viewpoints, and that this would ultimately result in their own destruction. They were refusing to build their lives on the sure and infallible truth of God. So what are the principles?

(1) Construction, building up: Only the Word, combined of course with the ministry of the Holy Spirit, has the power to build us up in Christ and to develop spiritual maturity and stability (cf. Acts 20:32). We must be constantly building and erecting the spiritual structures of God’s truth into our hearts and minds or we will be building carnal and worldly structures of the false and destructive and humanistic ideas of man. All such humanistic and arrogant ideas first exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. They are ultimately anti-God and anti-man. They hinder our capacity to be what God has designed us to be as His people. In addition, man’s ideas, the visions of man’s own heart, always result in his ruin. They leave us at the mercy of the spiritual elements—the storms and winds of the world just like a man who builds his house on the sand rather than on the rock, Jesus Christ as He is revealed in Scripture.

(2) Destruction, tearing down: Often, in fact generally, before we can build, we must first do demolition work. We must tear down old structures, the human viewpoint, that stand in the way of new construction.

The Problem We Face:

A “fortress” is something arrogantly raised up against the knowledge of God and what that knowledge means to man in its implications, blessings, and responsibilities. It is anything that hinders authentic Christianity. These include anything that works against the application of the knowledge of God and its impact on the life of man. This would include all forms of selfism, humanism, religionism, emotionalism, secularism, cultism, materialism, etc. But it would also include wrong mental attitudes that simply fail to act on the promises, principles, and purposes of the Word.

In other words, the fortresses or strongholds are the arguments, attitudes, and designs which present an obstacle to a proper impact of Scripture and its revelation of God. Through prayer and accurate study of the Word, we should be accomplishing two things: (a) the destruction of any attitude, viewpoint, or thinking that is opposed or is contrary to the viewpoint of Scripture, and (b) in its place, we must be building God’s viewpoint as both the foundation and superstructure of our thinking and living.

Picture 10: Seed

Passages:

Mark 4:14 The sower sows the word.

Mark 4:26-28 He also said, “The kingdom of God is like someone who spreads seed on the ground. 27 He goes to sleep and gets up, night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 By itself the soil produces a crop, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.

Colossians 1:5-7 Your faith and love have arisen from the hope laid up for you in heaven, which you have heard about in the message of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. Just as in the entire world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, so it has also been bearing fruit and growing among you from the first day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth. 7 You learned the gospel from Epaphras, our dear fellow slave—a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf—

Principles Portrayed:

(1) The Need of Cultivation: The preparation of the human heart for the Word.

(2) The Goal of Production: The capacity to produce spiritual fruit for God.

(3) The Fact of Automation: The capacity to work automatically, spontaneously.

In Mark 4:28, the words, “by itself,” are the translation of the Greek automatos from which we get our word, automatic. It means “self moved, spontaneously, without external aid, and also beyond external control.” This word is used only one other place in the New Testament, Acts 12:10. There the gate of Peter’s cell opened of its own accord, automatically, without human intervention.

The stress here is that the earth, really the seed planted in the earth, produces fruit automatically. It does so because it is within its nature as created by God to do so. Without the living seed, all the other ingredients, the soil, sun, rain, and cultivation would be futile. These are all cooperative factors, but the life principle, the power for reproduction, is in the seed.

This parable is about the power of the Word of God and how God brings about production and harvest in the lives of men. The Word of God, when sown in the hearts of men, produces fruit. The soil needs cultivation and the seed needs watering, but without the Word, nothing happens. The all important ingredient is the Word which is alive and powerful, the very power of God unto salvation.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

In witnessing God may use our lives and often does to prepare the soil of the hearts of others for the seed of the Word, but ultimately it is the Word that men must hear, the message about Christ.

In our own lives, God may use many things for our spiritual blessing and to aid our growth—singing, encouragement, and the love and fellowship of other believers. But ultimately, it is only the Word sown and cultivated in the heart and mind that results in true and complete spiritual change and fruitfulness.

We each need to ask ourselves some questions: How is my attitude toward God’s plan and will for my life, for the things happening to me, for the ministry God has for me now or in the future? Am I cold, depressed, wanting to run away? Do I lack incentive, motivation, vitality, excitement with what God has for my life? If so, then clearly, my spiritual furnace needs stoking with the hot coals of the Word through daily time in God’s Word.

Am I lacking in stability? Do I tend to fold every time I come under pressure? Is my life and understanding of God’s Word and what He wants for my life marred by bad mental attitudes, preconditioned ideas, background, human tradition, or past ways of doing things? Then again, I need to start both a demolition and a building program.

