I am delighted to share another guest post by Jennifer Pipes, who served as one of the speakers for yesterday’s Bible interpretation workshop. In her writing, you will get a glimpse of what she shared with us. In addition, Jennifer is an assistant teacher for the Wednesday night class, Knowing the Bible, where we will enjoy an in-depth study of the book of Ruth. Jennifer is married to James Pipes and between them they share three sons. During her weekdays, Jennifer works as a benefits manager for a growing company.
Learning Right from Studying Wrong
Recently, I was asked to prepare a short 10-minute lesson/talk on the importance of rightly studying the scriptures of the Bible. At first, I thought “Sure! That will be easy because it is something I’m passionate about.” But as I sat down to begin preparing, I struggled to verbalize why it is important.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
In true Jennifer fashion, I thought and thought about what to say. And thought some more. And during that process I realized I needed to first confront what it means to handle the scriptures wrongly. This should also be easy for me because I’ve been guilty. Plus, if you are trying to tell a room full of people the importance of doing anything right, providing the whole picture is often helpful. I re-read 2 Timothy 2:15 and read the verses before it and after it. I quickly found what God has to say about handling scriptures wrongly.
Remind them of these things and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 2 Timothy 2:14-18
I began to break down each verse. Verse 14 says “don’t fight about words”. Why do people fight about words? Some of the reasons I came up with include:
- To prove our point
- Because our flesh wants to fight/argue when we feel we are right and someone else is wrong
- To purposely annoy or aggravate others
Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.
2 Timothy 2:23
But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Titus 3:9
Next, I looked at verse 16 which says “avoid irreverent and empty speech”. Why do people engage in irreverent and empty speech?
- Trying to please/impress someone else
- Don’t know or understand so we fake it
- Make ourselves look good
I was talking to my husband as I worked through my lesson and when I talked about verse 16, he reminded me of the verses in Matthew when Jesus is telling followers and his disciples about the Pharisees and their desire to impress others and make themselves look better than others.
They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. Matthew 23:5-7
Verse 18 talks about two people who are “departing from the truth”. Why do people depart from the truth?
- Confusion, lack of understanding
- A desire to make scripture match our circumstances
- Make ourselves look good
- Purposely want to lead others astray
And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.
It is easy to spot the common thread between these three wrong ways of handling scripture. We handle scriptures wrongly when we are self-focused instead of God-focused.
There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3:1-7
So why is it important to handle the scriptures rightly?
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23-24
Studying God’s word rightly, assures we focus on God and the life and purpose of Christ. A question we can ask ourselves as we study God’s word is: Am I focused on what scripture says about God, or am I focused on my circumstances?
RC Sproul puts it nicely in his book Knowing Scripture: “Though much can be learned about God from a study of nature, it is his self-revelation in Scripture that is most complete and most valuable to us. With knowledge of Scripture we do not have to rely on secondhand information or bare speculation to learn who God is and what he values. In the Bible he reveals himself.”
Studying God’s word rightly, strengthens our understanding of proper application. A good question to ask ourselves is: Am I putting forth effort to understand context?
Once again RC Sproul shares words of wisdom: “In seeking an objective understanding of Scripture, we do not thereby reduce Scripture to something cold, abstract and lifeless. What we are doing is seeking to understand what the word says in its context BEFORE we go about the equally necessary task of applying it to ourselves.”
Studying God’s word rightly, equips us to test what is written and shared by others. The question here is:
Am I biblically literate enough to recognize false teaching in what I read, watch, and/or listen to?
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:11-15
Studying God’s word rightly, protects us against becoming a false teacher. There are 2 questions we can ask ourselves for this point. The first question is, am I sharing God’s word with others in a way that points them to Christ rather than the world?
You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Titus 2:1-5
The second question is, am I sharing God’s word with others in a way that equips them to properly understand and, ultimately share with others correctly?
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Acts 20:28-30
In Mark 4, verses 1-20, Jesus tells a parable about the sower. In verse 13 Jesus gets specific about the meaning of the parable and describes the results of each sower, depending on the soil used to sow. Some sowers are easily swayed by Satan’s antics. Others haven’t cared for their soil and its full of rocks making it difficult for their seeds to develop deep roots so they easily fall away. Then there are those who sow among thorns of deceitfulness of riches and desires of the world – unable to produce fruit. Then there are those that sow in good soil, who hear, accept the word, and bear fruit a hundredfold.
It is one thing to know how to handle scriptures rightly, but if we aren’t sowing in good soil, it won’t matter. My prayer is that Christian women continue to learn about God and his son Jesus, through studying his word. When we study God’s word with the focus on Him (not ourselves), we ensure that our efforts to rightly study scripture are met with good soil, where our roots run deep and strong. It is here where we are protected against falling away, and it is here where we stand the best chance of recognizing false teaching. It is here, we are sure to share with others correctly so they can share correctly. When we study God’s word with the focus on Him, and we make an effort to study God’s word rightly, our soil is good and we bear fruit a hundredfold.
And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”