When it comes to broken relationships, the issue is never really the issue. We don’t have relationship problems; we have character flaws that show up in relationships. When we are God-centered, we choose to live our lives for God, resulting in doing things according to God’s standards. When we are self-centered, we choose to live our lives for ourselves, resulting in doing things according to our own agenda. In doing so, we become a product of our idols of the heart.
2 Timothy 3:1-4
The three reasons a Christian will not obey God are a lack of knowledge, a lack of skill, and wrongful will. Essentially, the Christian can fall in three categories: They could lack maturity in the Word and not know any better, they could not have been properly discipled and don’t know how to obey, or they could choose to live in sin, with a hardened heart and refusal to obey. Having knowledge and choosing to live in sin is a result of stubbornness and rebellion.
Oftentimes, there is a choice to make in the midst of difficult relationships, and it could be that God is teaching you something about yourself through people around you; God is using them to expose who you are. Choosing to live God-centered lives requires we live by covenants and convictions: We live by God’s own agenda. Man-centered lives are based on feelings and man’s own agenda. When we choose to live for ourselves instead of living for God, we will live in slavery to sin. When we choose to live for God instead of living for ourselves, we live in slavery to God.
Whoever controls your mind controls your decisions. When our thoughts are not in tune with the will of God, they are driven to self. Our choices are driven by our thoughts. When we are self-centered, our thoughts are dominated by lies and self-ambition. As a result of those lies and self-ambitions, our thoughts tend to be driven by and reduced to what we have been denied, what we believe we deserve, what we want, what we think we should have, or what we think we need. We become friends with the world and unfriend God.
James 3:13-18; 4:1-10
God-centered thinking is dominated by truth and wisdom. In obedience, we can focus on what God has done with a willingness to serve him rightly. We are driven by what God promises to do for us and when to expect it; we tend to focus not only on what God is doing, but also what we can be doing for others and how to do it accordingly.
Focus once more on James 3:17-18. Our thoughts are motivated by either the flesh or the Holy Spirit. When our thoughts are motivated by the sin in our hearts, we become preoccupied with issues such as whatever brings me pleasure apart from God, independence from authority (not having to answer to anyone), materialism, and entitlement. This thinking only leads to further disobedience to God. Ultimately, this leads to a guilty conscience, a fear of God’s judgment, and a desire to flee consequences.
2 Timothy 3:1-9
When our thoughts are motivated by the Holy Spirit, we tend to be preoccupied with a desire to know Jesus Christ, to become like Christ, and to being useful to Christ. Our focus is on not only the blessings in this life but also the life to come. This thinking leads to further obedience to God, with a desire to draw ever nearer.
When our thoughts are driven by the flesh we will begin to worship our desires, turning them into the lusts in our lives. Our minds will be set on things below instead of heavenly things, leading us to make self interest a priority over God’s own will. We focus less and less on loving God and loving others. We focus more on using God and using others in accordance to self interest. We become servants of our flesh to satisfy these desires we have started to worship. Our desires that we treasure and worship above loving God and loving others are idols of the heart.
As we make choices according to the desires we have begun to worship, we will find ourselves on a path of difficulty and hard times; we will become a slave to that which we pursue. Sinful habits are hard to repent from and replace. Once developed, they become a result of wrongful worship and misplaced love. Reaping negative consequences of our sinful habits and pursuit of those desires is inevitable. In turn, we have a negative effect on the lives of those around us.
Proverbs 5:21-22; 13:15
2 Peter 2:18-19
1 Corinthians 5:1-6
Through the Person, power, and precepts of Jesus Christ, we can turn from a self-centered life to a God-centered life. To do so, we must identify the areas of our lives where we are dominated by lies and self-ambition. This process necessitates the specifics of where this is happening in our attitudes, intentions, desires, actions, relationship patterns, and service to God. Bringing healing and restoration requires we confess and repent of these things accordingly. We must consciously decide to to make God a priority in all that we think, say, and do.
1 Corinthians 10:31
Areas of our lives where we become dominated by lies, selfish ambition, materialism, entitlement, and lustful pursuits must be replaced with specific obedience to God in those areas. In other words, we must guard our hearts from self-centeredness by walking in genuine love for God and others in our attitudes, intentions, desires, words, actions, relationship patterns, and service.
1 John 1:9
When reflecting on past choices you have made, were you self centered or God centered in your decision making? Identify thought patterns which might be rooted in lies and selfish ambition. What desires have you allowed to become a form of worship, further complicating life? What thoughts, motives, words, actions and relationship patterns, and service do you need to walk in to replace sin? You can honor God when you recognize, repent and replace, and walk in the Spirit.
Although “lament” and “complaint” have some things in common, biblically they cannot be mistaken for each other. Time after time, we see God’s dissatisfaction with complaining and grumbling; most evident are the grumbling Israelites in Exodus. Lamenting, however, seems common and acceptable. How can we express ourselves openly and honestly to God without being offensive? Lament or Complaint? Consider the difference.
Complaint reveals belief in a God who is unreliable. His Word clearly distinguishes complaint as a sin and stumbling block (Philippians 2:14). The grumbling Israelites did not have faith that God was good (Exodus 15:22-24; 16:1-3), and their grumbling led them into wandering 40 years in the wilderness. Complaint does not please God, it offends Him.
Far different from faithless grumble, words of lament are the words of one trusting in the God to whom he cries out. An example would be Psalm 22, which begins with cries of anguish but moves on to praises for a God who has worked in the past. The lament shows reliance on the Lord for his provision and protection. Psalm 22 is directed to the God who answers prayers. Lament does not offend God.
Author of Tyndale’s Commentary of the Psalms, Tremper Longman asks the question, “While it’s wonderful that God invites our laments, how often does he answer them?” His answer: “Not all the time—so what are we supposed to do? Are we supposed to lament forever? ‘The general teaching of Scripture is that a more mature level of suffering is to move from lament to confidence, just like Psalm 46 does.”
In the words of Michael Card, “It’s easy to praise God when things in your life are going well, but what about the other times? What happens when mountaintop experiences cascade into seasons of struggling in the valley? God expects us to pour out our hearts to Him, whether in joy or pain. But many of us don’t feel right expressing our anger, frustration and sadness in prayer. Our personal worship experience is not complete unless we understand the lost language of lament.”
As Christians, we are a blessed people to have the stories of biblical characters to use as a guide for daily living. From examples of Job to David, we can know beyond the shadow of a doubt that our Savior has not forsaken us – In the darkest of times, He is often seen the brightest. Yet, we need not pretend all is well when it comes to our personal prayer. Important to note: Complaint talks about God. Lament talks to God.
Have we lost the practice of lamenting in Christian worship? We can praise our God with laughter and tears in all seasons of life! His glory is seen no less.
Having concluded the series, Doctrine and Disciplines of the Bible, I’m wrapping up with a refresher. We must be reminded of my original objective in developing these lessons: In my observation and humble opinion, there is an unmet call for evangelical women to devote themselves to actual reading and study of God’s Word itself. We are so full of all kinds of stuff offered by this world, which stagnates our growth and maturity. Our thoughts, our desires, and our energies are so used up, there’s little space left for the Word of God. Sadly, in many cases, the extent that most people read the Bible is checking off their time in YouVersion for the day. I find sincere women, who take the easy route of doing a Bible study, with good intentions. Yet they rely on the popular author’s writing far more than the words printed in their own Bibles.
In my quest, I began to scrutinize popular materials marketed as “Christian” and “Bible Studies” in the women’s market. Instead of finding support and teaching in sound doctrine, I found an abundance of world-based material, but a gaping hole which can only be filled by key theology (which creates confusion). My analysis showed me that the majority of materials marketed today more accurately fall into the categories of “Self-Help” or “Self-Care,” which are psychology-based. These “Christian” materials do not further biblical knowledge. Many popular titles outright contradict the Scriptures, or suffer poor exegesis (interpretation and explanation of the Scriptures).
However, I’ve perceived that women often desire further instruction in disciplines and doctrines, so in turn they can implement them appropriately and soundly.