How is my response to the Word? What kind of soil am I? Am I like a beaten path or like rocky soil with no depth? Or am I like a patch of earth filled with weeds and briars which choke out the growth of the seeds of God’s truth? If so, I need to prepare the soil of my heart. And how can we do that? Let me make some suggestions:

(1) Be in fellowship—we must come to the study of the Word having confessed all known sin.

1 Peter 2:1-2 So get rid of all evil and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 And yearn like newborn infants for pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation,

James 1:21 So put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the message implanted within you, which is able to save your souls.

(2) Be prayerful, dependent, and expectant of God to teach us and make His truth clear—we need to be like the Psalmist who prayed, “Uncover my eyes so I can gaze at marvelous things out of your law!” (Psa. 119:18).

(3) Be open, teachable, but objective—allow the Word to speak for itself according to the facts of the passage so it is free to teach us the truth. Otherwise, because of our background or prejudice, we will be forcing our ideas on the text and what we end up with will be only error.

(4) Be studious—learn and apply yourself to the principles of methodical Bible study.

2 Timothy 2:15 Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately.

(5) Be diligent—in applying and judging our lives with the Word by faith.

Picture 11: Honey, Honeycomb

Passages:

Psalm 19:10 They are of greater value than gold,
than even a great amount of pure gold;
they bring greater delight than honey,
than even the sweetest honey from honeycomb.

Psalm 119:103 Your words are tastier
in my mouth than honey!

Psalm 81:16 “I would feed Israel the best wheat,
and would satisfy your appetite with honey from the rocky cliffs.”

Proverbs 24:13 Eat honey, my child, for it is good,
and honey from the honeycomb is sweet to your taste.

Ezekiel 3:1-3 He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you see in front of you—eat this scroll—and then go and speak to the house of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth and he fed me the scroll.
3 He said to me, “Son of man, fill your belly and your insides with this scroll I am giving to you.” So I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.

Principles Portrayed:

(1) Honey portrays the Bible as one of the greatest blessings and sources of sweetness and joy in life. Fifty-eight verses in the Bible contain the word “honey.” Some of these verses may refer to a syrup made from boiled down grape juice called dibs and may well be what was called honey in many places in the Bible.82 The honey that “flowed” in the land may refer to this syrup. Though the Egyptians kept colonies of bees in hives, this was not developed by the Jews until Roman times. One reason, however, may be that the reference to the land being full of the honey was a reference to the honey of wild bees rather than to the syrup. Honey could be found in a hollow tree (1 Sam. 14:25-27), in a hole in a rock (Ps. 18:16; Deut. 32:13), and even in an animal carcass (Judges 14:8-9).

Honey was a symbol of blessing, of prosperity, value, luxury, and was viewed as one of the basic commodities of life. It gave sweetness to food and was even used as food itself. To stress the value and blessing of the land which the Lord was giving Israel, He described it over and over again as a land flowing with milk and honey.

(2) Like honey, the Bible has its ultimate source in God alone.

Despite extensive scientific research, modern man has been totally unsuccessful in finding a way to synthetically fabricate anything that even remotely resembles the properties of honey. Only God can handle the highly complex process of hatching honey through buzzing bees and honeycombs. Nutritionists agree that God has uniquely hand crafted honey as one of nature’s purest and most complete foods. It contains some of every nutrient required to maintain good health. In the same way only God could craft and preserve His completed Word, the Holy Bible. It is a supernatural book that man can neither better nor imitate, refine, take away from, nor add to in any way. It is pure, spiritual food containing every spiritual vitamin and nutrient we need in this life concerning our walk with God.83

(3) Like honey, the Bible is given through instrumentality.

When God created the earth He gave bees the exclusive contract for honey. They alone are licensed to make and market honey to the world. No birds, buffaloes, or bugs, just bees. Technically, bees don’t really make honey. They’re simply the airborne cargo ships that transport flower nectar to the warehouse division of the hive, called honeycombs. The process of pure nectar becoming honey is a total mystery to man. Though its constituents come directly from nectar, bees neither add to nor take from the nectar they ferry from flower to comb. The color, flavor, and aroma of honey however, depends directly on which kind of flower nectar the bees predominantly draw from. Similarly, the human authors of Scripture were simply conduits of pure revelation without negating their own peculiar style and personality. The emphases, word choice, and style of each author depended on their particular background, education, and knowledge.

