Helpful Article: Tim Challies on Inerrancy of Scripture

Recently on Facebook had a minor discussion on the inerrancy of Scripture.  While contemplating putting together a more thoughtful musing on the subject I ran across a reprint of a Tim Challies article on the inerrancy of scripture.  Hope you read it and find it helpful. 

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The Inerrancy of Scripture

by Tim Challies

The Inerrancy of Scripture 

http://www.challies.com/articles/the-inerrancy-of-scripture-part-1

http://www.challies.com/articles/the-inerrancy-of-scripture-part-2

http://www.challies.com/articles/the-inerrancy-of-scripture-part-3

Over the past couple of weeks, inerrancy has become a hot topic in the blogosphere. The interest was ignited, in part at least, by comments made by Michael Spencer (aka Internet Monk and proprietor of Boars Head Tavern). It is difficult to know exactly what Michael believes about inerrancy, and I suspect he is as much in the dark as the rest of us. Whether he dislikes only the term “inerrancy” or the underlying doctrine is difficult to discern, but I suspect both are true, at least to some extent. I had first intended to write this article last week and to make it a direct response to Michael. Family illness and work responsibilities have delayed this article, so that much of the storm has passed. I may direct some comments at Michael, but will largely refrain from writing about him in particular. I feel like a guy who shows up at the party just as everyone else is leaving, but I’ve always been more of a designated driver than a partier, so it may be best this way.

The doctrines regarding the Bible have been discussed and debated at length throughout the history of the church. At the time of the Reformation, the main thrust of the debate had to do with the Bible’s authority, and whether the Bible would be the sole ultimate authority over the lives of Christians over against popes, creeds, councils and the Catholic Church. In more recent days, the doctrine of the Bible’s inerrancy came under intense discussion and scrutiny. In response, several evangelical leaders, including Francis Schaeffer, J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, Roger Nicole and James Boice, created an organization called The International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. This organization had as its purpose “elucidating, vindicating and applying the doctrine of biblical inerrancy as an essential element for the authority of Scripture and a necessity for the health of the church of God” (James Boice, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace, page 68″). Three gatherings were held which produced three scholarly documents, the first of which was “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.” The second dealt with principles of biblical interpretation (hermeneutics) and the third with the application of Scripture.

In his book Scripture Alone, James White has a chapter entitled “Definitions: More Than Half The Battle.” He is absolutely right that properly defining terms is often more than half the battle. In reading Michael Spencer’s comments, as well as those of the other contributors to his sites, I quickly found that very few terms received any clear definitions. While a term like “inerrancy” has a consistent theological meaning, this does not indicate that every person who uses the word means the same thing by it, and that the person truly understands it. One of my reasons for not responding on Spencer’s sites was this just this: the terms were not defined so we may well have been comparing proverbial apples and oranges. I will suggest an appropriate definition of inerrancy shortly.

I found also that the issues at stake go far deeper than merely the inerrancy of Scripture. They extended to areas such as the canon of Scripture, the authority of Scripture and the inspiration of Scripture. Perhaps this is because, although inerrancy stands on its own biblical merits, it is also a doctrine constructed from other doctrines. While the Bible contains many passages that prove it true, it is also true that it follows logically from other doctrines of Scripture. So before we can approach inerrancy, I believe we need to step back and examine aspects of these other doctrines.

Authority

When we examine the Bible’s authority, we must begin by answering the question of, “What does the Bible say about itself?”. We find throughout Scripture that the Bible claims for itself a position of unique and supreme authority. In doing so it appeals only to its own authority for proof because there is no greater authority to which it can appeal. After all, if something is the ultimate authority, to what else can it appeal? Were the Bible to appeal to our reason to substantiate its authority, it would implicitly show that human reason is a higher authority. In one of Spencer’s articles I found cause for concern when he expressed one of his main disagreements with inerrancy is that it did not “feel right.” “My problems with inerrancy have been going on for a very long time, and I’ve heard it presented and taught by the best. It’s never sat well with me, probably because I have a lot of literary interest in the text of scripture, plus I don’t like to be bullied. I get a rash.” But as I indicated, the Bible does not appeal to our feelings or our reason for its authority.

We can define the doctrine of Scripture’s authority as follows: “The authority of Scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, page 73). I do not know of any Christians who claim that they have the right to disbelieve or disobey what God has taught in Scripture. They may do this in their lives (and we all do, at times) but I do not know of any who believe Scripture gives us such license. This doctrine forms the basis of apologetics, for we can only appeal to the Scripture when we trust its authority.

