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LESSON 2:

Attached with this lesson is an article that describes the rapid growth of Christianity in various parts of the
world, such as Africa. Certainly that is praiseworthy. But the article goes on to describe, in a casual fashion,
how the core beliefs of the Christianity that is spreading is influenced by the culture, ancient tribal customs, and
desires of the populace. “Cultural Christianity” is the term used to describe the situation where Christian beliefs
are changed to adapt to the surrounding culture. In effect, the Bible image of God is recreated into man’s image.

But what about these United States? Have we Americanized the Bible, and begun to teach things that radically
depart from historical Christian doctrines? The answer is a resounding yes! Teachings that have no connection
with scripture or historical Christianity are rampant, and their teachers rejoice when they are categorized as
different, or non-traditional. The reason they receive it as a compliment—at least from their perspective—is that
their teachings represent “fresh revelations”, “God’s now word for the Church”, the “anointed word”. And
typically, any honest challenges to the teachings because they differ from the whole counsel of scripture are
simply dismissed as being “religious” viewpoints. Some examples of these “now” words and concepts follow.
These statements are quotes from some of the most well-known and respected preachers in the United States.

On material prosperity:

• Give one house and receive one hundred houses or one house worth one hundred times as much. Give
one airplane and receive one hundred times the value of the airplane. Give one car and the return
would furnish you a lifetime of cars. In short, Mark 10:30 is a very good deal.

• Send me your green prayer cloth and my point of contact with you!…When I touch your cloth…it will
be like touching you! I want the anointing that God has put upon my life for miracles of finances and
prosperity to come directly from my hand to yours…You can reign in life like a king!

On sickness:

• When you have developed your faith to such an extent that you can stand on the promises of God, then
you won’t take medicine. That’s the reason I don’t take medicine.

• Sickness does not belong to you. It has no part in the Body of Christ. The Bible declares that if the
Word of God is in our life, there will be health, there will be healing—divine health and divine healing.
There will be no sickness for the saint of God.

The Sovereignty of God:

• …Yes! You are in control! So if man has control, who no longer has it? God…When God gave Adam
dominion, that meant that God no longer had dominion. So, God cannot do anything on this earth
unless we let Him. And the way we let Him or give Him permission is through prayer.

• The glory of God appeared. The Form I saw was about the height of a man six feet tall, maybe a little
taller, and twice as broad as a human body with no distinguishing features such as eyes, nose or mouth.

□ Do any of the statements above contain an element of biblical truth? What truth?

□ Do any of the statements reflect an influence of our culture on biblical interpretation? How?

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I. LOVING GOD’S WORD

The Bible is God’s unique revelation to mankind. It tells us truths that are contained in no other
document—truths such as God’s attributes, his will, his love for mankind, and his blessings. It also
conveys truths that we (in our natural selves) likely would prefer not to know, such as his holy laws,
our inability to meet those laws, and the terrible fate of those refusing God’s plan of salvation. It has
been said that the Bible must be the inspired work of God—mankind would never write something so
disapproving of himself!

Once we commit our lives to Christ, the Bible provides answers to the question, “Now what?” From
the scriptures, we learn how the Christian life is supposed to be lived, both inwardly and outwardly.
From it we learn about forgiveness, patience, love, joy, peace, evangelism, prayer, fellowship with
other Christians, and other details of Christian living. We also learn from the “case studies” of men
and women that have gone before us: individuals whose lives served as testimonies of victory or
defeat, and the choices that they made that led to such outcomes. Perhaps most important, we learn of
Jesus’ example and are encouraged in the knowledge that he helps us in our daily walk through the
enabling power of the Holy Spirit. But are we obligated to obey the scriptures?

One of the most important characteristics of the Bible is that it claims the highest authority in regards
to our obedience. In other words, to disbelieve or disobey the words of scripture is to disbelieve or
disobey God. Throughout the Old Testament, for example, the prophets would begin their messages
by saying, “Thus says The Lord”, thereby claiming that their words are the absolutely authoritative
words of God. The Old Testament is filled with such prophesies.

In his combat with the devil, Jesus confirmed this precept regarding Old Testament scripture when he
said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
(Matthew 4:4). Here, Jesus equates his repeated citations from the Book of Deuteronomy as the very
words of God. Paul validates the same thing when he writes to Timothy, “…all scripture is God-
breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy
3:16). Here Paul claims that the Old Testament is God’s words in written form. Many other passages
speak of the Old Testament in a similar manner.

