How to Approach the Scriptures (Part 2)
I have mentioned in the previous post the Soteriological and the Christological approach to the Scriptures. These two are certainly popular and increasing in Christendom they each in there own stride have some strengths. I personally uphold the Doxological approach. Why? Glad this question came to your mind, the Doxological approach seeks to understand how Scriptures relate to God’s glory, or putting it another way, it views God’s glory in every text. It is by far the best approach and I aim to defend it here and at every turn. This is not at all in rebellion to my heritage as a former Presbyterian; I do come from a long line going back to the Scottish Reformation. It is because of the conviction derived from the evidence of objective truth found in the Bible.
The Doxological approach is best because it is not limited to one specific “plan” or “program” or “purpose” and therefore is free to examine every portion of Scripture as it relates to the glory of God and that is the way it should be. Not only in areas of Soteriology and Christology but in the wider range of Bible doctrine. God does not have just one program (eg. the salvation of mankind). He is concerned with Israel and also the Gentiles; Salvation and His church; Government and human conduct, the whole of His creation Visible and invisible. The Orthodox approach does not strain at a nat then attempt to swallow a camel. It follows a plain or normal hermeneutic (interpretation). Let me explain, there are mainly two methods of hermeneutics, and here lies the greatest divide between biblical thinking Christians today. Both start with Sola Scriptura as a premise, but as we will see this is where the two schools of thought end in similarity.
The Allegorical method of interpretation produces covenant theology and visa versa. Desiring to see Christ, or His plan of salvation for mankind, the allegorical interpreter must seek a deeper hidden meaning. I would love to go on a rabbit trail and discuss Origins trichotomy of man theory and how it affects this method, but I will refrain (perhaps another post or as questions and comments dictates) for now. The Allegorical method can be found as early as 200 AD from Alexandrian school of thought.
The plain or normal (not necessarily literal) method of interpretation produces Dispensational Theology and not the other way around. Each text is unfolded consistently in its plain or normal rendering. Seeking nothing but God’s glory, it too can be found as early as 200 AD from the Antiochene school of thought. This is the Doxological approach!
The later is the best approach because it is Grammatical: considers all the parts of the grammar in each text treated. Historical: considers the historical background of each text treated. Theological: considers the teachings of God in each text treated.
There are four prerequisites for proper interpretation, first you must be saved, second you must depend on the Holy Spirit as your teacher, thirdly you must be teachable, and finally you must be willing to obey. These are prerequisites NOT guarantees. The correct interpretation depends on these requirements with out them… FORGET IT! Even with them it is still possible for one to make mistakes. That’s why we interpret grammatically, historically, and theologically; according to the immediate and wider contexts and in harmony with the whole Bible comparing Scripture with Scripture. There are some difficulties with this approach, but it is the most reliable way to get the best out of ones study in the most important Book, the Bible.
How to Approach the Scriptures (Part 1)
My hope is that the reader has come to a place in his or her journey of life where the Bible is the sole authority of faith and practice, for it is without error in every matter of which it speaks. The Bible is, after all, God’s Word. (Some places where this is taught: Prov. 30:5-6; John 17:17; Rev. 22:18-19; 2Pet. 1:19-21; Heb. 1:1-2; 2Pet. 3:15-16; 2Sam. 23:2; Acts 1:16; 1Cor. 2:13-14; Matt. 5:18; John 10:35; Gal. 3:16; 2Tim. 3:16; Acts 17:11; 1Cor. 10:6-12; Eph.6:17; 2Tim. 3:15-16; 1John 4:1) Having come to this place in my own life, it is now essential for me to yield to its teachings whether or not I can intellectually understand and/or immediately agree. More properly I should say that, “I need to submit to God’s teachings” for that is what the Bible is: God’s teachings. I am reminded of the event that took place and was recorded for us in Acts 8:27-35, where Phillip led a one-on-one Bible study of the book of Isaiah with a man from Ethiopia. The Ethiopian wasn’t quit sure of whom the Prophet spoke. He had not, at this point, had a course on hermeneutics (interpretation). So God took care of the first things first: Phillip presented the Gospel and the Ethiopian believed and was baptized.
