Infallibility and Ineranncy: A Greater and Lesser Term

Any teaching on the nature of the Bible must include an examination of the two words infallible and inerrant. They are easier to understand when you see them together as opposed to separate.

For something to be infallible it means that it cannot fail, and for something to be inerrant means that it does not contain mistakes. R.C. Sproul often explains the relationship between these two words like this, ‘Of the two terms…inerrancy and infallibility, inerrancy is the lesser term; it flows naturally from the concept of infallibility—if something cannot err, then it does not err.’

It is right for us to embrace these two words because we must recognize that error only comes from two sources, deceit and mistake. God never deceives and God never makes mistakes (Numbers 23:19), thus His Word is infallible and inerrant.  Is it really this simple? Yes, but this is not as accepted today as you might imagine.

The term inerrancy has fallen on hard times. It is seen as a kind of blind belief that we should grow out of as we mature in faith. Almost like a kind of childish view of the Bible. In the place of inerrancy many people now teach and believe an idea called ‘limited inerrancy’ which teaches that the Bible is errant when it speaks of history, science, or culture, but is inerrant only when it speaks on matters of faith and practice. And as you’d guess they leave it up to the individual to define what is inerrant in the Bible and what is not. This belief comes from a misunderstood view that the Bible makes mistakes when it speaks of historical events (like how many people were killed in a battle, or populating a certain city).

The reason we reject limited inerrancy and embrace a full inerrancy is twofold.  First, the Bible speaks in a different manner than our current literature does. Currently we have rules about plagiarism, dating, quoting, statistics, etc. When the Bible was written these rules weren’t in view, so to subject the Bible to our modern rules is to do the Scripture an injustice. The second reason is simple, Jesus held this belief about Scripture. He believed the Scriptures to be inerrant. Listen to a few passages from Jesus. Matthew 5:18, ‘Until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.’ John 10:35, ‘Scripture cannot be broken.’ John 17:17, ‘Sanctify them in the Truth, Your Word is truth.’ Jesus also proved His case in various occasions by referring to the Old Testament simply saying ‘It is written.’

So we’ve covered the 3 foundational terms of Scripture: inspired, infallible, and inerrant. If we believe the Bible to be these 3 things, it automatically means much more as well. Flowing out of these 3 foundational terms are 5 more terms that we call the attributes of Scripture.  I’ll begin those 5 terms tomorrow…

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What it Means to Say the Bible is ‘Inspired’

In the clearest way possible, to say the Word of God is inspired is to say it is top down revelation, from God to us.

There is only one place where the word ‘inspired’ or ‘inspiration’ is used in the English Bible, and it’s in 2 Tim. 3:16 which says, ‘All Scripture is inspired (literally – God breathed) and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.’ This verse teaches a basic truth which gives us a basic definition of the doctrine of inspiration: all Scripture comes from the very breath of God, such that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments come to us directly from heaven.

Now, when we speak of inspiration what’s in view is the manner in which God superintended or oversaw the writing of Scripture, so naturally when the writing of Scripture is in view the work of the Holy Spirit comes into view as well. 2 Peter 1:20-21 describes this saying, ‘…no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was never produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.’ Men spoke from God as the Holy Spirit carried them along. This is how God brought about the writing of the Bible.

At this point many people misunderstand the doctrine of inspiration by saying God merely dictated to men and men then in response wrote down what they heard, like a secretary takes down a letter from their boss. This view is sometimes referred to as the ‘dictation view.’ This is a misunderstanding because the Bible doesn’t tell us how God carried these men by the Spirit to write, the Bible simply tells us He did.

Another reason we reject the dictation theory is because when we encounter the Scriptures we find distinct differences in the Biblical authors. For example, the writing style of the apostle John was very basic, using a common children’s level Greek whereas Peter used a higher level of Greek that’s more complex and intricate. We see Mark using a specific vocabulary that none of the other authors use, and we see Paul writing long sentences in Greek while others write shorter sentences. This is all to say that we can clearly see the personality of each author coming through in their own writing.

So God did indeed carry these men along by the Spirit to give us the Scripture but He did it in such a manner where each author’s own and unique personality was not lost in the process. This doesn’t exactly tell how God did this, but it does imply that there was more involved than mere dictation.

In this manner Matt Slick comments, ‘Because the Bible is inspired, its words are unbreakable (John 10:34-36), eternal (Matt. 24:35), trustworthy (Psalm 119:160), and able to pierce the heart of man (Heb. 4:12). Additionally, the inspired Word of God will not go forth without accomplishing what God wishes it to (Isaiah 55:11).’

There are many ways the Church historical has spoken of the inspiration of the Scripture using words like concursive, dynamic, organic, or even dictation.  Though these words can be helpful to learn what happened in the act of inspiration, the best two words we have to describe are these: verbal and plenary. Verbal means the Holy Spirit inspired every single word the authors wrote, while plenary means ‘full.’ These two words taken together give us the deepest and truest meaning of inspiration. The whole Bible – every Word – is inspired by God, for our good.

The massive implication here is simple: because God has given us His inspired Word, we devote our lives to the study of it. To do so is to know God, to not do so is to waste our life.

What is the Bible? It is 8 Things

This past week I sent out a few text messages to my close friends and asked them to answer this question: what is the Bible? The answers I got were great and revealing.

One friend translated the word Bible and simply answered saying ‘a book.’ Another said the Bible is ‘inexhaustible and eternally relevant.’ Another said, ‘God’s Word, spelling out His forgiveness to all who repent of their sin and trust in His grace.’ Lastly, one of them said ‘truth, by which the Holy Spirit reveals God Himself.’

These are all correct and true answers that all get at the truth of one massive reality. What is the Bible? It is the Word of God.

