Clarity of Scripture

Bible, Clarity of Scripture, Truth No Comments

The doctrine of the clarity of Scripture, also called the perspicuity of Scripture, teaches that the meaning of a biblical text can be clear to the ordinary student of God’s Word.  God uses the text of the Bible to communicate His nature and His will to man.  The mind of God is revealed to the mind and heart of man through the inspired Word of God.  The human mind is fully capable of knowing and understanding God’s Word.  In John 8:32, Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”  In Eph. 5:17, the apostle Paul wrote, “Be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”
While some passages of Scripture are more difficult to understand than others, these more difficult passages are also capable of being understood (II Pet. 3:16).  Peter recognizes that Paul wrote some things that are difficult to understand.  However, he did not say that they were impossible to understand.
Satan used various means to obscure the truth.  For instance, he is the father of lies (John 8:44).  He uses false doctrines and false ideologies to deceive men (Matt. 7:15; II Tim. 4:1-5; II Pet. 2). Knowledge of the truth is the only way to distinguish the lies of Satan from the truths of God’s Word.  We must study God’s word and interpret it correctly in order to understand it properly.
Consider the following passages that affirm the clarity of the Scriptures.  Moses states, “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?  But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it” (Deut. 30:11-14).  “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psa. 119:18).  “Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:17-18).  “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (II Tim. 3:16).  Other passages for your consideration are: II Cor. 4:6; Phil. 3:15-16; and II Pet. 1:3-4; 16-21).
The doctrine of the clarity of Scripture is a safeguard against the Roman Catholic Church which asserts that Scripture is unclear apart from the interpretive framework of the Catholic Church and its traditions.  It also safeguards against Postmodernism which asserts that subjective experience should be preferred over knowing the originally intended meaning of Scripture.  We do not create our own reality as postmodernists affirm.  God defines reality both by His creative work and His special revelation given in the Bible.

Personal Offenses vs. Public Error

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Matthew 18:15-17 is a passage of Scripture that is often misunderstood and abused.  I would like to provide some excellent quotes from respected men who give a good analysis of this passage.  The first is by Wendell Winkler, A Study of Jesus, the King, As Developed in Matthew 18 in the Book of Matthew, edited by Garland Elkins and Thomas Warren, pp. 470-486. “(7) A special note: an abuse of this test.  Some use this text, when public ungodliness is rebuked (I Tim. 5:20), and written and spoken false doctrine is taught, by asking, “Have you been to see the brother?”  Such is not required, since this text is dealing with personal offenses, not public ungodly living and public proclamation of false doctrine.  Based on this reasoning Catholicism could not be rebuked unless one first went to see the pope, nor Baptist doctrine as taught in his column, “My Answer,” without first going to see Billy Graham!”
Consider this quotation from Terry Hightower, Jesus’ Teaching on Offenders, Offenses, Forgiveness, Divorce, and Riches (Studies in Matthew, edited by Dub McClish, The Fourteenth Annual Denton Lectures, November 12-16, 1995, pp. 224-254).  “The foolish notion that the Lord’s first step goes beyond personal offenses to apply to those publicly teaching error is patently absurd in the light of Christ’s controversial dealings with His own disciples (e. g. a “Get thee behind me Satan” Peter or a “cumbered about much serving: Martha), the temple moneychangers, Pharisees, Sadducees, entire cities (e. g., Matt. 11:20-24; imagine His having to go to every resident first before He could publicly rebuke them!).  He felt no compulsion to seek a totally private audience with a Herod or a Pilate (Luke 13:32; John 18:33-38).  John did not feel compelled to refrain from calling Diotrephes’ name in 3 John 9-10.  Paul did not misapply Matthew 18:15 in dealing with Peter’s sin in Galatians 2:14, nor in operating upon what some today would call “hearsay” or “rumor” in I Corinthians 1:11 and 5:1-13.  Is it not the case that those most prone to “eisegete” verse 15 are the very ones who will ignore it and criticize the criticizers without first going to them? (pp. 233-234).
Those who publicly declare false doctrine (either verbally or in writing) are rightly subject to public rebuke and exposure.  This solemn charge is given by the apostle Paul in II Tim. 4:1-4, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

“As Sure As Eggs is Eggs”