Like bees, human authors were God’s exclusive agents for writing, collecting, and preserving the Bible. These human authors of Scripture, somehow, through God’s sovereign superintendence, in no way corrupted the precise revelation He was giving through them.

The parallel to God’s mystery of honey is striking. Agricultural scientists have tested honey produced from plants heavily sprayed with pesticides, and found it never contains even a trace of any foreign chemical.84

(4) Like honey, God’s Word and the revelation it gives us is selectively chosen.

Bees don’t reap every flower they see. In fact, they are very particular about what brand of nectar fills their tanks. They’re connoisseurs, specializing in certain flavors only.

Once they find what suits their fancy, they lock ‘n load. Over two million round-trip nectar-gathering bee flights are required to produce just one pound of honey! They carefully store their hand-picked honey in one central place, the honeycombs. It’s always fresh and ready to eat for quick get-up-and-go. Just think, eating only one teaspoon of honey is tapping into the best energies of the lifework of hundreds of bees.

God too is a specialist. He hasn’t given us the whole ball of wax. He’s selective, revealing only the essentials securing our salvation through Christ and growth in Him. John, at the end of his Gospel, says it best. “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written.”

I can’t wait to one day read and browse in the great library of heaven. But for now, God has personally and painstakingly chosen one Book to be enough. Like honey, His Word is conveniently stored in one central place, the canon of Scripture, ready to eat for quick spiritual energy. Eating even one little devotional nugget from the Bible is tasting some of God’s most exquisite spiritual revelations, brought to us by hand-picked human authors. Just holding a copy of the Bible is an act of receiving the best energies of tens of thousands of people who gave their very lives to its careful preservation down through the centuries.85

(5) Like honey, God’s Word is delicious, attractive, and invites us to come and eat, but it is only beneficial if personally eaten and used for the specifics of one’s life (Psalm 19:9-10).

When a boy first went to school in New Testament times, he went down to the synagogue while it was still dark to listen to the story of how Moses received the law. Then he was taken to the teacher’s house for breakfast, where he received cakes with letters of the law written on them. In school, the boy received a slate with passages from the Scriptures written on it. The slate was smeared with honey. He had to trace the letters through the honey with his pen, and it was natural to lick the nib of the pen as he proceeded. The idea was that he would realize that the purpose of his going to school was to absorb the Scriptures. This learning practice seems to have been based on an old custom that David refers to in the Psalm.86

Perhaps this custom was also designed to communicate how God’s Word adds sweetness to life as it reveals God and His grace. The Psalmist encourages us to taste and see that the Lord is good in Psalm 34:8. Where do we taste of God’s goodness but in God’s Word? Similarly, using the analogy of milk, Peter implores us to desire the pure milk of the Word of God, and then, as a motivation, he adds, “if (or “since”) you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.”

Problems We Face:

(1) Proverbs 5:3, “For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her seductive words are smoother than oil,” reminds us that Satan and the world system have their counterfeits, that, like honey, are used to allure us away from the Lord and into sin. Thus, there is the need for constant diligence to pay attention to God’s Word (cf. Pro. 5:1-2).

(2) Proverbs 27:7, The one whose appetite is satisfied loathes honey, but to the hungry mouth every bitter thing is sweet.

(3) Proverbs 25:16, “When you find honey, eat what is sufficient for you, lest you should become filled with it and vomit it up.” This can only apply to the Word when we fail to properly digest it and apply it to our lives.

Attitudes Toward the Bible
(How We Should View It)

We Should View It as Sufficient and Authoritative

The Bible is our final authority for belief and practice and is absolutely sufficient to deal with the non-organically caused spiritual and emotional problems of life (cf. also Ps. 19:7-14).

1 Thessalonians 2:13 And so we too constantly thank God that when you received God’s message that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human message, but as it truly is, God’s message, which is at work among you who believe.

James 1:21 So put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the message implanted within you, which is able to save your souls.

1 Peter 2:2 And yearn like newborn infants for pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation,

2 Peter 1:3-4 I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence. 4 Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire.

2 Peter 1:19-21 Moreover, we possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing. You do well if you pay attention to this as you would to a light shining in a murky place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, 21 for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

However, there are other sources of authority people use which often nullify the Scripture’s authority on their lives. Some of these are human tradition (including history), institutionalism, reason or rationalism, mysticism, emotionalism, empiricism, moral conscience and situation ethics, human philosophy, psychology, and fan clubs (cf. Mark. 7:6-13; Col. 2:16-23; 1 Cor. 3:3-5).