When I say that I mean it, literally. The Bible is the Word of God. I don’t mean the Bible contains the word of God within it, or that by reading the Bible you can find the true Word of God in its teachings. No. The Bible doesn’t contain the Word of God within it. Rather, the entire Bible – the whole thing – is the Word of God. The Bible doesn’t merely bear witness to the truth it is the truth. Every word carries with it a divine weight. This is why the study of the original languages of Hebrew and Greek is so important.  This is why such care is needed in translating the Scripture to other languages.  This is why choosing a faithful translation for our daily Bible reading matters so deeply. Jesus held a similar view of Scripture and in Matthew 5:18 said that until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle, not one iota or dot of the Scripture shall pass away. The grass will wither, the flower will fade, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.

If this were a small devotion we could be done right now, for we’ve answered our question.

But we have time to go further, and should go further because when you say the Word of God is the Bible, a new question rises, how do we define and describe the Word of God? That is what we’ll now turn to. Historically this question has been answered using 8 terms. These terms are: inspired, infallible, inerrant, authority, necessity, clarity, sufficiency, and beauty.

Today we would be foolish to leave these terms behind and labor to discover a new way of describing the Bible. We can separate the first three terms from the second 5 terms, because the second 5 terms are consequences of or flow out of the first 3 foundational terms.  Tomorrow we begin, with inspiration.

Bible Reading Plans for 2016 – Plan to Soak in the Word

As a new year begins many of you will begin Bible reading plans.  This is good, and this is challenging.

This is good because God’s Word is the very revelation of God to us, and in it God has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).  Thus, we should endeavor to study it as much and often as we can, a Bible reading plan will help you do this in a structured manner.  And if you’re like me, structure helps a great deal.

This is also challenging because I’d guess that about 90% of Bible reading plans begun aren’t finished.  Why?  Life, lack of concern, laziness, sin, business, work, family, etc.  There are all sorts of reasons why people commit to reading the Bible and never finish.  It is a sad tale, but a true one.  Because of this pattern Genesis and Exodus are probably the most read books of the Bible.  But I encourage you to hang in there.  In about 10 minutes a day you read through the entire Bible in a year, or in 12 minutes a day you can listen to the entire Bible in a year.  We all, no matter who we are or what we’re in to, can find that time can’t we?  God is worth it.

Below is a helpful list from Nathan Bingham over at Ligonier to help you begin and finish a Bible reading plan.  Enjoy!

From Nathan Bingham:

Many Christians take the beginning of a new year to evaluate their Bible reading habits, and then change or begin a Bible reading plan.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)

For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of Bible reading plans for you to choose from. Maybe in 2016 you will read more of the Bible each day. Perhaps you’ll slow down your reading and instead spend more time considering what you read. Whatever it is you’re looking for in a reading plan, you should find it below:

52 Week Bible Reading Plan

Read through the Bible in a year, with each day of the week dedicated to a different genre: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, and Gospels.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


5x5x5 Bible Reading Plan

Read through the New Testament in a year, reading Monday to Friday. Weekends are set aside for reflection and other reading. Especially beneficial if you’re new to a daily discipline of Bible reading.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


A Bible Reading Chart

Read through the Bible at your own pace. Use this minimalistic, yet beautifully designed, chart to track your reading over 2016.

Duration: Flexible | Download: PDF


Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Read through the Bible in the order the events occurred chronologically.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan

Four daily readings beginning in Genesis, Psalms, Matthew and Acts.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


ESV Daily Bible Reading Plan

Four daily readings taken from four lists: Psalms and Wisdom Literature, Pentateuch and History of Israel, Chronicles and Prophets, and Gospels and Epistles.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


Every Word in the Bible

Read through the Bible one chapter at a time. Readings alternate between the Old and New Testaments.

Duration: Three years | Download: PDF


Historical Bible Reading Plan

The Old Testament readings are similar to Israel’s Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament readings are an attempt to follow the order in which the books were authored.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


An In Depth Study of Matthew

A year long study in the Gospel of Matthew from Tabletalk magazine and R.C. Sproul.

Duration: One year | App: Accessible on YouVersion. Download the app.


Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System

Reading ten chapters a day, in the course of a year you’ll read the Gospels four times, the Pentateuch twice, Paul’s letters four to five times, the Old Testament wisdom literature six times, the Psalms at least twice, Proverbs and Acts a dozen times, and the OT History and Prophetic books about one and a half times.

Duration: Ongoing | Download: PDF


Robert Murray M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan

Read the New Testament and Psalms twice and the Old Testament once.

Duration: One or two years | Download: Website


Straight Through the Bible Reading Plan

Read straight through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


Tabletalk Bible Reading Plan

Two readings each day; one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF

App: Accessible in the Ligonier App (iPhone / iPadAndroidKindle Fire &Windows Phone) and YouVersion.


The Legacy Reading Plan

This plan does not have set readings for each day. Instead, it has set books for each month, and set number of Proverbs and Psalms to read each week. It aims to give you more flexibility, while grounding you in specific books of the Bible each month.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


Two-Year Bible Reading Plan

Read the Old and New Testaments once, and Psalms & Proverbs four times.

Duration: Two years | Download: PDF

(Almost) The Whole Continuous Story of the Old Testament in Just 11 Books

(Recently posted on Justin Taylor’s blogDavid Talley—Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies, and Chair of the Biblical & Theological Studies Old Testament Department at Biola University—points out that the majority of the OT story or narrative is found in the following 11 books:

  1. Genesis
  2. Exodus
  3. Numbers
  4. Joshua
  5. Judges
  6. 1 Samuel
  7. 2 Samuel
  8. 1 Kings
  9. 2 Kings
  10. Ezra
  11. Nehemiah

He writes:

If you were to read these eleven books, beginning with Genesis and reading them in succession to Nehemiah, you would read through almost the entire story of the Old Testament. The reason it must be stated that it is “almost the entire story” is because there are some additional stories isolated in parts of other books.

