Tribulation Saint

Historic Christianity in the Twenty First Century

Tag: Inspiration

THE TEACHING MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

 

Jesus had just promised us that if we love Him and keep His commandments, “My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23; NKJV); and, as we have seen, this refers primarily to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus now goes on to elaborate on what the Holy Spirit will do for us: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to you remembrance all things that I said to you” (v. 26).

The primary reference here, undoubtedly, is to the apostles.  They would be witnesses to His resurrection, and would be appointed to be His personal representatives to the world.  As they would elaborate on the meaning and significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit would give them direct revelation.  The apostle Paul, for instance, could describe the process this way: “. . .we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained . . . But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.  For the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God . . .” (I Cor.2:7-10)  “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, combining spiritual things with spiritual” (vv. 12,13). The “words” which the Holy Spirit teaches are logois – concepts, ideas which come from the mind of God Himself.

Jesus also said that the Holy Spirit will “bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”  This points to the preaching of the apostles, and especially to the writing of the four gospels contained in the New Testament.  Matthew and John were both written by apostles; Mark was written by a close associate of Peter and Luke by a close associate of Paul.  The implication is that the four gospels give us an accurate representation of what the historical Jesus actually said and did.

But the Holy Spirit’s work of “teaching you all things” should not be confined to just the apostles.  There is also work which the Holy Spirit performs in the lives of believers throughout the church as well.  Here again, when the apostle Paul prays for the Ephesians, he asks that God “may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, they eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe . . .” (Eph. 1:17-19).

The Bible is written in human language; it has a vocabulary and a grammatical structure.  Almost any educated person can read it and gain at least a general idea of what it says.  But little of it will be real and meaningful to him if the Holy Spirit has not renewed his heart and enlightened his eyes; so that he can genuinely understand the things that the Bible is describing.  These things are spiritual realities, and to gain a proper appreciation of them we must first gain an understanding of them and how they affect us personally.  Significantly Paul asks that the Ephesians would know the “hope” of Christ’s calling, “the riches of the glory” of His inheritance, and “the exceeding greatness” of His power – in other words, the subjective qualities of these things.  And this is something that the Holy Spirit must give us, the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.”  It is the Holy Spirit’s work of illumination.

This, then, is the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Without it the preaching ministry of the church cannot be successful.  Only the Holy Spirit can enlighten minds and give us spiritual understanding.  And so we must be earnest in prayer that God would pour out His Spirit upon us, and that our hearts would be quickened and we can adore and praise the Savior accordingly.

THE BIBLE: A BOOK LIKE NO OTHER BOOK

 

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Codex Vaticanus

The extraordinary claim that the Bible makes for itself is that it is nothing less than the inspired Word of God himself.   “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God . . .” (II Tim. 3:16; NKJV).   “. . .for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (II Pet. 1:21).  God spoke to Moses directly.  Others saw visions or dreamed dreams.  The Holy Spirit descended on others and they spoke as they were led by the Spirit.  The words that they spoke and wrote down were words in human languages, but the thoughts, concepts and ideas came directly from God himself.  The prophets themselves did not always understand the things that God was revealing to them.  They had to study their own inspired to try to understand what God had revealed through them (I Pet. 1:10-12).

But how do we know that the Bible’s claim for itself is true?  How do we know that the Bible really is God’s Word?  What about other sacred books – the Hindu Vedas?  The Koran?   The Book of Mormon?  Are all of them “inspired”?  Or are all of them, including the Bible, merely human productions?  Why would the Bible be divinely inspired and not the others?

First of all, the Bible is different from the others, and in ways that make it unlikely to have had a purely human origin.  It was composed over a very long period of time (at least a thousand years), by a large number of different authors writing in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek).  And yet in spite of all of the diversity on their backgrounds there is a remarkable unity of thought in the book as a whole.  There is only one God, the Creator of heaven and earth.  He is absolutely just and holy.  Mankind is fallen and sinful, but God is merciful and compassionate.  Sin must be atoned for.  And in the fullness of time God sent His Son into the world to die for our sins and make salvation available to the entire human race.

And then there is the phenomenon of fulfilled prophecy.  Events were predicted before they happened and they subsequently came to pass.   The New Testament writers in particular could cite a large number of Old Testament prophecies regarding the coming Messiah, and note that they were fulfilled in Christ.  The prophecies are remarkable enough that they could not have been fulfilled by accident.

But what is even more remarkable is the nature of the message itself.  On the one hand it presents a high standard of moral conduct.  Men are exhorted to love God and each other.  Pride, lust, greed, envy, jealousy and anger are all condemned.  In the end all human beings fall short of God’s standards.

Most books of human origin, however, glorify man.  They either excuse, rationalize or even condone behavior that is compulsive, anti-social and self-destructive.  And in most books of human origin there is at least one human hero who distinguishes himself above all others.  In the Bible, however, there are no human heroes – all men fall short of God’s standards.  The Bible views human life from God’s perspective, and this suggests that He is the true Author of it.  No human being could write a book of this apart from divine inspiration.