We Should Guard Against Other Sources of Authority

Human Tradition

First we need to distinguish between biblical tradition and human tradition. Biblical tradition is that which is handed down through the teachings and writings of the apostles and prophets and this, of course, is authoritative because it is inspired revelation from God. Human tradition, however, consists of the mere teachings of men. This is not authoritative and must never be allowed to take precedence over and so nullify the Word of God. We see the two types of tradition in the verses below.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 But we command you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from any brother who lives an undisciplined life and not according to the tradition you received from us.

Colossians 2:8 Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Where there is conflict or disagreement, the Scripture must be our authority. But so often church or religious tradition, family tradition, and various forms of secular tradition are given priority over the Holy Bible. Many times the Scripture is simply ignored. People often give lip service to the Bible while treating their tradition as though it had its foundation in the Word and was scriptural when in reality it is not. Whenever that happens, we make void or invalidate the authority of the Word.

Matthew 15:1-6 Then Pharisees and experts in the law came from Jerusalem to Jesus and said, 2 “Why do your disciples disobey the tradition of the elders? For they don’t wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you disobey the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Whoever insults his father or mother must be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘If someone tells his father or mother, “Whatever help you would have received from me is given to God,” 6 he does not need to honor his father.’ You have nullified the word of God on account of your tradition. (emphasis mine).

All traditions are not bad or contrary to the Word. Our need is to distinguish human tradition from biblical truth by examining our beliefs and practices under the light of Scripture. We need to examine all the varied types of human tradition, not just some, under the light of our inspired authority, the Bible.

Some illustrations or sources of traditions are:

(1) Church Councils: The formulation and definition of Christian doctrines did not all occur at one time or at an equal rate. Sometimes the spotlight would focus on one doctrine and then another as issues and questions arose through various movements or teachings that began to occur. To establish what the Bible actually taught on these varied issues, councils were held by church leaders to examine and establish what the church should believe on various doctrines. Some illustrations are the councils of Nicea (318), Constantinople (381), Chalcedon (451), and the Synod of Toledo (589). Such decisions must be investigated in light of the Word. Many times their decisions were in accord with the clear teaching of the Word of God. The point is our authority is the Word—not the councils.

(2) The Pope: We are referring to that which has been set down by the various Popes over the centuries and then handed down from generation to generation as law and gospel. The pronouncements or teachings of the Pope (or any man) should never be our authority—only the Bible.

(3) Denominational Creeds and Church Doctrinal Statements: This consists of creeds or statements of denominations or individual churches concerning their doctrinal beliefs. These are designed to present what they believe the Bible to teach, but since only the Bible is inspired, these statements must never be viewed as a substitute for the Bible or as its equal.

(4) Church Programs or Structure: In practice, these often become traditions that are treated as though they were written in stone like the Ten Commandments. Try to change the program or the way things are structured and it is like denying the faith. Many times these programs become virtual “sacred cows” and more important than anything else. We hear statements like, “That’s not the way it ought to be done. We have never done it that way before.” I remember hearing about a deacon who was upset with the pastor one Sunday morning when they were about to enter the pulpit area in the auditorium for the eleven o’clock service. They had a visiting speaker and when the pastor decided to enter through a different door, the deacon remarked to the pastor they shouldn’t enter from that door. Perhaps he was thinking it would be too big a surprise to the people who were expecting them to come in from a different entrance. At any rate, the deacon muttered under his breath, “Highly irregular, highly irregular.” We laugh, but this sort of thing happens in a thousand different ways—many of them involving things much more serious.

(5) The Talmud, Mishna: Jewish writings which contain Jewish tradition.

(6) Political or Scientific Theories as Evolution: Evolution is, of course, nothing more than man’s theory based on a strictly secular interpretation of certain geological data and man’s bias against the knowledge of God. But evolution has become a tradition that permeates our society regardless of the data that stands against it. As such, it often colors man’s interpretation of the first chapters of the book of Genesis.

(7) Church Constitutions: Church constitutions have their place, especially if they were framed with the Word as the guiding authority. But they can become straight jackets that hinder biblical goals, actions, and ministry if they are treated with the same authority as the Bible. For instance, let’s say that the bylaws or constitution of a church states that it must have a certain number of elders. What happens if there are not that many men in the church who are truly qualified according to the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1? Does the church follow the Word and wait until the Lord raises up qualified men to serve? Or, does it ignore the Word and select the number called for by the Constitution regardless of their qualification? The answer should be obvious, but I have known churches that ignored the Word and followed their Constitution.