Inspiration

Closely related to the authority of Scripture is the inspiration of Scripture. Inspiration tells us how the Bible was transmitted from God to men. We find that the Bible draws its authority and inerrancy from the indisputible fact that it is inspired by God. The Bible teaches that “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). The words the ESV translated as “breathed out by God” are also translated “inspired” and this is the basis of inspiration. This is explained further by the apostle Peter who writes, “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20,21). The Holy Spirit was actively involved in bringing God’s words to humans. The actual form this inspiration took is much disputed. We know from reading the Scripture and observing the different styles of writing and differing levels of expertise in writing, that God did not merely use men as automatons. If He had done this, we would expect to find a consistent writing style throughout. Somehow God used the specific skills, backgrounds and situations of the authors to transmit His words. Zechariah 7:12 sheds light on this. “…lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets.” We see that the ministry of the Holy Spirit extended to the whole and to the individual parts (…the words that the Lord of hosts…).

What Scripture Says

If it was God who inspired men to write the Bible, what does that teach us about Scripture? Is it possible that Scripture, as it was given from God to men, can be anything less than perfect? Would God lie? Would He write in only half-truths? The Bible tells us otherwise:

2 Samuel 7:28 – “And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant.”

Numbers 23:9 – “God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

Psalm 12:6 – The words of the Lord are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.

Proverbs 30:5 – Every word of God proves true;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

We find a consistent Scriptural witness that God does not lie, for He is incapable of telling falsehood. The men who wrote God’s words, had supreme confidence in the rest of His words. If God is incapable of telling a lie, it stands that the words He spoke to those who wrote the words of Scripture must also be perfectly true. At this point, I trust we have sufficient Scriptural basis to conclude that Scripture is authoritative and that the words given by God to men were without error. But how can we know that the words we have today accurately represent those words?

Canon

Many people do not understand the concept of canon. There seems to be a misconception that when the Bible was compiled as one book made of many different books and letters, people were engaged in gathering together some writings attributed to God and publishing them in one volume, much as one might do with the writings of a favorite poem or playwrite. But this is not how the canon came together. The Bible is more than a “best of” compilation of God’s writings.

The term “canon” originally referred to a stick which was used for measurement. It later came to describe a standard or rule. By extension, it came to describe an authoritative list of something. In the case of Scripture, it speaks of the authoritative list of God’s writings, yet it is more than a mere table of contents. It refers to all the writings that were breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16). Thus without the act of inspiration, there could be no canon (James White, Scripture Alone, page 101).

As we have seen, canon refers to the entire body of an author’s work. Allow me to provide an example. If we look at the canon of a man like John Piper, we would say that it includes Desiring God, The Passion of Jesus Christ, Don’t Waste Your Life and so on, from the first book he wrote to the last. The canon of John Piper would only be complete when it included every word he had ever written. But who can infallibly know a person’s canon? In truth, only the author really knows what he or she has written. John Piper may have many books available to us, but who is to say that every word of his has been made available to us? Who is to say that he has not released other books under a pseudonym? Only he infallibly knows his canon. Similarly, it is only God who infallibly knows all He has written. The Scriptural evidence compels us to believe, then, that if we have the complete canon, God helped people find out what it includes. When the Bible was compiled into the book we know and love today, it represented every word God had ever written. So there is a sense in which the primary task of the men who compiled the Bible was to find the complete canon of God. The primary measure they used was whether a book was inspired by God.

This is a topic that could (and perhaps should) be covered at length, but I am not writing today to defend the canonicity of Scripture. As far as I can tell, most people who struggle with inerrancy, do not deny that the canon of Scripture represents God’s words to us.

Transmission

The final topic I will write about today is transmission which describes how the words of God were transmitted from the original documents to what we have today. This is a topic that can only be done justice in a much longer treatment, so allow me to merely point to some of the facts. We posess a wealth of biblical manuscripts in the original languages of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. John MacArthur writes, “With this wealth of biblical manuscripts in the original languages and with the disciplined activity of textual critics to establish with almost perfect accuracy the content of the autographs, any errors which have been introduced and/or perpetuated by the thousands of translations over the centuries can be identified and corrected by comparing the translation or copy with the reassembled original. By this providential means, God has made good His promise to preserve the Scriptures. We can rest assured that there are translations available today which indeed are worthy of the title, The Word of God” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Handbook, page xxii).

And Now…

Having begun to define terms and provide background to the study of inerrancy, I will turn at last to the doctrine tomorrow.

The Inerrancy of Scripture (Part 2)

Yesterday I began a short series on the inerrancy of Scripture. This series is an indirect response to the questions, concerns and doubts about inerrancy raised by Michael Spencer and affirmed by many others at his personal site and at Boars Head Tavern. One of my primary concerns was that there was so much discussion based on so few concrete definitions. When I began to tackle this doctrine, I found that the doctrines of Scripture cannot be neatly seperated, one from the other, for they are intertwined and interrelated. So in the first article I wrote about inspiration, canon, transmission and authority. Today I will turn to inerrancy, first explaining what it is not and then providing a working definition.