Therefore, it is evident that the essential doctrine and God-honoring technique in practicing our disciplines has begun to fall to the wayside. Reading “Christian” authors can help guide us into growth-producing habits, fostering wellbeing. Hence when lacking theological wisdom, they can distort the readers’ understanding of the gospel, and encourage practices that tend to foster spiritual illbeing. Recent decades, filled with this sort of teaching, have resulted in bad theology.
When we do not know and understand good theology, we risk living out bad theology.
As Christian women, we need theology; the study of God is not merely for our good but for the glory of God himself. Doctrine of the Word of God (only briefly covered in this series) is the very foundation of theology: Christian belief is based on Scripture. In its four applications, doctrine is believed, practiced, confessed, and taught.
1 Timothy 1:18-19; 4:7; 6:21
2 Timothy 2:16
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ. – Colossians 1:28
Take note that the study in its entirety can be easily accessed at any time through the categories menu at www.debbieswindell.com, but let’s recap what we’ve covered in this series:
In Part One, Won’t You Join Me at The Table?, we established the invitation to every Christian to delight in God and things of God. The invitation of the spiritual disciplines is extended to all in whom the Spirit of God dwells, in order to taste the joy and contentment found in a Christ-centered lifestyle. Rightly practicing the disciplines requires our consideration of the Doctrine of the Word of God, as to understanding properly our reading of the Scriptures and applying appropriately our hearing and studies.
In Part Two, Trustworthiness of the Scriptures, the reader was confronted by our tendency to be relativists and the societal pressures that would have us believe that the Bible is no more than an old book left behind. Yet for 2,000 years, the Bible has taken hold of people’s lives, revealing both humanity’s sin and God’s grace through faith. And in the views of science, archaeology, and a vast amount of textual criticism, Scripture has in reality withstood the test of trustworthiness. It is imperative that the Christian places her confidence in the Bible as the voice of God when approaching her Bible reading and study. An accurate understanding of doctrinal truths reflects what the church is bound to believe, and good theology flowing from this stands in direct contrast to false doctrine. Sound doctrine of the Word of God is the foundation of all good theology.
In Parts Three and Four, Inspiration of the Scriptures and Inerrancy & Infallibility of the Scriptures, we established the importance of a right theology that affirms the trustworthiness of the Bible by way of its divine inspiration, calling for affirmation of its inerrancy and infallibility. God’s Word is trustworthy, conveying what is true and demanding what is right. Affirmation of the inspiration of the Bible furthers Christians’ maturity in their attitudes toward the Scriptures, the truthful voice of God. If we claim our Lord and Savior to be Jesus Christ, and that Jesus himself affirmed the inerrancy of Scripture, we must accordingly embrace the Scriptures as true and right. As God’s voice, the Bible is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.
In Part Five, Authority & Sufficiency of the Scriptures, we explored authority and sufficiency of Scripture. We discussed that God speaks sufficiently through the Bible with ultimate, comprehensive, final authority. He also has the right to command our thoughts, desires, beliefs, words, actions, and overall behavior. The supremacy of Scripture qualifies it as functional, instrumental, conferred, and the traditional guidebook in every aspect of life. Scripture contains all the words of God that He intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history. Now, it contains everything that we need God to tell us for salvation, trusting him perfectly, and obeying. God does not require us to believe anything about himself or his work that is not in the Scriptures.
In Part Six, Perfect Posture, we took a glance at the importance of the posture of the heart when coming to the Bible, whether for reading or for study. With perfect posture, we as His children are supernaturally renewed, moment by moment, day by day, as we read, hear, learn, and live out the Scriptures. God’s Word is precise, not ambiguous. We don’t need to merely admire the Bible; we need to understand it. By the renewal of our minds, rejecting conformity to the world’s rampant individualism, our Bible reading enables spiritual growth. We can know the truth, enabling us to think clearly about what God says is true and right.
In Parts Seven, Read the Bible Well, and Eight, The Hard Work of Bible Study, we acknowledged the cumulative benefits of the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and study: God may impress a verse on our hearts and minds in order to help us, but he has given Scripture as a whole to us so that its entire message will become the framework of reference for the rest of our lives. We do not occupy ourselves in Bible disciplines in order to get a “quick fix” to last for today, but rather to learn how to think, feel, and act in a God-honoring way every single day. When we rightly handle the Word of God, we engage in Bible reading and study for innumerable long-term benefits.
In Part Nine, Handle With Care, we looked at the importance of handling the Scriptures with care. There is a direct correlation between salvation, growth and maturity, and one’s ability to handle the Scriptures correctly. It is not a simple matter to understand the Scriptures, but with right understanding, they must also be applied rightly: A Christian is often known by how she handles the Word of God. It is the woman who lives in the Word and whose life is shaped and governed by the Word who is the kind of “worker” God approves in 2 Timothy 2:15. As we encounter the Bible rightly, with humility and thankfulness, we should handle the Scriptures rightly. But instead, we are maxed out in terms of our time, our ability to focus, and tied to our desires. We need to examine our own hearts, carve out time, and discover that God’s Word alone can satisfy our deepest desires in life. Foundationally, we must deal with the appetites of our hearts and make room for God’s satisfying Word.
“If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible. Knowing that it is the Word of God, teaching people to know and love and serve the God of the Word, I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorn hedges and traps, to frighten people off.” – J.I. Packer
Recreated from fall 2018 teaching notes, for the purpose of supplementing my teaching and discipleship, this online series is meant to be more than information transfer. With a correct posture, the reader has been invited to read the Bible well and do the hard work of Bible study while handling the Word of God with care. When Bible literacy is coupled with the ongoing practice of spiritual disciplines, the believer provides a pathway for maturity (by work of the Holy Spirit). And as the church matures, we become better equipped to further the kingdom’s work. Thus, it is to the glory of God.
Consider these questions as we close.
As a result of this study…
Have you put Scripture reading and study into practice, as biblical spiritual disciplines?
Have you been confronted with core doctrinal truths that resulted in heart change and application?
Do you believe you might now have a more discerning attitude?
Has it been necessary for you to make theological adjustments?
In what ways does your daily routine provide space for the Spirit to work?
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. – Matthew 28:19-20
In Parts 7-8 of Doctrine & Disciplines of the Bible, our focus was the disciplines of reading and studying the Scriptures. In Parts 2-5, we explored the Doctrine of the Word of God. We have now established a shallow foundation for Bible reading and study. Continuing along this route, we must look practically into furthering the disciplines, and furthering them in a God-honoring way. And while not all believers have the gift of teaching, we will address such: All are responsible to pass on the truths they have learned in God’s Word. Thus, this part of the study focuses on “rightly handling the Word of truth.”
Once salvation occurs, growth and maturity comes before correctly handling the Scriptures. The Scriptures can be complicated: It is not simple to understand them. With right understanding, they must also be applied rightly. It is the woman who lives in the Word and whose life is shaped and governed by the Word of Truth who is the kind of “worker” God approves, as described in 2 Timothy 2:15. Also: As with all things done in the name of Christ, prayer is a vital element.
John 5:39; 14:6, 9
1 Corinthians 12:29
1 Timothy 4:14
2 Timothy 1:6; 2:15
2 Peter 1:3
How does prayer before study and a determination to handle the Bible carefully reflect your theology? Support your answer.
Keep in mind that we will handle the word of truth better if we know the word of truth. Like Israel’s kings, we should develop a habit of reading God’s word daily (Deuteronomy 17:18-19). “I’m afraid that’s the condition of many people today. They assume that our faith means taking a deep breath, shutting our eyes, and believing what we know deep down inside is absolutely incredible. In fact, Christianity has often been caricatured as the nonthinking man’s religion. But nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. When you become a Christian, you don’t throw your brain into neutral…You don’t commit intellectual suicide.” states Howard Hendrix, author and seminary professor. The Christian is often known by how she handles the Word of God, and mishandling the truth leads to misconceptions by the world.
Have you developed an intentional pattern in your Bible reading and study? What efforts do you make to know and retain what you study?
Read John 5:39, then Hebrews 1:3. God wants us to know Him. The way to know Him is through the Son. Do you look for the revelation of Jesus Christ when reading the Scriptures?
