February 28, 2014

The Authority of Scripture

Some people treat the Bible as if it were just a fallible collection of human wisdom. For example, one professor of religion wrote in the Huffington Post, "The Bible hates homosexuality. So what?" This professor frankly admitted that the Biblical writers consistently disapproved of homosexuality. However, she counseled other same-sex advocates to stop trying to force the Bible to approve of that which it clearly does not. Instead, we can let the Bible say what it says—but we don't need to worry about it. After all, these inspired writers were "still only human" and "[got] some stuff dead wrong." Yes, these spiritual ancestors of ours "were ahead of their time in many ways, and . . . pooled their wisdom together for the benefit of society . . . but they also never thought of many of the questions that we have to deal with." Thus, their opinions are not mandatory for our own time.

Compare that attitude with the comment that Paul made to the believers in Thessalonica. In 1 Thessalonians 2:23 Paul commended them saying: 

And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe

They realized that they were not receiving from Paul a mere message of human wisdom. Instead, the message was from God and had His authority. 

The authority of Scripture is the second of Five Things I Hope You Believe are True About Scripture. (Click here for part one.)

2. The AUTHORITY of Scripture

The authority of Scripture means that everything that Scripture teaches and commands has God’s authority because Scripture is God’s Word. The voice of Scripture is the voice of God.

The Bible claims to be the Word of God around 1,500 times. Over and over again we see the prophets proclaim “Thus says the Lord.” They realized that God was using them as His mouthpiece to communicate His authoritative message. God has ultimate authority: Therefore His Word has authority. 

Dual Authorship

Let me ask you another question: Is the Bible the word of man or the word of God? The answer is that it is both. In the same way that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man, the Bible likewise is both fully the product of man and fully of God.  

We call this “dual authorship.” On one level, the words of the Bible are the words of human authors. God did not use channeling or some sort of automatic “zombie writing” to take over their bodies as they penned Scripture. Instead, God used their personalities, experiences, and writing styles—but also superintended the process in such a way that they wrote down exactly what He wanted written down. Peter describes it as though the Biblical writers were “carried along” by the Holy Spirit. The language he uses is like that of the wind carrying along a sailboat.
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. -2 Peter 1:20-21

But—you might ask—if Scripture is also the work of human beings, then won’t it have errors in it? After all, the saying goes, “To err is human”? Well, that saying is not actually from the Bible. Also, it isn’t entirely true. Jesus Christ became a human being, and He never sinned (Heb. 4:15). So, just as Jesus was both human and divine without sinning, in the same way God kept the human authors of Scripture from communicating anything false as they wrote.

Revelation, Inspiration & Illumination

There are three phases to the process that God uses to get His truth to us. First, God reveals truth to his messengers, the prophets and apostles. Second, God inspires the writings of these authors so that the words they record are the exact words that He wants to be written. Finally, God illuminates this truth to our hearts as we read the words of Scripture. All three of these steps are the work of the Holy Spirit.

Step 1: Revelation (from God to the prophets and apostles)

The first step is for God to make knows the previously unrevealed truth to the prophets and apostles. Numbers 12:6 is an example of this:
He said, "Listen to my words: ‘When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams.’”
Another great example is Paul’s words in Eph. 3:3-5:
…that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets.
Step 2: Inspiration (from the apostles and prophets to the Bible)
Next is the process called inspiration. Sometimes we talk about great writers such as Shakespeare being “inspired” or ourselves being “inspired” when we have a great idea. However, when we speak of Scripture being inspired we mean something much more than that. The word used in 2 Timothy 3:16 (which used to be translated “inspired”) is the Greek word theopneustos. It literally means “God-breathed.” Thus, the Bible is God-breathed just as if it were the movement of air coming out of the mouth of the Lord.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:16-17
Also notice that according to this verse, it is not the writer that is inspired. It is the writings that are inspired—or better, that are God-breathed. It is not as if God just gave the writers some good ideas and left them to write it down the best that they could. No, instead, God oversaw what they were writing and worked with them so that each word was what He wanted in order to accurately communicate His message.
Step 3: Illumination (from the Bible to you and me)
Sometimes people will say, “God revealed something to me!” However, what they usually mean is that God helped them to see something that was already revealed to mankind in Scripture. This is actually what we call illumination. Illumination is when the Holy Spirit takes His truth from His book and makes it come alive to your heart. Think of illumination like a light being turned on in a room. The light doesn’t create anything new, but it helps you to see what was already there. 
In Ephesians 1:18 Paul said, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” 1 Corinthians 2:14 and 1 John 2:27 also illustrate illumination.
Oftentimes, illumination is really what is going on when we have experiences of God guiding us. What the Holy Spirit does is to illuminate certain Biblical truths that we have stored up in our hearts. It is as if we have His words written on the walls of a cave, and the Spirit shines His flashlight on the truths we need to apply. Of course, this means that the more of the Bible you have stored up in your heart, the more you have for the Spirit to work with! Just be careful not to confuse your gut feelings with what God is actually saying. If the Holy Spirit is really saying it, it will be written in His book.
Living Under God’s Authority
Remember, all of Scripture has God’s authority because all of Scripture is His Word. What it says, He says. This means that it is not optional advice. God never says, “Hey, this is just my opinion. Take it or leave it. I’m fine either way.” You can choose to live as if you are above God’s Word—or you can live as though God’s Word is over you. Only one of these choices is legitimate.