What Inerrancy Is Not

I find it is often useful to define what a term does not mean before I learn what it does mean, and I will do that with inerrancy. So let’s look at a few examples of what inerrancy does not entail. I should note that there is no authoritative body to which we can appeal to define what inerrancy means, for it is not a term that is defined in Scripture. Thus I am presenting information consistent with the way it has been defined by scholars who have pursued the study of this doctrine over the past century.

First, inerrancy does not preclude the use of ordinary language. A clear example of this in the Bible is where it speaks of the sun rising. We know that the sun does not rise at all but that the earth rotates to bring the sun into view. However, we can be consistent in our belief in the inerrancy of Scripture despite this type of ordinary, human, geo-centric language.

Another way this happens in the Bible is with the use of numbers. Allow me to provide an example. A few weeks ago a friend was given some tickets to see the Toronto Rock, our local professional lacrosse team. Never having attended such a game before, I had no idea what to expect. I thoroughly enjoyed the sport and was amazed at how many people were there to cheer on the team. At some point there was an official announcement of that evening’s attendance and I made a rough mental note of it. Later, after I got home, my wife asked how many people were at the game and I told her “10,000.” Now the actual number may have been closer to 10,243 or 9,678, but yet I had not told her a lie. My wife was clearly not interested in an exact number, but rather a useful guage to know how many people attend such games.

In the same vein, consider measurements. As many of you know, I live in Toronto, Ontario and my family lives in Atlanta, Georgia. When I make the long drive to visit them, people sometimes ask me how long the journey takes and I tell them it takes me 15 hours. Or they may ask me what the distance is, and I’ll tell them 900 miles. In reality the drive time varies every time we do it based on traffic, weather, the behavior of children and so on, and the distance, according to Mapquest, is 931.96 miles. And while we are clarifying, both my parents and I live in suburbs of our respective cities and I have offered Toronto and Atlanta simply because people generally know the locations of big cities but not smaller towns and suburbs. But have I lied in any of this? Is any of this truly contrary to fact or have I been inerrant in what I have said? Here is the crux of the matter and this is particularly important to our discussion: Inerrancy speaks of truthfulness, not the degree of precision with which events are reported. When I say that I drive 15 hours and 900 miles to get from Toronto to Atlanta, I have not lied. I have been truthful, but not perfectly precise. This is consistent with inerrancy.

Second, inerrancy does not preclude the use of loose and free quotations. Wayne Grudem makes a critical distinction between our culture and the New Testament Greek culture when it came to reporting the words of another person. In our culture we consider it a terrible sin to misquote another person so that precision in quoting a person’s exact words is of tantamount importance. The Greek language, at the time the New Testament was written, had no quotation marks or similar construct. What was considered of utmost importance was to accurately represent the content of what a person said. There was no expectation that a writer needed to transcribe the speaker’s exact words when quoting him. Thus the Bible is inerrant if it accurately and truthfully describes the content of what a speaker said. Whether the actual words Jesus spoke are “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” or “I am The Truth, the Way and the Life,” the Bible is still inerrant in how it transcribed these words, for the content remains intact.

Third, the Bible can be inerrant even if it contains unusual grammatical constructions. It is commonly known that there are various writing skills represented in the Scripture. Some authors were stylistically excellent while others were much more rough and common in their style. Sometimes this means the writers did not follow the accepted rules of grammar or used stylistic irregularities. My Greek is not what it once was, but I believe these irregularities show up especially in Revelation. But once more, the issue of inerrancy is not precision but truthfulness.

A Working Definition

Now that we know what we should not expect in inerrancy, let’s attempt to define it. I was surprised to find, as I consulted many books on this issue, that very few clearly and concisely defined inerrancy. Most use the term, as Michael Spencer and others have, without defining it. For example, James Boice, in Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace writes several pages on the topic, but provides no definition. In Scripture Alone, James White refers to the Council on Biblical Inerrancy and the desire of the participants to create a “concise statement on the meaning and importance of inerrancy” (page 68). He turns to and provides commentary on the council’s definition, which may be precise by theological standards, but still extends to 24 articles. Nowhere does he provide a concise definition. Of the few definitions or attempts at definition that I found, Wayne Grudem’s seemed most clear. Here is a solid working definition of inerrancy: “The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, page 90). So what we affirm in this definition, is that a perfect God moved human authors, by His Spirit, to perfectly transcribe what He wanted to communicate. It is important to note that this definition does not apply to the transmission of Scripture through the ages and the translation into other languages. We affirm that only the original autographs are inerrant. This definition is based on the clear teaching of Scripture, several passages of which I presented yesterday, as well as the character of God. If God is unable to lie and if he inspired Scripture, it must have been completely consistent with fact at the moment of transcription.

Conclusion

At this point we have defined our terms and indicated what we mean and what we do not mean by inerrancy. Tomorrow, in what I anticipate will be the final installment in this series, we will turn to common objections and to the problems that may arise if this doctrine is denied.

