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What does man’s nature have to do with my view of the Bible, Part 3?

The Unchanging Character of God vs. the Nature of Man:
Part 3, The Nature of Man:

The answer to that question is quite a bit!  We have spent significant time in past posts pondering the character of God which is consistent, all-knowing, holy, and truth. God cannot lie, because it goes against His nature, but what about man? Is man consistent, all-knowing, holy, or truth like God? It does not take much study to see that man’s nature is in stark contrast to God’s character. Jeremiah 17:9 says that man’s heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” In just one verse, Jeremiah vividly paints a woeful picture of man’s depraved mind. He is limited, dishonest, and given to change. In Romans 1, Paul further describes man’s condition apart from God. He “suppresses the truth in unrighteousness, is vain in his imaginations, and his foolish heart is darkened. He professes himself to be wise, but instead has become a fool. He has changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man and has changed the truth of God into a lie. He has worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator. He did not like to retain God in his knowledge,” therefore “God gave him over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness.” In Romans 3, Paul writes that there is “none good, no not one.” No man naturally “understands or seeks after God.” And in I Corinthians 2:14 he writes that “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” These passage give a powerful description of the nature of man’s thinking. It is empty, blind, darkened, and subject to vanity. Man needs God’s revelation to bring repentance and faith, then God’s revelation to renovate his thinking and replace it with truth. Even those who are in Christ by the new birth need to “put on the mind of Christ” and be “transformed by the renewing of their minds.”

This stark contrast has tremendous implications on so many levels. It should impact a man’s view of preaching, teaching, and evangelism. Man must have a lofty view of scripture, because it is the perfect revelation of his perfect Creator. God’s word alone is sufficient for a man’s faith and practice not the wisdom and of his fallen mind and unique experiences. His thinking and experiences must be conformed to the Scriptures, not Scripture to his fallen, limited mind and his interpretation of experience. Every man must realize that when he approaches Scripture, he is limited by his own mind. He needs God, therefore he must come humbly in submissive dependence to God to aid him as he “rightly divides the word of truth.” While the word of God is unshakable truth, sadly we filter it through a grid of human emotions, experiences, and cultural prejudices. This is why Paul told Timothy in II Timothy 2 to “rightly divide the word of truth,” and then in II Timothy 3, that the inspired word and that alone is profitable for “doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect [spiritually mature] thoroughly equipped for every good work.” God’s word alone must be our final say and source of authority. Human opinions, feelings, or experiences all are tainted by the fall and limited simply because we are created beings. Let us cling to the word of truth, and say with the Psalmist in Psalm 119:18 “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” We need God’s rightly divided word of truth, or we are simply “blind leading the blind.”

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Posted by on September 29, 2011 in Has God Spoken?

 

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What does man’s nature have to do with my view of the Bible, Part 2?

The Unchanging Character of God vs. the Nature of Man:
Part 2, The Character of God:

When we speak of the holiness of God, there are two issues that should come to mind.  God is completely separated from what is defiled, evil, or unclean, and He is totally pure and undefiled, which sets Him apart to a realm all to Himself.[1]  There is nothing in this created universe that you and I interact with that has this absolute quality.  Apart from the inspired word and our position in Christ, the people, the ideas that we entertain, the work that we do, the knowledge that we obtain, the food we eat, water we drink, the natural beauty we observe, none of these things poses the absolute purity of God.  God is in a realm all to Himself.  In Leviticus
11:44
God says, “I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy:” Joshua 24:19 says that “the LORD is a holy God.” Psalm 99:3 say, “Let them praise thy great and terrible name; for it is holy.”  And 1 Peter 1:15 says, “As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;” These are just a small sampling of the many passages in the Bible that demonstrate the holiness of God.  If God is holy, then all that He chooses to does cannot compromise His holiness.  His self-revelation must certainly be a holy revelation that does not compromising His holy character.

