Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Literal Interpretation of the Bible

From time to time I think it good to reassert old doctrine, and I would like to talk about the verbal plenary inspiration of the Bible. Today we live in the very end times, and are looking for the appearing of our Lord, and so we have accumulated an enormous load of tradition. Recently I did teach about holding to the traditions of our forefathers, and we learned from a study of Scripture that God intended us to pattern our Christian living deeply after those traditions of the early teachings.

I think it is in the nature of man himself to question things—to look for something that defines “basic Christianity”. Unfortunately our curiosity and willingness to distill Christianity is not at all Biblical. With only one major exception that I will talk about, the writers of the Bible are assuming that the Christian believes God, and that his life will reflect genuine and profound changes. The place of faith that is fundamental to the Christian rests in the Bible. It is true that most Christians are brought to the Lord by hearing other Christians talk about God, but that talk is soundly based in the gospel.

And what is the gospel? It is a danger, I think, in our day to separate out the Bible into the simple gospel as distinct from the deeper gospel. Paul does that much with his references to the meat and the milk of the Word. Our danger lies in trying to separate the milk from the meat, and I think that is something foreign to Scripture. Scripture does properly display the milk of the Word, but it is to lead always into the meat of the Word, and when it does not, things are radically wrong in the believer’s life.

Peter uses the word “milk” to express food for the new believer: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: (I Peter 2:2) The problem we see all too readily. My youngest grandson is but a bare 6 months, and is a messy eater, yet unable to accurately bring even just the spoon to his mouth. I accept that as normal behavior for a six month old, but what about when he is 17 and still missing his mouth? At that point I would recognize something is wrong; I expect different behavior in newborns and 17 year olds. Is not our belief in God to be the same? How is it that we see the tragic seventeen year old Christian still unable to show even the most basic rudiments of growth?

Paul also teaches on milk and says: “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” (1 Cor. 3:2) It happens that some Christians are “arrested” in their development. I do think these are those that my Lord spoke about when He gave the parable about seeds falling into stony ground and being burned up by the sun. Is it not interesting that Paul also includes an example of the worst that might befall such a man in the same chapter? “If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Cor. 3:15)

The calling is upon us to have faith, and faith simply defined is believing God. The revelation of God comes from the Scriptures, and if we wish to trust God, we must trust the message He Himself has given us. In our “modern” world we are often told that our beliefs are simply out of date. God says He created the earth in 7 days and 7 nights? Of course, God cannot mean that literally. At least so reasons the modern man, who then consults experts, some of whom will try to blend faith and science, and tell us what we really can believe. Poetical metaphors are invoked for the Genesis creation story, and I am told that I need to understand God was speaking to “simple” man, and using a story frame to try to get man to understand.

But if I am to understand Biblical history at all, man was not simple to begin with. Indeed he was pure until the fall, and with the fall has been descending into more and more animal behavior at every generation. The Bible record tells us of a man and woman who walked with God, and who among us has not yearned for that simple walk? Yet it is beyond us, for the Fall has irrevocably changed us into something far less than we originally were. So if I am to understand the Biblical account correctly, it stands in utter and complete opposition to evolution. One remarks of the utter descent of mankind into a darkness seemingly without hope; the other tells a story of a simple amoeba guided by chance and chaos and mutation towards ever more complex life. I have always thought the latter to take much more faith than the former.

So here is man, the lone moral agent among all of creation, who knows there is a right and a wrong, but seems utterly unable to coherently define real morality, much less practice it. Even the wise men among us are twisted and so prone to decay, that we cannot agree on much of a moral code at all. Fallen, and falling to ever greater depths seems to be the story in history. Enter Jesus Christ. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were created by Him, without Him was not anything created that was created.” Simple, yet majestic words, that sweep fallen man from his feet and put him kneeling before his Savior. It seems to me that faith, or trust in Christ is simple belief that God did it, just as He said. To equivocate or add to, or twist, or metaphorize is just an easier way of saying, “I do not believe”.