And then there is the manifest wisdom contained in the Bible. Philosophers and psychologists have propounded theory after theory, only to have them discredited over time.  But countless multitudes of ordinary people have found the Bible “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).  It provides guidance and gives solace to those who follow its directions.

But in the end it often comes down to a matter of personal conviction.  When the message grips your soul, makes you feel your awful guilt before a holy God and then gives you the hope of eternal salvation in Jesus Christ you almost have no choice but to believe.  It has to be God’s Word – nothing else could bring such conviction.

The Bible is God’s Word, then, and we owe it to Him to study it, meditate upon it, and apply it to our lives.  It is the key to understanding life, and our lives must conform to its principles fi we are to find any lasting happiness or fulfillment.  Our ultimate loyalty must be to God himself, and all human teachings, laws and doctrines must be evaluated in the light of His Word.

Too often today young people who were raised in Christian homes are merely reacting to their upbringing.  But what is often missing is a direct relationship with God himself.  But it is not a matter of “your pastor said this” or “your parents taught you that.”  Rather it is a matter of what God himself has said, and in order to know that we must each individually dig into His Word and seek to understand what it says.  Our parents, pastors and teachers are all fallible human beings.  God’s Word is the final authority.  By that we stand or fall.  May God give us the grace to search, understand and obey!

SEX AND POLITICS

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The public has rightly been shocked at the revelation that Donald Trump openly bragged about groping women, and the subsequent claims by a number of women that he was indeed telling the truth – he actually had groped them.  But on this score Donald Trump is virtually the clone of Bill Clinton, and Hillary was in some ways her husband’s enabler.  It is a sordid state of affairs all the way around.

What is perhaps more disconcerting, however, than the private behavior of a pair of cads is the fact that on the matter of sexual morals the Democratic, Libertarian and Green parties are all basically the same – they have all openly embraced the “Sexual Revolution.”  In some ways Mr. Clinton and Mr. Trump are simply practicing what these parties are all preaching as a matter of principle – all forms of sexual activity are condoned, as long as it is between consenting adults.

The Libertarian Party platform, for example, puts it like this: “Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government’s treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws.  Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships.  Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.”

What the Libertarian Party is advocating, in effect, is the abolition of marriage as a legal institution.  “Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships.”  According to them, people should not need a license from the state in order to have sex.  People should be as free to copulate as dogs.

But is this policy either safe or wise?  Virtually every human society since the dawn of history has defined, licensed and restricted sexual relationships, and for good reason.  They recognized that the stability of society as a whole depends upon stable marriages.

First of all, sex involves an intimate relationship between two different people.  According to the Libertarian Party it should be between consenting adults.  But at what point does it cease to be consensual?  Does “no” always mean “no”?  What if one of the parties is under the influence of drugs or alcohol?  Donald Trump would have us to believe that women simply couldn’t resist his advances.

But in a long term relationship the repercussions can be even more far-reaching.  What about emotional abuse?  Cheating on one’s partner?  What if one partner wants out but the other wants to continue the relationship?  What about finance and property rights?

But perhaps most serious of all are the consequences that our sexual behavior has on our children.  The inability to form committed, long-term relationships has left a multitude of children growing up in single parent families without good role models.  They are the victims of their parent’s irresponsible behavior.  This, in turn, results in neighborhoods riddled with crime, poverty and drugs.  And what should the government do about all of this?  The Libertarian Platform is not explicit on this point, but given the party’s general opposition to government interference in either the economy or our personal lives we can only assume that the answer is “nothing at all.”  Let them starve.

The plain fact of the matter is that because of our capacity to hurt each other human relationships must be governed by law.  Rights and responsibilities must be defined.  And ultimately democracy itself depends on the citizens being able to act responsibly in the family sphere.  When the family structure breaks down a paternalistic and even tyrannical government fills the vacuum.

Our Creator knows what is best for human society and His intention in the matter is plain and clear: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  Marriage is supposed to be a formal, recognizable relationship, one that carries definite duties and responsibilities.  And sex outside of marriage is absolutely forbidden.  A man and a woman should make a formal commitment to each other first, and procreate afterwards.  That way children are brought up in stable, two-parent families raised by their biological parents, not by a series of mom’s shiftless boyfriends drifting in and out of the household.  The Libertarian Party’s policy is a sure prescription for social catastrophe.

In this election cycle there is only one political party committed to Judeo-Christian morality, the Constitution  Party and its candidate for president, Darrell Castle.  “The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries . . .”

“The law of our Creator defines marriage as the union between

one man and one woman . . . No government may legitimately

authorize or define marriage or family relations contrary to what

God has instituted.”