(8) Church History: We can learn much from history, and we should never ignore it. Church history and the thinking of those who have studied the Word before us represents the work of God among His people in ages past. Regardless of the value, however, what God’s people thought and taught in times past was not inspired. We should not ignore their voice, but neither should we make it our authority for only the Bible is inspired. This historical argument sometimes becomes a straw man that is used to argue against certain doctrinal positions no matter how clearly they may line up with the sound exegesis of Scripture. The straw man goes something like this:

If something was taught by the early church, then it must be true. If a teaching is more recent, then its truthfulness is at least suspect, if not untrue. …

The antiquity or recency of a teaching and the number of people who are for or against it make for interesting study, but neither factor proves or disproves the truth of that teaching.

The charge of newness was leveled against the teachings of the Reformers. With characteristic straightforwardness, John Calvin responded to it this way:

“First by calling it ‘new’ they do great wrong to God, whose Sacred Word does not deserve to be accused of novelty. … That it has lain long unknown and buried is the fault of man’s impiety. Now when it is restored to us by God’s goodness, its claims to antiquity ought to be admitted at least by right of recovery.”87

(9) Numbers: In the quote above, Ryrie calls our attention to another straw man and another form of authority that can nullify the authority of the Bible. It is very similar to the straw man regarding history. It goes like this:

Not only does the antiquity of a view make it truthful but the number of people who held or hold it makes it true. The more the better, to substantiate its truthfulness.88

Ryrie shows the fallacy of this:

Of course, the smoke screen this straw man and its mate throw up can be easily dispelled. The fact that something was taught in the first century does not make it right (unless taught in the canonical Scriptures), and the fact that something was not taught unless, of course, such teaching is clearly unscriptural. Baptismal regeneration was taught in the early centuries, but it is wrong. The majority of the church believes in nonimmersion. Does that make immersion wrong? The majority of the church is not premillennial. Does that make that doctrine wrong?89

(10) Fan Clubs: This issue here is too often people place more stock in what their favorite preacher says than in the Word itself. Luke reminds us that the need is to search the Scripture as to whether the matter taught is true (Acts 17:11).

1 Corinthians 1:11-14 For members of Chloe’s household have made it clear to me, my brothers and sisters, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each of you is saying, “I am with Paul,” or “I am with Apollos,” or “I am with Cephas,” or “I am with Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Paul wasn’t crucified for you, was he? Or were you in fact baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius,

1 Corinthians 3:1-9 So, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but instead as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready. In fact, you are still not ready, 3 for you are still influenced by the flesh. For since there is still jealousy and dissension among you, are you not influenced by the flesh and behaving like unregenerate people? 4 For whenever someone says, “I am with Paul,” or “I am with Apollos,” are you not merely human? 5 What is Apollos, really? Or what is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, and each of us in the ministry the Lord gave us. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused it to grow. 7 So neither the one who plants counts for anything, nor the one who waters, but God who causes the growth. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work as one, but each will receive his reward according to his work. 9 We are coworkers belonging to God. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Self or Subjectivism

This also takes a number of forms:

(1) Reason or Rationalism: This refers to:

The theory that the exercise of reason, rather than the acceptance of empiricism, authority, or spiritual revelation, provides the only valid basis for action or belief, and that reason is the prime source of knowledge and of spiritual truth.90

As is obvious from this definition, human reason becomes one’s authority or criterion which governs what one believes or thinks. Human reason is the absolute criterion. If truth is to be found it must be found by human reason alone; faith is excluded on the grounds it is not reasonable or scientific.

(2) Empiricism: This is the view that experience, especially of the senses, is the only valid source of knowledge.

(3) Scientific and Psychological: Scientific empiricism is the:

… philosophical doctrine holding that all knowledge is derived from experience, whether of the mind or of the senses. Thus it opposes the rationalist belief in the existence of innate ideas. A doctrine basic to the scientific method, empiricism is associated with the rise of experimental science after the 17th cent. It has been a dominant tradition in British philosophy, as in the works of LOCKE, HUME, and George BERKELEY. Most empiricists acknowledge certain a priori truths (e.g., principles of mathematics and logic), but John Stuart MILL and others have treated even these as generalizations deduced from experience.91

Obviously, such a system makes the experience of experimentation, or what one learns or observes through sense phenomena—touch, taste, smell, sight, etc., the criterion or authority for what one believes or accepts as true. Again, such a system is very subjective, obviously limited, and dependent on man’s powers of observation. This is the system of science and social studies. It has its place and use in society, but the God who is eternal, all-wise and knows all things has given us His Holy Word and this must remain our authority where God has spoken.

