For What "Good" Is God Working All Things Together?

by Jeremiah Johnson at GTY.org

Here’s one example—a devotional reading from Joel Osteen. Romans 8:28 appears to be one of the prosperity preacher’s favorite verses—this is just one of the many entries he’s written on it, titled “When Life Isn’t Fair.”

Everyone goes through things that don’t seem to make sense. It’s easy to get discouraged and wonder, “Why did this happen to me?” “Why did this person treat me wrong?” “Why did I get laid off?” But we have to understand, even though life is not always fair, God is fair. And, He promises to work all things together for good for those who love Him.

I believe the key word is this verse is “together.” In other words, you can’t just isolate one part of your life and say, “Well, this is not good.” “It’s not good that I got laid off.” “It’s not good that my relationship didn’t work out.” Yes, that’s true, but that’s just one part of your life. God can see the big picture. That disappointment is not the end. Remember, when one door closes, God has another door for you to walk through—a better door. Those difficulties and challenges are merely stepping stones toward your brighter future. Be encouraged today because God has a plan for you to rise higher. He has a plan for you to come out stronger. He has a plan to work all things together for your good so that you can move forward in the victory He has prepared for you! [1]

With some variation, that represents many believers’ general understanding of what Paul meant in Romans 8:28—“Don’t let life get you down. God’s going to make everything better!”

Of course that oversimplification goes beyond the original intent of Paul’s words. There’s no biblical basis for Osteen’s promise that God always has a better door for us to walk through. In fact, His Word promises that life won’t always be happy, rich, and full—sometimes we’re meant to suffer (1 Peter 4:12).

It’s in the midst of that suffering that Romans 8:28 is most often deployed. We want to trust that God is working, even through our trials, to bring about His will. And there’s plenty of biblical evidence to back up that hope. The story of Joseph in the Old Testament is one of the clearest examples.

Joseph was severely beaten and sold into slavery by his brothers. He endured the illicit advances of his boss’ wife, and was thrown into prison after she made false accusations against him. He lingered in prison for years before he was released and brought in to council Pharaoh himself. He was given a position of leadership, in which the Lord used him to spare Egypt and countless surrounding communities—including his own family—from famine. At the end of his story, as he reconciles with the brothers who kick-started all his suffering, he acknowledges God’s sovereign hand working through it all: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but  God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).

Stories like Joseph’s give us confidence that God is always working behind the scenes to bring about His will. But He might not have such monumental purposes for our suffering. Sometimes it’s simply for our own spiritual growth that the Lord allows us to suffer through trials (James 1:2). The Spirit’s refining, sanctifying work is often painful, but the spiritual fruit it bears is well worth the struggle.

In his commentary on Romans, John MacArthur explains that God is working out

our good during this present life as well as ultimately in the life to come. No matter what happens in our lives as His children, the providence of God uses it for our temporal as well as our eternal benefit, sometimes by saving us from tragedies and sometimes by sending us through them in order to draw us closer to Him. [2]

A Certain Eternity

In the immediate context of Romans 8, Paul is not dwelling on our current suffering, but looking forward to eternity. In verse 18, he mentions the “sufferings of this present time,” but only to say that they cannot compare to “the glory that is to be revealed to us.” From there he explains how creation groans to be free from the curse of sin (Romans 8:19-22), and how believers likewise long to see the fulfillment of their faith (vv. 23-25). Then he describes how the Spirit intercedes on our behalf according to God’s eternal purposes (vv. 26-27).

The theme continues in the verses immediately following:

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)

In the context of the believer’s eternal glorification, we need to understand the “purpose” for which God is working all things together as not merely our temporal good, but our eternal good. In that sense, Romans 8:28 isn’t merely a promise that God is watching out for us in this life; it’s a guarantee that He is working out all aspects of our lives toward His ultimate goal of our future glorification. It’s a promise that our eternity with Him is secure.