Godly wisdom is the ability to see life from God’s perspective, and react or respond to it with His mind. Why might it be important that we anchor our lives in God’s character?
Joel Beeke, professor of systematic theology, writes, “Spiritual growth begins with knowledge. We must be increasingly filled with the knowledge of Christ as the Agent of the Father’s will. If our spiritual life is a fire burning in our hearts, then doctrinal truth received by grace is the well-seasoned wood that fuels the fire, so that it burns hotter and higher.” A slow, steady fire gives light, but if the fire roars, it also provides warmth. Likewise, Bible reading and study is the means to develop spiritual maturity and godly wisdom. Godly wisdom is the ability to see life from God’s perspective, and react or respond to it with His mind.
Referencing Hebrews 5:11-14, have you become “dull of hearing?” Would you say your diet consists of spiritual milk, or solid food? Are you mature enough to discern truth?
We do not grow as Christians merely by using a spiritual barometer. We grow from the life-transforming renewal of our minds. Matthew Henry said, “Spiritual growth consists most in the growth of the root, which is out of sight. The more we depend upon Christ and draw sap and virtue from him…the more we cast forth our roots.” This spiritual maturity, in turn, comes from actually understanding and learning to apply God’s word to our lives. In doing so, we walk in Him.
Read Ezra 7:6-10. Having been a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses, Ezra is presented as the ideal priest in Israel. His mission was to lead God’s people in worship and holiness. This stemmed from a life of faithfulness. In the living of Ezra’s daily life, what specific words or phrases do you find in verse 10 revealing to us that he earnestly learned and applied what he knew to be true?
Why was Ezra’s expert knowledge of the law badly needed to those who had been exiled for 70 years?
1 Corinthians 8:3
1 Peter 2:2
2 Peter 3:18
How do we benefit today from teachers who have studied the Word vs. those attempts without proper study? Would you consider study of the Bible vital to handling the Word rightly in the teaching or counsel of scriptures? Explain.
What benefits might we find in reading, studying, and teaching the Bible within the community of God’s people, His church?
When Romans 8:28-30 is read alongside 1 Corinthians 8:3 and Galatians 4:9, the people of God clearly responded to his call in faith, and the faith required for justification is illustrated. In the fulfillment of God’s purposes, the redemptive work of Christ (by way of the Spirit) enables the believer. Do you see how fitting it was that Paul wrote these words, himself being a great example of someone who endured a great deal of suffering, yet continued to grow in his faith and love for Christ?
In Colossians 2:3-10, we read a portion of Paul’s appeal for Christian maturity. Where does it indicate the treasures of wisdom and knowledge to be found? In verses 6-7, which phrases describe believers who are alive in Christ?
In verses 4 and 5 of Colossians 2, Paul does not say that the church at Colossae has already been deceived, but from long experience he is familiar with times of attack from the enemy following a work of grace. Can you see where and why such an act could have a devastating effect on both individuals and the church?
Peter and Paul both understood the significance in the fact that Scripture confirms Scripture. In their writings, they make several points about holiness. Peter even quoted God’s holiness commands from several places in Leviticus. As we noted in previous posts, Jesus himself quoted Scripture in support and confirmation. Exhibiting the same humility and integrity, we can confidently build all of our beliefs upon the sufficient Word of God, which proves itself true.
Matthew 11:10, 16-17; 13:14-15; 15:4-9
1 Thessalonians 2:4
1 Peter 1:15-16; 5:5
Although Christians are commanded to share God’s words with others, can you clearly see the importance of doing so graciously,with dignity, honor, and respectfor the God whose holy Word you are sharing? Support your answer.
With interpretation, 2 Timothy 2:15 lays out the need to rightly handle the scriptures. The Greek verb orthotomeo means “to cut straight,” which is used here to refer to the accurate handling of Scripture. The reference here is to plowing, cutting leather, or cutting bricks or stones. Since the word “workman” most often refers to an agricultural worker in the New Testament, the word likely refers to “plowing a straight furrow.” This word serves as a metaphor for doing something carefully, accurately, and precisely. When interpretation is done carefully in Bible reading, study, or teaching, we are rightly handling the Scriptures.
Ezra 1:1-11; 6:8-12; 7:1-28
2 Timothy 2:12-15
Refer back to Ezra 7. Note some important details mentioned in Ezra 7:1-11 regarding Ezra’s study, what he learned, and what he taught. It’s possible that the king, in making the provisions mentioned in Ezra 6:8-12 and 7:22, actually intended to ward off the wrath of God against His kingdom. Nonetheless, we can note some of the benefits from Ezra’s dedication to God and His Law seen in 7:11-25. Identify them.
Did God’s people ultimately gain from Ezra’s study, dedication, and faithful leadership, as “the Lord, the God of our fathers” extended his steadfast love? Support your answer.
In light of Isaiah 60:5-7 and Ezra 1:1, whose hand controlled the blessing of provisions mentioned in Ezra 7:27-28? List these blessings.
In Titus 2:1, we see Paul’s charge to Timothy. When coupled with 2 Timothy 2:12-15, how might this apply to all God’s children? How would you present yourself to God?
Hendrix writes, “You see, it’s one thing to struggle with difficulties in interpretation; it’s another thing to distort the meaning of God’s Word. That’s serious. That’s something He will bring to judgment. So we need to be careful to learn how to interpret Scripture accurately, practically, and profitably.” Hendrix then mentions six pitfalls of interpretation to watch out for:
Misreading the text
Distorting the text
Contradicting the text
It is significant that Paul proclaimed the whole counsel of God, recognizing that everything written in the past was written to still teach us today. This was so that through endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope. He also noted that Israel’s history contains examples that were written as warnings to us. The entirety of the Bible has value for all of us. With careful attention, we can glean important truths from every word it contains.
1 Corinthians 10:1-11
In 1 Corinthians 10:11, Paul sums up his teaching by saying that these things are examples and have been recorded as warnings. It is significant that in the same verse he refers to “the end” as the fulfilment of the ages. The culmination of all past ages having arrived in the coming of Christ has the implication that all previous ages come to their appointed end in him.
Past ages having been completed, their lessons are now teaching us. From this, we might reap the fruits of learning from those events. In verses 1-10, which experiences can you discern as being sins? List them. What lessons can be learned regarding these sins?
Elsewhere in Paul’s writings, the “word of truth” refers to the gospel message. On this basis, some infer that the Word refers specifically to the gospel, not the Scriptures as a whole. However, the connection between 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Timothy 4:2 suggests otherwise.
2 Timothy 3:16; 4:2
Reading 2 Timothy 3:16 and 4:2, are you able to identify the proper context of “word of truth” in this passage? Why might the context matter?
Whether reading, studying, or preparing to teach the Bible, the key is the context.
What was the context then?
What is the context now?
What is the truth that remains true, regardless of the cultural context?
Studying culture includes the areas of power, communication, money and economics, ethnicity, gender, generations, religion and worldview, the arts, history and time, place, and resources. If you can discern the accurate, author-intended principles from your reading and study of Scripture, you’ll have some powerful tools to help you apply this biblical truth. You’ll bridge the gap between the ancient world and your own situation with the timeless truth of God’s Word.
The principles of Scripture are universally relevant.
In the work of interpretation and application, we must be cautious of extrabiblical statements that might seem to reflect biblical truth. Persons may be using the same words, or presenting the same concepts that God mentions in His Word, but they may also be filling those words and concepts with completely different meanings. With the reader’s or teacher’s private interpretation comes the obligation to interpret Scripture correctly.
R.C. Sproul penned, “The doctrine of the sola Scriptura does not mean that the Christians are to pay attention only to their personal understanding of the Bible or that we can make the Scriptures mean whatever we want them to mean. After all, Martin Luther is often quoted as saying, ‘The Holy Spirit is no skeptic.’ The meaning of Scripture is not so uncertain that we can all come up with our own views and never know the truth. That would be a skeptical view of divine truth that says it is wholly subjective and objectively unknowable.”
Can you describe God-honoring interpretation and application, as contrasted to poor interpretation and application? Make a chart if needed.