This is a really helpful pedagogical move, as it allows readers to distinguish between the main ongoing narrative and then to examine the way the other 28 books of the OT interpret, reinforce, and supplement this storyline.

Below is his summary of the story through these 11 books.

GENESIS

Genesis begins THE STORY by providing the narrative of the beginning of the world in the first eleven chapters. In these chapters, the story progresses through 20+ generations of people. The goal is to get the story to Abram (Abraham).  So these chapters cover a very long time period . . .  and, as a result, can obviously focus on very few details.   The remaining chapters of the book provide the narrative for the early beginnings of the nation of Israel through the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, and concluding with the family of Jacob in Egypt. Then THE STORY slows down, focusing on only four generations of people. The purpose is to provide a “skeleton” of information about the background of everything that leads up to Israel being in Egypt, awaiting the redemption of the Lord.

EXODUS

Exodus picks up THE STORY from Genesis as evidenced by an overlapping connection with Joseph going to down to Egypt, being used by God to preserve Jacob’s family. After Joseph dies, Exodus continues the narrative by 1) recounting the nation’s hardships in Egypt, 2) demonstrating God’s miraculous work of judgment against Egypt and redemption of Israel in the exodus from Egypt to Mt Sinai, 3) providing the establishment of his covenant with Israel, and 4) explaining the building of the Tabernacle so that God can dwell in their midst. Whereas Genesis covers 24-plus generations, Exodus concerns only the life of Moses (his life actually continues to the end of Deuteronomy, the remainder of the Pentateuch). The family of Jacob grows into a nation with whom God makes a covenant. All of this is preparation for taking the nation to the Promised Land.

NUMBERS

Numbers continues THE STORY for us, narrating the developments taking place as Israel prepares to take the land. All of the contents occur in Moses’ generation. After the completion of the Tabernacle, this book conveys the story of the organization of the nation, their departure from Mt. Sinai, and the subsequent disobedience of this first generation when they refuse to take the land. The resulting judgment is 40 years of wilderness wanderings, which is also found in this book though not in much detail. We do not have a lot of information about this 40-year time period because the focus of the book is to get us to the border of the Promised Land. The book closes with the preparation of the second generation (after the exodus) in taking the land of Canaan.

JOSHUA

The book of Joshua connects to the previous books by beginning with a reference to Moses’ death. (Recall, Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of his sin when he struck the rock rather than spoke to it.) The leadership of the people for the task of entering the Promised Land is transferred and entrusted to Joshua. The narrative in this book continues THE STORY by providing the events of Israel entering the land by focusing on the conquest, division, and initial settling of the land of Canaan during the life of Joshua.

JUDGES

Judges continues THE STORY by overlapping with the end of the book of Joshua with its focus on the details of Joshua’s death. Since the land has already been settled, this book provides a glimpse of the early years in the land when Israel was led by judges. This period marked by the rule of the judges is summarized by utilizing a similar cycle evidenced by each generation. The cycle is simple, yet disturbing. Each generation is characterized by eventual rebellion, followed by God’s judgment, their crying out to the Lord, the Lord raising up of a deliverer, the actual deliverance, and a subsequent return to obedience for a period of time until the cycle repeats itself. Consequently, many generations are covered as the author seeks to make it clear what this time period was like for Israel. When they are disobedient, there are consequences, but, when they walk in faithfulness, the Lord in his mercy restores them to a place of blessing.

1-2 SAMUEL

The era of the judges continues into the books of Samuel. Samuel is a judge, but he moves THE STORY from the period of the judges into the period of the kingdom. These two books include the transition from the leadership of the last judge (Samuel) to the beginning of (under King Saul’s leadership) and establishment of (under King David’s leadership) the kingdom. It is also the necessary foundation to the books that follow.

1-2 KINGS

The books of Kings naturally flow out of the books that introduce the kingdom, especially with the overlap of the end of King David’s life. Connecting to the end of the books of Samuel, the books of Kings begin with the latter years of King David’s life, culminating in the transfer of leadership to Solomon as the new king and the story of King David’s death. King Solomon is the focus immediately after King David’s death, and, after his unfaithfulness and the subsequent division of the kingdom, the remaining pages summarize the lives of the kings of the divided (northern kingdom of Israel and southern kingdom of Judah) and the solitary kingdom (southern kingdom of Judah alone). THE STORY points to the “glory” of the kingdom (under King Solomon’s leadership) and the division of the kingdom into the northern kingdom, until this kingdom goes into exile, and southern kingdom, until this kingdom goes into exile, which is the seeming end of the nation as a whole.

{EXILE}

At this point we have the exile. The nation is taken out of the land. There are many events that happen during this time, which are part of the growth and formation of the nation. The land is the focus in the Old Testament, so in many ways, and for our purposes, THE STORY takes a 70-year hiatus. But God is not done. His story continues.

EZRA AND NEHEMIAH

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah continue THE STORY by reversing the removal of the people from the land. They now return. After the 70 years of exile are over, these books record the three returns to the land under the leadership of Zerrubabel (to rebuild the Temple), Ezra, and Nehemiah (to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem). The purpose of these returns is ultimately concerned with preparing for the coming Messiah and the restoration of the kingdom. However, each return also includes the many reforms that the people must make along the way. God is continuing his work.

So note very clearly that THE STORY of the Old Testament ends with the book of Nehemiah. Yes, Nehemiah. It is not that God is done with his people. It is just that God will resume his story with the coming of the Messiah, which occurs in the gospels in the New Testament. The end of the Old Testament is one of anticipation, the anticipation of the good news of the gospel in the coming Messiah.

The prophets add to this anticipation as these books begin to fill in certain details about what God is up to, what he is going to do, and when it is going to happen.

The Old Testament is actually the “first testament” or the prelude to the New Testament. Both testaments contain God’s story.