Tozer was so jealous for his God that he suggests that we not try to prove Scripture at all. “To dig among the rocks or search under the sea for evidence to support the Scriptures is to insult the One who wrote them.” I do not agree with Tozer on this, for I have met too many grounded men of faith whom I believe are trying to look at their creation through the eyes of the Creator. But his bottom line has germs of truth: there are many who try to justify their faith with the evidence of their eyes. Some people do try to build their faith on the basis of what their eyes see, yet that is never the basis of proper faith, for I am told that faith is the “hope of things unseen”. However, I feel many creationists today are not trying to thus falsely bolster their faith; instead they are trying to see creation itself as would the Creator, a fine and noble endeavor. Does our creation show the hand of the Creator? Romans tells us that even natural man is exposed to His glory in creation and will one day be held responsible for not seeing Him behind all things. (Romans 1:18-20)

To eradicate the Bible of the story of the Creator is not possible without completely pulling apart the Word. Not just Genesis is out, but also Exodus, for in 20:11 it says: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Many Psalms would have to be rewritten, most of the prophets, and the great text from John quoted above would also have to be taken away.

Believing the Bible is not just an intellectual exercise; it is that because the deep things of God will cause us to think and ponder and wonder at the greatness of it all. But believing the Bible is, at its essence, choosing to believe God. Abraham believed God, and God reckoned it as righteousness. He asks of us one thing—to take Him at His Word. All else He has done for us. Why is it that so many want to detract from that word, saying that it is not true, or it is a myth that we have to search behind to find what God is really saying to us? The Word, the One that He sent, the One who has spoken to us, and who also said, “the Scripture cannot be broken”, He it is who spoke through the prophets and in the psalms. He it is who proclaims Himself, and it is but my duty to simply believe.

“Oh,” you say, “I wish you had chosen another example. Choosing creation is the one thing I am uncomfortable with, and I am not sure I can cast reason out the window to believe in some wild fairy tale.” But is it not exactly there that we meet God? Can you tell me how Jesus walked on water? Can you tell me how He made the lame to walk, or the blind to see? You see, if you give up believing in Creation, saying that it must have happened through time and chance and God was behind it all, then mustn’t you also give up the walking on the water? Or is your understanding better there? Is it any harder to believe God did one thing but not another? Three times the voice of the Father spoke out of heaven testifying of His Son, and we are told the heavy curtain in the holy of holies was rent from top to bottom when the Savior died. Are we to believe that God can intercede in small things only? Why do we so readily believe in the voice of the Father, and the power of God in rending the curtain, but we are afraid to believe that He created the world, indeed the universe, in six days? I am afraid that is the unrealized position of men who try to gainsay what God has told us. Our God is not a small God, and it is time that we stopped treating Him as such.

God does not ask me to suspend my thinking; rather my meditations are upon Him day and night, and my understanding of Him grows and increases as I walk next to Him. But He does ask that I simply believe. A great man of God long ago noted that “when the simple sense (of the Bible) makes the best sense, seek no other sense.” Tozer says it this way, “True faith rests upon the character of God and asks no further proof than the moral perfections of the One who cannot lie. It is enough that God said it, and if the statement should contradict every one of the five senses and all the conclusions of logic as well, still the believer continues to believe. "Let God be true, but every man a liar," is the language of true faith.”

The believer who comes part way is just that, a part way believer. The gospel terms him a milk drinker, and not at all ready for meat. To come all the way I should say, “Thou alone knowest, oh God!” To come to the Word of God knowing it is through His Word that I will be fed is my only path to the meat of the Word. Come to the Word, willing to believe, and pray to God that you might have eyes to see and ears to hear that you may grow thereby.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, and instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17

If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; John 10:35

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 1 Corinthians 2:12, 13

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:21

Through thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Psalm 119:104,105

So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God
Romans 10:17

Tozer, A.W. (2010-06-03). Man - The Dwelling Place of God (Kindle Locations 366-367). Unknown. Kindle Edition.

Tozer, A.W. (2010-06-03). Man - The Dwelling Place of God (Kindle Locations 357-359). Unknown. Kindle Edition.

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