In a sermon on this passage called “Groanings Too Deep for Words,” John MacArthur explains that powerful promise this way:

The point is this: Because of the plan of God and the provision of Christ and the protection of the Holy Spirit through His intercessory ministry, God is causing all things to work together for our final, eternal, ultimate good. Not everything in this life works out for good—far from it. Oh, you might draw a good lesson from it. You might draw a good outcome from it. You might be drawn to the Lord. It might increase your prayer life. It might strengthen you. It might give you patience. It might perfect you, mature you. It might make you able to counsel other people and strengthen them because . . . you’ve been comforted by God in the same struggles.

All of those are wonderful realities, but that’s not the good that’s being spoken of here. The good that dominates this passage is that ultimate, final good that is the glorification of true believers. We are secured to that final good, that which is the best.

In His providence, God is sovereignly orchestrating all events according to His will, for His glory and our good. But we’re not guaranteed that all our struggles will be turned into blessing. Sometimes He will rescue us from tragedies; other times it’s our suffering that brings about His desired result. Our perspective on His sovereign goodness cannot be bound to our own circumstances—if Joseph had remained in the Egyptian jail for the rest of His life, would God be any less good, or His will less than perfect?

What we are guaranteed in Romans 8:28 is that regardless of what we have to endure in this life, our eternity with Him is unassailable. Nothing can stand in the way of His plans for our future glorification.

And in the midst of life’s struggles, what better promise could we cling to?

Eisegesis Unplugged – Deuteronomy 8:18

Eisegesis is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text.

18”You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. “ Deut 8:18

This passage has been frequently used to teach us that God gives to all of us who profess to be his children power to become materially wealthy and prosperous. In fact, I recently came across a Facebook post (actually it ‘magically’ appeared in my FB newsfeed) in which a lady used the passage to tell us that the Bible actually teaches that principle. We can take our lives to the next level in terms of breakthroughs in business and financial wealth and she can teach us how to apply it.

But is that what this passage is teaching? Let’s put it back into context and see for ourselves.

11 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20 Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.” Deut 8:11-19.

God is clearly speaking directly to the children of Israel concerning his having delivered them from bondage in Egypt. They are being warned against taking any credit for their deliverance and prosperity (wealth), but that their ‘wealth’ was a result of God’s hand, not theirs. The use of the term ‘wealth’ refers to their much-improved condition. One notable commentary (Adam Clarke) offers this meaning:

Who among the rich and wealthy believes this saying? Who gives wisdom, understanding, skill, bodily strength, and health? Is it not God? And without these, how can wealth be acquired? Whose is providence? Who gives fertility to the earth? And who brings every proper purpose to a right issue? Is it not God? And without these also can wealth be acquired? No. Then the proposition in the text is self-evident: it is God that giveth power to get wealth, and to God the wealthy man must account for the manner in which he has expended the riches which God hath given him.

While many other commentaries agree, but all it takes to discover the meaning of this passage is to read it in context.

God was not giving his children a formula for success, but merely reminding them that their successful escape from bondage and circumstances after their release were a result of his hand and power, not theirs. Deuteronomy, Chapter 8 is admonition to his children to never forget God and a warning against pride.

So What?

Why does all of this matter? I can answer that. It matters because when we become believers in Christ we still have sinful hearts. In fact, Janes 2:2 tells us we sin when we are drawn away (tempted) by our own sinful passions. False teaching that appeals to our ‘sin hangover’ can result in our straying from the path of self-denial we are called to by our Lord and a return to the same focus on personal material gain we were in bondage to as unbelievers. Because we are prone to become prideful and put God on the back burner, we need to be reminded of who is really in charge.

And remember, the first three rules of proper biblical interpretation are:

CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT

How Do I Meditate on The Word Of God?

by Jack Wellman

How do we meditate on the Word of God?  The Bible instructs Christians to meditate on the Word but how are we supposed to meditate on the Word of God and what does it mean to meditate?

A Secular Definition of Meditation

When you look in the dictionary and see what the word meditate means, you can get dozens of differing definitions. I will try to give a general definition based upon what most people think meditation is and then what God means by His command to have us meditate on the Word of God.  Most dictionaries define meditation as:  Intentional contemplation on the author’s work with the express purpose of  reflecting upon it, contemplative thinking, the revolving of a subject in the mind or a self-directed practice of calming the mind and body.

