MSG: State of the Church – 2014: Eph. 3:8-16

Grace has a great future in 2014. It is building on past leadership and growing new leadership. There is an excitement in the halls that is refreshing and exuberant. There is momentum building for home groups, men’s and women’s ministries and stability in other ministries. There is a growing spirit of unity at Grace in the bond of peace. Continue reading

Question: How do you discern what Scripture applies to us today?

How do you discern what Scripture applies to us today?

 

            How do you discern what Scripture applies to us today compared to what applies to the original audience?  We can learn from all Scripture as Paul records, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4)  Additionally, Paul proclaims that all of Scripture is provided that we might be brought in line with God’s thinking and be equipped for every good work,

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

In other words, I can learn from each passage of Scripture, and it helps reveal where I need to be rebuked, corrected and trained for righteous living.  Yet, not all Scripture has direct application to me.

            All Scripture is directly applicable to the intended audience.  The principle that should be understood is authorial intent.  What was the author’s intent for the intended audience?  What did the author mean to convey to the specific audience, in that culture, in that time in which they lived? For example, Ezra, who assembled 1 and 2 Chronicles records for us,

14 “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chron. 7:14)

This passage is often used today implying that if Americans would humble themselves, then God would bless our nation again.  Yet, God was speaking in the passage to Israel, not the United States.  He describes them as “My people,” who are categorized as God’s people, because God directly called Abraham out of Ur and made a covenant with Abraham that God would raise up a great people from Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3).  God did not make that promise to the United States.  God certainly worked through the founding Fathers, however, no direct promise was made and America is not “My people.

            However, the principle has application to the United States as we saw in Romans 15:4.  The application is that we should humble ourselves, because the arrogance and indifference we are displaying toward God is certainly bringing God’s wrath in increased tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts, flooding, blizzards, etc.  Some may say these are cycles of nature, yet as America spirals down the morass of immorality, the weather, crime, economic problems uptick is increasing.  If we humble ourselves as a nation, there is no guarantee that God will bless, because there may be other reasons in world history for God to let America disintegrate.

            Actually, much of the Old Testament was meant for Israel, not the Church.  We agree with the Psalms and Proverbs. Yet, David wrote imprecatory prayer psalms (cf. Ps. 69, 109) that we cannot impose today.  David was the king and represented God, so in that position as representing God and king of Israel, he called down God’s wrath on his enemies.  We are in a position to learn from the psalm, but not use the psalm on others.  We were called to peace. The Judge will come and impose His wrath in due time.

Additionally, the Proverbs are general principles of truth designed for all, but not absolute statements of fact.  For example, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Pro. 22:6)  This verse is a general principle that is true, but not absolute.  Every child must make his own decisions and there are many godly parents, who were diligent to disciple their children, but the children may not have followed the Lord.  All things being equal, children will return to the godly training they were given.  However, this Proverb is not a guarantee.  On the other hand, because Proverbs are not absolute truths should not be an excuse for parents to be anything less than diligent (cf. Deut. 6:6-9).

The Gospel accounts are written so that we could understand Jesus.  Yet, there is a great amount of information that does not directly apply to us.  For example, some have used the passage, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved,” (Mat 24:13) to imply that if a believer in Jesus does not persevere, then he will not be saved.  That contradicts too many other passages of Scripture, like John 3:16; Romans 8:38-39; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Ephesians 2:8-9 and many others.  So how do we understand the passage? 

Matthew 24:13 is part of the Olivet Discourse that Jesus gave to the disciples during the Passover week.  The Olivet Discourse was written to describe the conditions during the Tribulation period between the Rapture of the Church and the Second Advent of Jesus Christ.  Those who endure, who keep the faith during the Tribulation will be saved.  What does “saved” mean?  The basic meaning of the word “saved” is deliverance.  Thus the passage interpreted in the context means that the believer who is faithful during the Tribulation will be delivered into the Millennial Kingdom when Jesus returns at the Second Advent. There are many other examples of passages that can only be understood by understanding Dispensations. 

The best way to understand what applies and what does not is to understand Classical Dispensationalism.  This theological approach to Scripture seeks God’s view to Scripture rather than man’s view.  It looks at what God meant for the intended audience and what applies today.

How do you take what was not intended for the church today and find meaning?  When you interpret Scripture, determine the Universal Truth or principle for the audience.  That Universal Truth transcends all time and audience and can be applied to the person who reads Scripture today.  For example, when God told Jacob to go up to Bethel and make an altar, Jacob realized he better put away anything related to idolatry, so we read, “So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hands, and the earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree which was by Shechem.” (Gen. 35:4) Should women remove their earrings?  The text would indicate that action!

The question is, “What is the Universal Truth?”  Notice that Jacob took all the foreign gods “and the earrings…” In other words the earrings were more than an adornment – they were connected to the foreign gods, the idolatry.  Hence, Jacob wanted the people “holy” or “set aside” to God and not connected in any way to the idolatry when they set up the altar to worship God.  The Universal Truth is that we should be “set aside” wholly to God and not have any idolatry in our lives.  That will be more difficult, because we need to look for idolatry of personal contentment, surrounding peace, or things like the idolatry of expecting respect, which are far more difficult to discern than some object like an earring. Again, we read Scripture, always with Paul’s admonition, For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4) 

This is a great question and the answer is determined by what hermeneutic and what theological approach to Scripture you use.  The word “hermeneutic” means the system of interpretation.  The systems of interpretation people use vary from a symbolic or allegorical approach to a Literal Historico-grammatical approach.  The theological approach people use vary from a Classical Dispensational approach to all sorts of other methods of theology. I present these two spectrums of understanding, because they determine what Scripture applies to us today.  This is a fun discussion for a home group or any other gathering to think through what are other examples of what applies directly or what applies indirectly.