(Constitution Party Platform)

THE INSPIRATION OF SCRIPTURE

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Moses and the Ten Commandments

Perhaps the major question facing mankind today is whether God has communicated His will to us. To be more specific, does the Bible have a legitimate claim to be the written, inspired Word of God? On this single question the claims of Christianity, and indeed the foundation of Western Civilization, depend.

    Atheists and skeptics openly scoff at the idea. The Bible, they say, is a human book, full of mistakes and errors. How can it possibly be the infallible Word of God? The idea, they say, is pure nonsense.

    But both Judaism and Christianity are based on the premise that our Creator has spoken to us through a succession of divinely inspired prophets and apostles. Their collected writings comprise our Bible, and the honest and sincere seeker can go to it for instruction and guidance. “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 completer, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Tim., 3:16,17; NKJV).

    How, then, did the process of inspiration work? The ancient Israelites were unique among the nations of their time in that they conceived of the universe as having been created by a single, all-powerful, self-existent Deity. How did they arrive at that notion? God revealed Himself to their forebear Abraham. God is portrayed as speaking to him verbally on several different occasions, at one point even going so far as to make a formal, binding agreement (covenant) with him. The same pattern was repeated with Abraham’s son and grandson, Isaac and Jacob.

    But by far the greatest prophet in the Old Testament was Moses. What we are told about him is that “since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord know face to face . . .” (Dt. 34:10). God is portrayed as speaking directly to Moses on numerous occasions, and Moses would either write down or speak to the people what God had told him. This included, among other things, the “Book of the Covenant,” which included all of Exodus chapters 21-23.

    Other prophets followed, although they did not receive revelation in the same manner as had Moses. Sometimes they would see visions; sometimes they would hear voices; sometimes an angel would speak to them. But in each and every case God communicated with them in verbal propositions, so that what they said and wrote could truly be said to be “the Word of the Lord.”

    But the greatest prophet of all was Jesus Christ. For not only was He a prophet sent from God, He is God, the Second Person of the Trinity, who had dwelt with God the Father in heaven from all eternity. “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak” (John 12:49,50).

    God, then, has made His will known to us. “. . . holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (II Pet. 1:21). God revealed to them things that cannot be known by human reason alone. The prophets themselves did not always fully understand what God had told them. “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (I Pet. 1:10,11). But we have the complete revelation today in the Bible.

    Does this mean that the original autographs were inerrant, as many Evangelicals today maintain? Not necessarily. While the inspired prophets and apostles received a verbal revelation from God, it was still up to them to write it down and communicate it to the rest of mankind. In this their own natural faculties were employed. They wrote in their own native languages, using their own individual styles and diction. In the historical writings the use of underlying source materials is evident. New Testament authors frequently quoted the Greek translation of the Old Testament, even where it differs from the commonly accepted Hebrew text. In some cases an amanuensis (secretary) did the actual writing of the autograph.

    Does this mean that the human author (or amanuensis) got everything down exactly as he received it from God, even down to the smallest detail? Not necessarily. That would require eliminating the human element completely. This is why we occasionally find an apparent discrepancy or contradiction in the text. But we have to assume that the human authors, as honest and sincere men, who were genuinely devoted to the God whom they served, exercised due care and diligence in recording the revelations that they had received. They were, after all, conscious of handling the very words of God Himself. The certifiable problems are few and far between, and only involve matters of slight detail. What is truly remarkable is that such an ancient book, written by so many different authors over such a long period of time, could be so free from human error.

    Charles Hodge, the famous 19th Century Presbyterian theologian (and a staunch conservative), put it this way: “It is enough to impress any mind with awe, when it contemplates the Sacred Scriptures filled with the highest truths, speaking with authority in the name of God, and so miraculously free from the soiling touch of human fingers. The errors in matters of fact which skeptics search out bear no proportion to the whole. No sane person would deny that the Parthenon was built of marble, even if here and there a speck of sandstone should be detected in its structure. Not less unreasonable is it to deny the inspiration of such a book as the Bible, because one sacred writer says that on a given occasion twenty-four thousand, and another says that twenty-three thousand, men were slain. Surely a Christian may be allowed to tread such objections under his feet” (Systematic Theology, Vol. I, p. 170).

    Are the truth claims of Scripture then valid? There are several different possible answers that can be given to that question. But let it suffice to say here that the sheer number of authors involved, the multiplicity of witnesses to the divine revelation, points to the authenticity of the revelation itself. If it were just Mohammed or Joseph Smith, their credibility could be called into question. But in the case of the Bible it is not a matter of just one or two men. It is dozens of men, writing in three different languages over a span of 1,400 years. Their work has stood the test of time. Countless lives have been changed for the better; and multitudes have been led to everlasting joy. What more do we need in the way of a commendation?

    The challenge facing the skeptic is to show how the entire biblical record, from Moses on Mt. Sinai to John on the Isle of Patmos, has been falsified. “. . . by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established” (Dt. 19:15).