The Inerrancy of Scripture (Part 3)

This is the third and final article in the series on Biblical Inerrancy. Yesterday we defined what inerrancy is not and then attempted to define the term. I suggested the following definition: The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact. Today we will look at some common objections to this doctrine as well as some problems that may arise if we deny it.

Objections

There are many objections that are commonly raised against inerrancy. For the sake of brevity I will address only the most common objections, and the ones I have encountered in recent discussions on this topic.

We Do Not Have The Original Manuscripts

The first objection has to do with the transmission of Scripture. Many people argue that since we no longer possess any of the original manuscripts, it is irresponsible to speak of inerrancy. What is the purpose in affirming an important doctrine based on documents we no longer have? I answered this, in part, in the first article of this series, when I quoted John MacArthur. “We posess a wealth of biblical manuscripts in the original languages of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. John MacArthur writes, “With this wealth of biblical manuscripts in the original languages and with the disciplined activity of textual critics to establish with almost perfect accuracy the content of the autographs, any errors which have been introduced and/or perpetuated by the thousands of translations over the centuries can be identified and corrected by comparing the translation or copy with the reassembled original. By this providential means, God has made good His promise to preserve the Scriptures. We can rest assured that there are translations available today which indeed are worthy of the title, The Word of God” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Handbook, page xxii). We can be certain that we have accurate copies of over 99% of the inerrant words as they were first transcribed. When we focus on the less than 1% of the text that contains errors, we must realize that these are human errors and that God is in no way responsible for them. The fact that there are some errors in Scripture as we have it today, does not negate inerrancy which speaks only of the original documents.

The Bible is Full of Errors and Contradictions

This is a common objection that has been levelled at the Bible too many times to count. It has been answered just as often. As often as not, this objection is made by people who really have no clear idea of where these errors can be found, as they are merely passing along what they have heard from others. For those who are honestly seeking information on the alleged contradictions, there is a wealth of resources available to prove that there are no errors or contradictions within the text of the Bible.

Many of the alleged errors within the Bible have to do with historical facts. Allow me to provide one example. Only a couple of generations ago, scholars pointed to the Bible’s claim that there was a king of Assyria named Tiglath-Pileser as an obvious error, for archaelogical evidence had not proven that any such king existed. But a few years later, archaeologists excavated Tiglath-Pileser’s capital city and found his name carved into bricks which read, “I, Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria…” It is a fact that “the results of sound scholarship have not tended to uncover more and more problems…Rather they have tended to resolve problems and to show that what were once thought to be errors are not errors at all” (James Boice, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace, page 70). R.C. Sproul writes, “The Christian has nothing to fear from rigorous historical research. Rather, we have everything to gain” (Reason to Believe, page 27).

Consider the following quote from Dr. William Foxwell Albright. “For much too long a time the course of New Testament scholarship has been dictated by theological, quasitheological, and philosophical presupposition. In far too many cases commentaries on New Testament books have neglected such basic requirements as up-to-date historical and philological analysis of the text itself…The result has often been steadfast refusal to take seriously the findings of archeological and linguistic research. We believe that there is less and less excuse for the resulting confusion in this latter half of the twentieth century. Closely allied with these presuppositions is the ever-present fog of existentialism, casting ghostly shadows over an already confused landscape. Existentialism as a method of interpreting the New Testament is based upon a whole series of undemonstrable postulates of Platonic, Neo-Platonic, leftwing scholastic, and relativistic origins. So anti-historical is this approach that it fascinates speculative minds which prefer cliches to factual data, and shifting ideology to empirical research and logical demonstrations” (emphasis mine). The Christian has nothing to fear from scholarship, science or archaeology.

Inerrancy is a Poor Term

Generally people who make this objection believe that inerrancy is too strong a term. They believe that such a word demands a type of scientific precision. And furthermore, they may claim that this term is not used in the Bible and was unknown through much of the history of the church.

To the first objection, I point again to the definition of inerrancy, and that it refers to truthfulness and not precision. The Bible claims to be perfect Truth, but nowhere does it claim to contain perfect precision. As we saw yesterday, the Bible may round numbers, speak in human terms and contain odd grammatical constructions and still be inerrant. In response to the second objection I would point to any number of terms we use that are foreign to Scripture. The word “Trinity” does not appear within the pages of Scripture, yet the doctrine of the Trinity is clearly affirmed in the Bible and the term is very useful in summarizing the doctrines of the persons of the Godhead. The doctrine of inerrancy is taught within the pages of the Bible as clearly as if the word “inerrancy” was used.

