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.
I am excited to share with you about an upcoming series reflective of my teaching from fall 2018. My objective with this series is to call women to the reading and study of God’s Word, provide support for sound doctrine, and dispel theological confusion in those disciplines and doctrines. When we do not know and understand good theology, we risk living out bad theology.
Women 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 is the very foundation of theology, Christian belief based on Scripture. In its four applications, doctrine is believed, practiced, confessed, and taught. It is Christian belief that involves not just our head but our whole being. “For nearly 2000 years, the church has constructed sound theology based on Scripture. Because Scripture is the written Word of God and, as such, the ultimate authority for what the church is to believe and how it is to live, it is the foundation for good theology.” Writes Professor of theology, Dr. Gregg Allison.
Within this series, Doctrine & Disciplines of the Bible, our study will glance at inspiration of Scripture, inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, and Scripture’s authority and sufficiency. With a correct posture, the reader will be invited to read the Bible well and do the hard work of Bible study while handling the Word of God rightly. Although the study will not be exhaustive in this online context, I believe the average reader will find it informative. In a sense, we will be getting back to the basics.
As a reminder, the studies are more than a devotional, yet less than a Bible study. However, the reader will need to open her Bible and read through the indicated scriptures (biblical support) to fully benefit from the content. Some in-depth posts in this particular series will require more than one sitting to work through. Appropriately, the studies will post once weekly.
Recreated for the purpose of supplementing my teaching and discipleship, this series is meant to be more than information transfer. Confronting the reader with doctrinal truths, heart application will manifest as theological adjustments, discerning attitudes, and putting into practice the spiritual disciplines. It is my heartfelt prayer that the reader might come to know Christ and enjoy his Word in a greater way. And as in all things, that God himself might receive glory for any fruit of my humble efforts.
A preface to these posts in June and July, I would be remiss if I did not list my sources for Doctrine and Disciplines of the Bible:
Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology
Millard Erickson, Christian Theology
Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology
John Frame, Systematic Theology
Michael Horton, Pilgrim Theology
Gregg R. Allison, 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith
The Baptist Faith & Message 2000
The Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy
The London Baptist Confession of Faith
Danny Akin, Charles Quarles; SEBTS Class Notes
George Guthrie, Read the Bible for Life
Howard and William D. Hendricks, Living By the Book
R.C. Sproul, Can I trust the Bible?
Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
David Mathis, Habits of Grace
Kevin DeYoung, Taking God at His Word
Sinclair Ferguson, From the Mouth of God
David Garner, Did God Really Say?
Carson and Nielson, God’s Word, Our Story
Michael Catt, The Power of Surrender
Tim Keller, It’s All About Jesus
R.C. Sproul, 5 Things Every Christian Needs to Grow
Jason Allen, Sola: How the Five Solas are Still Reforming the Church
John Mac Arthur, The Sufficiency of Scripture Part One
Heath Lambert, Sufficiency
D.A. Carson, R.T. France, J. Alec Motyer, Gordon J. Wenham, The New Bible Commentary
In a previous post, Do You Listen Wisely?, we considered the discernment and importance of life influencers who impact our daily decisions. Many times, we get distracted and confused in decision-making because we lose sight of the overarching agenda of our lives. Achieving worthwhile goals requires clear decision-making, rather than floundering aimlessly like a fish out of water. So, it is appropriate that wise decision-making must begin with our eyes firmly fixed on the goal. How do we ensure that life’s tough decisions draw us closer to God, instead of creating distance?
Greater intentionality could alleviate some unpleasant outcomes, but it’s sometimes hard to determine what level of decision-making warrants a process. We don’t always have the time for extensive research and study before making every decision. Nevertheless, there are practical elements in seeking God’s will in decision making.
Reminder: the studies are more than a devotional but less than a Bible study. However, the reader will need to read through the indicated scriptures to fully grasp the content.
It’s important to remember that before we began thinking biblically, all of us were making daily decisions. Early on, decision-making reveals a personality which continues to have effect. For instance, if we have a tendency toward analytical, we look at principles. If we are experiential, we rely on feelings. The different elements of personality are apt to guide our decisions, even when we consult Scripture. The precedence of how we made decisions (before becoming a Christian) especially affects our snap-decisions.
