I Cannot Go Beyond!

The title of this post is from Balaam in Numbers 24:13. Starting chapter 22 of Numbers to the end of chapter 24, we read of how Balak, king of the Moabites, was afraid of the children of Israel as they came nearer the promised land. So, in an effort to curse them he hires a man, a prophet of God, called Balaam, to curse Israel.

Several times Balaam tries to curse Israel, but ultimately proclaims a blessing on them instead. This angers Balak each time. Before all of this, Balaam was even warned by God who used a donkey to speak to Balaam.

In 23:25, and 24:13, Balaam tells Balak that he must proclaim what God tells him to say,and that he cannot go beyond what God commands.

This is a striking example of the limits of the messenger of God. For those who are entrusted with preaching and teaching the Word of God there are some important things for us to remember.

My brother, Andrew Hostetler, wrote a a statement that can help the teacher and the preacher know how to handle the Word of God. Its called, “I Am Bound”

I am bound by the Word of God. What it says I will say, What it teaches I will teach and What it proclaims I will proclaim.

Its doctrines are my doctrines, its reproof is my reproof, and its instruction is my instruction.

I will not understate what the Bible clearly teaches. If the Bible calls it sin, I will call it sin; If the Bible calls it an abomination, I will call it an abomination.

I will not overstate what the Bible clearly teaches. If the Bible calls it sin, I will not call it anything more.

I will be honest with the scriptures, it does not matter what I think or what my opinion is, only what the Bible says and teaches. The Word of God is complete and without error. “Let God be true and every man a liar.”

I will not over-emphasis one point in the Bible, because it will bring neglect to the rest of God’s truths and will lead to adding to God’s Word.

I will teach and preach the whole counsel of God which runs from Genesis to Revelation.”

The rules are simple: Teach all of Gods Word, we must be diligent to teach and preach the whole council of God. This is not limited to a narrow set of doctrines, or texts that support a certain ideology. We need to teach in light of all of scripture to get a balanced view of what it means to walk the Christian life, know who God is, and know what he wants us to do. The Word of God is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness…(2 Timothy 3:16)

Do not over-emphasize or under-emphasize. There is a great danger sometimes of understating or overstating certain texts to fit our preconceptions, but we need to stand squarely on the Word of God and not deviate from the clarity of Scripture. We are not at liberty to “read between the lines”, because it can lead to dangerous errors.

There must be a total dependence on Gods Word for the answers.The Scriptures were given to us so that we could have to answers to life’s question (2 Peter 1:3) We need to “know”, that Gods Word is pure, and without error. The Scriptures are a firm foundation on which to stand in the shifting sands of history. This foundation is none other than Jesus Christ who is the Word (John 1:1)

Can we have opinions about certain portions of scripture that are unclear? Sure, just as long as you make sure you don’t teach it as scripture. This has caused many false teachings and helped to establish false cults.

So, if you are a teacher or preacher of the Scriptures, remember that you are bound not to go beyond!

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Approved for Service!

Have you ever felt unprepared for a job, test or game? We all have a tendency to procrastinate our preparation, or over-estimate our abilities. The proverbial “butterflies” in the stomach before such an event is a witness against our anxieties about our lack of readiness.

Spiritually this happens in a slightly different way. We are confronted with a ministry task or just a basic command of sharing the Gospel, and we develop a sense of unworthiness. This anxiety, for those who are striving to walk with God, is natural and should be genuine. But, many times people can have a false sense of this unworthiness. The false sense of unworthiness is related to pride and needs to be rooted out. This post is primarily focused on the genuine sense of unworthiness.

In Exodus 6, God is telling Moses that He wants him to speak to Pharaoh, and Moses replies, “I am of uncircumcised lips….” In this phrase we get a glimpse of the sense of unworthiness that Moses feels. But, we need to realize that when God tells us to do something He has already sanctified us to do it. When manuscript copyists would write the name of God in a parchment, they would wash themselves and change their clothes because of the sense of unworthiness. Moses, as a human, was no different in his feeling of unworthiness after his encounters with God.