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“As sure as eggs is eggs” is a phrase used to describe absolute certainty.  In formal logic and mathematics the formula “x is x” is used to describe complete certainty.  It is unclear how or when “x is x” became “eggs is eggs”, but it is known that Charles Dickens used the phrase “eggs is eggs” in The Pickwick Papers published in 1837.  Maybe Dickens was joking or playing on words or possibly it was a simple mistake that proved amusing enough to be left unchanged (Albert Jack, Red Herrings and White Elephants, pp. 35-36).
Can We Know Anything With Absolute Certainty?
-Do you exist?
-Do you know that you exist?
-Do you believe that you exist?
-Is there a difference between knowing and believing?
-Do you believe because you know or do you know because you believe?
In biblical terms, knowing precedes believing.  “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).  “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?  and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher” (Rom. 10:14).  Faith is taking God at His Word.  It is trust, conviction and confidence that comes by hearing and knowing the Word of God.  Heb. 11:1.  Faith means that we are fully persuaded of the truth.  Truth is that which conforms to reality as God defines reality.  If I can know surely, then I can believe without a doubt.
Words and Knowledge
Luke 1:1-4, “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.”
The Words Known
Luke instructed Theophilus.  Luke wrote words that formed a body of knowledge that was rooted in historical reality (truth).  The body of knowledge is a body of truth.  Instruction involves teaching that body of truth to another human being who has to hear and understand it correctly and then that person can claim to know it.  Luke had meticulously traced out this body of knowledge.  He gleaned information from eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.  He had perfect understanding of all things from the very first which related to the life of Jesus Christ.  The word that he taught was verifiable.  Luke desired that Theophilus would know with certainty the body of truth concerning Jesus Christ.  The word know is epignosis which is a strengthened form of knowing.  The word certainty is asphaleian and means “not liable to fall, stedfast, firm, sure” (W. E. Vine).  It refers to knowledge that cannot be assailed or overthrown.  Certainty means that there is no doubt.  To know with certainty means that one cannot be wrong about the information.  Luke establishes the veracity of what he teaches or writes.
The Words Believed
In Luke 1:1, the phrase, “things most surely believed” comes from the Greek word peplerophoremenon, from plerophoreo which means “have had full course” or “having been fully borne out” (W. E. Vine, I, 117).  Fully proved and so fully believed.  The Greek word contains the idea that there is certainty with regard to the evidence known.  Faith follows knowledge.  Faith is a firm persuasion that God’s Word is reliable and trustworthy.  Luke removes all doubt about the content of the message that he is writing about.  The message is true.  The knowledge is certain.  Therefore, the faith can be full, complete and lacking nothing.  God never asks us to believe in some fact or doctrine for which He has not given us adequate evidence.  Consequently, the leap of faith notion is false.  Faith is grounded in truth.
I can know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and I can know it as much as I know that “eggs is eggs.”  I can know that God exists and I can know it as much as I know that “eggs is eggs.”  I can know that the Bible is the Word of God and I can know it as much as I know that “eggs is eggs.”  I can know the truth.  I can believe the truth.  I can obey the truth (John 3:21). I can know, believe and obey the truth to the salvation of my soul (John 8:31-32).


Truth Has Fallen in the Streets

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In Isaiah 58, God tells Israel the virtues which would prepare them to be covenant-keepers and to carry out His Messianic plans.  But, in chapter 59, Isaiah reveals that these people are so entrenched in sin and rebellion against God’s program of righteousness that they must be constantly warned of the judgment of God to come upon those who despise God’s covenant laws.  The time is 687 B.C.  Manasseh, a very wicked king, sits upon the throne in Judah.  Manasseh outstripped his predecessors in wickedness.  He reintroduced idolatry.  He persecuted God’s prophets.  The pathway of rebellion now chosen would eventually lead to Babylonian captivity in 586 B.C.
Significantly, Isaiah describes the times with the phrase, “truth has fallen in the streets” (Isa. 59:9-15).  The prophet declares, “For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them.  In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.  And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.”
What are the consequences of the practical aspect of the death of truth?
First, iniquity abounds.  When there is no respect for truth, there is no righteousness.  Isaiah states that sin interrupted relationship with God (Isa. 59:1-2).  God is not weakened by man’s sin.  He still retains fullness of all powers of His perfections.  The sins of the people separated them from God and stayed God’s blessings while inviting God’s wrath.  Isaiah names several sins:  hands defiled with blood (murder); fingers with iniquity; lips speak lies, tongue murmurs wickedness (59:3); no justice, no faithfulness, men trust in vanity (destitute of truth); men speak with deception, they conceive trouble and bring forth ruin, feet run to evil (make haste to shed blood); and thoughts of iniquity.  If you look closely, you will see that every part of their being was tainted by sin: hands, fingers, lips, tongue, feet and thoughts.  When truth dies, iniquity abounds!
Second,  when truth dies, chaos results.  Where there is no truth there can be no peace.  Isaiah states, “the way of peace they know not” (Isa. 59:8).  Ignorance of the truth obscures the pathway of peace.  Where there is no peace, there is violence and the land is marred by the shedding of blood.  Where there is no truth, there is no judgment or spiritual discernment.  The distinction between good and evil,  truth and error is lost.  Individuals begin to call evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20).  If there is no truth, there is no light.  Isaiah describes this condition, “We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men” (Isa. 59:10).  When there is no truth, there is no safety (Isa. 59:7).  Finally, if there is no truth, there is no hope.  God is cast off.  His word is no longer heeded. Hope vanishes when truth dies.
Third, God’s judgment comes.  In Isaiah 59:18, the prophet says, “According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies, to the islands he will repay recompence.”   You reap what you sow (Gal. 6:8-9).  God sees all and will recompense evil.  Ultimately, God’s truth will vindicate the righteous and punish the unrighteous.  God’s justice will prevail and His truth will go marching on!
Fourth, where there is truth, there is redemption.  Isaiah foretells of future salvation through the promised Messiah. “And the redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD” (Isa. 59:20).  Truth holds forth hope again.  Redemption comes to those who turn from their transgressions and honor God’s Word–the truth.  God’s truth will endure forever.  When people reject God’s truth, then, for them it dies.  Its power is lost to them because of their unbelief.  Where there is truth, there is a foundation for faith and where there is faith, there is hope in the sure word of the LORD.