Some have used this as a proof text for their philosophy that every passage in the Bible points to Christ. This is often called the Christological approach. Others, closely related to the first group, use this passage to enforce the idea that every verse in the Bible points man toward salvation or has to do with some aspect of salvation. This is said to be the Soteriological approach. The esteemed C.H. Spurgeon said to his students, “Choose your text, then make a bee line for the cross!” Therefore, before I assert what the best approach to Scripture is, I will offer these preliminary remarks. It should be clear that I have a warmth and brotherly affection for Christians who do not agree with me. We are brothers in Christ! Some choose to call themselves “reformed”, “covenantal”, “new covenantal” and “progressive dispensational”. In these systems of thought many are conservative and seek to follow the teachings of God. There are also a great number of theologians and preachers in these groups who have much to offer the church and the individual believer. I personally praise the Lord for their commitment to the Bible and God. I am also friends with many in these groups and they would say the same of me I do believe.
Now to get to the nuts and bolts of this post; some may argue that language is a hindrance to God, but I humbly suggest it is NOT! God is perfectly capable to condescend to our human language which He invented, and this is also how He chooses to communicate to us. Let me quote Alice, when she was in Wonderland, “say what you mean and mean what you say.” This is basically what the Ethiopian was saying to Phillip … and it turns out that this is exactly what God has done for us in His Word the Bible. It is a marvelous Book, a special Book, a divine Book, and yes, a spiritual Book, but the simple fact remains: it is a Book! We must read it, and read it properly if we are to know what God wants to reveal to us from it. The question is “How are we to read this Book?” We will try to answer this question in part two (my next post) as we explore how to approach the Scriptures. Our approach to Scripture is vitally important don’t you agree?
Biblical authority is foundational to all the other doctrinal distinctives of biblical Baptists. This teaching is straight forward, and I think it is fairly safe to say, without controversy. The Bible alone is God’s completed Word and final authority for man. The Bible is God’s Word, not man’s word. The Bible makes certain and definite claims that do not appear in any other “holy book”. The Bible claims that it is eternal (it stands forever Is. 40:8; 1Pet. 1:24-25). It is inerrant or infallible (there are no mistakes in it 2Sam. 22:31; Ps. 18:30; 19:7; 12:6; Prov. 30:5). It is plenary (i.e. all, or every portion of it) and verbally (i.e. the Holy Spirit lead in the choice of each word) inspired (i.e. lit. breathed out from God 2Tim. 3:16-17).
This doctrine has been called “Sola Scriptura” which means that the Bible alone (and in its entirety) is the Word of God; this applies to all 66 of the canonical (recognized) Books from Genesis 1:1- Revelation 22:21.
There are many warnings in the Scriptures not to trifle with its sacred contents. Yet there are those who feel that parts of the Bible can “become” God’s Word as one reads them. The idea that there are select portions that are, and other portions that are not, God’s Word does not jell with what the Bible itself states in 2Tim3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” The Bible not only contains God’s Word, it is God’s Word through and through.
The Bible is the supreme truth: over-ruling human reason, tradition, experience, and knowledge. All other writings and experiences should be evaluated as they line up with the Bible. No one has a special “inner light” or anything else that can replace, add to, or take away from, what is already revealed in the Bible. There is no authority given to any organization, clergy leader which goes beyond, above, or equal to the authority of the Bible. This includes extra books and writings, so-called visions, dreams, tongues, and feelings or thoughts which some groups call “direct revelation from God”. None of this is authoritative, Sola Scriptura is.
Check out my post on How God Communicates and please leave a comment or question here or there. All are welcome including those who are theological liberals, neo-orthodox, charismatic, and spiritualist. Perhaps you’re one who doesn’t like the idea that God reveals Himself through the Bible, or you have some other authority to govern your life. Here is a good place for courteous dialogue. Q&A is always welcome.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 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, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
My New Brother!
Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; (2Cor.5: 16-18)
It’s hard to forget the eagerness of awaiting that first-born child. It is a time of growth, responsibility, and hard work. It seems the anticipation increased when number two was on the horizon. Looking back at it, my son Elliot was very excited about becoming a big brother. One of the books we read often was “I’m a Big Brother Now!” This assisted in preparing him to have an accepting, kind, and helpful attitude toward the baby. When we brought the newborn baby, Charlotte to our house, in those first weeks, Elliot would gleam with pride as if to say, “That’s my little sister. I’m a big brother now!” In a similar way, Rose and I are rejoicing over another addition to the family. However, this is not another child in the Cole family, but in God’s family.
My wife’s brother, Pat, has recently (in the past six months) been born-again. That is, he has come to know Jesus Christ, trusting in the finished work of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection alone for salvation. He is my new brother! It is an exiting and fearful time. It is a time of growth, responsibility, and hard work. I take pleasure in watching as my new brother takes his first steps. Pat is disciplined, committed to, and diligent in reading (I should say studying) his Bible, praying, meeting with a local church and sharing his faith with others. He asks good questions, some of which I can answer, some which challenge me, and some just stump me. This is the way a Christian grows and matures in the faith.