What Came First: The Bible or The Church?

Which came first: the Bible or the Church?  Another way to ask this is, did the Church create the Bible or did the Bible create the Church?

I believe the following verses help us see the answer and why this is a really important question:

John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

John 15:26-27, “When the Helper comes, whom I send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” 

John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you (apostles) into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”

John 17:20-21, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their (the apostles, including Paul, the last apostle) word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” 

What do these teach us about our question?  The Holy Spirit will be sent to the apostles, from the Father, in the name of Jesus.  Next, the Holy Spirit will bear witness to, testify, and cause the apostles to remember the Words of Jesus.  The Spirit will also lead the apostles into all truth and declare to them the things that are to come.  Then as a result of the testimony of the Holy Spirit, the apostles will testify and proclaim about Jesus (PREACHING).  Jesus then, prays for us, asking specifically that through the words of the apostles (PREACHING) we who believe may be one, as the Father and Jesus are one.  SO THAT the world would believe Jesus came from the Father.  Did you follow that?

Why does that matter and how does that answer our question?

We learn from this that the Spirit who is going to inspire the apostles with truth, specifically “all truth”, only speaks what He hears from Jesus and from the Father.  So, in turn when the apostles go out to preach, teach, and write letters to all the churches, those writings are God’s Words, because they are being inspired by the Spirit, and Spirit only speaks what He hears.  Thus, the apostles preaching and writing should not be thought of as their own, but rather as God’s Words to God’s people through the power of God’s Spirit, about Jesus!  This is why the apostles oral and written words have power, and why they are the New Testament Canon.  Their Words, have the same authority as the Words of Jesus, because their Words are God’s Words, through the power of the Spirit.

So, Christians today have believed through the Words of the apostles, spoken and written.  And since we cannot hear them orally now, we read their words.  This New Testament canon, which because is being powered by the Spirit, is authoritative.  This brings to light the correct interpretation of Matthew 16:18 doesn’t it?  “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”   Is it Peter who is the rock?  I don’t think so.  The Rock Jesus is referring to is the Word of God Himself and the Word of God (Scripture) that will come from Peter and the rest of the apostles.  That is the foundation of the Church.

Therefore, the Church did not create the Bible at some point in time.   The Bible, the spoken Words of the Spirit empowered apostles created the Church.  It is this Scripture that Jesus will use to build His church.  Not popes, or rulers, or councils, but the Word of God.

Can you see now why Martin Luther and the rest of the reformers felt as if they must act?  They saw this, and tried as hard as they could to restore the Rock to its rightful place, above all men!

Christ is not only Himself the canon in which God comes to the world, and in which He hallows Himself before the world, but Christ also establishes the canon and gives it a concrete historical form. Christ establishes the canon first of all in His own word and work but then also in transfer of authority (exousia) to His authorized representatives, in the Holy Spirit witnessing with them and through them, and in the apostolic tradition. And Christ is also the canon because He establishes and maintains the bond between that canon and the church. It is this rock (petra) on which He builds His church…Christ establishes the canon in the ascertainable character of apostolic preaching and in the legibility of apostolic writings, in the preservation of the apostolic witness and doctrine…On that word and according to that canon, Christ will establish and build His church by causing the church to accept just this canon and, by means of the assistance and witness of the Holy Spirit, to recognize it as His…The canon of Christ will persist because there will continue to be a church of Christ, and the church of Christ will persist because the canon of Christ will continue to exist and because Christ through His Spirit will build His church on that canon.

(Herman Ridderbos, Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures, pages 37-38)

We Cannot Love God if We Do Not Love His Word

R.C. Sproul:

“It seems so much more exciting to live with a freewheeling openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit rather than practicing the laborious discipline of mastering His Word. This is exceedingly dangerous ground. If we want to do the will of the Father, we need to study the Word of the Father—and leave the magic to the astrologers.”

Emil Brunner, the twentieth-century Swiss theologian and one of the fathers of neoorthodox theology, wrote a little book titled Truth as Encounter. His thesis was that when we study the things of God, we are not studying truth in the abstract. We want to understand theology not merely so that we can make an A on a theology exam. We want to understand the doctrine of God so that we can understand God, so that we can meet the living God in His Word and deepen our personal relationship with Him.

But we cannot deepen a relationship with someone if we do not know anything about him. So, the propositions of Scripture are not an end in themselves but a means to an end. However, they are a necessary means to the end. Thus, to say Christianity is not about propositions but about relationships is to establish an extremely dangerous false dichotomy. It is to insult the Spirit of truth, whose propositions they are. These propositions should be our very meat and drink, for they define the Christian life.

Recently I read some letters to the editor of a Christian magazine. One of them disparaged Christian scholars with advanced degrees. The letter writer charged that such men would enjoy digging into word studies of Christ’s teachings in the ancient languages in order to demonstrate that He did not really say what He seems to say in our English Bibles. Obviously there was a negative attitude toward any serious study of the Word of God. Of course, there are scholars who are like this, who study a word in six different languages and still end up missing its meaning, but that does not mean we must not engage in any serious study of the Word of God lest we end up like these ungodly scholars. Another letter writer expressed the view that people who engage in the study of doctrine are not concerned about the pain people experience in this world. In my experience, however, it is virtually impossible to experience pain and not ask questions about truth. We all want to know the truth about suffering, and specifically, where is God in our pain. That is a theological concern. The answer comes to us from the Scriptures, which reveal the mind of God Himself through the agency of the Holy Spirit, who is called the Spirit of truth. We cannot love God at all if we do not love His truth.