False Doctrine Divides

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The apostle Paul declares, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.  For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:17-18).  David Lipscomb remarked concerning this passage that ,”No greater evil, according to the Scriptures, could befall the churches than the divisions arising from the introduction of teachings and practices not required by God.  The fundamental truth of the Bible is that God alone has the right to direct and guide the faith and service of his children” (Commentary on Romans, pp. 275-276).
False Doctrine Produces Division
False doctrine challenges individuals to either defend the truth or else to abandon the truth for a lie.  Lovers of truth will defend it against false teachers.  I Thess. 2:13; Jude 3; I Pet. 3:15.
False doctrine will lead to the damnation of the souls of men.  II Thess. 2:11-12. False doctrine seriously undermines the spiritual well-being of men and women.
False doctrine fundamentally changes the gospel of Jesus Christ.  But, there is only one gospel (Gal. 1:8-9).
False doctrine undermines the credibility of the Bible.    False doctrine discredits what God said.  The Bible is called into question and doubted as a result.  “…let God be true, but every man a liar…” (Rom. 3:4).
False doctrine undermines the faith of those who are weak and ignorant.  As Paul said, it beguiles the hearts of the innocent (Rom. 16:18).  The hearts of the innocent are beguiled by the smooth and fair speech of the false teacher.  He charms.  He uses his reputation to deceive.  He lies to cover up his lies.
False doctrine does not originate with God, but with Satan.  Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44).  The false teacher is not aligned with God, but with the god of this world.
False doctrine does not unite the church, but divides it.  False doctrine will  produce a spiritual struggle within the body of Christ forcing those who love the truth to take a stand against the false teacher and his/her doctrine.  This violates the law of love and the imperative to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace (Matt. 7:12; Eph. 4:1-3).  Who is the troubler of the church?  The false teacher is, of course.
False doctrine (the substance of what is taught) is what defines a false teacher.  False teachers should be warned and marked (Rom. 16:17-18).  In marking a false teacher, Paul says that we should not fellowship him/her.  The false teacher is disqualified from receiving help/support from those who love the truth.  The warning of the false teacher is an effort to call them to repentance and recover them from the error of their ways.
False teachers give the appearance that they are serving Christ when, in fact, they are serving themselves.  “These makers of divisions and offenses, however fair and fine their pretensions and speeches might be, were not sincerely serving Christ, but rather serving their own sensual and selfish ends, and the aim of all their kind and plausible words is only to deceive those innocent ones who are slow to suspect it in others” (David Lipscomb, Ibid., p. 277).
False doctrine abounds and appears in many forms.  “…the only sure way of spotting counterfeit money is not by spending time studying counterfeit money, but carefully studying the real thing.  If you know the real thing, the counterfeit is obvious” (John Otis, Theistic Evolution, p. 4).  By studying God’s Word carefully, you will be able to spot a fake when you see or hear one.  Studying the creation account in God’s Word will help expose the fallacies of every form of evolution.