Many times, scriptural teaching can even become distorted when a teacher or writer puts her own spin on it. It’s true that well-intentioned people may have been influenced by unbiblical teaching through various means, and not even be aware of it. But in reality, the Bible tells us that oftentimes men will suppress, deny, and distort the truth even if it is staring them in the face. If we are not rooted in the basics of the Bible, we are more likely to be swept away by half-truths and false doctrine. As a warning, God also tells us through His Word that Satan has been given limited power until Christ’s return. We should not be surprised by His attempt at sabotage.
Isaiah 5:20-21, 24
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
2 Thessalonians 2:3-12
Hebrews 2:7-8; 5:14
2 Peter 2:1-3
1 John 4:1-6
Along with outsiders, the apostle Paul mentions the possibility of people from within the church adopting false teachings and seducing the congregation (Acts 20:30, Romans 16:17, Colossians 2:8). How could this be applied to the church today?
Read Ephesians 4:11-16. How might the Christian woman avoid being “tossed to and fro” by crafty schemes and foolish teachings?
The Bible, being God’s own voice, means that when we dishonor doctrinal truth, we also dishonor God himself. Where in your life is there evidence of being “tossed to and fro” that has weakened your resolve to do what God says in his Word?
Evil often disguises itself as truth. How can we most quickly recognize error?
God does not want us to be spiritual babies: It is important to sit under solid, biblical teaching, and to fellowship with mature Christian women. In reading Hebrews 5:12-14, how might this make us able to discern what is best?
Stop. Pray that the Lord would expose your weakness and dependency on “popular” teaching, catchy phrases, and simple (sometimes comical) illustrations, rather than taking time and effort to seek doctrinal truth. Pray that He might show you where you are lacking discernment, in order to enable correct theological adjustment.
When Paul was meeting with the Ephesian elders, he said, “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you.” He gave them everything profitable. Remember, they all had the life struggles we have. They had all the spiritual needs we have. Hence, be careful of what you accept as truth, influencing your own personal interpretation and application of a passage. If not, you risk passing on error. The Word, in and of itself, is the ultimate profitable source. The Word will strengthen the believer.
Identify warnings in the Acts passage. List them.
Sound application must begin with sound interpretation; it begins as soon as we sit down to read the biblical text; it includes our attitudes and our posture toward the Word.
As we reflect on a passage, we need to think about a specific application of the biblical truth to life and ask:
Am I open to hearing what the Spirit is saying to me through the Word about ways I need to adjust my life?
Am I characterized by making adjustments to my life based on God’s Word?
We need to be constantly aware that Scripture may have multiple applications, but we recognize only one best meaning and strict interpretation of Holy Scripture. Essentials for application would be:
a commitment to a high view of Scripture.
recognizing the Bible as our authority for daily living.
a conviction of the profitability of all of Scripture.
an understanding that only what the Bible says is truly important, as we accurately divide and plow into the Word of Truth.
a commitment to correct application of the instruction of the Scripture. This includes going beyond reading the Bible, and actually doing what it says.
In the “actually doing” what the Scriptures teach, how can our awareness of truth become a workroom for the Holy Spirit? Why is this encouraging?
In addition, we must have a willingness to be confined to the author’s intent. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul charges Timothy to be a diligent student of the scriptures, honoring the text in his teaching as he preaches the Word. All teachers of God’s Word automatically assume that same responsibility today.
2 Corinthians 4:1-6
1 Timothy 1:3-20; 6:12; 6:17-21
2 Timothy 1:13-14; 2:18; 4:1-22
Titus 1:1; 1:9-11; 2:1
Do you deny your difficulties with Bible interpretation and application? Do you allow pride to get in the way of consulting credible resources (print or persons)?
Read 2 Timothy Chapter 4. Paraphrase the sections indicated below. Make certain to note Paul’s words of encouragement, exhortation, and warning, and include these words in your paraphrase.
In verses 4:1-8, why was it important for Paul to urge Timothy to preach sound doctrine? What was happening at Ephesus? What event is mentioned in 4:1 to motivate Timothy? How might this motivate us today to handle the Word rightly?
What is the connection in correct interpretation and right application? How does slowly progressing, unchecked poor application take control of your Bible study?
In application of the Scriptures, it is important that we strive to know what is true. We must not contradict the Bible in any form or fashion, understanding that in most cases, the application can be easily seen from the text.
Application is the thoughtful appropriation of biblical truth to our lives – how we take it in, embrace it, and adjust our lives to bring them in line with the truth of God’s Word.
This application can be difficult to do consistently: our sinfulness tries to distort the text, and many of us have also been indirectly trained to think in vague terms rather than specific action. Application will likely take the form of a tangible action, worship, meditation, or adjusting our theology.
How does having an overall understanding of a passage and belief in God help you to think through the appropriation of biblical truth to your life?
In light of this study, identify some passages or biblical stories you now believe you have possibly misinterpreted or misapplied.
While determining your application of the Scriptures, discern what might be controlling your methods of meditation on them. Where is this happening in your life? Would you say your focus is more horizontal or vertical?
The Bible’s grand and glorious narrative helps frame our interpretation. It leads us to a balanced theology. The “big story” helps us to better understand the Bible’s “little stories”: In this sense, we can view the “big story” from above, before viewing the “little stories” from below. Even in our application, we should recognize that the Bible is one overarching saga.
1 Timothy 4:1-8
2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17
2 Peter 1:19-2:3
Which overarching theme of the Bible is seen in Matthew 5:17-18? Why would this be an important passage in interpretation and application?
List specific instructions in Paul’s charge to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:1-8. What is the warning found here, which applies to Bible teachers today?
Can you see the scope of application in 2 Timothy 3:16-17? Paraphrase this passage.
In James 1:22-25, do we learn that application should be taken from our hearing, reading, and study of the Bible? Do you find a warning in this passage? Explain.
Which warnings do you find in 2 Peter 1:19 – 2 Peter 2:3?
What might be the implications of the warnings found throughout this study? How does this encourage you to be diligent in proper technique of your personal Bible reading and study?
The Word of God is eternal and unchanging, but our world is not. Therefore, living out God’s truth demands that we plug it into our particular set of modern circumstances. However, we do not change the truth to fit our cultural agenda. We change our application of the truth in light of our needs, while remaining thoughtful and diligent about which aspects of a biblical passage are meant to be transferable to us.
Teachers of the Bible must handle God’s Word accurately as the “workmen.” We must emphasize what Scripture itself emphasizes, and focus on what Scripture itself focuses on. Although it is true that mishandling Scripture has eternal consequences, it is also true that handling the Scriptures rightly comes with reward.
2 Timothy 2:15
“Pooling of knowledge is edifying to the church; pooling of ignorance is destructive,” R.C. Sproul wisely penned.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you rank your Bible literacy? Do you believe it has improved since you first began this study? What difference might that make to both yourself and others? Pray for the Lord’s conviction of where and how you need to fight biblical illiteracy.
In this study, we have established that God expects the believer to seek and obtain biblical knowledge. Why would only seeking horizontal, worldly knowledge be insufficient?
What areas of your life show (or lack) evidence of biblical awareness? Where are you knowledgeable and biblically aware, but your heart isn’t fully engaged? How might you be encouraged by God’s intervening grace?
In this series, we’ve established our goal: in applying sound doctrine and using proper technique, in reading and studying the Bible, we must have an intimate acquaintance with the mind of God. He has revealed all we need to live a life of godliness in commands and promises (illustrated in and through the lives of biblical saints and in Jesus supremely). Together, let’s continually feast on His words! As we do so, we will begin to slowly discover the rich treasure of God’s will in every situation and every circumstance of life.
Is it possible that past or present biblical illiteracy has caused you to begin to believe things that are not true, and in turn say things that are not true? Are there lies that might have been rooted in your past theology that have affected your actions? What lies could you be currently repeating? Be specific.
How is your view of Scripture, and God’s involvement in your study, connected to your daily life? How is your view of Scripture connected to your obedience to the great commission?