It is very sad to me that in today’s sophisticated Western culture, people are more familiar with the twelve signs of the Zodiac than with the twelve tribes of Israel or the twelve Apostles. Our world likes to see itself as sophisticated and technological, but it remains filled with superstition. Christians are not immune to this. We, too, can succumb to the new-age desire for the power to manipulate our environment. We do not have to go as far as accepting the foolish idea that the courses of the stars determine our destinies, our prosperity, our achievements, and our successes. However, it is equally superstitious to equate our feelings and inclinations with the leading of the Holy Spirit. It seems so much more exciting to live with a freewheeling openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit rather than practicing the laborious discipline of mastering His Word. This is exceedingly dangerous ground. If we want to do the will of the Father, we need to study the Word of the Father—and leave the magic to the astrologers.

Why You Should Choose A Bible Reading Plan for 2015

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It is a good idea to make it a habit of having a Bible reading plan each year.  Not all are the same, and not all read through the whole Bible in a year.  There are different plans to suit different purposes.  The point is simple:

Do you have a plan for Bible reading in 2015?

If so, great!  If not, why not?  Were you just hoping to absorb the material in your Bible through osmosis?  If it didn’t work for you back in high school it’s not going to work now.  Get over it, to learn what is in the Bible one must actually spend time reading the Bible.  If you don’t plan to read your Bible, I doubt you will.

For myself, the other elders at my church, and our congregation we have chosen to read the ESV Study Bible Reading Plan.  It takes about 10-15 minutes a day, and it’s aim is to get you through the whole Bible.  This is our plan, and it helps me a lot that our church is doing it together.

What is your plan?  Here are more options if you haven’t chosen yet.

1) Ideas from Ligonier Ministries for 2015 Bible reading plans.

2) The M’Cheyne Plan that goes with DA Carson’s Devotional (read DA Carson’s introduction to the M’Cheyne plan).

3) The Kingdom Bible Reading Plan from Bethlehem College and Seminary Professor Jason DeRouchie.

4) Discipleship Journal (NavPress).

5) ESV Bible Reading Plans (CrossWay).

It’s Not Always Like a Kinkade

Thomas Kinkade is a wonderful artist who has painted many beautiful scenes that I and many other people enjoy.  The scope of his work extends far beyond the Christmas season, but he does have much work that centers around the Christmas theme.  For example, see pic below:

A Christmas Welcome

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to sit back and enjoy the work does it?  It’s almost as if you can feel both the cold of the winter snow/wind/rain along with the warmth inside the house from the crackling fire.  It really is a good work.  It is called “A Christmas Welcome” and Kinkade has many like it.

But I wonder how many of you reading this are or already preparing to have a holiday season that will look nothing like the above painting.  It is an overlooked reality that many people find the holiday season a very hard and lonely time.  This is for various reasons.  Family brokenness, addiction, divorce, selfishness, singleness, death, disease, or cancer.  Too often Christians ‘put the face on’ and pretend like all is well while their own world and heart are slowly getting closer and closer to hell.  The holiday season seems to bring this out more than other times during the year, and the Church ought to know this and be prepared to minister accordingly.

Some of us need to be reminded that Christmas, for some, is not always like a Kinkade.  We would hope it would be, but it’s not.  So rather than being fake and phony about our brokenness and struggle this season, could we be honest?  Is that allowed?

There is a kind of refreshment that comes to the soul when we look to Jesus’ honesty about struggle in life.  He never joined in with the crowds of phony religious people who were being fake, but always cut through the mess and told it like it was.  No one has ever spoke like this, and the only thing in the world that speaks like this today is His Word, the Bible.  Nothing will shake the soul too comfortable quicker than the honest truth of the Bible, and nothing will comfort the soul too shaken quicker than the Bible as well.  It is, in all honesty, a double edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).

If you’re currently experiencing a Christmas similar to the Kinkade work above, praise God!  Treasure those times with family and friends.  If you’re currently experiencing a Christmas similar to everything opposite the Kinkade above, praise God!  He is always good, and He does all things well.  Let’s be honest with one another this holiday season, and both be refreshed by the gut-level honesty of Jesus and His Word.

 

Nuggets of Gold from Calvin about the Word

Scripture is superior to all human wisdom. (Institutes, 1.8.1)

 

The Power of Scripture is clear from that fact that human writings, however artfully polished, there is none capable of affecting us at all comparably.  Read Demosthenes, Cicero, Plato, Aristotle, and others of that tribe.  They will I admit allure you, delight you, move you, enrapture you in wonderful measure.  But betake yourself from them to this Sacred Reading.  Then, in spite of yourself, so deeply will it affect you, so penetrate your heart, so fix itself in your very marrow, that compared with deep impression, such vigor as the orators and philosophers have will nearly vanish.  Consequently, it is easy to see that the Sacred Scriptures, which so far surpass all gifts and graces of human endeavor, breathe something divine. (Institutes, 1.8.1)

 

Those for whom prophetic doctrine is tasteless ought to be thought of as lacking taste buds. (Institutes, 1.8.2)

The Best Things About the Boring Parts of the Bible

The Best Things About the Boring Parts of the Bible

Nancy Guthrie:

Let’s admit it, there are certain parts of the Bible we skim because . . . well . . . because we think they’re boring. They’re repetitive, overly detailed, full of names and places we can’t pronounce. So why bother with them? There are many reasons — not the least of which is that even the parts of the Bible we deem to be boring are significant because they are God’s word to us. Here’s my top ten list of the best things about the boring parts of the Bible.

10

After a poetic Creation and a cosmic disaster, the story of the Bible slows down in Genesis by tracing the sons of Adam and Eve’s son, Seth, through numerous generations. Why do we need to know this? Because God made a promise recorded in Genesis 3 about a particular descendant of Eve. The whole of the Bible is most significantly about this descendant. So, the tenth best thing about the boring parts of the Bible is:

Tracing the line of descendants from Adam and Eve forward keeps us tuned in to what is most important in the Bible’s story, or really who is most important — the promised offspring who will one day be born and will do battle with the offspring of the ancient serpent and win.