Whether we focus on past, present, or future in our decision-making, we should still consider executing, deciding, and preparing for the future. Each personality is likely to prefer one over the other – for instance, anger over the past, anxiety for the future. It is important to remember misinterpretation of the present can easily be caused by our past hurts and future fears. Emotions tend to inform our decisions as much as decisions inform our emotions.
Something else we fail to recognize is that generally big decisions are fed by little decisions with a cumulative effect. For example, we rarely think of time and energy as commodities we must steward. We can say “yes” to so many little things, affecting our availability to say “yes” to the big things.
Oftentimes, the decisions we struggle the most with are when saying “yes” to one good desire means saying “no” to another; our desires compete with each other. Nonetheless, the most basic form of learning good decision-making is trial-and-error. In our times of wavering, we have a tendency to entertain hypothetical questions we can never know the answer to: The “What-ifs”.
Despite all of our own aforementioned efforts, there are some specific areas in which the Bible provides guidance. This reference list is by no means exhaustive.
1 Thessalonians 4:3
1 Peter 2:15
Ephesians 5:22 & 25
2 Corinthians 9:6-7
2 Corinthians 6:14
John MacArthur explains that God’s personal guidance is for the believer, “…in the sense that the Apostle Paul meant when he told the pagan Athenians that it is ‘in Him we live, and move, and have our being.’ Christ is the sustainer of the entire universe, and nobody would be where he is today without Him. But as to God personally leading those who have not received Jesus Christ as personal Savior, there is not a line of Scripture to indicate that this ordinarily happens. Instead we read, ‘And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.’ Without Christ, man is a stranger to God. He is a rebel against God, a foreigner to God’s universe.”
From what I have learned, our personal decision making becomes the battleground on which the vast majority of spiritual warfare is fought. If we prayerfully address our weak tendencies in decision-making, it prepares us to stand firm. What we believe about God and what He reveals in our lives determines how we make decisions. Even with right beliefs about God, decision-making still requires a process, especially when there is no clear right or wrong answer. God’s primary concern in our personal decision-making is our character. Remember, finding God’s will involves thankfulness as God leads.
1 Thessalonians 4:1
2 Corinthians 5:17
2 Timothy 3:16-17
1 Corinthians 6:20
God’s Word is nourishment for the soul, sustaining us in the day-to-day. Cumulatively, our time in the Bible provides wisdom for daily decision-making. There are over 600 commands in the Bible. However, Scripture’s warnings of consequences and promises of reward become ever the clearer as we proceed to obey Christ’s commands, but not before. In seeking God’s will, the Bible is always the best set of guidelines to follow. Ask yourself if your decision will bring glory to God.
1 Thessalonians 3:10
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
One thing we can know for certain: We should never make a decision that goes against the Word of God. Write down decisions you must make, and evaluate them according to Scripture.
Often, we can fixate on finding the right answer. In most decision making, we are really looking for God’s will of direction (God’s individual will). We are looking for His guidance. This action is admirable, but it is also important to understand our liberties in choices that are not moral decisions. A superstitious approach to decision making is not helpful and has the ability to make a Christian feel paralyzed by God’s silence. One of the primary responsibilities in decision making is dividing the moral from the non-moral. Failing to make this distinction, we can unmistakably attribute God’s leading.
Pastor and author Kevin DeYoung makes an interesting observation: “I’m convinced that previous generations did not struggle like we do trying to discover God’s will because they didn’t have as many choices. In many ways, our preoccupation with the will of God is a Western, middle-class phenomenon of the last fifty years.”
In biblical decision making, what does the revealed will of God say? (The will of God that belongs to us is found in the Scriptures, and we are to obey.) Determining God’s will includes seeking the advice of mature believers. Following sound advice and divine counsel, spend time in fasting, prayer, and biblical meditation.
1 Thessalonians 4:3
Determining God’s will for our lives not only requires us to pray personally, but to also recruit others to pray on our behalf. In addition, we should remember God’s past faithfulness. Take time and do not rush.