Our lifelong journey into knowing and loving God fuels growth, as we allow ourselves to be conformed to the knowledge and love of the Scriptures. The earthly reward of handling the Bible carefully (that which is God’s voice) is to enjoy the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: And the heavenly reward will be so much more!
An inability to understand the Bible obviously hurts the church, but it also hinders our efforts in furthering the gospel. Our purpose in these disciplines is not justreading for the sake of enjoyment or to havea Bible study, but it is so that we might know God more deeply, and ultimately, that we might walk away better equipped to join Him in His work, telling the nations how great our God is. Therefore, the goal of Bible literacy, in both reading and study, is to give God glory in making Jesus Christ known in a greater way.
Reflect on what you’ve gained in this study.
My goals after completing this study are…
As a result of my studies, I hope…
My prayer following the completion of this study is…
Previously in the study, Doctrine & Disciplines of the Bible, a call to spiritual disciplines was presented, communicating both the importance of reading the Bible well, and the hard work of Bible study. God’s Word is so much more than printed words on paper; it has the power to sift and separate. God’s Word lifts, humbles, convicts, and soothes our souls. Even so, we have a selfish tendency to use every word to make ourselves the focus.
Nonetheless, is it not true we live in a time of rampant individualism? Today’s motto is It’s all about me: My life. My job. My family. My plans. My rights. My happiness. It’s me, me, me. This selfish attitude has crept into the church and into our Bible reading. Perfect posture for the reading of Scripture is Godward. Godward posture requires we also put God forefront in our Bible reading and study. Ephesians 2:10 reads that we were made to fit into God’s plan, not the other way: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” And, although the Word applies to us, it is not centered around us. It’s not just about us: It’s first about God.
What might individualism look like in your own life?
Why would your preconceived notions be important to acknowledge when coming to the Scriptures?
In light of this individualism, what should I feel about the Word of God? Kevin DeYoung writes, “We are all righteously indignant when someone else holds in little esteem what we know to be precious. Extreme delight in someone or something naturally leads to extreme disgust when others consider that person or thing not worthy of their delight. No one who truly delights in God’s word will be indifferent to the disregarding of it.”
Christians are quick to make excuses of why we aren’t spending time in the Bible: Believing we don’t have the energy or see the necessity of why we should study, we lack motivation. Offering the excuse of little time due to being too busy, we have a problem with priorities. The excuse of not knowing how to read well or doing the hard work of Bible study reveals a problem of not learning technique. And when we simply don’t get around to it, we have a problem of preoccupation.
Many times in this series, we have considered the praise of God’s Word in the Psalms. In Psalm 119:17, we are reminded that in order to serve God rightly, we should seek to have our eyes opened to behold His truth and earnestly desire to understand it. In all honesty, would this be your own desire? Does your heart posture include humbling yourself enough to set aside agendas, opinions, and emotions? Are you giving the Spirit space to work?
Psalm 119:17, 53, 119, 127, 139-140
Read Deuteronomy 6:6-7. God’s Word ought to occupy the mind of the Christian all the time. Is Bible reading and study something to be hurried?
Read Psalm 1:1-2. Do you see Bible reading as something we should do, over and over, “day and night,” repeatedly?
Are there times you come to the Bible with an ambivalent or indifferent attitude?
Do you come to God’s Word with delight and expectation?
The Bible is truly magnificent and awe-inspiring. Does your posture reflect this truth?
David Dockery sums up the need for a correct biblical posture: “Of course the Bible is the most relevant book on the planet, but its message is a God centered message, not a self-centered message. The Bible isn’t primarily about us; it is all about God! The Bible is about knowing and loving God as He wants to be known and loved, coming into His presence, having your mind renewed to think about life the way He does. Once you begin to understand the Bible is about God and not primarily about you, it takes on a whole different priority in your life – and a whole new relevance. If we are really God centered, it can make all the difference.”
With perfect posture, we as His children are supernaturally renewed moment by moment, day by day, as we read, hear, learn, and live out the Scriptures. Whether our posture be kneeling before God or standing before God, it is not the posture of our bodies but of our hearts that is important. Thus, as we apply our posture to Bible reading and study, we would do well to remember that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (ex. James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5, Proverbs 3:34).
2 Chronicles 6:7-9 & 39
In 2 Chronicles 6:7-9, we see God’s attention to the heart of David. What posture do you see in 2 Chronicles 6:39? Why was posture important in this context?
In Psalm 51:1-17, we see essential heart postures that can draw us closer to God. List them.
What would be the application of Proverbs 4:23 to our posture in Bible reading and study?
Charles Spurgeon penned, “I confess that the words of Scripture thrill my soul as nothing else ever can; they bear me aloft or dash me down, they tear me in pieces or they build me up after an unrivalled fashion. The words of God have more power over me than ever David’s fingers had over his harp strings. Is it not so with you?” The key to perfect posture is to have one toward God’s Word by which His Word is changing us in our current context, rather than our reshaping of the Word to fit our cultural tastes. The Bible, as read in the light of its various contexts, it can transform our own various contexts, as we explore further in Part Seven of this series. “It is not the book that is to be altered: our hearts want altering.” writes Spurgeon.
God’s Word is precise, not ambiguous. Are you guilty of superficial Bible study? Does your study consist of nothing more than, “I guess this verse means” or “What does this verse mean to you?” Why might this approach be incorrect posture?
We don’t want to merely admire the Bible. We need to understand it. Seeing the Bible as God’s Word, why is it crucial we gain understanding?
Why would reading books about the Bible, or devotional materials loosely based on it, not be a substitute for reading the Scriptures?
Wielded by the Holy Spirit, the Bible has the power to sort us out spiritually, growing us in relationship with our Lord. Our heart posture matters. If we are not being moved in heart, challenged, and moved to new places in life (new levels of obedience and service to God), we are not really reading the Bible the way God intended. Spiritual renewal and continued growth is always related to intake of God’s Word. In The Power of Surrender, Michael Catt writes, “The Word of God was never given to make our flesh feel good; it was given to confront us with our worldly and fleshly thinking. The Word takes us to the cross.”
“The Holy Scriptures are the lifeline God throws us in order to ensure that he and we stay connected while the rescue is in progress.”- J.I. Packer
As we reject conformity to the world by the renewal of our minds, our Bible reading enables spiritual growth. We can know the truth, enabling us to think clearly about what God says is true and right. Therefore, Bible reading profits us to live well for God in this world and live out His will. In experiencing God’s freedom, his grace, peace, and hope, Bible reading brings us joy. With Bible intake, we guard ourselves from sin and error. Bible reading and Bible study equip Christians to handle the Word rightly as we represent our Lord in ministering to other Christ followers and evangelize the lost. Corporately, we are built up as a Christian community with others when hearing and reading the Bible.
Ephesians 4:14-16, 6:11
2 Timothy 3:15-17
1 Peter 2:1-2
2 Peter 2:1-2
In Joshua 1:8, Joshua’s courage and hope of victory in the quest for Canaan were made to depend on his firm and inflexible adherence to the law of God (Deuteronomy 17:18). Why might you be tempted to look for hope elsewhere?
God sees straight through to the motives of the heart. A proper posture when coming to the Word would be Psalm 51:10. Why might that be?
Referencing 2 Peter 2:1-2, Peter’s constant prayer of grace and peace for his Christian friends is dependent on their deep knowledge of God and Jesus. How might you apply Peter’s prayer?
Would honest evaluation determine your Bible reading a joy, or has it become dread? Where is your zeal?
The marks of spiritual renewal in relation to God’s word are: the necessity of Bible intake, reverently hearing His word expounded and taught, and His people responding rightly. This is most clearly seen in the book of Nehemiah. In Nehemiah chapter eight, we can acknowledge that God’s people were hungry for the written word. Their posture toward the written Word, reverent anticipation and expectation, had no less zeal due to the Book of the Law of Moses having already been an ancient book, a thousand years old. Clearly, God’s people in Nehemiah’s day believed the Book to be authoritative. If we are God’s people, we read his Word with the same zeal. A proper view of scripture understands and trusts the Bible’s reliability.
