Saturday, June 09, 2007

THE ESSENTIAL SCRIPTURES - our defence against deception

Maybe a year ago I raised some questions regarding the nature of the scriptures. But in my questioning I had NO INTENTION of questioning their authority, or their necessity for our Spiritual growth and well being. My concern was that some traditional views regarding scripture had led to the Holy Spirit being sidelined. However, I see the answer to this situation does NOT include reducing the importance of scripture in our lives. As we increasingly give the Holy Spirit room, our relationship with the scriptures will increase and be enriched. The Holy Spirit does NOT replace or supersede the scriptures He Himself inspired.
The Holy Spirit does not contradict Himself – therefore there is great value (necessity!) in referring to earlier Spirit inspired teaching as a measure to test current teaching to see whether the current is genuinely Spirit inspired. Look through the New Testament writings and see how often Jesus and the apostles quoted the Jewish scriptures (our Old Testament) to give legitimacy to their teachings. We also have the example of the Bereans who tested Paul’s teaching by searching the Old Testament scriptures.

While the early church prospered without the compiled New Testament, our situation is far different from theirs. Ac 2:42 says of the earliest believers: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship”. The early church had direct access to the teachings of the original apostles, men who knew Jesus; those who had received teaching from and had been discipled by Him PERSONALLY. We obviously don’t have that benefit.

Later, as the church grew and spread out, believers received written teaching from the apostles and other eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry. These writings were considered important enough to be preserved by the church until the present day, so those who did not have direct access to the apostles due to distance or time, could benefit from their Spirit inspired teaching. The writings of the New Testament are OUR direct link to this “apostles teaching” that the early church considered to be essential.

While the scriptures quoted throughout the New Testament are obviously the Jewish (Old Testament) scriptures, Peter writes of Paul’s letters in a way that compares their authority to those ancient texts:

2Pe 3:16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

And Paul himself stated:
1Th 2:13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.

Who did the Thessalonians receive the word of God from? Was it direct from the Holy Spirit? NO! It was heard through Paul and his companions. Is Paul’s message any less the word of God in writing than it was through preaching? Is the teaching of the apostles any less valid today merely because it has been handed down to us in written form? I would say it is equally valid and MORE of a necessity because we don’t have direct personal access to those original apostles and their teaching. It is MORE of a necessity because it helps us to recognize the GENUINE leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit. The written scriptures help us to judge between the genuine and the false.

Almost every book of the New Testament gives warning of deception, of false apostles, false prophets, and false teachers. We are warned against receiving false gospels – even if they are delivered from spiritual sources. We are warned against the spirit of antichrist. How do we recognize the false? By the same method used by the Bereans, MEASURING ANY TEACHING AGAINST THE STANDARD WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN IN THE WRITTEN WORD OF SCRIPTURE. In a day when almost every man and woman (and possibly their dogs) are claiming to be apostles and prophets (despite Jesus’ warnings of false ones appearing), how BLESSED we are to have that foundational teaching provided in the scriptures so we aren’t left in the dark to fumble around to determine the truth; that we aren’t left in uncertainty regarding the nature and identity of any spirit that claims to be the Holy Spirit.

Without the written account of scripture we would have no means of determining validity (or otherwise) in the abundance of contradictory teachings that flood the world. And it can be seen that the variety of conflicting teachings increases the MORE that scripture is either ignored or reduced to a collection of out of context verses. In other words – when scripture becomes a tool of man used to “prove” what man has already determined; when man reads meaning into scripture rather out of scripture. (Refer again to 2 Peter 3:16)

In some parts of the church scripture is held as the only source of revelation to the extent that the Holy Spirit has been shut out. THIS IS CLEARLY WRONG. Both are necessary for effective GENUINE Christian life and ministry. Giving a correct emphasis on the Spirit’s leading does NOT demand a corresponding neglect of scripture; in fact, the MORE we experience the Spirit working in our lives, the MORE we will embrace scripture. If the Spirit leads us away from scripture – then it is NOT the Spirit of God we are dealing with.

The members of the early church that thrived without the compiled, written New Testament not only had direct personal access to the apostles, but they were STEEPED in the Jewish scriptures. These scriptures were continually used as a foundational reference to verify the legitimacy of their doctrine and practices.
They didn’t have a superficial knowledge of scripture like most of us who profess to be Christians. To them scripture was ESSENTIAL. They didn’t denigrate the written word in order to justify their own laziness and their neglect of scripture.

Today many are so steeped in the culture of our times that they give little time for studying the scriptures – and yet seem to have plenty of time to try to undermine the Bible’s importance. Trying to score intellectual points by attacking the authority of the written word they adopt the world’s cynicism, disguising it in sheep skin. Some deny the integrity of scripture and claim to be led by the Holy Spirit alone, while others clothe their deceptive doctrines with carefully selected, out of context, verses of scripture.

Referring again to 2 Peter 3:16, “[Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

Everything we know of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit and how they relate with us ALL originates from the scriptures. Diminish and distort the scriptures and we diminish and distort the gospel and the Christian faith we claim to hold.

Ironically, those who try to undermine the authority of the scriptures often do so by quoting scripture. And often the Holy Spirit is promoted as if He nullifies the value of the scriptures. But who told us about the Holy Spirit?
The first disciples were personally told by Jesus to wait in Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Spirit. The Ephesian church was unaware of the Holy Spirit until Paul arrived and introduced Him to them (Acts 19). Without the scriptures HOW DID WE COME TO KNOW?
Without the scriptures we would emulate the Ephesians:
“We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

I have also noticed that common verses quoted when trying to promote the Spirit and “spiritual” revelation/experience above the word are:

Matthew 7:9-11 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

I have seen this quoted to justify all manner of manifestations within the church. With this there is an assumption that God will not allow Christians to be deceived by false signs, wonders or gifts. YET JESUS SPECIFICALLY WARNS of the danger of deception within the church. Almost every New Testament book warns of deception. The scriptures give written teaching to equip us to recognize what is the truth and what is false. If we cast aside or demote the importance of the written word, or if we place “spiritual” experience above the word, we are casting aside the clear warnings against deception given in scripture – and have thereby have already fallen victim to it. Then, by propagating our own scepticism regarding scripture, we ourselves become the deceivers, the false prophets, the false teachers, promoting the spirit of antichrist.


Ria said...

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship”. Ahh a line that is making a come back! I am hearing that a little in my circle.


Mark Finger said...

Oh, Whew! What I read from you earlier on this site (and commented on) was from a time when you were dancing with error. I see from this that you are sound ground now, as I thought you were before I came here to read.

I would strike (remove) the record of your former doubts, as they only serve to cast dispersions upon the written record (scripture). Since you've changed your thought processes (view), have you noticed how you draw different people than you used to? Or not? But, it's true, brother.


P.S. If you commented on it would be of a benefit to others.

debylynne said...

dear onesiumus - very sound word. if more people would just follow the truth here they could avoid deception and a great deal of needless suffering.

i'll take this opportunity to say how much i appreciated your wisdom on revivalschool and i'm glad to get this opportunity to tell you. God Bless You, brother. debylynne