(4) Religious Experience, Mysticism: This is the system of authority whereby the criterion for one’s religious convictions or ideas is based primarily or solely on feelings, emotions, or someone’s personal religious experience.

Several years ago when the Neo-Pentecostal movement was just beginning on the west coast one of the movement’s leaders, Father Dennis Bennett, was speaking on Ezekiel 37 to the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship in Portland, Oregon. He told the people, “There are many different interpretations of this passage, but I believe that this passage is a prophecy of the present glosalalia movement. This is a vision of the rise of the gift of tongues in our day. But because the interpretation of Ezekiel 37 is so diversified between so many people; because there is not agreement as to what Ezekiel 37 means, I will therefore give you my experience and then we will have something solid to base our thinking on92 (emphasis mine).

Those were Bennett’s words. His statement—as ridiculous as it may seem—is not all that unusual in contemporary evangelicalism. A person has an experience and regardless of what the Word of God says, their experience is the final authority for them. They judge the truth or interpret the Bible by their experience rather than judge their experience by the Word of God. Remember Peter’s declaration in 2 Peter 1:16-19.

2 Peter 1:16-19 For we did not follow cleverly concocted fables when we made known to you the power and return of our Lord Jesus Christ; no, we were eyewitnesses of his grandeur. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father, when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory: “This is my dear Son, in whom I am delighted.” 18 When this voice was conveyed from heaven, we ourselves heard it, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 Moreover, we possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing. You do well if you pay attention to this as you would to a light shining in a murky place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

(5) Practical Experience: Many people today depend more on what they think they have learned by practical experience than on the Bible. But what if one’s experiential knowledge seems to contradict Scripture? Some would then elevate their experience to the level of Scripture or even above it. If you are following the teaching of Scripture in raising your children and one of them becomes rebellious, do you then turn from the authority of Scripture to follow the ideas so prominent in the world today? Or do you, recognizing the inspired and infallible nature of Scripture, evaluate your understanding and application of the Bible as it applies to raising children, or look for and evaluate other factors that could be involved? Does the problem lie with the Scripture or with my understanding and application of the Scripture?

(6) Moral Conscience or Situation Ethics: Here again, the authority is not the Bible but the situation. In this system the authority or criterion is that we must do the most loving thing. But what is that? In this system, there is no absolute guide for the most loving thing, only the narrow, and very often the self-centered viewpoint of the person.

We Should View It With Love, Value, and Respect

We should view the Bible with the kind of love, value, and respect that leads to desire and a diligence to know and apply it.

Psalm 119:72 The law you have revealed is more important to me
than thousands of gold and silver shekels.

Psalm 119:140 Your word is absolutely pure,
and your servant loves it.

Isaiah 66:2 "My hand made them;
that is how they came to be,” says the Lord.
I show special favor to the humble and contrite,
who respect what I have to say.

2 Timothy 2:15 Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately.

Axioms (Principles) For Using the Bible

One Needs the New Birth

People need spiritual regeneration to understand and relate to the spiritual truth of Scripture. First Corinthians 2:14 says that a natural (i.e., the unregenerate) man does not accept (welcome) the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

Understanding the spiritual truth of the Word requires the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit. Prior to salvation, the Spirit of God works to enable the unbeliever to understand the issues of salvation and to bring people to faith in Christ.

John 16:8-11 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment— 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 But we ought to give thanks for you always, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14 He called you to this salvation through our gospel, so that you may possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Before salvation, however, and the new spiritual capacity it provides, the unsaved person cannot open up the Bible and personally understand and relate to even the simplest truth. To the unsaved person, it is foolishness. This is not to imply the unbeliever cannot use the Bible in a moral way such as a code of ethics. Many do this very thing. They use certain parts of the Bible like the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount to establish their own righteousness or gain a standing with God, but miss the truth of man’s depravity and need of the righteousness that comes only by faith. The Pharisees did this very thing. They were blind leaders of the blind and did not truly understand the truth of the Scripture and their need of a suffering Savior.

Matthew 15:12-13 Then the disciples came to him and said, “Do you know that when the Pharisees heard this saying they were offended?” 13 And he replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father did not plant will be uprooted.

Romans 10:1-4 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God on behalf of my fellow Israelites is for their salvation. 2 For I can testify that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not in line with the truth. 3 For ignoring the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking instead to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law, with the result that there is righteousness for everyone who believes.