Other definitions are a clearing of the mind, an emptying of thoughts, having a mind that is open.  The thing that I don’t like about this kind of meditation is that a clear, open mind is one that is subject to spiritual attack or evil influence from demons or wicked spirits.  The problem with an open mind is that it often needs to be closed down for repairs!   What is called Transcendental Meditation for example is a technique that is derived from Hindu traditions that promote deep relaxation through the use of a mantra. However a mantra’s different for differing belief systems like Buddhism, Hinduism, and New Age ideas and so its definition depends upon the group’s beliefs and is dependent upon the context of it.   Some of this is practiced even in the work place, at Yoga classes, and in many Eastern religions.  This is not what the Bible means by meditating on the Word of God.

Meditating on the Word

Our church elder said that meditating on the Word of God is a lost art in the church today. He is absolutely right.  We lose out on so much when we simply read over the Word and don’t meditate on it. Part of what the Psalmist says where we are to “hide your Word” in our heart is simply meditating on it.  Yes, memorizing Scripture may be part of this hiding the Word, but there is so much power even in one verse…in one word…that we don’t tap that power when we read right past it.  The Scriptures often tell us to do this both day and night and so you can never meditate on it if you are not reading it…both day and night.

Benefits of Meditating on the Word

Here are a few verses that tell us that we should meditate on the Word of God, why we should meditate on it and what the benefits are:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Joshua 1:8

If we meditate on God’s Law, and I don’t mean the Mosaic Law, then we will “be careful to do all that is written in it.” You can’t obey what you do not know.  And God promises to “make your way prosperous” and you’ll have “good success” if you meditate on it.  Meditating and memorizing Scripture is like “hiding His Word” in your heart.  When you are tempted, you can more easily resist sinning because you already know the precepts, statues, and Laws of God.

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97

We will love the law of God only if we meditate on its meaning.  It is not so much “don’t do this” but “do this and suffer” and “don’t do this and prosper.” God doesn’t want us to hurt ourselves or others and that is why we must love His law and meditate on it.   God loves His own law so much that the biggest chapter in the Bible is dedicated to the law in Psalm 119; it must be of high importance to God.  If it is that important to God (and it is) then it must be for us as well.

May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.” Psalm 104:34

God is well pleased when we meditate on His divine Word.  The Psalmist wrote that rejoicing in the Lord is tied to meditating on His Word.  Imagine you get a letter from your loved one.  You have been separated from him or her for a long time.  You love re-reading it…reflecting on the words, and so you will rejoice in this letter and your loved one and you will meditate on certain lines, would you not?  The same applies to God’s Word.  It is the greatest love letter ever written!

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” Psalm 119:15

I love this verse.  Here the writer is fixing his eyes on God’s ways.  He is meditating on the precepts of God for they are always true, faithful, and good.  To “fix” your eyes is to meditate on specific things and these things (like precepts) are in the written Word of God.  Try fixing your eyes on one verse today.  You’ll be amazed at how the Holy Spirit will enlighten your mind to it.

My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.Psalm 49:3

Here is a cause and effect verse.  Our mouth can speak wisdom only because the meditation of our hearts on His Word gives us understanding.  This is not a subjective, human wisdom but the wisdom of God Himself because when our hearts mediate on His truth (which is objective), what we say will be wise because it is the wisdom of God.  By the way, the seat of the intellect in the Jewish idiom is the “heart” and so when you read the word heart, you can understand that it is talking about the mind.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

Although Paul didn’t use the word “meditate”, the intent is the same thing when he said to “think about these things.”  When we think on “these things” we are pondering them, we are reflecting on them, and we are contemplating (meditating) on them.

My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.” Psalm 119:148

Many of the strongest Christians have the most worn out Bibles and you have probably heard that a Christian whose Bible is coming apart has it most together.  This verse speaks of meditating on the Word before “the watches of the night” or late at night, perhaps before bedtime.  They are meditating on God’s promises and that helps to keep a believer’s hope strong.  His promises are all revealed in Scripture and what better thing to meditate on than those promises which are sure, true, and can not be broken.

Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes.” Psalm 119:24

clip_image002The writer here ties together our ability to not be discouraged or fearful even while our enemies are plotting against us.  How many times have we laid awake at night, unable to sleep or “turn it off“, worrying about our problems (even if they are people)?  We can sleep in peace by meditating on the Word before we go to bed.  I have known fewer solutions to my sleeplessness than to open the Bible and read His Word for I realize that even that bad things will work out for my best (Romans 8:28).  That is another of God’s promises.

Conclusion

We have read from Scripture that there is so much good that can come from meditating on the Word of God.  The shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).  I tried to meditate on this shortest of verses and found it to be one of the most powerful verses in the entire Bible.  I thought of why Jesus wept, what He was weeping for, who He was weeping over, and how He showed such depth of emotion in His love.  By asking who, what, why, where, when, and how over a single verse, the Holy Spirit can speak to us through the written Word because the Holy Spirit is the Author of the Word (2 Peter 1:21).  I thought of His humanity, the suffering that He saw, the lost sheep of Israel who would have nothing to do with Him, the depravity of mankind, the compassion that He had.  What must Jesus have been thinking (meditating) on when He wept?

It must grieve the heart of God to know that many will be called but few will be chosen.  Many have heard of Jesus but few will trust in Him.  The path to destruction is broad but the way of life is narrow and winding and few are they that find it.  That makes me want to weep too.  For all those who refuse to believe, those who will not come to saving faith, I meditate on their eternal, future fate.  That makes me want to share the gospel all the more.  I want to be about my Father’s business in rescuing the perishing.  The Bible is full of God’s desire that no one will perish (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4, Ezekiel 18:23).  Meditate on what breaks God’s heart and your heart will be broken too.  Meditate on the Word of God and you will hide it in your heart (memorize it).  Then you will have the Word in you to be able to resist when temptation comes.  You can meditate on God’s desire to save those who are headed for the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 21).

This week, choose one verse to meditate on.  I choose John 11:35 (“Jesus wept“).  I wanted to align my heart with Jesus’ heart.  Take one line from the Word of God and memorize it, think about it, ponder it, reflect upon it, and then God “will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8).  That is a promise from God.  There is nothing more certain in all the universe than a promise of God.  Just meditate on that for a while.

Other Men’s Brains

“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. – 2 Peter 1:19-20 (Emphasis mine)

The above passages can refer to the words of the Prophet of God not being of his own invention, or that the interpretation of Scripture is not just a matter of one’s own imaginings. These words are also not saying individuals aren’t to read and study the Bible for themselves but instead rely on an special ‘Church’ body to tell them what it means. We are all exhorted to ‘study to show ourselves approved’ (2 Tim 2:15)

I clearly remember a time when we frequently attended small group Bible studies in which we all sat around the table or living room, read scripture and then shared what each of us thought the passages meant, as if each one of us had great personal insight. Rather than carefully study the Bible for what it actually was saying in the context in which it was written and the context of the Bible itself, we would congratulate ourselves for whatever the little voices in our heads was telling us.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with reading and studying the Bible for ourselves. When we engage in personal Bible study however, we need to follow certain rules of proper interpretation, the first three of which are context, context, CONTEXT.

At the same time, we can also avail ourselves of what other men have thought and written over time. It’s not that the minds of other men are always spot on about everything, but they can be quite useful as we strive to know God more fully.

Food for thought on a Saturday morning. A certain preacher once said:

“Give yourself unto reading. The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. You need to read.” – Charles Spurgeon

So study on my friends, knowing the Holy Spirit is our ultimate teacher, and that ‘old dead men’ (tribute to my friend Ed) also have a lot to say to us!

God Speaks to Me, but Not Like He Speaks to Priscilla Shirer

God speaks to me through the written Word. He speaks through the words on the pages and the illumination by the Holy Spirit of that same written word.

God speaks directly to Priscilla Shirer, with personal messages and revelations; not just via ‘someone else’s hand-me-downs’ (her words about the written word).

Apparently I’m just not tuned in to God’s ‘personal’ frequency. It’s not that God doesn’t want me to have this personal communication; I’m just not tuned in. Ms. Shirer (and others I have heard about, listened to and read) has evidently reached a higher level of spiritually than this old guy.