Secondly, consider God’s immutability. This means that He does not change, nor can He or does He grow or
develop.  God’s nature is consistent.  There are several passages that teach this aspect of God’s character.
In Malachi 3:6 God says, “I am the LORD, I change not.”  In James 1:17, He is called the “Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” God’s nature is eternally consistent.  Hebrews 13:8, says that Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”  We can be absolutely confident in the unchanging character of God.  He is consistent, which means that if God’s character does not change and is sure, then we can be confident that His revelation is consistent, unchanging.  For this reason, we come to the conclusion that New Testament revelation, while it may further develop certain Bible doctrines that were once a mystery in the Old Testament, cannot contradict the older revelation.  They must be presenting harmonious or
complementary truth.

Thirdly, consider the omniscience of God. Omniscient means that God is all-knowing.  God knows everything that there is that could possibly be known.  He knows what will happen as well as what will not happen.  God knows all the possibilities equally well.  He is not learning, because there is nothing for Him to learn.  He already
knows it all.  A. W. Tozer wrote:

“God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit
and all spirits, all being and every being, all creaturehood and all creatures, every plurality and all pluralities, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feelings, all desires,
every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and hell.

Because God knows all things perfectly, He knows He knows no thing better than any other thing, but all
things equally well.  He never discovered anything, He is never surprised, never amazed. He never discovers anything, He never is never surprised, never amazed.  He never wonders about anything nor (except when drawing men out for their own good) does He seek information or ask questions.”[2]

David wrote is Psalm 139:1-16 “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and
my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art thereIf I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me,
and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both
alike to thee.  For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise
thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”  Acts 15:18 says that God knows “all his works from the beginning of the world.” In Matthew 11, Christ tells the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida that if Tyre and Sidon had received the same degree of revelation that those cities received, they would have humbly repented before God. This passage teaches us that God knows the hypothetical.  God is omniscient.  His knowledge cannot be fathomed, which means that if God knows all things, and has no need to learn, then He also does not need to correct what He has already revealed.  God’s Word is consistent.

Lastly, consider that God is truth.  In John 17:3, Jesus said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God.”  Psalm 33:4 says, “the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth.”  Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  In 2 Timothy 2:13 Paul wrote that “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” Paul is saying that God cannot turn back on His promises.  He is truth, and He would essentially be denying Himself if He were to turn back on His word.  Since God is truth, He is “agreeable to that which is represented,” faithful and consistent.  What God has revealed about Himself is also always true and consistent.  Everything that He has chosen to reveal about himself is totally accurate and trustworthy.[3] Think about it.  If God is truth, then everything that He has ever said is true and everything that He ever will say is also true.  It would also be accurate to say that if all God ever has said or will say is true, being consistent with His character, then everything that God has revealed about Himself or will ever
reveal about Himself will also be consistent and true.

My point in this section is to lay the foundation for future articles.  God’s character is consistent, unchanging,
true, holy, and all-knowing.  These aspects of His person make it impossible for Him to be anything but consistent in His self-revelation.  No matter the means of transmitting revelation, the product of inspiration has always and will always be complementary and consistently true.  We will see as our study progresses that this
principle will become the basis for the way that God’s people have related to His prophets, the way that they related to Christ’s apostles. This principle is also the way that we should relate to the written Word of God.  It must become the principle that governs as a check and balance the way we interpret every feeling or experience in the Christian life.


[1] Ryrie, C. (1999). Basic Theology (42). Chicago, IL Moody Press.

[2] Tozer, A. W. (1978). The Knowledge of the Holy (62-63)New York: Harper.

[3] Ryrie, (49).

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2011 in Has God Spoken?

 

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What does man’s nature have to do with my view of the Bible, Part 1?

The Unchanging Character of God vs. the Nature of Man:
Part 1, The Character of God:

Before we study the nature of revelation today, which is a critical topic in missions both home and abroad, there are several important foundational issues that must be established. What is God’s nature? How does this relate to the nature of His self-revelation? How has He revealed himself? Are there controls to His method? What is His normal means of self-revelation? What kinds of people did God uses to give us His self-revelation? Were there checks and balances that authenticated the nature of this supposed revelation? Is He still speaking directly today? What role does the Holy Spirit play in current revelation? How do we know it is the Holy Spirit that is speaking to us and not some other source? These are all examples of foundational questions that we must consider before we come to conclusions on the way God speaks today.