Dr. James Petty, a counselor and former Pastor, writes, “When we need guidance; it usually involves a situation in which the basic alternatives are all legitimate – legally and biblically…In other words, in this area [Christian liberty] God has revealed no preference about our choices between this and that, but he is not indifferent to our motives about which one we choose…Our motives for everything we do are always deeply and spiritually relevant to our relationship to God.”
1 Peter 3:17
When seeking God’s will in decision making, it is important to have clear understanding of the three uses of the phrase “God’s will”. Professor Brad Hambrick, from the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, explains, “God’s sovereign will is what we refer to when we say ‘God is the author of history’ or ‘Nothing happens without God’s permission.’ There is nothing in our decisions that can interrupt God’s sovereign will. We are never out of God’s sovereign will. God does not make a Plan B for anyone’s life. God’s moral will refers to God’s commandments and God’s character. God’s moral will is the ideal that defines how things should be on earth and how they will be in heaven. God’s individual will is what most people want to know when they ask questions about God’s will. This arena of God’s will seeks to answer the questions, ‘What does God want me to do through the experiences, passions, and talents he has given me?”
DeYoung’s book, Just Do Something, approaches our perplexity: “The will of God is one of the most confusing phrases in the Christian vocabulary. Sometimes we speak of all things happening according to God’s will. Other times we talk about being obedient and doing the will of God. And still other times we talk about finding the will of God. The confusion is due to our using the phrase ‘the will of God’ in at least three different ways, typified in the previous three sentences…One the first side is God’s will of decree…The other side of the coin is God’s will of desire.“
How do we know that our decisions will fit with God’s plan? It’s best said that God’s plan and our actions work in concert. “We tend to think that while God has a best plan for our life, he also has some other, cheaper plans for people who miss the best. We remember certain foolish or sinful decisions we’ve made and, because of the consequences, see ourselves on a permanent Plan B regarding God’s will for our lives. Each time we make another bad decision, we drop down a notch to Plan C, Plan D, and – being the sinners that we are – we soon run out of letters in the alphabet. We think of what could have been if we hadn’t married so-and-so, hadn’t gotten pregnant before marriage, had not turned down the job that would have made our career, or had not blown up at our teenage son,” explains Petty. With all the decisions we face, and despite the mistakes we make, God works in all things for the good, transforming us into the image of Christ.
Even Jesus’ teaching did not establish an abstract principle to be applied in any direction we might imagine. He gave principles to minister to fear, death, and suffering. Providence is never used to discourage prayer or human effort, but rather the exact opposite. Because God can intervene, we should pray and work. It is important to note that it is never used to establish God’s authorship of evil. “But for those who are in Christ, there is only one plan, Plan A. This plan holds despite all our stupid mistakes and sins. It reveals the wonder of God’s shepherding care, the detail of his love through his decreed plan for our lives. It is a truth that is awe-inspiring, deeply comforting, and yet sometimes intimidating for us, God’s proud creatures,” concludes Petty. But does God control all circumstances, in all situations?
Positive outcomes are not the only verification of wisdom. When executed poorly, good decisions can wind up looking bad. Hence, we must consider how many good decisions get derailed by poor follow-through. In addition, we tend to gravitate toward decisions warranting no risk. We can become immobilized in decision making, even when our genuine desire is godly decision making. Desiring a risk-free life, we think making decisions within God’s will should be safe. Faith makes informed decisions in real moments, not knowing for sure what God would do.
Is hardship evidence of poor decision-making? Sometimes. However, God does not promise to protect us from life’s trials, and godly decision-making should not be viewed as assurance against hardships. Life’s storms following the best of decision making often causes Christians to question what they know to be true.