I have come to a decision point. I need to either take steps to reach the higher level of spirituality so I too can experience the ‘relational’ presence of God (I heard a Chaplain use that term recently), or remain at my current level of spiritual growth.

In support of pursuing a higher level of spiritually, I guess I’m fortunate. I’ve recently listened to several messages on Sunday mornings in which the speaker has taught us that if we begin each day sitting quietly with pen and journal, listening for God’s voice, we can eventually get the hang of it. At first we are to just write down what the ‘voices’ we hear say to us and eventually we will be able to isolate God’s voice and only need to write down what He says. Since our teacher used the same ‘frequency’ terminology as Ms. Shirer, it must be true! Doesn’t it say somewhere in the Bible that whenever two or more believers agree on a thing, it’s true?

On the other hand, I can maintain my current habit of beginning the day prayerfully reading God’s Word and know that I am hearing God speak to me as I read. I can also continue spending time in inductive Bible study, on merely a personal level and in preparation for Sunday School at the Chapel I attend.

But, according to Ms. Shirer (and others) I could be having an even deeper and more meaningful ‘relational’ experience with God if I can tune into God’s special frequency for ‘direct’ communication!

What to do………what to do?

Eisegesis Unplugged – Track #23

Exegesis and eisegesis are two conflicting approaches in Bible study. Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.

The opposite approach to Scripture is eisegesis, which is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading. The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.

Obviously, only exegesis does justice to the text. Eisegesis is a mishandling of the text and often leads to a misinterpretation. Exegesis is concerned with discovering the true meaning of the text, respecting its grammar, syntax, and setting. Eisegesis is concerned only with making a point, even at the expense of the meaning of words.

The Passage

“Where there is no vision, the people perish." (Proverbs 29:18, KJV)

This short passage is often used to promote the need for either a special vision for a church or a personal vision for an individual believer’s life. In fact, just a few days ago I heard it used in a sermon concerning the second reason – the need for ‘personal’ vision.

Specific questions were asked by the Pastor preaching the sermon. “Do you have a ‘vision’ to be healthier, be in better shape physically, have a better job or marriage, enjoy material prosperity & be debt free, or have godly children?” These are all things God wants for us, and if you don’t have a corresponding personal vision, you just miss out!

The Pastor’s prime example of a fulfilled personal vision was Walt Disney and his grand vision for Disneyland. We all know how that turned out! But is a need for personal vision what our passage is actually teaching? Let’s take a look. Here it is again, but this time the entire verse:

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (KJV)

The first thing we notice is that there is more to it than perishing for lack of a vision. We have a small ‘but’ that connects ‘vision’ with obedience to God’s law. You might be asking: “Can’t it still be about having a personal vision for one’s life?” Let’s look again, specifically about the meaning of ‘vision’. A few other translations will be helpful.

“Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.” (NIV)
“When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful.” (NLT)
“Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” (ESV)

“Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.” (NASB)

Now for a few commentaries on the use of ‘vision’ in our passage:

“no vision —no instruction in God’s truth, which was by prophets, through visions (JFB)

“No vision – No prophecy; no public preaching of God’s word.” (Wesley’s Commentary)

“Vision – The word commonly used of the revelation of God’s will made to prophets.” (Albert Barnes)

If we are to trust the additional translations of the entire passage, as well as the commentaries, it seems that our passage has absolutely nothing to do with specific visions for an individual church or individual believers! Rather, it’s all about the lack of sound Biblical teaching, specifically from the Old Testament Prophets. If we can correlate that to today, it would refer primarily to sound Biblical preaching and teaching from gifted pastors and teachers, and even from believers reading and studying the Bible for themselves.

The New Living Translation expresses the thought of the original

“When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful.” (NLT)

Once again, when we take a closer look at a familiar and often misused passage of scripture, we find that it doesn’t mean what we want it to mean. Here’s a bit of food for thought. Is misusing scripture, even somewhat harmlessly, something we as believers ought to be doing?

Food for thought . . . J

The Word of The Cross

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. “1 Corinthians 1:18

The question this passage begs is this:

WHY is the cross  foolishness to the perishing but the power of God to those who are being saved?