Proving Inerrancy is a Circular Argument

The fourth objection is that we can only prove Scripture’s inerrancy by circular argumentation. After all, we say that the Bible is inerrant because the Bible tells us it is inerrant. In Reason to Believe R.C. Sproul addresses circular argumentation in proving the Bible’s infallibility and we can extend this line of reasoning to inerrancy. Consider the following premises and the subsequent conclusion:

  • Premise A–The Bible is a basically reliable and trustworthy document.
  • Premise B–On the basis of this reliable document we have sufficient evidence to believe confidently that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
  • Premise C–Jesus Christ being the Son of God is an inerrant authority.
  • Premise D–Jesus Christ teaches that the Bible is more than generally trustworthy; it is the very Word of God.
  • Premise E–The word, in that it comes from God, is utterly trustworthy because God is utterly trustworthy.
  • Conclusion–On the basis of the inerrant authority of Jesus Christ, the church believes the Bible to be utterly trustworthy; i.e., inerrant.

Where this model of linear reasoning may break down, is that some of what we accept about the Bible we accept by faith. Faith does not render reason invalid, but the Holy Spirit helps us believe in what our sinful, human minds will not accept. Therefore, I do not believe that an unbeliever – one who does not have the Spirit’s help – can accept the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. But this line of reasoning ought to be sufficient for the believer. I trust that all Christians believe in the first premise, as even most non-Christians, who have made the effort, can see that the Bible is basically reliable and trustworthy. But what the unbeliever cannot do is accept that Jesus is the Son of God and that He is thus an inerrant authority.

Problems With Denying Inerrancy

Having answered some common objections, let’s move on to our final section, which is problems that may arise as a result of denying inerrancy.

First, if we deny inerrancy, we make God a liar. If there are errors in the original manuscripts, that were breathed out by God, one of two things must be true: either God purposely lied or he mistakenly lied. This indicates that God is capable of making errors or of producing errors. We might conclude from this that we are likewise able to intentionally lie, even if only in small matters.

Second, if we deny inerrancy we lose trust in God. If there are errors in Scripture, even if in the smallest detail, and these were placed there intentionally by God, how are we to maintain trust that He did not lie in other matters? When we lose trust in the Scriptures, we lose trust in God Himself and we may consequently lose our desire to be obedient to Him.

Third, if we deny the clear testimony of Scripture that it is inerrant, we make our minds a higher standard of Truth than the Bible. At the outset of this series I indicated a concern I felt towards those who deny inerrancy is when they indicate that the doctrine does not “feel right.” But nowhere does the Bible appeal to our feelings or our reason for its authority or inerrancy. We must submit to the Word, for it will not submit to us.

Fourth, if we deny inerrancy, and indicate that small details are incorrect, we cannot consistently argue that all the doctrine the Bible contains is correct. Admitting error in even the smallest historical detail is the thin edge of the wedge, for we then allow the possibility that there may be error in doctrine as well.

Conclusion

My intent for this series was to do two things. First, I wanted to define inerrancy and seperate it from the other doctrines of Scripture such as authority, inspiration and transmission. While the basic sense of the word “inerrancy” is clear, the theological meaning is not always as lucid. Second, I wanted to answer some objections to inerrancy and show why this is a critical doctrine and why it is important that the church continues to affirm it.

Ultimately, inerrancy is true because perfection is consistent with God’s character and because He has told us it is true. We must be careful with any objections to this doctrine, for if we indicate that we believe there are errors with the original manuscripts, we strike at the very character of God. The Bible is inerrant because it was breathed out by an inerrant God. Because of this we can have full confidence, today and always, that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.

Addendum

Before I close this series, I would like to add one brief exhortation: We need to be certain that we do not confuse our issues. In reading ongoing discussions of inerrancy I often found objections to inerrancy based on deeper objections to other issues, and most notably, to young earth creationism. I had to ask myself the question, “Does a belief in inerrancy necessariliy mean that we are forced to believe in a young earth?” I believe that it does not, for I know that many old earth creationists hold a high, inerrant view of Scripture. While I have not researched this issue extensively, and while I affirm my belief in a literal six-day creation, I believe that a case for old earth creation can be built from an inerrant view of Scripture. These differences may owe to hermeneutics or exegesis, but not necessarily from a lowered view of Scripture. Thus we must not confuse the doctrine of inerrancy with other doctrines, allowing ourselves to unfairly do away with one doctrine on the basis of another.


The above is from Tim Challies’ blog. I highly recommend it as he has other good reading and subjects to discuss.

Worship in truth: Planned 2nd talk at Fellowship of Maceio

The plan was for me originally to give 2nd talk on 10/10/2009 during English service. Turns out that Pastor Lon had forgotten about a visiting team of missionaries and everyone who spoke English was busy elsewhere translating.  The plan now is for a combination of two talks on 10/14/2009. At any rate here is the intended text of the talk for 10/10/2009. The content will likely be edited and reduced for the combination talk in 10/14/2009.  The text to that talk will also be post on the blog.