It is important to note that decision-making that is Word-focused and gospel-centered does not simply excuse bad decisions. Yet God is patient, and as He makes us wise, His goal for our decision-making is refinement of our character to become more like Christ’s. From what I have witnessed, even our failures can become avenues for Him to work if we trust God with them. In some instances, however, repentance becomes necessary if our decisions are sinful. Choosing not to sin is always the will of God. To maintain a clean conscience through the decision-making process, seek to trust God in each small step. A yielded heart is required to determine the will of God.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
2 Timothy 2:22
When posed with a decision, we should first consider the facts and which biblical principles should inform the decision. ACBC Counselor and adjunct Professor of Biblical Counseling at The Master’s University, Dr. Wayne Mack, advises that “Circumstances are not an infallible guide in determining the will of God for your particular situation. However, circumstances may be used to buttress the inward persuasion of the Holy Spirit and to solidify the specific biblical principles relating to the situation…While it is true that God providentially arranges circumstances in our lives in order to direct us according to His will, circumstances may be misinterpreted. That is why it is of utmost importance to wait upon God and have biblical confirmation of your course of action. God has given us His Word as an authoritative guide to evaluate circumstantial evidence.” God is sovereign. He has a plan, in which we can have full confidence.
Proverbs 16:3 & 9
1 Corinthians 2:12 & 14
2 Timothy 1:7
1 Peter 1:13
We are wise to weigh motives and past experiences that might warrant caution to most snap-decision-making. When time allows, consider all possible outcomes and options: As Christians, we need not check our brains at the door. Three standard questions in biblical decision making would be: 1) What does the Bible say about this decision? 2) Who can help me better understand what God’s Word says about this decision? 3) How does my decision impact God’s Kingdom?
1 Timothy 5:1-2
1 Corinthians 10:31
DeYoung proposes, “God does have a specific plan for our lives, but it is not one that He expects us to figure out before we make a decision…What I am saying is that we should stop thinking of God’s will like a corn maze, or a tight-rope, or a bull’s eye, or a choose-your-own-adventure novel…Many of us fear we’ll take the wrong job, or buy the wrong house, or declare the wrong major, or marry the wrong person, and suddenly our lives will blow up. We’ll be out of God’s will, doomed to spiritual, relational, and physical failure.”
May God bless you through this process of biblical decision making. For further study:
My formal studies are in a holding pattern. But from my desk this morning, I’ve enjoyed sipping coffee while watching a rabbit at water’s edge. Our rainfall generously continues and the creek swiftly flows. The gentle sound of nature whispers rest.
Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength…It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less, Charles Spurgeon wisely penned.
We have many commands the Lord has given for the home, family, church, and community. It is admirable to fulfill His expectations; as Christian women, we are busy. But God has also called us to rest. Cluttered calendars and scattered thoughts affect our bodies, buffer our relationships, and form barriers to rest.
As a reminder, the studies posted here are more than a devotional, but less than a Bible study. However, the reader will need to open her Bible and read through the indicated scriptures to fully grasp the content.
The subject of rest is throughout the Bible, evidence of its importance. After the fall in Genesis 3:17-19, refreshment becomes a necessary response to work. Experiencing deep rest requires obedience, thinking on things that are good, true, and beautiful.
Rest goes beyond the physical; barriers to rest begin in the mind. Rooted in fear, worry, anxiety, and dread, these obstacles become a vicious cycle. Social media’s peer pressure promotes envious fear- the fear of missing out. Envy’s comparison calls us to be more and do more, to measure up, and women are often ashamed to admit the fault lines in a heart of covetousness. Comparison drives our calendars and consumes our energy.
And yet, Tim Keller wisely writes, The incomplete joys of this world will never satisfy the human heart.
Equally important to note, seeking rest in earthly possessions and activities reveals a tendency to hold people in awe. We are controlled and mastered by them instead of resting in the contentment God alone provides.
In our age of discontentment, being busy demands our daily attention, failing to accomplish much of what is important. Our motivations and our self-imposed checklists need not to paramount what God would have for us. The self-willed, restless lifestyle does not honor God. An idol is anything more important to you than God. Anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, states Keller.
In other words, whatever controls us is our God.
1 Timothy 6:6-8
1 Corinthians 10:31
Ungodly fear motivates us to commit other sins. Whether in the lives of Abraham, Sarah, Moses, or Saul, scripture clearly indicates fear. As a matter of fact, great heroes of the Bible experienced fear and suffered consequences. In Augustine’s Confessions, he writes, For you have made us for yourself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in you. When we have our eyes on what might be instead of what is true, we fail to focus on God’s love and care. Godly focus stills the heart.