Exodus 24:2, 7
2 Chronicles 34:27
Nehemiah 8:1-5, 9-18
When Moses read the newly written book of the Covenant to the people (Exodus 24), what was their response? What was the heart posture of the people in vs. 7?
Reading Isaiah 66:2, consider that the spiritual temple of the heart is God’s favorite dwelling place. What heart posture is identified?
“Scripture itself is alone competent to judge our doctrine of Scripture.” – J.I. Packer
By the working of the Word, the Holy Spirit produces outcomes in the life of the believer. Results from a Lifeway study show, when coupled with regularly attending church, Bible reading is the number one predictor of wisdom and maturity. George Muller wisely penned, “The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts.”
Acts 8:30-34, 17:11-12
In Deuteronomy 17:19-20, which character traits and heart attitudes are mentioned? Why would these be vital in the daily reading?
Matthew 22:37 and Luke 10:26-28 command the whole man to use different ways of thinking (not different parts) in relation to God. Why would more than a superficial allegiance to God be beneficial in everyday Bible reading?
In their response to the gospel, the Jews were zealous to hear what Paul had to say (Acts 17:11-12). Scripture indicates they met with him daily, not accepting the truth uncritically but rather examining the scriptures for themselves. Their conversion involved intellect and was not merely emotional. Why might this be important for us to understand? How might this affect your attitude toward Bible reading and study?
As we have established, the Bible is, in fact, the voice of God; Christians innately know we should read it. We need enough space in our minds to routinely sit, read, and think about the Bible — We need space in our hearts to take it in and respond to it appropriately. Many of us don’t because we have a hard time staying on task to gain understanding of the text. The fact is, we are going to have to start tuning out distractions in order to make room in our lives and hearts to hear God’s voice. Correct posture involves the whole of life as we try to grasp and interact with the whole story of Scripture and find our place in that story.
“Apply yourself wholly to the Scriptures, and apply the Scriptures wholly to yourself.”– J.A. Bengel
2 Chronicles 34:21
Psalm 1:2, 119:17-18
Proverbs 2:1-6, 3:5
Have your eyes been opened to behold His truth? Do you earnestly desire to understand it (Psalm 119:17-18)?
Which words or phrases in Proverbs 2:1-6 might indicate the right perspective, prayer, and effort?
What should I do with the Word of God? We have looked at Psalm 119 throughout this study and it is true that it illustrates the Spirit prompted uses for the word. Obediently, we are to sing the word, speak the word, study the word, and store up the word. The Christian should obey the word, praise God for the word, and pray the word. These are indicators of what we believe and feel about the Word.
Take notes for what you personally believe, practice, and feel about God’s Word as you read and reread the verses below.
Referring once again to Nehemiah: In God’s Word, Our Story, Nancy Guthrie writes in her summary of Nehemiah 7-8, “Coming Together Around God’s Word: The people gathered at the gate were not hungry for some sort of spiritual experience apart from God’s Word. They were not heading out to find places to be alone, where they might silence themselves and listen to hear a special word all about them spoken into their private thoughts. They were hungry to hear God speaking to them in such a way that they would know for sure it was his voice they were hearing.” In response to the reading, the people worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground (8:3-8). Rather than constantly posing the question, Isn’t life all about me?, may we be a generation of women who God would raise up to be hungry for the book!
Perfect posture positions the reader to be obedient to what the text plainly means instead of supporting the reader’s preconceived ideas. Slightly revised from Tim Keller’s book, It’s all about Jesus, this understanding positions the reader to acknowledge Jesus:
Jesus is the true and better Adam, who passed the test in the wilderness not the garden, and whose obedience is imputed to us. Jesus is the true and better Abel, who, though innocently slain by wicked hands, has blood that now cries out, not for our condemnation, but for our acquittal. Jesus is the true and better Ark of Noah, who carries us safely thru the wrath of God revealed from heaven and delivers us to a new earth. Jesus is the true and better Abraham, who answered the call of God to leave all that is comfortable and familiar and go out into the world not knowing where he went to create a new people of God.
Jesus is the true and better Isaac, who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your Son, your only Son, whom you love, from us.”
Jesus is the true and better Jacob, who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us. Jesus is the true and better Joseph, who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed him and sold him, and uses his new power to save them. Jesus is the true and better Moses, who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant. Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses, who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us living water in the desert. Jesus is the true and better Joshua, who leads us into a land of eternal rest and heavenly blessing. Jesus is the true and better Ark of the Covenant, who topples and disarms idols of this world, going Himself into enemy territory, and making an open spectacle of them all. Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends. Jesus is the true and better David, whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.
Jesus is the true and better Esther, who didn’t just risk leaving an earthly palace but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people. Jesus is the true and better Daniel, who, having been lowered into a lion’s den of death, emerged early the next morning alive and vindicated by His God.
Jesus is the true and better Jonah, who was cast into the storm so that we safely could be brought in.
Jesus is the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain, so the angel of death will pass over us. He’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, and the true bread.
The Bible really is not about you is it? – It really is all about Him.
Application of the Scriptures flows out of our posture in Bible reading and study. Yielding a practical help for Bible reading and study, the five questions below are not only the main points of good hermeneutics (Bible interpretation), but are helpful with intentionality of good posture. Use these questions to redirect attention away from self and toward God.
What does this text teach me about God?
What does this text teach me about fallen humanity?
How does this text point to Christ?
What does God want me to know?
What does God want me to do?
Reflect on your posture when coming to the Bible.
My goals in posture when coming to the Bible are…
As a result of a proper view of Scripture, my hope is…
My prayer for posture in my personal Bible reading and study is…
In Part Two, Trustworthiness of the Scriptures, emphasis was placed on theological integrity: We must place our trust in the Scriptures, just as the church has maintained over time. Approaching our reading and study of the Scriptures rightly comes first with an accurate understanding of doctrinal truths. Sound doctrine reflects in summary what the Word affirms and what the church is bound to believe. Good theology reflects sound doctrine and stands in direct contrast to false doctrine. Sound doctrine of the Word of God is the foundation of all good theology.
God’s Word is trustworthy. It conveys what is true and demands what is right. Affirmation of the inspiration of the Bible furthers Christians’ maturity in their attitudes toward the Scriptures, the truthful voice of God.
Psalm 119:75, 89, 96, & 160
In what way would the Doctrine of Inspiration of Scripture affirm the Bible’s trustworthiness?
If all Scripture (every book, chapter, line, and word) is breathed out, where is the source of Scripture’s inspiration from?
Affirmed in Acts 4:25, David was God’s mouthpiece. How do the Psalm 119 verses characterize God’s Word? List specifics.
God’s Word is holy, showing his lordship attributes. Using Psalm 33:6-9, how would you describe this?
What do we mean when we say, the Bible is inspired by God? “We do not mean that every sentence in it is inspiring. Many are; but some are also very mundane. Sometimes the apparently mundane turns out to be wonderfully inspiring. Read as it is meant to be, as the story of God’s plan unfolding from the time of Abraham until the coming of Christ, and it turns out to be a thrilling survey of God’s sovereign Lordship over history. But inspiration does not mean the Bible is inspiring like a beautiful and moving symphony or a deeply poignant poem. In fact when Paul wrote that all Scripture is ‘inspired by God,’ he was not thinking about its effect on us, but about its source in him,” Sinclair Ferguson explains.
The term inspiration is drawn from the older English translations of 2 Timothy 3:16. For example the Geneva Bible of 1560 rendered Paul’s words, “The whole Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” In defining inspiration, Wayne Grudem writes that inspiration refers to, “the fact that the words of Scripture are spoken by God.” Theologian B. B. Warfield writes, “The Bible is the Word of God in such a way that when the Bible speaks, God speaks” (emphasis mine). Paul’s point in his writing is not that Scripture is inspiring to read (although, it can be), or that the authors were inspired (yet, they were), but that Scripture’s origin means it is the very Word of God.
“The Bible is the product of God’s own creative breath.” – Dr. Chuck Quarles
Have you found parts of Scripture to be inspiring at times?
We are not judges of God’s Word; God’s Word is contrarily judge of us. Have feelings of embarrassment caused you to ascribe to some portions of Scripture, but not to all?