I truly delight in his joy and satisfaction in our Savior! I also feel his sorrow for those in our family that are lost. We have loved ones who cling to a dead religion of works righteousness, or who have become complacent and indifferent about their eternal destiny and their present gloom. There are other people we know who think that they are right with God because they “made a decision when they were five,” “walked the isle,” and/or were “baptized” - yet there is no fruit - no evidence of conversion - no desires to meet with other believers, read the Bible, or pray.
May I remind those of us who are heaven-bound to pray that the Father would draw lost loved ones to Himself, and that they would respond to His offer of salvation. Also, I pray that our Savior would enter afresh into the lives of those who have by God’s grace “become new”.
It is such a delight to see someone being transformed by the renewing of his mind, not reformed by a different set of practices. I am so encouraged by my new brother that I had to pass this story onto you. Is there a new brother or sister near to you that you wish to comment on? Perhaps you are a new creature and you want to tell us what Jesus did for you, so others may rejoice with you too. Q & A always welcomed.
Last night my family went to church and heard a field report from a missionary that our church supports (no this is not a poem). Christian Pilet, with his wife Nicole, and five children (a sixth on the way) are in Mongolia. Christians, even in the broadest sense, are (to say the very least) rare. That means those who teach and preach that the Bible alone is God's Word are even more rare. In fact, as far as we can tell, he and his family (and a helper) are the only Baptist missionaries there. Thank God the work is being done to train nationals to train nationals in the gospel of grace alone apart from works. This is vital in Mongolia. There are plenty of groups and organizations who are present to teach agriculture and give "social" assistance, but the most important work is that others will come to know the One true God, even Christ Jesus who came to earth and died so we can live go to heaven.
Use the comment promt to share if God is chalenging you to evangelize right where you live or even in a remote area of the world. Tell me how you're serving so others may be encouraged too.
What’s in a Name?
Labels can be very useful. When shopping, one wouldn’t think about buying something that wasn’t clearly marked. In fact, most of us not only want to see the name of the product, but we also want to see the ingredients listed. Why would we want anything less when it comes to the most important matters of life? Before we go to a school of higher learning, we want to know about the school. Before we buy a car, we want to know what’s under the hood. Before we marry, we want to know what’s inside of that person who will become the most significant human being we will ever know. When choosing a place of worship and service to our Lord, shouldn’t we be at least as vigilant? In this post my aim is to list the ten ingredients, or distinctives, that make up a biblical Baptist Church. There may be some minor variations from one Baptist church to another, because there is no Baptist hierarchy to declare an official list, but nearly all will agree on these ten. Thus the label, or name “Baptist” will be more useful and important to the reader.
The name Baptist actually means something. It is a name that most will associate as a Bible believing, Christ honoring, Christian Church. The name “Baptist” is a meaningful descriptor of a doctrinal position, NOT a point of organizational pride. Baptists have a definite biblically distinctive doctrinal stance. Some churches that are not Baptist may hold to some of these positions. Then, there are some who call themselves “Baptist” who do not cleave to all of these biblical distinctives. There are yet other groups that do embrace all of these doctrines, but for one reason or another choose not to call themselves Baptist. I am a Baptist, and I am not ashamed to be called a Baptist. Baptists have a biblical foundation, a rich heritage, and a bright outlook on life. If you are a Baptist, I hope this post will encourage you to be a Baptist genuinely and not just by name. If you are not a Baptist you should be able to get the idea of what Baptists believe and why we believe it.
What are the biblical distinctives of Baptist? A useful tool to associate with this doctrinal body of thought is the acrostic, B A P T I S T. This acrostic will assist me by providing an outline for the future posts as well.B
utonomy of the Local ChurchP
riesthood of All BelieversT
wo Ordinances: Baptism and CommunionI
ndividual Soul LibertyS
aved Church MembershipT
wo Offices: Pastor and DeaconS
eparation of the Church and State
Let me know your thoughts about this acrostic, or any other related topic (agreements and disagreements) by using the comment prompt just below (that way we can engage in biblical discussion together). I welcome any questions you may have too. Keep coming back!
The Biblical Distinctives of Baptists vs. The Fundamentals of the Faith
I am preparing to lead an Adult Bible Fellowship (ABF) into a study on “The Biblical Distinctives of Baptists” of which I will post on this blog, if God permits. If you are not a Baptist you will, at least, be able to discover what Baptists really believe and why Baptists really believe it. If you are a Baptist my aim for you is similar. I hope to provide you with greater clarification of the biblical distinctives of Baptists. This is a study of who we are, what we believe, why we believe it, and how to live as biblical Baptists. Please ask questions or make any remarks in the comments link below. This is a forum for you, and open for all. I want to know what you think.