Because it is His Word, Scripture's authority is greater than:
  • our feelings
  • our opinions
  • church traditions
  • human laws
  • the prevailing wisdom of the age
When Scripture speaks, God speaks. When God speaks, we need to listen, believe, and obey.

February 25, 2014

The Necessity of Scripture

Five Things I Hope You Believe are True about Scripture

Scripture has five very important characteristics: Necessity, Authority, Inerrancy, Sufficiency, and Perspicuity. If we put these attributes in a different order, you could remember them by the nifty acronym S.P.A.I.N.

Some of these five terms might already be familiar to you. On the other hand, you might think that the perspicuity of Scripture means the "sweatiness" of Scripture. Thankfully, you would be wrong on that. Perspicuity means the “clarity” of Scripture. Sure, you could take the easy way and just remember the word “clarity” instead, but (1) perspicuity is much more fun to say, and (2) you then couldn’t use the nifty acronym S.P.A.I.N.

1. The NECESSITY of Scripture

The necessity of Scripture means that Scripture is necessary for salvation and for an adequate knowledge of God and His will. 

Knowing God. Yes, there are some things that we can know about God from general revelation—God’s creation (Rm. 1:19-21; Ps. 19:1-6). However, this information is incomplete and unclear compared to the fuller knowledge that we receive from Scripture. God has wired us so that we can look at nature and realize that there must be a powerful God, but we can’t look at a mountain and know that God is a Trinity and that Jesus is the God-man who died on the cross as the substitute for all those who would trust in Him alone for salvation. Truths like that require God’s special revelation in Scripture.

We need to remember that revelation is not the same as discovery. Imagine that there is a mystery object hidden under a heavy lead box. You can’t know what the object is unless the box is taken off. That is what revelation means. The Hebrew word galah means “to make naked, reveal, disclose.” Likewise, the Greek word apocalypto means “unveiling, to take the cover off.” It isn’t as if we discover these truths by our own power. We certainly don't create them. These truths exist, but there is no way we can access them unless God takes the initiative to reveal them to us.

Knowing God's Will. Scripture is necessary to accurately know God’s moral will. Yes, thankfully, people have a basic awareness of right and wrong because God has given us a conscience (Rm.  2:14-15). Unfortunately, as sinners our consciences do not always point north. This is especially true when we sin repeatedly and cause our consciences to become calloused or seared (1 Tm. 4:2). As Robert Gagnon has noted, “Human passions are notoriously unreliable indicators of God's will." Even more, the prophet Jeremiah has warned us, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9) Contrary to the message of most Disney princess movies, following your heart is often a terrible idea.

Salvation. Scripture is especially necessary for salvation. One of the clearest passages where this is taught is Romans 10:13-15. The Apostle Paul writes:

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 

Paul’s logic here is that no one can call on the Lord to be saved unless they believe, and no one can believe unless they first hear the message of salvation. And for that to happen, someone has to tell it to them. 

If people could be saved without hearing the Gospel message, then Paul’s logic makes no sense. The truth is, people need God’s Word to be saved. Paul drives this home in verse 17 when he writes, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Spiritual Life. Finally, Scripture is also necessary for spiritual health and growth. The Bible is not an optional aid. In Matthew 4:4 Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Food is not optional and neither is God’s Word. If you are anorexic when it comes to Scripture, you should not be shocked when you realize that you are weak and malnourished. That’s what happens when you starve yourself from something that is necessary.

February 17, 2014

Powerman and Mosquitoboy: Robot Invasion - Episode 2

In the previous episode of Powerman and Mosquitoboy: Robot Invasion Powerman was ambushed by a robot version of Mosquitoboy. With help from Princess Alethia, Powerman has learned that the robot was the creation of a mysterious figure known only as "The Designer." However, their conversation was cut short by the breaking news that the city was under attack by a massive robot army being led by robot duplicates of Powerman and Mosquitoboy!

I wrote, directed, and edited these videos for a custom VBS program. The teaching theme for this episode was System Failure: We've all been infected by the virus of sin. "Death spread to all men because all sinned." -Romans 5:12b ESV.

There are three more Robot Invasion episodes yet to come. To see the previous series, Powerman and Mosquitoboy: Deceptor's Revenge click here. You can also visit Powerman and Mosquitoboy's YouTube and FaceBook pages.

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