But what about the New Testament—is it as authoritative? To answer that question, it is important to
note that the Greek word graphẽ (“scripture”) was a technical term for New Testament writers that had
a very specialized meaning. Even though it was used fifty-one times in the New Testament, every one
of those instances uses it to refer to Old Testament scriptures, or “God-breathed” words that were part
of the canonized writings. But in two places in the New Testament, we see New Testament writings
being referred to as “scripture” along with the Old Testament writings:i

• In 2 Timothy 3:16, Peter cautioned the church that ignorant and unstable people distort the
writings of Paul, “…as they do the other scriptures”—thereby classifying Paul’s writings as
the very words of God in the same sense as the Old Testament scriptures.

• In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul quotes Jesus’ words found in Luke 10:7 and calls them “scripture”.

Hopefully, this provides some good (but by no means complete!) foundational thinking as to why the
scriptures are considered the authoritative words of God. Received as such, they are to be obeyed.

It should also be noted that Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would bring to the disciples’
remembrance all the truth that he taught them, and He would guide them into all truth. We therefore
can have assurance from this promise that the words of Jesus were remembered and recorded by the
disciples without error. And we have the testimony of the Apostles lives that their commitment and
motives were indeed trustworthy—all of them except for John were martyred for their faith in Jesus.

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1. God's Word Made Personal

Having described the Bible as the "authoritative words of God" is true, but there is a risk in stating it
that way. The risk is that one might hear that and approach the Bible as a sort of rulebook, one that is
grudgingly picked up with the purpose of "finding out what I have to do". This is the wrong approach.

We should approach the Bible with the idea that it is not only a book containing things that God once
spoke--but a book in which God is still speaking--to me! As A.W. Tozer explainedii:

We may use the past tense properly to indicate that at a certain time a certain word of God
was spoken, but a word of God once spoken continues to be spoken, as a child once born
continues to be alive, or a world once created continues to exist. Those are but imperfect
illustrations, for children die and worlds burn out, but the Word of God endureth forever.

If you would follow on to know the Lord, come at once to the open Bible expecting it to speak
to you. Do not come with the notion that it is a thing which you may push around at your
convenience. It is more than a thing; it is a voice, a word, the very Word of the living God.

MEDITATION:
If the Bible is God's spoken word in written form, and God is still speaking, do you think
that anything God speaks to you or anyone else, even the Christian world's most popular
Bible teacher, would contradict?

2. Becoming a Lover of Truth

We will become lovers of God's truth to the extent that we recognize and appreciate its importance in
keeping us on sure footing in an uncertain world. Our society is full of promises that amount to
nothing more than one person trying to gain advantage over another through promises of fidelity, or
product satisfaction, or other inducement. The promises are broken, and heartache or disappointment
is the outcome. But the Bible declares about itself, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like
the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever."

David showed that he was a lover of truth when he exclaimed, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate
on it all day long.” This verse was taken from Psalm 119—if ever there was a chapter in the Bible that
expresses a longing for truth, Psalm 119 is that chapter. David’s love for truth is amazing because he
is referring to the Old Testament laws found in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, not the grace and mercy
of the New Covenant. How much more should New Covenant believers appreciate the scriptures!

□ Read John 1:1-7 and 1 John 1:1. What is the connection between Jesus and the Word?

□ Read John 8:51. What does Jesus say about the importance of keeping his word?

We should also consider the handbook for the proper operation and maintenance of the human soul.
Just as a piece of equipment requires a manual which explains the power source, the proper upkeep,
and other do’s and don’t, so we need such guidance—or we begin like a machine to break down. And
Dr. Laura is okay, but nothing is able to guide the human soul to stability and rest like the Word of
God. God put us together, so He is the final authority on how to keep us together. David said, “Your
hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands.” (Psalm 119:73).

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The metaphors of the Word illustrate its importance to our spiritual well-being. As you read the
following scriptures, think about what each of these metaphors mean to your personal needs in life.

□ Read Deuteronomy 8:3; Hebrews 5:12-14. What is the Word described as? What does it do?

□ Read James 1:23-24. What is the Word described as? What does it do?

□ Read Psalm 119:105. What is the Word described as? What does it do?

□ Read Luke 8:5, 11. What is the Word described as? What does it do?

□ Read Hebrews 4:12? What is the Word described as? What does it do?

□ Read Jeremiah 23:28-29. What does God think of his words compared with that spoken only by
man?

□ Read Psalm 119. Pick out three benefits of the Word that speak to you personally.

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MEDITATION:
Jesus used the Word to battle Satan’s temptations in the wilderness. Is there a struggle in
your life that the Word says something about? How will memorizing what the Word
says about that particular struggle help you at the point where you are engaged in battle?

II. UNDERSTANDING THE WORD

Anyone who has read the Bible knows that some parts can be understood very easily while other parts
seem puzzling. Even Peter wrote that some of Paul’s writing were hard to understand, and therefore
easy for men with evil intent to twist to suit their own ends. Yet, we are all called to read and know
the Word for ourselves. Because some parts are confusing does not mean that must rely on a Bible
scholar for understanding. That’s because we have the most knowledgeable Person—the Holy Spirit,
to help instruct us in our understanding of God’s Word.

