Thursday, June 03, 2010

Scripture Diminished and Downplayed: a continuing concern

Are there false doctrines and deceivers around today?
Of course there are – but how are they recognised and how do we avoid becoming victim to them?

Our foundational defence is scripture, the word of God. One of the first warning signs given that everything is NOT ok, is often the way scripture is treated. Downplay the scriptures, or pick and choose which bits are really inspired, and we open the gate wide for everyone to determine what is right in their own eyes.
We open the gate wide to every deceiving spirit to come (claiming to be the Holy Spirit), whispering all manner of false revelation into our ears.

Unfortunately the denigration of scripture has become common practice among some professing Christians, and open forums and blogs tend to give them a platform to promote their ideas. Usually they dress their message in very spiritual sounding terms in which the Holy Spirit is presented as superseding His inspired word, making scripture almost unnecessary. Why do we need scripture when we have God Himself inside?

Others will make the claim that JESUS is the Living word of God and we should relate to Him and not words on a page (which by implication or even direct statement are dismissed as NOT being the word of God).

The questioning of the nature of scripture is not uncommon. This is especially true of those who have had their faith shaken at some stage, with the realisation that most things they were taught and took for granted were wrong. If everything else was wrong – what about our understanding of what scripture is? Is it really “the word of God”? Was it really inspired by the Holy Spirit? Weren’t the writers fallible men who could make mistakes?

I’ve seen all of these questions, and in the past I asked some of them myself.

But it is ironic that those who try to question the authority of scripture often do so by referring to PARTS of scripture to defend their viewpoint.
A popular quote used for this purpose is:

John 5:39-40
“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

These verses are not diminishing the importance of scripture; they specifically state that the scriptures testify about Jesus! He was NOT criticising the Pharisees for studying the scriptures, He was criticising them for not seeing what was THERE in the scriptures. Like in so many cases today the actual content of scripture was replaced by other things – like tradition and theology.

So often we are too keen to read our doctrines INTO scripture that we blind ourselves to what scripture is actually saying. This practice seems to be ingrained into us, by example, through a lot of preaching within the church. A preacher will base a sermon on a “text”, he will then make several points based around his application of that “text” – and will usually throw in a sampling of other “texts” from around the bible to add extra support for his points.

Most listeners will take it all in without a second thought, with no questions about what has been said. Others will be a little more diligent and will note down the references and check them later for themselves, but in doing so will fail to check the context to see whether the “texts” were being applied correctly. The common attitude is to do nothing more than check whether the references are in scripture or not.
In effect we are not learning what scripture is REALLY saying, we learn what the preacher is telling us that it says. We are also adopting a wrong understanding of how scripture should be handled.

Scripture is NOT a collection of disconnected texts to apply according to personal preference. Scripture is a collection of books that must be addressed according to context to see what those books are saying. No prophecy of scripture is open to private interpretation.
We should be determining what the Spirit was and is saying through the words He inspired men to write?

At one time Jesus said: "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
And that truth remains – people fall into error because they do not know the scriptures.

So often there has been an obsession with “the power of God” at the expense of the Scriptures, and people run here and there whenever rumours of displays of power are heard. If scripture had been given the same importance as “the power” those people may have become more familiar with what Jesus said:

“…if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.

"So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it.”

Heeding those warnings about the coming end-times should make everyone wary of running here and there in response to reports of “the anointed one” (the Christ) being in a particular place performing great signs and miracles.
But how can those warnings be heeded if the importance and authority of scripture is ignored or dismissed

Blessed are those who do not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
but who delight in the law of the LORD and meditate on his law* day and night.
They are like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
(Psalm 1)


Unknown said...

you are invited to follow my blog

Onesimus said...

Thanks Steve,
I am now following!

Paul Pavao said...

There is a problem with people running off to follow some "anointed" leader who can lead anywhere he wants, Scripturally or unscripturally.

However, a real problem is that there are huge gaps in our understanding of the Bible, and apparently Bible study isn't going to solve it. In fact, even you mention relying on the Holy Spirit to understand the Bible, but that's not good enough ... at least not according to the Bible.

Hebrews 3:13 says what happens to people who follow the Spirit alone. They're misled, often. Truth, according to Scripture, is supported and grounded in the Church (1 Tim. 3:15), and protection from deception comes from our learning *together* (Eph. 4:13-16; 1 Jn. 2:27--where the "you" is plural).

When the apostles started the churches, they gave basic truths to the churches that they needed to hold to. It's not hard to find those and know what those are. They're pretty basic. Most all of us agree with them.

However, the early churches had two things extremely important to them that are lost to us. One was the importance of the unity of the church and the importance of daily fellowship. Sharing all things and seeking out the faces of the saints daily are mentioned in several writings between A.D. 100 and 200.

The second thing is the importance of works. Our Protestant heritage may have helped us realize works come from the power of the Spirit, but we've also been deceived into allowing unrighteous people to be a part of the church because they claim to have faith. The Scriptures repeatedly warn us not to be deceived about this (e.g.; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Jn. 3:7; Eph. 5:5-8).

Onesimus said...

Thank you for your input.

You have given a very imaginative interpretation of Hebrews 3:13!

“…encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness”.

This DEFINITELY says nothing about people being misled by following the Spirit alone!!!

Now after saying that I understand your concern, because many have CLAIMED to be following the Spirit, or THINK they are following the Spirit, when in fact they are far removed from the Holy Spirit’s leading.

I have three priorities regarding the determination of correct doctrine and practices.

1) search the scriptures

2) seek understanding from the Holy Spirit (our God given teacher)

3) seek confirmation or correction of what I have learned from Spirit-led believers.

I do NOT turn to other believers and their teaching first. Genuinely Spirit led believers who all seek and trust the Lord for understanding will NOT receive contrary understanding. The Holy Spirit does not contradict Himself and will not tell ones person one thing and another person something totally different and contradictory.

If I find no confirmation for what I think I have learned, I put it aside until further understanding comes to light.

If others raise serious questions about my findings, then I need to look further into those findings and investigate those concerns.