_________

I am grateful again for the opportunity to speak. I trust God used the seeds from the last talk to draw you into closer relationship with the Holy Spirit. This week we want to focus in on what it means to worship in the truth.  The starting text again is John 4:20-24   Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

 Last time we focused on worship in the spirit, which we examined to be about a relationship of ongoing surrender to the Holy Spirit. We defined worship as being about elevating God and reducing self. I want to expand on that definition a little further. Worship is all about our relationship with God. It is all about knowing God.  In the source passage, Jesus told the Samaritans that they worshiped what they did not know, while the Jews worshipped what they did know.  We know that the Jews knew God and the temple was the place of God’s presence. We know we are now the temple of the Holy Spirit and have God with us. It is an ongoing submissive relationship. Jesus referenced true worshipers worship in both spirit and truth. The relationship with the Holy Spirit is pretty straight forward, it is little more difficult to understand having relationship with truth.  How can we relate to truth? Well tonight we will explore that more fully, how do we relate to truth?  

In order to have a relationship we need to have knowledge about what it is we are supposed to be in a relationship with. So we need to get an idea of what the meaning of truth Jesus is referring to here.  Now some may focus on worship in truth as being about the right way of worship or having the right mindset. Truth defined as doing it the right way.  Yet, the Jews and Samaritans both professed attempts at doing it the right way.  So Jesus was clearly talking about more than a right way of worship.

It is worthwhile to examine a little bit of the meaning of the word used. It is the Greek word Alethia (all-lay-thay-ah).  Now in a lot of cases the word is simply used in relation to veracity or correctness, however the Gospel of John is about relationship with Jesus and the words chosen are ones that convey specific meanings as understood within the culture. The word Alethia has far deeper meaning in Greek culture than correctness.  In examining the word several words came up consistently related to meaning including: unhidden, revealed, unforgotten, reality, real, genuine, and sincere.

For me the words that came to mind that summarize the full meaning of the word came down to this: remembered revealed reality. It is something that far transcends the idea of correctness and it is something of lasting impact on the individual.  Now given this understanding of the word used worship in truth is really about a genuine response to the revelation of God. It has life changing impact. Since it is about the revelation of God we need to examine what the revelation of God is, how it impacts us as individuals and how that revelation impacts the world. By understanding each of those areas will get a better grasp at the genuine response to God known as worship in truth.

 So if the truth is about revealing God we need to be aware of what are the sources.  As stated last time, a benefit of being indwelt with the Holy Spirit is being led to greater understanding of God, being led to truth.   Yet, God did not just leave us with the Holy Spirit but also with His written revelation of self, the Word of God, the Bible.  2 Timothy 3:16 tells us:  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” and in Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. “ and Jesus himself stated in John 17:17  “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” So clearly God has revealed himself in scripture. Scripture is truth, ultimately truth about our relationship with God.

 It is also worth noting that even without the Holy Spirit or God’s word God  reveals himself in creation. In scripture this is seen in two passages: Psalms 19: 1 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”  and Romans 1:20  “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” God has made it so without any further revelation, God can be known.

 Now recognizing that God reveals Himself and use the Holy Spirit, Creation, and His Word it is important to note that His revelation not only reveals Himself, about also what is right for us.  Psalms 119:105 states: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” In other words, God’s revealed word gives us the light we need so we do not stray from the right path.  It gives us the way to walk.  The second part of 2 Timothy 3:16 also makes this point by outlining the uses of God’s word, it useful for teaching, correcting, confronting, and training; all means of our walking rightly, and as such worshipping in truth. 

Now it is important to be aware what the centrality of God’s revelation is about.  Yes, it is about God and our relationship with God, which is all wrapped up in Jesus the Messiah.  It is about as stated in Colossians 1:27   Christ in you, the hope of glory.  The whole of scripture is about Jesus. Jesus fills the whole of scripture with meanings.  This is shown in a few places in scripture.  Let’s start with what Jesus himself said: Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”  The word translated for fulfill actually is better translated as fills them up with meaning. Jesus gives the meaning to the whole of scripture.  Everything that was part of Jewish life in following Torah pointed to Jesus.  Paul in Colossians 2:17 puts it: “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” Jesus is the substance to the truth of the Gospel. And regarding Prophecy, John wrote in the Revelation of Jesus verse 19:10 the last half of the verse that  “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” So as you can see, the word of God is all about Jesus and our being restored to relationship with God.  It is the essence of God’s revelation.  More simply put Jesus is the truth.  Jesus himself proclaimed in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.” The word Jesus used here is the same one we are talking about related to worship in truth, Aletheia.  Jesus is the remembered revealed reality.       

There is one more verse I want to touch on in discussing God’s revelation through His word, and that is John 1:1-5: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. This verse again really highlights that Jesus is the revelation of God.  The word used here is the Greek word Logos, which is generally translated as reason, and in usage points to a concept of God’s reason.  There are really three dimensions to the Greek concept of Logos: divine nature, source of all life, and a mediator between the divine and the natural.  This is in essence what God’s revelation is all about.  John further points out that God’s divine reason then brings light.  Jesus himself proclaims this in John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.  So Jesus is not just the living embodiment of the Word of God, but the source of light that in turn directs our path.  Given that Jesus is the light, it really leads us to the next area of discussion and that is how God’s revelation impacts us.