□ Read John 14:26; 16:12-13. What is one of the works of the Holy Spirit?

□ Read Deuteronomy 6:6-7. What were the people of Israel admonished by Moses to do?

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□ Read Colossians 3:16. What are we, as disciples of Christ, admonished by Paul to do?

It is important to recognize that one of the characteristics of scripture is clarity. The clarity of
scripture means that the Bible is written in such a way that its teachings can be understood by all who
will read it seeking God’s help and being willing to follow it.

□ Read Psalms 19:7 and Psalms 119:130. Who is the one being made wise by the scriptures?

Note that “simple” (Hebrew petĩ) in these passages is not merely one who lacks intellectual ability, but
one who lacks sound judgment, one who is prone to making mistakes, or who can be easily led astray.

In a day when it is common for people to be told how hard it is for people to interpret scriptures
rightly, we should note that Jesus never once addressed the people in a manner that would suggest he
sympathized with their misunderstanding of scripture. He never once said, “Oh, I see you problem
understanding this—the scriptures are not very clear on this topic”. Instead, over and over he asked,
sometimes in amazement, “Have you not read…?”, or stated “You are wrong because you do not
know the scriptures”. In a similar way, please note that Paul wrote most of his epistles not to church
leaders, but to congregations. From the style of Paul’s writings, it is clear that he assumes that his
hearers within the churches will understand what he writes, and that they will share it with others.

None of this is intended to diminish the importance of gifted teachers within the Church. Clearly, the
word attests that God has provided them as gifts to help us in our understanding of scripture. They can
help reinforce our understanding of the essential truths needed for victorious Christian living. They
can also explore new areas of understanding the teachings of scripture—provided that the essentials of
the Christian faith are not denied as part of the “new” teaching.

Therefore, you do not need a high I.Q. or some special gift to know and teach the scriptures. But there
is something you must have—a good and honest heart. A heart that is willing to accept and obey what
the Lord reveals in his Word. If your heart is set on remaining unbelief, or chasing material things, or
exalting a man or ministry, or other things inappropriate for a believer, then you can read the Bible and
fail to grasp its true meaning.

□ Read Mark 4:3-20. What hinders our ability to receive the Word? What is the right heart
condition?

III. INSISTING ON SOUND TEACHINGS

□ Read John 8:31-32. What did Jesus say would result from knowing and holding to his truth?

□ Read 2 Timothy 2:15. How did Paul say we should present ourselves to God?

□ Read 1 Timothy 4:16. Paul was giving instructions to Timothy concerning doctrine. Did Paul
emphasize the importance of sound doctrine?

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The Bible teaches that to know truth brings liberty and freedom. But sadly, to not know the Word
may have its own consequences, one of which being that we can become led astray by false teachers.

It has been said, “Not everything that sounds scriptural is scripturally sound.” Paul warned the early
church repeatedly about men from within the church who might rise up and teach unsound doctrine to
enrich themselves and draw disciples after their teachings. Power and money—sound familiar? Yes,
money and power: the very things that are so easy to recognize “in the world” are much more difficult
to spot when they are marinated in scripture.

□ Read 1 John 4:1. What are we exhorted to do when we are presented with some new teaching?

□ Read 2 Timothy 4:3. What is the characteristic of those who are susceptible to false teachers?

□ Read Acts 20:30-31. What did Paul warn the early Church about?

□ Read 2 Peter 2:2-3. What is a motivating factor (i.e., driving force) behind the false teacher?

□ Read 1 Peter 5:2-3. What was Peter’s caution for men who were elders in the church?

There is a great deal of balance needed here. This is not a call to become a "heresy hunter", and react
every time a teacher says something that conflicts with our understanding of the Word. To do so in
the name of doctrinal "purity" would itself be a violation of Paul's command to maintain unity through
the bond of peace. We are to remember that "The elders who direct the affairs of the church are
worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." (1 Timothy 5:17).

But there is a way to eagerly research new or unfamiliar teachings in the right spirit, and we should.
Read Acts 17:11. Why were the Bereans considered to be more noble than the Thessalonians?

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As Paul said, we should insist on sound doctrine. First and foremost, we should reject any teaching
that confuses the good news of the gospel (a salvation by grace not of works), or one that clearly does
not agree with the whole counsel of scripture on a particular topic. As A.W. Tozer said:

"I am a Bible Christian and if an archangel with a wingspread as broad as a constellation


shining like the sun were to come and offer me some new truth, I'd ask him for a reference.
If he could not show me where it is found in the Bible, I would bow out and say,
I'm awfully sorry, you don't bring any references with you."

i
Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Wayne Grudem. Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.
ii
A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, pp. 75

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