9

In Genesis 6–9 we witness the population of the world narrowed down to just Noah and his 3 sons and their families. The begats of the Bible pick up again in Genesis 10 focusing in on the descendants of just one of Noah’s sons — Shem — and finally on one descendant of Shem — Abraham — to whom God makes incredible promises. Further lists help us to trace the coming of the promised descendant through Isaac and Jacob and Judah and David until we read in Galatians 4:4, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman.” Keeping our focus on this promised One helps to keep us from making the Bible all about us instead of all about him.

The book of Exodus begins with the vivid story of a baby in a basket on the Nile River who becomes the deliverer of God’s people from their slavery in Egypt. On their way to the Promised Land, God gives Moses detailed instructions for the design of the tent they are to construct in which God will come down to dwell among them. In the detail of the design we see gourds and open flowers woven into the fabrics, a basin made to look like a lily, lampstands made to look like trees with branches. The writer of Hebrews says the tabernacle and later the temple were, “copies of true things,” and “a shadow of the good things to come” (Hebrews 8:5). So for #9:

The detail of the tabernacle and temple design reminds us of Eden and fills us with anticipation for the beauty and perfection of the new heavens and new earth.

8

As we continue in Exodus we read exacting detail about the clothing that was to be made for the high priest who would serve in the tabernacle. It was to be holy, glorious, and beautiful like God himself, which is appropriate since the priest represented God to the people. The priest also represented the people to God. He wore an ephod and a breastplate that had stones with the names of the twelve tribes on them. So when the high priest entered the Holy Place, it was as if he took the people and their concerns into the presence of God with him.

The detail of the high priest’s clothing assures us that our Great High Priest, Jesus, carries our burdens on his shoulders and our concerns on his heart as he intercedes for us in the presence of God.

7

In Leviticus 1–7 we find detailed instructions for offering sacrifices which were like flashing neon signs saying: “sin brings death . . . sin brings death.” But the sacrifices also revealed that God accepts the blood of an innocent substitute to pay for sin.

The requirements of Old Testament sacrifices help us to see what sin costs as well as the fullness of our forgiveness made possible through the once-for-all perfect sacrifice of Christ.

6

Let’s face it — the laws about what make a person ceremonial clean or unclean found in Leviticus 11–15 are strange. Yet when we study them, we see that everything that makes a person unclean is something that reflects the effects of the curse of sin on this world. Animals fed on other animals only after the curse. Bodies bled and developed disease only after the curse. Mold and mildew, the visible evidence of decay, came into being only after the curse. Everything designated unclean in Leviticus demonstrated that things are not the way they once were in the Garden—the way God originally intended them to be.

The laws regarding clean and unclean in Leviticus give us hope that we who are unclean can be made clean through an acceptable sacrifice, and will one day be made holy to enter into the presence of God.

5

Jesus, who was perfectly clean, took our uncleanness upon himself so that we might be made clean and he is at work even now, by his Spirit, making us holy. God will not abandon our world to its uncleanness forever! He will make it clean.

The book of Numbers begins and ends with a census. In Numbers 1 we find the record of the generation who rebelled and refused to believe that God was giving them the land of Canaan and therefore died in the desert. In Numbers 26 we read the census record of the second generation as they prepared to enter into their inheritance and abundant life of the Promised Land. Why do we need this information?

The census records of Numbers encourage us to examine whether our names are to be counted among those who refuse to believe and will die in the wilderness of this world, or if we are counted among those who believe God’s promise of an inheritance and have life in the abundance of the Promised Land to look forward to.

4

In Joshua 13–21 we read the geographic details of the land in Canaan given to each tribe. Because we are unfamiliar with the ancient geography, it can be a boring list to us. But if we were familiar with these places and with these people, we could better imagine the sense of wonder among God’s people as each tribe was given a huge amount of territory in the Promised Land. Likely the people of each tribe would have looked at each other and said, “All of this for us?”

The allotment of territories to tribes in the land of Canaan gives us a preview of what it will be like when our greater Joshua, Jesus, leads us into the eternal Promised Land where we will inherit all that God has promised.

3

One day our Greater Joshua will read out the inheritance that will be ours in the new heaven and the new earth, and we won’t be bored! Surely we will breathlessly say, “All of this for us?”

First Chronicles includes chapter after chapter of genealogies that begin with Adam and stretch to the descendants of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi — the kingly and priestly tribes — who made up most of those who returned to the land after exile.

The genealogies in 1 Chronicles help us focus on where history is headed — the son of David, seated on the throne of the universe.

2

This list should reorient our hearts toward the coming of our great king when we will hear a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3).

When Nehemiah was trying to figure out who among the returned exiles should take up residence behind the rebuilt walls of Jerusalem, he pulled out the book in which the names of those who returned to Judah when the opportunity was first given by Cyrus’s decree to come home were listed.

The list of names in the book Nehemiah read that included all those whose hearts God stirred up to leave Babylon for Jerusalem should make our hearts glad to know that God likes to keep lists of those whose hearts he has stirred up with a longing for his city, those who will inhabit the New Jerusalem.

1

In Revelation 21:27 John tells us, “Only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” will populate the New Jerusalem. We will not be bored when that list of names is read! We’ll be on pins and needles listening for our names.

The New Testament begins with a genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. And oh the grace we find in this boring part of the Bible! There in the lineage of Jesus is Abraham who pretended his wife was his sister and gave her to a godless king; Judah who fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar, his daughter-in-law; Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute who put everything at risk to get in on the promises of God; Ruth, a Moabite who left everything behind to make Israel’s God her God; David who took another man’s wife and then had her husband killed; Solomon who allowed many foreign women to turn his heart away from loving the Lord. So the #1 best thing about the boring parts of the Bible is:

The genealogy of Jesus shows us that Jesus welcomes flagrant but forgiven sinners into his family.