Three reasons are contained in the following passages. I’m challenging anyone to read them and give us the reasons. Let’s discuss.

John 3:19

Romans 8:7

2 Corinthians 4:4

Young Earth Creationism, Faith, and a Few Random Thoughts

The teaching of young earth creationism (YEC) to Christian kids in homeschooled environments causes many of them to doubt or lose their faith, especially if YEC is taught as being foundational to our faith. The blog posited that YEC was taught as a primary ‘salvation’ issue – that Heaven or Hell depends on it.

That was the major theme of a ‘Christian’ blog post I found recently. I actually joined the discussion. I learned some amazing things!

Part of the initial post discussed a research project in 1997 that was conducted by a half dozen PhDs of various sorts to study the age of the earth. It seems they were proponents of YEC and resourced other YEC proponents in their study. Because they didn’t use resources ‘outside’ the YEC camp, their work was just a lot of circular reasoning. That caused a young lady to begin to doubt her faith and she has never recovered.

There were other accounts in the comments section saying the same thing; that the teaching of YEC cause some to doubt/lose their faith, nearly all because of having been taught in a homeschooled environment that believing in YEC was a salvation/gospel issue, as if one could lose his/her faith if they didn’t believe in YEC. .

While I can understand why exposure to ‘Evolution as fact’ in school/college venues might cause some doubt (and it does), I couldn’t understand why exposure to YEC would cause anyone to doubt their faith. At the same time, I assumed that the subject of young people doubting/losing their faith might be an important one to address in response.

Therefore, I initially responded that I didn’t think that genuine faith would never tossed out the window, that one having doubts would not completely abandon their faith; because it was a gift from God and whom God saves He keeps by his power. That was considered off topic and one of those nasty Calvinism things.

I decided to bring it down a level and suggest that there might be an issue of not being solidly grounded in the faith once professed for these young people who doubt/abandon their faith. That lack of grounding. might come from a lack of individual Bible reading/study, or having sat under good Bible teaching. Well, That idea completely flabbergasted the site host, who thought the things I was suggesting as causes for doubting one’s faith were ‘works-based’ It took awhile to process that one! How else do we become stronger in our faith without being immersed in sound Biblically teaching?

After a couple more back-and-forth exchanges I think I finally got it – the prevailing ‘theology’ of the majority of this particular group of bloggers. They seem to be into the ‘just me and Jesus – don’t really need anything else’ demographic that is rather large these days. We just need our ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus and we can dispense with old dead guys/creeds/ and the foundational truths that we’ve been told are significant for our spiritual growth and maturity. Focusing on our ‘relationship’ is not works based like studying the Bible and therefore it’s the ‘relationship’ that’s ‘ real faith.

I never did get to the point of suggesting that I don’t know of any advocates of young earth creationism that would tell anyone that their very salvation depended on believing in a young earth, including the founders of Answers In Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research. What I did suggest, to no avail, was that the bigger issue at stake is the inerrancy and authority of scripture, and that the young v. old earth debate really points to that bigger issue. I did that while presenting the main issues that were addressed during the rise of the fundamentalist movement in America in the early 20th century, which had already been soundly bashed (fundamentalisms). That didn’t go well, maybe because believing in a young earth as essential for salvation wasn’t on the list.

So here I sit on a Sunday morning, still wondering just how far the ‘me and Jesus’ mantra has spread and just how badly young believers today have been deceived by other ‘Christians’ and are victims of very real ‘spiritual abuse’. How does any believer end up in the ‘me and Jesus is all we need’ camp? Maybe I’m just getting old, but for a lot of years now, my ‘relationship’ with my Savior has deepened through being immersed in His written word, and just believing it’s true going in. There are other things that have also helped deepen the relationship – studying church history and the creeds and thoughts of dead guys (and some living), but those are only secondary to being personally immersed in the written word.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Tim 3:16-17

If I don’t believe in the inspiration, inerrancy and authority of scripture, I might as well toss my faith out the door. Wasn’t the first lie that the serpent told Eve “Did God really say……?”