Is denial of the superintending work of the Holy Spirit in particular parts of the Bible a low view of divine action? Why or why not?
Consider the relationship of the Trinity to biblical inspiration. How would you define it?
Read Deuteronomy 30:11-14. What would be the benefits of spending time in the Word?
Historically, Christians have held to the view that God is the ultimate author of the Scriptures. Today, when a person breathes out their speech, it is in audible form. When God Almighty breathed out in speech long ago, His word was written down by the prophets and then the apostles. Inspiration extends to the writings, not merely the ideas — the words, not simply the word. It extends to the tenses of the verbs, the letters of the words, and the smallest parts of the letters. Summarized by the term verbal-plenary inspiration, it can be broken down into: verbal, meaning in its words, and plenary, meaning in its entirety. In relation to Scripture, Verbalemphasizes that the actual words are God-breathed, while Plenary emphasizes the fact that Scripture is equally God-breathed in all of its parts: Thus its inspiration is described as verbal-plenary.
Matthew 5:17-18; 22:31-32
In your own words, what does verbal-plenary inspiration mean?
If someone’s view is denial of plenary (full) inspiration, what reliable criteria would decide which parts?
Do you see Jesus’ argument for the resurrection of the dead as a present-tense verb in Matthew 22:31-32, quoting Exodus 3:6?
Did you catch Paul’s argument in Galatians 3:16, in which he was quoting Genesis 12:7?
Does Scripture support itself concerning inspiration?
Paul Enns gives a description referencing the text itself inspired, and referring to quality of context, not the human author, “Inspiration may be defined as the Holy Spirit’s superintending over the writers to that while writing according to their own styles and personalities, the result was God’s Word written – authoritative, trustworthy, and free from error in the original autographs.” In addition, Charles Spurgeon wrote, “You must accept the revelation as infallible, or you cannot unquestioningly believe in the God therein revealed. If you once give up inspiration, the foundations are removed, and all building is laborious trifling. How are the promises the support of faith if they are themselves questionable?”
From Article VI of the Chicago Statement, “We affirm that the whole of Scripture in all its parts, down to the very words of the original, were given by divine inspiration. We deny that the inspiration of Scripture can rightly affirmed of the whole without the parts, or of some parts but not the whole.”
2 Timothy 3:15-17
2 Peter 3:16
Psalm 119 and 2 Timothy 3:15-17 run through the entirety of this series. In your own words, paraphrase 2 Timothy 3:15-17.
In 1 Timothy 3:15-17, Paul is encouraging Timothy to continue in the teachings he has received. Paul makes the assumption that Timothy is familiar with the Scriptures and urges him to continue in them since they are divinely inspired. The impression here is that they are divinely produced, just as God breathed the breath of life into humans. Therefore, they carry value for building up the believer into maturity to be equipped for every good work. If we are to take Paul as our model for what it meant to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, then it would be fair to say that the New Testament (as well as the Old) is not merely from man but also from God. The writers of the Old Testament and the New Testament spoke as they were moved by the Spirit.
In the New Testament, a number of passages indicate that all of the Old Testament writings are thought of as God’s words. In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem references 2 Timothy 3:15-16, “Paul here affirms that all of the Old Testament writings are theopneustos, ‘breathed out by God.’ Since it is writings that are said to be ‘breathed out,’ this breathing must be understood as a metaphor for speaking the words of Scripture. This verse thus states in brief form what was evident in many passages in the Old Testament: the Old Testament writings are regarded as God’s Word in written form. For every word of the Old Testament, God is the one who spoke (and still speaks) it, although God used human agents to write these words down.”
By context, “all Scripture” in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 refers properly to the 39 books of the Old Testament. Wayne Grudem writes, “In the context of Jesus’ repeated citations from Deuteronomy to answer every temptation, the words that proceed ‘from the mouth of God’ are the written Scriptures of the Old Testament.” However, the New Testament writings are elsewhere included with the Old Testament as Scripture. Therefore, all Old and New Testament writings are viewed as Scripture and thus both are considered “God breathed.” In other words, the Old and New Testaments are equally inspired and equally authoritative. When we turn to the early church’s preaching, we find similar understand of the Old Testament. This fits well with the prophets’ own testimonies. Again and again, they declared “Thus says the Lord.”
Referencing Matthew 4:4, what is meant by living by every word that comes from the mouth of God? Does this encourage you?
The prophetic word would have been prior to Peter’s own eyewitness account. Regarding 2 Peter 1:19-21, where did Peter place his confidence?
Did what was seen on the mountain by Peter, James, and John confirm the prophetic word?
What three different terms are used when Peter is referring to the word of God in these verses?
In the Old Testament, we read in Exodus 34:27, “The Lord said…The word of the Lord came to the prophet…saying…Write down these words.” In Hebrews 1:1, we read “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways…” We read Jesus’ use of the Old Testament in Matthew 1:22 citing Isaiah 7:14, in Matthew 4:4. Once again, Wayne Grudem reiterates, “the pattern of attributing to God the words of the Old Testament Scripture should be very clear.”
John 10:35 (referring to Psalm 82:6)
Acts 4:24-26 (quoted Psalm 2:1-2)
The authors were divinely prepared to write God’s word in much the same way as the prophets were made ready to speak His word. Jesus himself gave the guarantee for what the apostles taught and wrote. Thus, promising the Holy Spirit for the New Testament writings in their truthful witness to him and his work. In the mechanics of inspiration, scripture is not a matter of the human author’s interpretation or explanation. Paul wrote some things difficult to understand. However, the rest of scriptures told us the letters are a part of the scriptures and the apostles recognized their authenticity. As we have established the very words of Scripture are God’s very words, the Bible is the word of God down to the smallest letter or even part of a letter.
Acts 4:21-26 (quoting Psalm 2:1-2)
1 Corinthians 2:10-13
1 Thessalonians 2:13 & 4:2
In the scriptures covered thus far, where do you find Old Testament evidence for the Doctrine of Inspiration of Scripture? New Testament evidence for this Doctrine?
Is inspiration uniform throughout the Bible or are there different degrees or differing levels of inspiration? Support your answer.
Do you place emphasis on the red letter words of the Bible, seeing them as more fully inspired than the black? Why might this be an error?
The Book of Psalms slowly developed over an extended period of time and reflects the full spectrum of ordinary human experience and emotions. But it was under God’s loving superintendence the authors were given words by which to express every aspect of human experience. Inspiration is concursive– the Spirit and the human authors wrote together. Dr. Gregg Allison, Professor of Christian Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, adds, “The Spirit’s work was not just the influence of providential care or guidance that all Christians experience as they walk with God. Nor extend only to the thoughts or ideas in the minds of the human authors. This particular work of the Holy Spirit was unique to the prophets and Jesus considered that what Moses said, God himself said (Matthew 19:4-5. Quoting Moses’s comment about marriage [Genesis 2:24] and ascribing it to ‘he who created them’ that is, God).”
Isaiah 8:11; 66:1
Acts 3:18, 21 & 4:25
2 Samuel 23:2
Why can we not reduce the writing of Scripture to merely human work?
Do you see Scripture’s own affirmation about itself being divinely inspired? List the verses.
In what ways does the Bible witness to its divine origins?
2 Peter 1, in verses 17-18 and 21, the word phero, is translated as “produced” in 21 or “borne” in 17 and 18. B.B. Warfield explains, “The term here used [for carried/borne] is a very specific one. It is not to be confounded with guiding, or directing, or controlling, or even leading in the full sense of that word. It goes beyond all such terms, in assigning the effect produced specifically to the active agent. What is ‘borne’ is taken up by the ‘bearer’ and conveyed by the ‘bearer’s’ power, not its own, to the ‘bearer’s goal, not its own. The men who spoke from God are here declared, therefore, to have been taken up by the Holy Spirit and brought by His power to the goal of His choosing. The things which they spoke under this operation of the Spirit were therefore His things, not theirs. And that is the reason which is assigned why ‘the prophetic word’ is so sure. Though spoken through the instrumentality of men, it is by virtue of the fact that these men spoke ‘as borne by the Holy Spirit,’ an immediately Divine word.”