John 16:8-11 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment— 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

John 16:8-11 teaches us the Spirit’s work of illumination for the unbeliever is primarily restricted to overcoming the unregenerate person’s blindness to those truths that are pertinent to salvation through faith in the person and work of Christ. When a person trusts in Christ, however, they are regenerated, given new spiritual life, and their innate spiritual blindness is removed. This seems to be what the apostle has in mind in Ephesians 1:17-18,

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him, 18 —since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened—so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

In verse 17, Paul prays for the Ephesian believers to have a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. Verse 18 gives us either (a) the reason why Paul can pray for their understanding, “since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened” through spiritual regeneration so they may know and truly grasp God’s truth, or (b) he is looking at the results of his prayer in verse 17—enlightened hearts for the purpose of understanding. Either way, he prays for them because they are new spiritual creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) who can now grasp spiritual truth. Literally, the Greek text reads, “the eyes of your heart having been (or being) enlightened, that you may know …” “Enlightened” is a perfect participle which looks at past completed action with present results. The Greek perfect participle may focus on the completion of the action, on the results, or both. In the first view mentioned above, the focus is on both through spiritual regeneration, while in the second, the focus would be on the results anticipated through the apostle’s prayer.

One Needs to Be in Fellowship

The Spirit of Truth is a special title of the Spirit because of His ministry of teaching us the Word of Truth (John 4:24; 15:5; 1 Cor. 2:15-3:3; Eph. 3:16-19).

Spiritual illumination to the Word of Truth is always a work of the Spirit of Truth. The born again believer, though now spiritually alive and possessing a new spiritual capacity, still needs to be under the control of the Spirit if he is to experience the teaching ministry of the Spirit. The disciples were regenerated men, yet they faced the need of the indwelling and controlling ministry of the Spirit. Christ told them, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears, and will tell you what is to come.” (John 16:12-13).

Compare also Paul’s words to the Ephesian believers in Ephesians 3:16-19:

I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love, 18 you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Since known sin and spiritual apathy grieves the Spirit’s person and quenches His power, it is evident that a carnal Christian (one in whom the Spirit is grieved and quenched) will not be able to understand the deeper things of the Word nor truly relate his or her life to even the simplest truth. “The appalling ignorance of many Christians concerning the things of the Word of God is directly traceable to their carnality and failure in seeking the blessings of a life filled with the Spirit.”93

Both the Apostle Paul and the author of Hebrews wrote directly to this issue in 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:3; and Hebrews 5:11-14.

One Needs to Read, Study, and Meditate With the Right Attitude

(1) We need to be expectant.

Psalm 119:148 My eyes anticipate the nighttime hours,
that I may meditate on your word.

(2) We need to be teachable.

Psalm 119:33 Teach me, O Lord, the lifestyle prescribed by your statutes,
so that I might observe it continually.

Acts 17:11 These Jews were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they eagerly received the message, examining the scriptures carefully every day to see if these things were so.

(3) We need to be prayerful and dependent.

Psalm 119:18 Uncover my eyes so I can gaze at
marvelous things out of your law!

(4) We need to be believing.

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the worlds were set in order at God’s command, so that the visible has its origin in the invisible.

One Needs to Handle God’s Word Accurately

As skillful and accurate handlers of the Word, we need a method of study and interpretation that allows us to come away from the text with the true meaning and intent of the passage. This would necessitate an approach which allows Scripture to be authoritative and speak for itself.

2 Timothy 2:15 Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately.

2 Peter 3:16 speaking of these things in all his letters. Some things in these letters are hard to understand, things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they also do to the rest of the scriptures.

Our tendency is to read our own ideas and prejudices into Scripture. This means we need to study the Bible inductively (reasoning from the particular, the details of the text, to the general, the meaning of the text).

In our interpretation of Scripture we must discover the meaning of a passage, not attribute one to it. Luther wrote that “the best teacher is the one who does not bring his meaning into the Scripture, but brings it out of the Scripture.” Exegesis is bringing the meaning of a text to the surface; eisegesis is reading our ideas into the text. Induction in exegesis means that the Scripture is allowed to speak for itself.94

The method that best promotes induction or good exegesis is the literal or normal method of interpretation. We need to prayerfully and dependently investigate and observe a passage for details drawn from the context, cultural, and historical background, the normal meaning of words, grammar, and the analogy of the Bible as a whole, then based on these details, prayerfully seek to interpret the passage for its meaning. With this derived meaning clearly in mind, we then need to formulate biblical concepts and principles. (See diagrams at the end of this lesson.)