We will begin our study by considering the nature of God versus the nature of man. This is a critical starting point, because the nature of God puts careful controls on the nature of His self-revelation, and the nature of man reminds us that there is a desperate need to put careful controls on the way that we interpret our experiences. I certainly do not have all the answers, and I acknowledge that there are men better studied than I am who have analyzed this broad topic. For this reason, I plan to refer to several of these works throughout, though my focus will be interpreting and observing Scripture to draw my conclusions. Whether are not you will agree with me on every point, I hope that the points that are brought up will strength your understanding of this issue, and will provide a catalyst for furthering your studies.

First, we must consider the nature of several aspects of God’s character. The Scriptures teach us that God is holy, immutable, omniscient, and truth. While those perfections of God do not scratch the surface of knowing God, these four perfections have a significant bearing on the nature of revelation.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2011 in Has God Spoken?

 

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How does God speak?

Introduction

I begin our study by saying that I believe there is a tremendous need in our day to ponder the nature of God’s revelation. How has He revealed Himself to mankind? Why is it necessary you might ask? Its necessity flows from two facts. First, ponder Paul’s prophetic statements in II Timothy 3:1-17 concerning the last days. He says that “in the last days perilous times shall come.” Men will have “a form of godliness, but will deny its power,” meaning that they will have the appearance, shape, or structure of Biblical Christianity, yet their religion will not be genuine. It will be powerless to justify or mature them in the faith. It will be a seductive counterfeit to truth. This deceptive form of religion will creep into people’s homes and capture those who are naïve and burdened by their sins. They will be deceived by their lusts. This deception will be similar to Jannes and Jambres, who withstood Moses when he stood in Pharaoh’s court. As they resisted the truth, so will those proclaiming these various forms of error. These men are men “of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.” He says that, “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”

We are living in the last days, the final chapter in human history. The rapture of the church is immanent. In Acts 2, Peter preached that he was living in the last days. The apostles addressed the early church as people living in the last days, and they commanded the churches to be looking for the return of Christ. We all should be deeply burdened for doctrinal purity and precision in these last days. If we are going to do this, we must obey Paul’s command to Timothy. Though “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived,” Timothy you must “continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 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.” Paul commanded Timothy to be a man fully committed to the inspired word of God. Paul reminds him of the nature of the word: holy, profitable for salvation, instructing, rebuking, correcting, and grounding; the source of the word: unchanging God Himself; the tools God used in delivering the word: tried and authenticated apostles of Jesus Christ; and the power of the word: it brings salvation and maturity to the believer. Paul commanded Timothy to be a man of the Word alone; sola scriptura as the Reformers would have referred to this doctrine. If we are anything but Biblicists in our practice or teaching, we are little better than the Pharisees in the days of Christ. We are in danger of leading people astray and setting before others a damaging pattern of preaching and teaching. While I assume that the people that will read these articles are doctrinally sound, I challenge each one of you not to practice the principles of those whom Christ harshly rebuked as “blind leaders of the blind” who according to Matthew 15 “transgressed the commandment of God by their traditions.” Let us never elevate tradition/opinion/derived principle to the place of inspired revelation.

A second reason that we embark on this study is the practical observation of Paul’s statements, in our contemporary culture. I think of several contemporary issues that we could easily see. We have false prophets telling us that Christ is going to return on a specific day when the word is clear, that no man knows the day or the hour. Groups preach a health and wealth prosperity gospel and are followed by the thousands. Some cults say that Christ is not the Second person of the Trinity, God incarnate, but that He is a god, a created being, brother of Satan, or a prophet. Some teach that salvation is through the church alone and its sacraments, while others teach that salvation is impossible to those who are joined to a church. While the name on a church sign may align that assembly with a historically orthodox, position that is distinctly sola scriptura, their practice may deny their name. Their teaching may be little better than the practice of the cults or the Pharisees of Christ’s day. I pray that these studies will challenge us to elevate the “rightly divided” Scripture alone as our standard for faith and practice rather than our opinions as we preach and teach the word of God. I also pray that these studies will aid those who have been careless in their study and teaching of the God’s word to develop a principled approach to studying God’s Word, so that the Holy Spirit can take the “rightly divided” word and apply it to our hearts and the hearts of those to whom we minister. May our teaching be Biblical not an emotional form of godliness that denies its power!

 

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