There are a number of preliminary matters we must face before we launch into our study of biblical distinctives of Baptists. Most importantly, it is needful to make clear that there are some doctrines that are prized higher to a biblical Baptist than the Baptist distinctives that I am going to list. These prized doctrines have been referred to as “the fundamentals of the faith”. In my view, the fundamental truths that all true Christians must affirm and contend for are:The Bible alone is the complete Word of God and His final authority to mankind, the source of true Christian unity. The Creator is the Triune God, co-equal; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.Christ Jesus is God the Son, born of a virgin named Mary. He was fully God and fully man.Jesus died on the cross, and shed His blood for the redemption of sinners. He was buried and rose from the dead and ascended into heaven physically.
Jesus Christ will return to this earth physically.
These fundamentals should trump any name or label, and it is my intention to give further details about these truths at a later time. For the immediate future, however, we will study Biblical Distinctives of Baptists. What do you think about labels?
The Vital Christian Life!
In my previous posts I have tried to communicate the “first things first”. For example the first and most important issue at hand concerning my readers is, “are you saved?” Have you, by God’s grace been born again? See my, “What is the gospel?” and “What is saving faith?” posts.” Then I moved to the “next things next”. For example, just as we need a healthy diet to live well: good food, exercise, and sleep, there are certain elements we need to grow in our new life. When we tell others what Jesus did for us, we testify and bear witness that He will save anyone who will trust in Him alone for salvation.
When we read the Bible, God speaks to us. When we pray, we speak to God. We also need the element of fellowship. This is so vitally important because what you get here at this blogspot is not enough. Christians need to rub shoulders with others who are of like mind and faith. Perhaps you have heard, “the best expression of fellowship is through a local church.” You may once again ask, “Why?” The answer is in the demonstration. For example, I may say “Pray!” - but a brother or sister at church can teach you to pray. I may say “Study the Bible!” - but an elder or deacon can show you how to study the Bible systematically. I may say, “Tell others!” - but through a local church you can receive further training on how to be even more effective in your evangelizing.
The Navigators have used a wheel to illustrate how this works out, the Christ centered life. You can see it by clicking here
My next posts, if God permits, will be all about some “more things more”.
What is a local church?
I have said it before, and I will declare it again! The best expression of Christian fellowship is within a Bible believing local church. You may already know our English word "church" is from the German word "kirke". It is translated from the Greek word "ecclesia", meaning "a called out assembly". In the Bible it is sometimes used together with a specific place, for example: "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth..." (1Cor. 1:2; cf. Acts 8:1). It has also been used in the plural tense, which indicates that there was more than one church in any given area (e.g. "...unto the churches of Galatia:” Gal. 1:2; cf. Rev. 1:4)
“What is a local church?” I’m glad you asked. A local church is a called out assembly of Bible believers. Those who by God’s grace have been born again (the Bible calls us saints), and meet together with pastors and deacons (Phil. 1:1). The purpose of a local church is to glorify God through edifying the saints and evangelizing the lost. This includes: public worship of God, teaching and preaching the Word of God, the observance of the ordinances of the church, and sending out missionaries (Acts 2:41-47; Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; Jude 3; 2Tim. 2:2; Acts 5:42; Acts13:1-3).
If you are born again, you need to be a part of a local, Bible believing church. It is not only nice to be a part of a lively local church, it is also necessary for your own personal growth and it is the best expression of Christian fellowship.
What a Fellowship!
Knowing the God of the Bible up close and personal is a great joy. To enter into a relationship with Him through the finished work of Messiah (see my What is the Gospel?
post) and to grow in that relationship is the best. We get to know Him more and more everyday by reading His Word the Bible and talking directly to Him in prayer. He is my heavenly Father, and also my friend that sticketh closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Say, speaking of the word “brother” did you know that everyone who is born again scripturally (see John 3) is a brother or sister in Christ. If your trust and confidence is in Christ alone, apart from dead works, you are my brother or sister! We are in God’s family. He is our heavenly Father.
Another way God has provided for us to grow in our faith in Him is by having fellowship with other believers. The best way to do this is within a local church. Acts 2:46-47 says, “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
There are two points that I want to lift from this verse: First these fellow believers delighted in God and each other without being obnoxious, this is clear because they had “favor with all the people”
. This means they truly loved each other and those not yet saved. Secondly the “saved”
were added to the church. The best expression of Christian fellowship is within a Bible believing church.