 The heart of understanding worship in truth also comes in understanding the impact of God’s revelation in our lives, or more importantly how we are changed by Jesus and the response it draws.  The impact of God’s revelation on us really comes down to three areas: our identity in Jesus, our place in God’s kingdom, and our genuine response. 

 Let us first examine God’s revealed truth regarding our identity.  Here is the fact, each of us at one point were not part of the kingdom of God, we were enemies.  This is true for even people like myself who accepted God’s grace at first choice. We were born into darkness, as enemies to God’s kingdom. We were born as sinful, selfish people. As it says in Psalm 51:5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.  Now through Jesus we are no longer enemies. We have peace with God. Romans 5:1-2:  Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And remember it is Christ in us that is the hope of glory as seen in Colossians 1:27.  Because of the revelation of Jesus and His redemption of sins, we are no longer God’s enemies.   

Our identity is more than being no longer enemies who have been brought to peace with God. God has not just indwelt us with the Holy Spirit allowing Christ in us. God has also changed us.  As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “If anyone who is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.” God moves us away from our own selfish way of doing things into a new way.  We are made new.  We are changed from people of darkness to people of the light. And not only have we been made new and at peace with God, we have been set free from bondage and adopted into God’s family as seen in Romans 8:15-17 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

In fact being made at peace with God, being made new, being set free, being adopted are really all part and parcel to becoming children of God and as such heirs.  So the truth is God has done much for us, he has brought us out of darkness into light and not only have we been brought to peace and made new but made into children with an inheritance. This the identity of those of us who submit to God, something far greater than anything we could do of our own accord in our own worlds.

Now being we are heirs and children of God, this brings us to examining an understanding of our place in God’s kingdom.  As children of God and heirs, God has in mind specific tasks and has gifted us accordingly.  Even before we entered into the kingdom of God, God took His time in creating each one of us.  Psalms 139:13-15  For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  We see evidence throughout scripture of God using varied people for His plans and purposes.  Being Children of God he has a plan for each of us.  He has given us talents to use and invest and gives us spiritual gifts through the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7  Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.   So God has given each of use gifts to use and invest in the kingdom.  He created us with purpose to build up one another and work toward the common good of the kingdom of God.  So, it is important for use to use the gifts God has given and not only that, be thankful for what God has given.  1 Corinthians 12-14 really is worth spending time examining regarding the gifts God gives to His children.  It is important to note that in that passage the point is made is we are all different parts of the body. This point is also emphasized in Rom 12:4-8 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

We need to accept what God has given us and move in the areas God leads. Not to think highly of ourselves and become prideful. Not to be envious of how God has gifted others, but praise God and accept what the King has given to His child to serve Him. And guess, what, in going about the path as God leads and walking in his path with you and according to your gifts, if you lack anything, just ask and God will not withhold!   1 John 5:14  And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.  He will always give us what we need, if it corresponds to His will and His call in our life.  We are His children and heirs called to the tasks He set us on. So being aware that as His children God give us gifts and has plans for our serving His kingdom, this leads us to the examining our response.

 Understanding our genuine response to God’s truth, the remembered revealed reality, is really at the core of understanding worship in truth.  It is all about what we do in response to what God has revealed and done in our lives.  It is our response to His grace. Now before I go any further I want to give you an illustration that highlights the nature of genuineness.  This past week we decided to buy some watches. Now these watches are not ordinary watches, they are replicas of famous expensive watches such as Cartier, Rolex, and Armani.  They look and function like the genuine article. You look at them and cannot really tell the difference from the real thing.  However, that appearance is external.  The internal workings of the watch are not genuine, but something functional.  These watches only appear to be genuine.   The genuine article is true on both the inside and outside.   So when we consider worship in truth as being a genuine response to God, it gets beyond appearance and to what flows from the core.  What is on the outside reflects the inner workings. 

 A key passage in understanding genuine response is found in   James 1:22-25  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Now upon hearing this portion of the word of God, did you hear James discussion the very essences of the word for truth John used.  Each element of remembered revealed reality is evident. The first element is being remembered.  James clearly points out the differences between remembering and forgetting and using the picture of looking in a mirror and forgetting what you look like upon leaving. Yet, for many of us, we spend a lot of time , sforgetting. We go to church, read the bible, pray, and such yet as soon as finish, we forget.  When we forget we are not walking in truth, spending time focusing on God’s revelation serves as a reminder. The second element is the revelation, this is what we are to remember.  Everything mentioned tonight are things we need to continually remember.  The greatness of God’s gift in Jesus and our being made children of God who serve His purposes is vital to us. All this is revelation to be remembered. And the third element is that of reality.  Remember revelation only become reality in one way, by action.  As James points out, faith without works is dead. So than what are we to do, what are the works God requires of us.  Well the apostle John put it this way in 1 John 5:3    For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