2 Peter 1:17-21
Does the divine authorship of the Scriptures preclude the use of active human instrumentation?
Does human participation render the Scriptures any less perfect and divine?
In Genesis 3:1-5, Satan was the first to challenge God’s revelation. What challenges the Bible in your life?
Though God used men as His instruments to write Scripture, God is ultimately its author and source. The reason we call the Bible the Word of God is because it is, indeed, the very words that God wanted communicated. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 conveys the idea of God “breathing out” the Scriptures. Since the word for “breath” can also be translated “spirit,” we can easily see the work of the Holy Spirit as He superintended the writing.
Point Two in the short statement of The Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy states that “Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God’s instruction in all that it affirms; obeyed as God’s command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises.”
In Article VII of affirmation and denial, the Chicago Statement explains: “We affirm that the inspiration was the work in which God by His Spirit, through human writers, gave us His Word. The origin of Scripture is divine. The mode of divine inspiration remains largely a mystery to us. We deny that inspiration can be reduced to human insight, or to heightened states of consciousness of any kind.”
Why could the biblical authors not be passive, without any significant and willful participation in the writing process?
How is the denial of human authorship opposition to the present various personalities and writing styles?
Did the Holy Spirit protect the Word of God from human error? Why is it not plausible that God simply dictated the writing?
So to clarify, what part did the human authors play?
God supernaturally used human authors to pen the words of the Bible, without compromising the perfection, integrity, or purity of the finished product. It’s a case of dual-authorship. “God superintended the human authors so that, using their own individual personalities, they composed and recorded, without error, His revelation to man in the words of the original manuscripts,” states Charles Ryrie in his Basic Theology. Millard Erickson notes, “The Spirit was apparently very selective in what he inspired the biblical authors to report.” Though God used men as His instruments to write Scripture, God is ultimately its author and source.
1 Thessalonians 2:13
2 Peter 1:21
In 2 Peter 1:21, Peter used a specific word picture to describe this arrangement when he wrote that men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. The word moved is the same word used to describe a ship moving along under the power of a blowing wind. The biblical writers were guided in their writing to go where God wanted them and to produce the exact content God wanted them to produce.
Article VIII of the Chicago Statement reads: “We affirm that God in His Work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared. We deny that God, in causing these writers to use the very words that He chose, overrode their personalities.”
Without question, their personalities, writing styles, perspectives, and distinctives are reflected in their words. But their accounts are more than the words of men – they are the very Word of God. Warfield explained, “If God wished to give His people a series of letters like Paul’s, he prepared a Paul to write them, and the Paul He brought to the task was a Paul who spontaneously would write just such letters.”
Similar to Warfield’s explanation, Herman Bavnick writes, “…the Spirit’s actions in the Bible writers at the moment of the composition is the natural climax of a long process of the Spirit’s preparation of the writers through their birth, upbringing, natural gifts, research, memory, reflection, experience of life, revelation, etc.” It is clear from all this that the action of God referred to in this text cannot be translated to anything close to what is meant by the English word inspire.
Historical research lies behind Luke’s Gospel. The Spirit shaped Luke with gifts and opportunities to do this and also superintended his activity. We recognize the books of the Bible were composed in very different ways. Thus, if we want to know how any section came as God-breathed, we need to listen to the clues it gives us about the way in which it was actually written. For example, Luke 1:1-4 assumes that the writer undertook historical research, John 14:26, requires that the writer had a Spirit-assisted memory, 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 consists of miraculous revelation, the book of Ecclesiastes was written by observation of life, apocalyptic language in Revelation 2-3 was occasionally by dictation, 1 Corinthians 7:25-26 as well as 39-40 was formed with sound counsel.
1 Corinthians 7:25-26 & 39-40
2 Corinthians 12:1-4
Considering the clues the Bible has given us about the way in which it was written, why is the truth of inspiration so important to the authority of Scripture?
The Bible presents itself as both a divine and human book from beginning to end. “Because the Bible has been inspired, we can be confident of having divine instruction. The fact that we did not live when the revelatory events and teachings first came does not leave us spiritually or theologically deprived. We have a sure guide. And we are motivated to study it intensively, since its message is truly God’s Word to us.” Millard Erickson states in his Christian Theology. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “A divine originality runs through it all; marks of the divine mind abound in every portion, and the Holy Spirit still inspires it all, and breathes it into the hearts of believing readers.”
1 Corinthians 2:13
2 Peter 1:21
The key distinction of inspiration/illumination is important to note. In his Pilgrim Theology, Dr. Michael Horton articulates that “Scripture is inspired – that is, God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), whereas our interpretation is illumined by the Spirit. Thus, Scripture is infallible and inerrant where as our interpretations as churches and as individuals are always fallible and subject to revision in the light of Scripture.” The Bible was given by means of direct revelation, having been noted in Scripture by words or expressions nearly 4,000 times. The revelation of truth is sufficient in the Bible alone. And while revelation is the communication of God’s truth to humans, inspiration relates more to the relaying of that truth from the first recipients of it to other persons (whether then, or later). In other words, revelation might be thought of as a vertical action, but inspiration must be thought of as a horizontal action. In 1 Corinthians 2:13, Paul made the point that God’s revelation came to us in words. This counters what some might contend: Inspiration only relates to the thoughts that God wanted us to know.
What do people usually mean by “revelation?” Explain some differences between an orthodox Christian view and rival accounts.
How would you explain the correlation of Scripture’s inspiration and Scripture’s authority?
In reference to Romans 1:16-17, why is the Doctrine of Inspiration of Scripture foundational for the Christian faith?
Read Deuteronomy 30:11-14 and Psalm 119:130. Is the Bible only for Pastors or Priests? Explain.
In the words of Augustine, “When we are wrong because we haven’t understood it, we leave it in the right. When we have gone wrong, we don’t make out Scripture to be wrong, but it continues to stand up straight and right, so that we may return to it for correction.”Therefore, our understanding of the orthodox teaching of inspiration of Scripture has vast implications for the way we read and study the Bible today. A properly Christian doctrine of inspiration must derive from the doctrines that Scripture itself teaches (*). The wisdom of God in Scripture is inexhaustible.
“…the authority of God’s word resides in the written text – the words, the sentences, the paragraphs – of Scripture, not merely in our existential experience of the truth in our hearts. Some people don’t like written texts and propositions because they imply a stable fixed meaning, and people don’t want truth to be fixed. They would rather have inspiration be more subjective, more internal, more experiential. But according to 2 Peter 1:19-21, the inspiration of holy Scripture is an objective reality outside of us.” – Keven DeYoung
According to Psalm 119, God’s Word says what is true and right, providing what is good. Explain.
Timothy Ward penned that “…because the Spirit himself is the living God, he also preserves Scripture providentially from one generation to the next…in the present he is the one who opens minds to comprehend and hearts to trust what God says in Scripture.”
How would you define inspiration of Scripture and the relation of the Holy Spirit to that process?
Referring to Hebrews 4:12: Do you sometimes fall into the trap of believing that hearing audible words from God would be of greater importance than listening to His words penned in the Bible?
Do you believe your present response to the words of Scripture to be appropriate?
What positive steps can you take to create and maintain the type of attitude toward Scripture and hearing from God that He would desire you to have?
The Bible never leaves us the same; we hear it for better or for worse. Apply this principle to your own Bible reading, hearing, and study. Briefly explain.
The doctrine that emerges from Inspiration of the Scriptures is this: The Holy Spirit is the divine author of all of Scripture, the only true way to hear His voice. If this doctrine is true (and it is), then the implications are so profound that every part of our lives should be affected.
Reflect on your understanding of Inspiration of Scripture.
My goals for application of the inspiration of the Scriptures in my Bible reading are…
As a result of better understanding of inspiration versus inspiring, I hope…
My prayer in regard to inspiration of Scripture is…
*For the purposes of this series, future posts will briefly view inerrancy and infallibility, as well as sufficiency and authority of Scripture. In addition to these, the individual should consider a study beyond what is provided in this context of perspicuity (clarity) and the transformative power of the Scriptures.