A few weeks ago I said we would try to examine a few of the matters concerning what makes a ‘good’ Church in a little more detail later.
So this week we will concentrate on how and why the Church should properly understand the Scriptures.
Ever since the 2nd century acceptance of the 66 books, the Church by consensus has seen the Holy Spirit’s ‘fingerprints’ in the Christian Bible.
The Church did not create the Bible, it was the other way around.
If you are searching for a Church where the Bible is accepted as the written Word of God, with no additions, deletions, or ‘private interpretations’; where the preacher holds the Word up to the people, instead of elevating man so we can see if God is OK for us to believe in, then you will have to look hard these days, but those Churches do exist.
But hearing the Word is only the first step; we must be doers also, according to James 1:22-25.
The ‘good’ Church then will promote the infallible Word of God so we will use it as our standard, a mirror of our sinful status and the only means of our salvation.
Biblical Inspiration – What is it?
I was recently told that, when a local Church small group a few years ago was discussing the issue of homosexual leaders for that Church, most members of the group were of the opinion that the crucial thing was not what the Bible said about the issue, but what ‘the Church today’ thought.
I found it hard to believe that there could be a group of supposed Christians who were so full of themselves that they considered it possible to ignore God’s commands, which are expressed clearly in both the Old and New Testaments.
I believe this situation has been brought about by years of willful rebellion, ignorance, poor teaching, denominational apostasy and cultural brain-washing. It has led to a stifling of the Holy Spirit’s voice as He speaks to us through His Word.
I hope your Church is not at that stage!
As I pointed out in Newsletter 15, Paul told Timothy of the primacy of Scripture in 2 Tim 3:16-17, and Peter accepted Paul’s words as Scripture in 2 Pet 3:16.
Gaussen’s definition of inspiration is helpful: ‘Inspiration is that inexplicable power which the divine Spirit put forth of old on the authors of the Holy Scriptures, in order for their guidance, even in the employment of the words they used, and to preserve them alike from all error and all omission’ .
If Churches all accepted this there would be fewer arguments.
Why it is Important
Specifically, the ‘good’ Church will uphold the fact that Scripture alone will have the final say on every matter of doctrine [teaching] and practice. All personal claims, experience and tradition must be tested by the Scripture [Acts 17:11].
Any idea contradicting the Holy Spirit in Scripture must be rejected.
Scripture must interpret Scripture. Unclear passages must be interpreted in the light of clear parts.
The Scriptures are crystal clear regarding matters of salvation and of Christian ethics. There is no room for negotiation on the facts that God says we must be saved if we want to have eternal life, as well as relying only on His Son’s sacrifice to achieve that salvation for us.
Because God is an infinite Being who is revealing Himself and His will to His creation over millennia and many cultural differences, there are some parts of Scripture that are difficult to understand.
This means long and careful study is necessary, and 2 Peter 3:15-18 explains why we have to interpret everything in Scripture in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour.
Why an Accurate Translation is Important
Since the Bible’s original documents were directly inspired by God, to what extent do our English translations accurately reflect that inspiration?
I believe that the ‘good’ Church will use and promote a translation of the Bible that aims to be faithful to the original inspired texts, as well as being understandable to ordinary people.
There is a world of difference between a good translation and a paraphrase.
A paraphrase, such as The Message, aims to read God’s mind through the assumptions and pre-suppositions of the author. Be wary of them because they are not the Word of God – sometimes quite misleading, in fact.
A good translation, on the other hand, seeks to translate faithfully the actual words the Holy Spirit originally used to communicate God’s truth. This then allows the Holy Spirit today to speak to the readers because God’s chosen words are delivered as inspired information – not according to what an editor thinks or pushes.
I consider good translations [all with some defects nonetheless] to include, KJV, NIV, NKJV, NASB, but definitely NOT The Message.
King James Only?
Some Churches and individuals insist of using only the KJV. I believe there is nothing wrong with that, provided they admit there are mistakes that can be rectified by reference to other translations and commentaries.
In this day of many different translations and paraphrases, if you are going to do serious Bible study you have to be prepared to do comparisons with the original languages used.
I rely on good Greek and Hebrew scholars because I only have a smattering of those languages. My rule is, when a passage needs to be clarified, seek the meaning in the original and see what the Holy Spirit is saying to us today. Things become a lot clearer than they may otherwise.