This gives outsiders and outlaws like you and me hope. He is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters.

Rhetorical-ness, God’s Not a Fickle Dummy, & the Full Expression of Jonah & Nahum

All three chapters of the tiny ignored book of Nahum are now done.  Let me end it today with 2 thoughts.

First, the rhetorical question:

Did you notice that Nahum ends with a rhetorical question? Do you know what the only other book in the Bible to with a rhetorical question is? Jonah. Jonah 4:11 says, “Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are 120,000 people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” Likewise Nahum 3:19 ends with “For upon whom has not come your unceasing evil?” Jonah’s rhetorical question pointing out the obvious – that God can show mercy on whomever He desires to while Nahum’s rhetorical question pointing out the obvious – that God can withhold mercy and destroy whomever He desires to. Two rhetorical questions; one about grace and mercy, the other about woe and judgment. What does this mean? God is completely free to do as He pleases. He doesn’t ask permission, doesn’t need a hall pass, doesn’t phone a friend. The ultimate answer is Romans 9:15, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will show compassion on whom I show compassion.” God is sovereign. “Our God is in the heavens, He does what He pleases.” (Psalm 115:3) God is wise, and decided in that wisdom that His glory would be made much of most by granting Nineveh mercy and then executing judgment on them when they turned away.

I’m sure some of you are feeling what rises out of a thought like that, “Is God really that fickle?” No, God is not a fickle God as if He was merely picking rose petals off a rose flower saying “I love Nineveh, I love them not, I love Nineveh, I love them not.” The question we all should be asking is “How could God have ever showed mercy to Nineveh in the first place?” When I talk to people about the gospel I often get this response, how can God destroy whole peoples and whole cultures, isn’t that genocide? To which I answer, no – God does what He wants to do, the question we should be asking is – in light of our sin and wickedness why would God extend mercy to us through Christ at all? We learn from this that if we don’t understand our sin we will never understand that God is just to not save one single person in history.

If we don’t understand the depth of our depravity we will sit in constant judgment of God ridiculing His sovereign decisions as if we knew better how to run the universe. Jonah and Nahum each end with a rhetorical question to reveal to us that God is God, we are not.

Second, Jonah – Nahum – Jesus:

The theologian B.B Warfield once said, “The Old Testament is a room fully furnished but dimly lit. When Christ comes He turns on the light.” In light of this truth an appropriate question to ask is: How are the two messages of Jonah and Nahum bound up and brought together in Christ for the Church? Well, the prophets Jonah and Nahum foreshadow Christ, the true Prophet. Just as the two minor-prophets were obedient (Jonah with some prodding) by bringing God’s Word to God’s people – so too Jesus was obedient to what His Father called Him to, obedient even to point of death on a cross. In Christ we find the full expression of both Jonah and Nahum. And when I say Christ is the full expression I mean that Jesus was gracious to His enemies as Jonah was in His message Nineveh and Jesus pronounced woe to God’s enemies as Nahum did in His message Nineveh. Jonah and Jesus preached grace to those who knew no grace. Both Nahum and Jesus preached judgment to those deserving judgment. John 1:14 states it, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of (BOTH) grace and truth.” Jesus’ life shows us this as well. To those who were repentant and humble in heart Jesus was kind and gracious. To those who were stubborn and prideful in heart Jesus was harsh and rebuking. He was full of grace and full of truth.

So Church, what will be to our city? Full of grace only? Minimizing the message of God’s judgment to maximize the love of God in Jesus? Will we soften the gospel? Will we obey men rather than God and tell them only what suits their tastes? Will we candy coat the gospel into a message that only says, “God loves and has a wonderful plan for you life.” Have we grown comfortable with telling men how to be saved without telling them why they need to be saved? Do we fear the opinion of other men so much that we have believed the lie that men really don’t need to hear about the judgment of God. Or are we on the other side of the equation: will we be full of judgment? Minimizing the grace of God to maximize the judgment of God against sin? Will we get out the spray paint and posters making signs that say, “God hates Fags?” Will believe the lie that men don’t really need to hear about the grace of God because they are coddled too much already in this life; thinking the only thing men need is to be scared straight? I’m afraid both of these positions are wrong. If we minimize God’s judgment to make much of His grace or minimize God’s grace to make much of His judgment we lose both God’s grace and God’s judgment.

We must follow in the footsteps of Christ, and be full of both grace and truth. We must proclaim both the full judgment of God due to us for sin, and the grace extended to us in Christ. One way that’s helpful to remember to keep the full measure of God’s grace and judgment is to make a distinction between Law and Gospel. Galatians 3:24 says the Law is a tutor, to lead us to Christ.

Charles Spurgeon said, “The Law is the needle which prepares the way for the thread of the gospel into the heart.”

A.B. Earle said, “I have found by long experience that the severest threatening’s of the Law of God have a prominent place in leading men to Christ. They must see themselves lost before they will cry for mercy. They will not escape from danger until they see it.”

Martin Luther said, “The first duty of the Gospel preacher is to declare God’s Law and show the nature of sin…we would not see nor realize our sin if it were not for the Law, and we would have to remain forever lost, if we were not again helped out of it through Christ. Therefore the Law and the Gospel are given to the end that we may learn to know both how guilty we are and to what we should again return.”

John MacArthur said, “We need to adjust our presentation of the gospel. We cannot dismiss the fact that God hates sin and punishes sinners with eternal torment. How can we begin a gospel presentation by telling people on their way to hell that God has a wonderful plan for their lives? It is true that God has a wonderful plan for their lives—but it is that they would repent and trust the Savior, and receive the righteousness of Christ.” It is this message, the message of the wrath of God against sin and grace of God in Christ that saves men and women like us. It is that message we must preach to ourselves each morning, and that message we must take to our city each day.

This is why John Wesley in writing a letter to a young Christian said, “Preach 90% Law and 10% Grace….Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but the grace of God for sinners, I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth.”