So much for Sunday morning thoughts. This was more for my own clarity than trying to actually teach anyone anything. I had to wade through over a hundred comments that were all over the map, but mostly bashing fundamentalism, homeschooling, John Calvin and anyone who says that that when and how God created our planet impacts our ‘salvation theology’ (although they wouldn’t use the word ‘theology’ – too many syllables and who needs it?)

Thanks for being patient in reading my ramblings. If you have any thoughts, please share. If you are reading and from the above referenced blog site, feel free to share, but not if you are just importing your ‘bashing’. Intelligent, thoughtful discussion is always welcome here.

Eisegesis Unplugged – Track #21

Exegesis and eisegesis are two conflicting approaches in Bible study. Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.

The opposite approach to Scripture is eisegesis, which is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading. The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.

Obviously, only exegesis does justice to the text. Eisegesis is a mishandling of the text and often leads to a misinterpretation. Exegesis is concerned with discovering the true meaning of the text, respecting its grammar, syntax, and setting. Eisegesis is concerned only with making a point, even at the expense of the meaning of words.

The Passage

test everything; hold fast what is good." (1 Thessalonians 5:21 )

In recent weeks, in a ‘bologospheric’ encounter concerning a current issue in the church, I was told that the above passage authorizes, if not commands believers to examine everything going on in the church and expose all of the ‘dirt’ we find using whatever means we have, including the blogosphere.

While the ‘current issue’ being discussed is very real and the need for justice great, it’s not the issue of this little article, nor will it be named. Rather, we need to find out exactly what the above passage really says about testing/proving things. For that, we need to look at the context.

First of all, our ‘out of context’ passage is part of a larger thought beginning in verse 20:

20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything (prove all things-KJV); hold fast what is good.” (ESV)

Sometimes the chapter and verse numbers men inserted into the text(s) hinder the best understanding of passages in the Bible. This might be one of those times. If we take out the verse numbers, we are left with:

“Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.”

Note that we are talking specifically about ‘prophecies’ (and not to despise them), then told to test ‘everything’. To what does ‘everything’ refer?

From a couple of good commentaries concerning ‘prophecies’:

“…the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the first coming of Christ, concerning his person, office, and work, his obedience, sufferings, and death, his resurrection from the dead, ascension and session at God’s right hand…there are many prophecies which regard things to be done, and yet to be done under the Gospel dispensation, …also the predictions of Christ concerning his own sufferings and death, and resurrection from the dead,… the prophecies of private men, such as Agabus, and others, in the apostle’s time… the explanation of Scripture, and the preaching of the word”[i]

“…whether exercised in inspired teaching, or in predicting the future. "Despised" by some as beneath "tongues," which seemed most miraculous…”[ii]

The above interpretations are just a few of the many similar commentary notes concerning our passage that clearly limit ‘prophesies’ to biblical topics and spiritual matters. Therefore , the ‘everything’ following the ‘but’ is contextually limited to biblical topics and spiritual matters.

But what if we remove the ‘but’? Would that change the interpretation of ‘everything’?

We offer that it probably doesn’t change the intended meaning, and here’s why. The letter was written by Paul to believers in the Thessalonian church, sometime after he and Silas had spent some time there, in order to encourage them to spiritual growth/sanctification, address some eschatological issues, and how to properly respond to ‘prophesies’.

Also, if we look at the post-resurrection NT letters and writings for other examples of ‘testing’/’proving’ things, they seem to always concern biblically discerning the truthfulness and trustworthiness of what we are being taught by spiritual leaders. Perhaps the best example is the account of Berean believers examining the teachings of the Apostle Paul under the light of Scripture that was available to them (See Acts 17). A secondary purpose of examining what we are being taught is being able to identify wolves hanging out in the sheep pens.

Conclusion

Whatever ‘test everything’ means, it is NOT a directive to believers to air the ‘dirty laundry of the church’ in the public square. Our chief role in the public square is to present the crucified and resurrected Christ as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of men. As for ‘doing our laundry’, we have sufficient guidance for that also within the pages of Scripture. That however, is a discussion all its own.


[i] John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible Commentary

[ii] Commentary, Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Jamison, Fausset and Brown