One Needs to Study With a View to Application and Internalization

The revelation of God’s Word deserves a response that is in keeping with its character as God’s Holy Word to man. The goal of all Bible study must always be the careful application of God’s truth by faith, i.e., truly hearing the voice of God in Scripture. Spiritual growth and maturity—the right objective of knowing God’s truth—is obviously impossible apart from its application and internalization to deepen intimacy with God, bring conviction where needed, develop faith and the obedience of faith, and display the character of Christ in one’s life (cf. also 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Col. 1:9-12; Luke. 8:21; 11:28).

Proverbs 20:27 The human spirit is like the lamp of the Lord,
searching all the innermost parts.

Psalm 139:23-24 Examine me, and probe my thoughts!
Test me, and know my concerns!
24 See if there is any idolatrous tendency in me,
and lead me in the reliable ancient path!

Psalm 119:59 I consider my actions
and follow your rules.

James 1:22-27 But be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves. 23 For if someone merely listens to the message and does not live it out, he is like someone who gazes at his own face in a mirror. 24 For he gazes at himself and then goes out and immediately forgets what sort of person he was. 25 But the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there, and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out—he will be blessed in what he does. 26 If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

We must always remember that our goal in the study of Scripture is its application in obedience to the living God, however, there is a word of caution that is needed here. Zuck, who has an excellent chapter on applying God’s Word today, writes:

Christians tend to make one of two errors in applying the Bible. Either they give too little attention to application or they give too much attention to it.

In the first error some feel interpretation is enough, that Bible study is complete when a passage has been interpreted. In the second error others tend to move toward application before fully and accurately interpreting the passage. However, application without interpretation leaves us open to applying the Bible improperly.

Neglecting to apply the Scriptures reduces Bible study to an academic exercise in which we are concerned only for interpretation with little or no regard for its relevance for and impact on our lives. It is wrong to think of the Scriptures as only a source book of information, as a book to be examined merely for the knowledge we can gain from it.95

In addition to knowing God more intimately and loving Him more deeply, may we never forget that another of the crucial goals of the study of God’s inspired Word, as Paul exhorts us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, is to become a people of God who are thoroughly equipped for good works of ministry. As a people for God’s own possession, we are to be a people zealous for good works (Tit. 2:14).

While academics are an important part of a careful and accurate study of God’s Word, it is also, of course, a spiritual exercise since the Spirit of Truth is our ultimate teacher who convicts and enables us to relate our lives to Scripture’s truth. For some thoughts on preparing the heart to hear God’s Word see Appendix 3.

May God bless you in your study of His most holy and powerful Word.

“And now I entrust you to God and to the message of his grace. This message is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32).

73 Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology, Victor Books, Wheaton, IL, 1987, electronic media.

74For a thorough explanation of such evidence and as a sampling of what has been written on this subject, see Evidence That Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell, Lewis Sperry Chafer’s Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, and When Skeptics Ask, by Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, pp. 141-161.

75 Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask, Victor Books, Wheaton, 1990, p. 143.

76 Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology, Victor Books, Wheaton, 1986, p. 67.

77 Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, edited by Cleon L. Rogers, Jr., Regency, Grand Rapids, 1976, p. 647.

78Ryrie , Basic Theology, p. 69.

79 John R. Stott, Between Two Worlds, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1982, p. 51.

80 Ibid., p. 52.

81 Abbot-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1937, p. 116.

82Ralph Gower, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times, Moody Press, Chicago, 1987, p. 108.

83 Emmett Cooper, “Sweeter Than Honey,” Kindred Spirit, Dallas Seminary, Autumn, 1991, p. 14.

84 Ibid., p. 15.

85 Ibid., p. 15.

86 Gower, p. 86.

87 Charles C. Ryrie, So Great Salvation, Victor Books, Wheaton, 1989, pp. 32-33. Quoting John Calvin, “Prefatory Address to King Francis,” Institutes of Christian Religion, p. 3.

88 Ibid.

89 Ibid.

90 The American Heritage Dictionary and Electronic Thesaurus, Houghton Mifflin, 1986, 1987.

91 The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, Columbia University Press, 1989, 1991.

92This account was taken from a booklet entitled “Controversial Spiritual Gifts” by Dr. Earl Radmacher who at that time was president of Western Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary in Portland.

93 John F. Walvoord, The Holy Spirit, Dunham, Grand Rapids, 1958, pp. 220-221.

94Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, W. A. Wilde, Boston, 1956, p. 119.

95Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, Victor Books, Wheaton, 1991, p. 279.

Related Topics: Bibliology (The Written Word), Basics for Christians, Apologetics