 

 

 

Explaining Divine History – Part 5

 We human beings are pretty proud of ourselves.  We have been able to take a little two inch by five inch by one quarter inch box and communicate with each other and websites all over the world.  We have at our fingertips information, relationships, and resources never before available.  We’re pretty proud of ourselves!  Yet none of that compares to the miracle that God performs for us.

The miracle of God is that He communicates to us.  We, His creatures, rejected God in the Garden of Eden, prior to the flood, at the Tower of Babel, at the incarnation of Christ and we will reveal our rejection of Him prior to His return and even at the end of the Millennial Kingdom.  It’s a miracle of God’s mercy that He communicates to us from His holiness.

There is no way that we could ever understand God unless He revealed Himself to us.  Because He is infinite and we are finite, He had to reveal Himself to us in ways and language that we could understand.  It would be impossible for man to understand the infinity of God’s person and purpose.  So God revealed Himself in nature we call General Revelation and He revealed Himself in Jesus and Scripture we call Special Revelation.  We can only learn about some aspects of God in General Revelation (Romans 1:18-20).  We needed Special Revelation to understand God’s plan for man.

Here’s the key to understanding God’s plan:

God’s divine plan can only be fully understood by the completed canon of Scripture.  It is from progressive revelation over a period of 1500 years by 40 authors that God’s Administration of History can be fully understood.

As was stated under “Explaining Divine History – Part 2” the Bible must be interpreted with a literal  historico-grammatical approach to interpretation.  Some people develop their theology and then use various forms of interpretation to make Scripture fit that theology.  Please refer back to that segment for a clarification of biblical interpretation.  What we need to understand is that God’s plan and history will only be understood by the completed canon of Scripture and then only when it is harmonized in, through and by means of all Scripture.  Leave the world behind and study God’s Word and you’ll understand Divine History.

 

 

 

Explaining Divine History – Part 2

             In Part one of Explaining Divine History, one must realize there was one way of salvation.  That way of salvation was understood according to what God revealed to man at his point in history.  To Adam and Eve, God revealed the first gospel message in Genesis 3:15.  The seed of the woman would crush the seed of Satan and all rebellion would be paid for satisfying the righteousness of God.  Later, Abraham believed God would provide through His promise that a seed (child) would be born that would remove the penalty for sin.  Salvation by faith is the consistent requirement and is found only in God’s provision through Jesus Christ.  It was fully revealed and explained in the completed canon of Scripture.

            So how do you interpret that canon of Scripture to get one clear interpretation?  There is one interpretation and many applications.  In order to understand that one clear interpretation, the student of Scripture must follow a “Literal Historico-grammatical” approach to interpreting.  That means he looks at the literal or natural view of what the passage is saying. Secondly, he looks at the history surrounding the Scripture as it was written in that culture by that author to that audience.  And thirdly, he looks at the words and the arrangement of the words to get the correct interpretation.  A correct interpretation must be done from the Hebrew and Chaldean in the Old Testament and Greek from the New Testament.  Another word used to describe interpretation is “hermeneutics.” 

Why is this important?  Please note the following principles. The divinely inspired Bible must be interpreted based on a “literal historico-grammatical” approach (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

·         God means what He says and says what He means.  Any apparent problem merely needs careful study to understand God’s unity of truth so that there are no contradictions.

·         God speaks through different authors using their education, personality and background. You can tell by their letters that many different personalities, educational training and backgrounds were used in the writings.

·         God speaks through different forms of literature that must be interpreted based on that type of literature.

o   Narrative literature must have consistency in historical accounts.

o   Poetry must consider rules of symmetry, parallelism, creativity and contrast.

o   Epistles must be considered regarding the audience and application.

o   Eschatology must be considered related to other eschatological passages.

·         The literal interpretation is made unless the context dictates that the words or phrases are used as a metaphor or another figure of speech Dan. 9:26; Zech 6:12.

·         The Bible must be interpreted as a united whole, because it has one divine author 2 Pet. 1:20-21

·         Scripture must be interpreted to include both the Sovereign purposes of God and the free will of Man  John 3:16

            Because God is the author of Scripture, there can be no contradictions in the original manuscripts recorded by the human authors.  Those human authors were “carried along” (2 Peter. 1:20-21), so that God’s complete thought toward man was recorded for man without destroying the literary style, vocabulary or background of the human authors in the original manuscripts.  Where there seems to be a contradiction, it is necessary to compare Scripture with Scripture.  Where difficult passages are found, the natural reading of Scripture is used in that genre of literature.  Too many theological systems impose their theology on the Scripture rather than taking the natural or normal reading of the Scripture.

The next installment will describe that God’s promises to Israel were not nice words, but literal promises to the nation of Israel and have yet to be fulfilled.