The classic example is in Isaiah 6 and verse 5 when Isaiah says, “I am a man of unclean lips…”, this again is showing that there is a sense of unworthiness. Whenever we get face to face with God there should be sense of unworthiness. In Proverbs 1:7 we read that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” and again in Proverbs 9:10 its says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” When we encounter God then our experience should be one of total awe at who God is!  The Apostle Paul asked that question when he was confronted with God on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:5).

This sense of unworthiness should never paralyze us from serving God. Many times excuses are made, because of pride in our life. But, we need to remember that God is on our side. If we do what we have been commanded to do then God will take care of the rest. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly  dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) This verse shows that our responsibility  is to prepare by studying God’s Word. There will be two benefits, 1) we will be prepared to teach and preach God’s Word, 2) We will see that we are worthy only because of Christs worthiness.

Don’t let a feeling of not being worthy hinder us from being used by God. Being genuinely humble is what God desires of us, but we need to then serve God faithfully. Prepare, but then rest in God’s Worthiness.

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Basic Biblical Interpretation

In many disciplines there are guidelines, and/or protocols that provide a framework for accurate and reproducible findings . For example in the scientific field there is a “Scientific Method” that lays down rules to follow so that someone may follow the same instructions and get a similar result. Likewise in field of history there is a “Historical Method” which helps to determine authentic sources for accurate historical research. Doctors have guidelines for diagnosing illness in patients. Mechanics have steps to identify the problems with an automobile. Each of these methods are for the purpose of being able to share with others what they have discovered from a common starting point.

When it comes to the Bible there is a method of interpretation that gives every student of the Bible a common starting point. This field of Biblical interpretation is called Hermeneutics and is a necessary part of any Bible education.

What is Hermeneutics? “Hermeneutics is the science and art by which the meaning of the biblical text is determined.”(Basic Bible Interpretation; Roy Zuck, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1991)  There are some basic rules for interpreting the Bible. Each of the points given below can be expanded upon, but for now will be briefly explained.

  1. Literal Interpretation. The Bible can be taken at face value. If the Bible says it, than it is that way and it is so. Charles Ryrie uses the term Plain Interpretation, that is what the scriptures says, it means. There are no hidden meanings or codes.  Dr. David L. Cooper stated, “When the plain sense of scripture makes common sense,seek no other sense, but take every word at is primary and literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context clearly indicate otherwise.”(How To Study The Bible For Yourself, Tim LaHaye, Harvest House Publishing, 1976)

  1. No Private Interpretation. The Bible tells us the scriptures are not of any private interpretation. So the interpretation is universal, and means only one thing. However we may apply that meaning in several ways to our lives. One interpretation, but multiple application.

  1. Compare scripture with Scripture. When a teaching is identified or a doctrine is revealed note whether it is a singular occurrence or a repeated theme. The best commentary on scripture is scripture itself. We cannot expect to understand scripture without comparing it with other portions of scripture. The Bible never contradicts itself, it is always complimentary.

  1. Context. When reading the Scriptures make sure that you identify the context. Taking things out of context is a sure way for a false teaching to begin. Sometimes it happens by accident, that is why it is important be diligent in studying. There are a variety of contexts that must be considered scriptural, historical, cultural, grammatical, and dispensational.

  1. Linguistic difficulties. Because the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, and has been translated to many different languages it is wise to identify phrases that seem difficult. Commentaries can be helpful in identifying literary styles.There are  a variety of things to to watch for such as definitions, idioms, metaphors, similes, anthropomorphism, hyperbole, and analogy.

  1. Parables. Parables must be treated differently, because they are a narrative within a narrative.

 

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Reasoning!

Biblical teaching today suffers from many maladies. Not the least of which is a fundamental failure to accurately teach the text of scriptures.

It is my desire to accurately teach the Scriptures so as to build confidence in the Word of God, and to strengthen believers, and to reason with the gainsayers(skeptics).

God’s Word is sufficient for all of life’s spiritual needs, and gives us insight in how to live our daily lives in a way that is just, equitable, and ethical. There is no other book in the history of man that makes the claims that the Scriptures make.

There are just two choices, either the Word of God is all that it claims and we can have supreme confidence in its sole author. This choice leads to hope. Or, the Word of God is a fake, and fraudulent which then leaves us in a state of utter hopelessness.

Your choice, but choose wisely!

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