The Doctrine of Christ

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II John 7-11, “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.  This is a deceiver and an antichrist.  Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.  He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.  If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”
There are four warnings in this passage.  First, there is a warning against deceivers.  Specifically, these deceivers do not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.  In so doing, they reject the deity of Christ and His Messiahship.  These deceivers are antichrist (opposed to Jesus Christ).  These deceivers are not abiding in the doctrine of Christ.  They must not be heeded.  Second, there is a warning against losing your reward (v. 8).  The reward is a reference to eternal life or heaven.  This plainly teaches that a Christian can lose his/her reward.  To hearken unto the deceivers and so renounce Jesus Christ is sufficient for such a loss of reward.  We must examine ourselves and make sure that we stand steadfast in the faith to prevent such a loss.  Third, there is the warning against losing God.  Failure to abide in the doctrine of Christ results in the loss of fellowship with God (“hath not God”).  The doctrine of Christ is the teaching from Christ.  This teaching was imparted by the Lord during His earthly ministry.  And, it was imparted through the guidance of the Holy Spirit of holy men of God who spoke and wrote Scripture.  Jesus promised His apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall  hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.  He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:13-14).  There is one author of the Scriptures.  That author is Jesus Christ.  All that the Father hath is Christ’s.  The Triune God is the author of the Bible and Jesus is the Second Person of the godhead.  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (the Triune God) (II Tim. 3:16).  The Scriptures are authoritative.  They are infallible.  They are binding upon men.  Failure to abide in the doctrine of Christ is a transgression of the Word of God.  To transgress in this sense is to “go aside” or walk a pathway that the Lord has not given.  It is to violate the truth revealed by the Holy Spirit.  Such is a salvation issue.  Many are saying that first this doctrine and then that doctrine is not a salvation issue.  Recently, someone argued that the age of the earth is not a salvation issue.  Another argued that marriage, divorce and remarriage is not a salvation issue.  Some have declared that instrumental music is not a salvation issue.  Some have boldly asserted that there are no salvation issues.  The teaching of John in this text refutes all such nonsense.  Fourth, there is a warning against complicity regarding aiding and abetting the deceivers.  You do not have to be a false teacher to be guilty of the sin of false teaching!  If you aid or abet a false teacher (financially support his work or in the case of the elect lady, to provide food and lodging for such) you become an accomplice in advancing his false doctrine.  An accomplice becomes a partaker of his evil deeds and so bears the guilt of his sin.  A partaker is joined together with the evil person and his work and must bear the consequences of such activity.  A partaker bears both the guilt and the penalty of such sin.
We must heed the warnings in these verses in order to preserve our own relationship with the Lord and maintain our hope of everlasting life.

Elements of Worship

repentance, transformation, Truth, unbelief, worship No Comments

What is worship? Wiliam Temple makes the following comments, “Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, nourishment of mind by His truth, purifying of imagination by His beauty, opening of the heart to His love, and submission of will to His purpose. All this gathered up in adoration is the greatest of all expressions of which we are capable” (quoted in Cries of the Heart by Ravi Zacharias, 207).
Worship is adoration of deity. There is only one God and worship is to be directed to Him. God is a spirit and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
What are the Elements of Worship?
In Malachi chapters one and two, the prophet addresses the sins of the people of God who had perverted worship. Perverted worship is a sign of perverted hearts. He calls God’s people back to pure devotion and adoration of God. He calls them back to holiness. Adoration of God in the spirit of holiness is needed today.
It is impossible to worship God without love. God loved His own people, but they failed to love Him back. Malachi 1:2. Love for God is manifested by keeping His commandments (John 14:15). Disobedience to God is iniquity. Love rejoices not in iniquity but rejoices in truth (I Cor. 13:6).
It is impossible to worship God without reverence. Malachi states, “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name…” (Mal. 1:6). The priests corrupted worship and so despised God’s name (authority). Reverence for God involves listening to God’s authority in Scripture.
It is impossible to worship God without sacrifice. Malachi continues his rebuke of the priests. “Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts? (Mal. 1:7-8). God deserves the very best that we can offer. Our sacrifices must reflect our love and reverence for Him.
It is impossible to worship God acceptably with the wrong motive. Malachi chastises the people because they had profaned the sacred (Mal. 1:12). They were more intent on pleasing themselves than pleasing God. Worship demands God pleasers.
It is impossible to worship God without instruction in truth. Malachi offers some strong words in 2:7, “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.” Honorable worship is guided by truth. Pure hearts are guided by truth. Vain worship is defined by teaching the doctrines of men rather than of God (Matt. 15:9).
It is impossible to worship God without obedience. Malachi addresses the desparity between the everyday lives of the people and their approach to God. They mistreated the wives of their youth by divorcing them (Mal. 2:13-16). What they did in their family life had an impact on their worship. They failed to honor God in their daily lives. Corruption has a way of permeating all of life. They failed to maintain the sanctity of marriage as God had commanded. Their corrupted hearts led to perverted judgment (Mal. 2:17).
Malachi cries out against the sins of the priests and the people. He calls for repentance that will lead to a renewal of the love of the sacred. Pure hearts will lead to pure worship. Corrupt hearts find worship wearisome. The pure in heart delight in the presence of God. Don’t measure your worship experience by externals. Measure it by your own heart.

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