1 Samuel 15:24
1 Samuel 13:11-13
Some of us are more inclined to habitual, destructive fear. Personal history might play a part, but human experience of fear isn’t anything new. We see this common heritage in biblical characters (with fear’s origination in the fall). Anxiety and worry are common, yet unhelpful responses do not recognize God’s sovereign care. Thinking on what we know is real and true, we can trust God’s provision and protection.
In The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges warns about the traps leading our hearts to focus on secondary issues. We can experience the fullness of joy which Christ has promised to those who walk in obedience. The question becomes, Do we believe those promises? Bridges argues, We need to brace ourselves up and to realize that we are responsible for thoughts, attitudes, and actions. Faith girded with steadfastness and perseverance develops self-control. If we are filling our days and not advancing in our relationship with God, not moving forward in accomplishing His purposes, we need to look at the struggle.
Oftentimes, the ramifications of having lived in the grips of envy, anxiety, worry, and dread leads to discouragement and results in disobedience. Nonetheless, the biblical counseling model for fear begins with James 1:2-4, and the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to change us.
2 Timothy 3:16
When seeking rest from the suffering of adversity’s fatigue, God’s attributes consistently remind us of his grace, mercy, and patience. Our study of His character has potential to change our view of God, Scripture, self, and others. A.W. Tozer writes What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he is in his deep heart conceives God to be like.
Why is the study of God important? Studying the attributes of God will allow us to knowmore about Him. What are the attributes of God? In Knowledge of the Holy, Tozer writes, An attribute of God is whatever God has in any way revealed as being true of Himself…An attribute, then, is a part of God. It is how God is, and as far as the reasoning mind can go, we may say that it is what God is, though…exactly what He is He cannot tell us. Of what God is conscious when He is conscious when He is conscious of self, only He knows. Only to an equal could God communicate the mystery of His Godhead; and to think of God as having an equal is to fall into intellectual absurdity. Knowing the truth of God produces rest.
2 Corinthians 12:9
2 Corinthians 4:17-18
Psalm 139:6, 17-18
1 Corinthians 2:1
Whether our barrier to rest is envy, anxiety, worry, or suffering, one of the best things we can do for rest is to study His attributes and character. How do we appropriately study the attributes of God? The attributes are in harmony with one another, complementing and never in conflict. No attribute is superior or inferior to any other. Being both just and loving demonstrates God’s simplicity. We are to recognize that God’s attributes are all infinite; they are complete (not maturing or changing). They have always and will exist completely. This demonstrates His unity. Our God receives glory when his children study Him (trusting the Scriptures for who He is), casting on Him all fear, doubt, and cares.
1 Corinthians 8:6
2 Peter 1:2-3
Is there ever a time we should be afraid? Fear promotes a healthy respect for real danger and can also result in awesome reverence for God. Fear of God is the believer’s correct response to God’s power, majesty and mercy. In light of the Scriptures, repentance, confession, and genuine belief lead to fearing the Lord rightly. Moreover, healthy fear of God includes emotions, attitudes, and actions.
Faith is believing the Word of God and acting upon it. Redirecting our faith (in self and others) to faith in God produces thankfulness, hope, and trust. For the Christian, belief followed by right praying, right thinking, and wise choices, cultivates rest.
1 Peter 3:14 & 15
1 Peter 5:7
Professor Alan Noble of Oklahoma Baptist University writes: Time can come to be seen as the currency of our lives, and with whatever we purchase with that coinage, we define and redeem our existence…By resting and refusing to participate in the rat race, we act in faith that God will care for us and that this race is no path to salvation. We can enter rest when our peace is Jesus Christ who is the means and the end. Be still and know.
1 John 4:18
2 Timothy 1:7
For further study:
A reading of 1 Samuel 1, Jeremiah 21:224-27, and Psalm 13, Matthew 6:26-33
Disruptive Witness – Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age by Alan Noble
The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges
Our Glorious God – The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink, a Ten Week Bible Study Course by Betty Thomas