Is it simply doing things the right way, following a code or instructions the right way or has God got something more in mind? Remember both the Jews and Samaritans tried to do things the right way, so clearly there is something more involved.  Well John did define God’s commandments earlier in 1 John 3:23  And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. So the key here clearly is to walk in love, love of God and love one another.  Jesus himself stated Mark 12:30-31  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And adds in Matthew 22:40  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

So essentially it comes down to this. Love God with your whole self.  The designations of heart, soul, mind, and strength for some can be confusing so let me give some clarity. These four areas are the elements of self.  Self is made up of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. God wants us to love Him with our complete self.  The second command is to love others. This is evident throughout the New Testament in with discussions of interactions with one another. Some examples of our directions are: submit to authorities, submit to one another, bless those who curse you, and love your enemies. Words easily said, sometimes easily agreed to, but difficult to live by.  Yet, the genuine response to God’s revelation results in our living in love. It is reflected in our deeds.  It is not about style, or substance, or place, or any “thing.” Worship in truth is about walking in love. It is how Jesus walked, with genuine love.   Our genuine response is to be imitators of Jesus. Ephesians 5:1-2  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Now it is worthwhile to point out here, that we all fall short of this standard continually.  We all fail to walk in full love, our self gets in the way, way too often.  Yet, God is aware of that.  Anyone who imitates another does not do so purely.  We key in on some part of the greater whole and reflect part of the character.  The key is that we reflect God’s love. God does not expect us to do it perfectly, but to seek to do it with all that we are.  As we do so, we imitate and reflect God.  This reflection is a key concept.  Jesus called us the light of the world in Matthew 5:14 and directs us in Matthew 5:16 to Let our light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven.  Yet, Jesus also referred to Himself as the light of the world in John 8:12.  So how does that work? Jesus is the light. He gives us His light, which we in turn reflect to the world.  Our walking in love of God and others reflects Jesus.  Our genuine response is not something that happens in a void.  What we do is seen by others.

And ultimately all of this understanding of worshiping in spirit and truth leads us to how such behavior impacts the world.  Our having an ongoing submitted relationship to God through submission to the Holy Spirit and reflected in a genuine response to God through living in love has impact on the world.  Given God’s remember revealed reality and being a temple of the Holy Spirit, we have a responsibility.  We are as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 5:20  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  What this means, is we are God’ representatives on earth.  Does he need us to draw those in darkness to the truth?  Not really.  But He chooses to use us, so that His love can be seen through us.  It all comes down to that passage in Colossians 1:27, Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Now here is a fact, just as Jesus was despised and rejected of men, it means as we reflect him, we will be despised and rejected by those lost in darkness.  In fact Jesus stated in Matthew 5:11    “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Jesus also prayed to the father before the events of crucifixion John 17:14-18  I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.   So we are hated by the world and still sent into the world.  Now being in the world there is a very real danger.  The danger comes in forgetting God’s revelation and being tempted to conform to the things of the world or love them.  Romans 12:2 states: Do not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  Clearly the ways of the world run contrary to what God desires of us, the world seeks to derail us from a life of submitted relationship that results in a genuine response to God’s revealed reality. This is also emphasized in 1 John 2:15-17: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

So then the question is how do we keep from being captivated by the world.  Well Colossians  3:2 put it this way  “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”  Of course this is easy to say but hard to do.  It is real easy to get caught in the things of the world, rather than displaying God.  What we value is often of self and not God’s kingdom.   If you look at our lives, at times they do not reflect God.  The biggest barrier to God’s kingdom is our getting caught in darkness, even though it is temporary.  The temporariness of the world is evidenced in Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” So God clearly puts and emphasis on how life is temporary. So we need to continually focus our thoughts that this life is momentary, God has more for us.

 The fact is when we walk in submission and exhibit genuine response to God’s remembered revealed reality, we let our lights shine.  Recently I have come to understand the moon as a symbol of the church.  The moon reflects the suns light, in the same way we reflect the light of Jesus to the world.  In addition the amount of light we reflect does vary. We have moments where we reflect very little light, just a sliver.  There are times we shine brightly giving the full reflection we can give.  It all varies as to whether we are walking in submission and responding genuinely or following our own ways.  When we walk in loving God fully and loving others, the light shines brightly, when we look after self, we reflect less light.

 

So we need to walk in submission with a genuine response to God’s remembered revealed reality.  So where to we go from here?

Ask Holy Spirit to show you what you need to change and to give you strength.

Submit to the Holy Spirit’s leading and let the Holy Spirit give you strength

Turn from the things that inhibit walking in love of God and others.

Focus your mind on things above, not on things of this earth.

Remember who God is and what He has done.

Respond with genuine giving of your self.

This is an ongoing process, it is not just a one time action, we need to follow these steps continually.  When we do that, we truly are worshiping in spirit and truth.