So, as we come to the end of Nahum may we trust in the sovereign power of God to do dispense grace and judgment as He pleases. May we rejoice in Jonah’s message of the grace of God heading toward those who deserve judgment and be encouraged to take the gospel to our own city. May we be challenged in Nahum’s message to fear God in response to seeing such a Divine Warrior at work and be encouraged to not minimize any of the attributes of God be it His wrath or grace. And may we like Jonah and Nahum, more so like Christ, may we be obedient to the message of the gospel in actually proclaiming it to those who need it.

No Book Like the Bible

This September, John Piper will be launching an initiative inspired by the legacy he wants to leave. Look at the Book is a new online method of teaching the Bible. It’s an ongoing series of 5–10 minute videos in which the camera is on the text, not the teacher. You will hear John’s voice and watch his pen underline, circle, make connections, and scribble notes — all to help you learn to read God’s word for yourself. His goal is to help you not only see what he sees, but where he sees it and how he found it.

HT: Desiring God

The Greatest Word You’ve Never Heard Of

I want to teach you a theological word today – typology.

Don’t be afraid. Typology is a great word with great simple meaning. Typology the study of “types” in Scripture. By “type” I mean the pattern which exists in Scripture when a person, place, event, or action takes place which carries a preview (if you will) in it of the greater person, place, event, or action to come later in Scripture. This word comes from Romans 5:14 which speaks of the relation between Adam and Jesus. Paul says in this verse “Adam was a type of the One who was to come.” This means that in Adam’s person, in Adam’s actions, in Adam’s character, and in Adam’s failure a connection exists to point us to the greater Person who would come onto the scene later in history. Who is this greater Person to come? Jesus, it’s always Jesus. Therefore theologians say, “Adam is a type of Christ.”

This is not a new way to interpret the Bible, in fact, very early in the history of the Church St. Augustine said this about how the New and Old Testaments relate to each other, “The New is in the Old concealed, and the Old is in the New revealed.”

Charles Spurgeon, the great Prince of Preachers, the Baptist from London said this:

“Don’t you know young man, that from every town, every village, and every little shack there is a road to London? And so we see a divine truth here, from every text in Scripture we see a road to the metropolis of Christ, so much so that when you get to a text of Scripture your primary business is to answer the question, “What is the road to Christ here?” and then to preach a sermon running along that road towards the great metropolis of Christ.”

This means in every passage of Scripture there is an element that points beyond it’s own time and place in redemptive history, directing the gaze of God’s people forward to the coming King. Blessed are we readers and hearers who do not stumble over the ways Jesus presents Himself to be the long-promised God-Man. We can derive through studying the New Testament’s use of the Old a paradigm, a pattern, a way of viewing the experiences, officials, institutions, and hopes of Israel that opens wide the gates to the riches of the vast redemptive plan of God which reaches its culmination and climax in the Person of Jesus Christ. This discovery in seeing Jesus actually fulfill and preview Himself and His saving work throughout the whole of Scripture satisfies an ancient longing within us, and rescues us from the false belief that we are New Testament Christians alone! You see there is a temptation within the Church to ignore the Old Testament and stick the New, when in reality every doctrine we believe, and every practice we partake in must be a whole Bible doctrine, or a whole Bible practice. This is why Paul said in Acts 20:27 that he did not shrink back from teaching the churches “the whole counsel of God.”

If the Scriptures are indeed the Word of the God who sovereignly directs all of world history, it follows that the whole of the Old Testament is oriented toward fulfillment beyond itself in the New Testament; it follows that the whole of the Old Covenant promises to Israel are oriented toward fulfillment beyond itself in the New Covenant promises to the Church.

To reject this is to come to the Bible with a reductionistic approach. We cannot define any doctrine or any truth Biblically by the Old Testament or New Testament alone. Everything in the Christian life must be directed and defined by the whole counsel of God. Jesus Himself said this is how we’re to read His Word, in Luke 24:27 Jesus began with Moses and all the prophets, revealing to the men on the road to Emmaus “the things concerning Himself.” Also in Luke 24:44 Jesus says, “Everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Acts 28:23 says Paul expounded to his hearers from morning till evening “trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.” Colossians 1:28 gives us the meat of all the Apostle’s preaching, “HIM WE PROCLAIM, warning everyone, teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” If Jesus, Paul, and the early Church viewed the Bible as a whole book all leading up to one Man, and then reflecting on that one Man should we not view it in the same manner?

For example: in Romans 5:12-21 Jesus is called the Last Adam meaning He is the image of God who obeyed where the first Adam failed, and by the obedience of the Last Adam we have life, and triumph over the death that spread to all men through the disobedience of the first Adam. 1 Peter 3:20-21 reveals that as Noah’s ark provided safety and shelter from the wrath of God, so too in Jesus the Church is safe from final punishing judgment from God. Jesus is the descendant of Abraham in Galatians 3:16 who blesses all nations on the earth. Romans 8:32 shows Jesus to be the Son, not spared as Abraham was permitted to spare Isaac, but sacrificed as the Lamb of God whose death spares others. Matthew 4 reveals Jesus is the true Israel of God, who was obedient in the wilderness where the first Israel was not. 1 Cor. 5:7 presents Jesus as our Passover Lamb who covers the Church with His blood so death passes over us as the blood of the lamb covered Israel in Egypt and passed over them!

There is always a heightening isn’t there? God will not merely repeat the deeds of the past, He will do greater things, climatically greater: a new creation, a second exodus, a new covenant, a new people, all brought into being by a new and greater Prophet. Is this not crystal clear? The unresolved tensions within the Old Testament cry out for resolution in the coming of the Lord and the coming of a Servant unstained by the infidelities that had always polluted Israel and her leaders.

This is all over the Bible, praise God for that!