Dear brothers and sisters,
This Lord’s Day in our series in Mark we will be treading on holy ground. By God’s grace, we will look at our Lord’s agony in the garden of gethsemane – where he wrestled in prayer with his father and sweated great drops of blood. Take some time this week to reflect on the enormity of the cost of our salvation. May we ask the Spirit to give us insight into the glories of the gospel – the good news that Christ faced the furnace of God’s wrath in the place of his people.
- THERE WILL BE NO BIBLE STUDY TONIGHT. We will pick up next Wednesday in Galatians 6.
- Our next men’s breakfast is scheduled for Saturday, May 23rd at 8:30am. We will be discussing the book, “The Secret of Contentment” by Dr. Bill Barcley.
- This week’s devotion continues the series in “understanding our Bibles.”
Have a great week and I look forward to worshipping with you this Lord’s Day!
From the Pastor’s Desk
“Understanding Your Bibles, part IV”
Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.”
There are a few key principles of interpretation – gleaned from the Bible itself – that help us properly understand our Bibles. The first principle we considered was the ‘Christological principle’; that is, the whole Bible points to Christ. And the second principle we considered was the ‘internal consistency principle’; that is, that God does not deny himself. That just as there are no contradictions in God, so also there are no contradictions in his word. Thus, we are to interpret the less clear in light of the more clear – the less clearly revealed in light of the more clearly revealed. For this devotion, we will briefly consider two examples of the ‘internal consistency principle.’
Psalm 135 tells us, “For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods” (v. 5). In stating that Yahweh is ‘above all gods,’ does that imply the existence of other ‘gods’? At a surface level, one could perhaps come to such a conclusion. However, several factors argue against such an interpretation. First, later in the Psalm itself we are given more information as to the identity of these other gods. Verse 15 states, “The idols of the nations are silver and Gold, the works of human hands.” The other gods of v. 5 are nothing but the man-made idols of the nations (cf. Ps 115:3-8). Second, the clear teaching of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation is monotheism. That is, there is one, true, and living God. Deut 6:4 tells us, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the Lord is one.” Isaiah 45:5, “I am The LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God” (cf. 44:8). And the New Testament is equally clear in its revelation of the uniqueness of the one, true, and living God. The Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians, “For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth … yet for us there is one God, the Father … and one Lord Jesus Christ” (8:6). Or as Paul plainly states in 1 Timothy, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (v. 5). Thus, not only is there evidence within Psalm 135 to explain the language of other ‘gods,’ but also the clear testimony of the Scriptures speaks to the uniqueness of the Lord.
A second example of the internal consistency principle comes from James 2. In an often misunderstood passage, James tells us, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (v. 24). Is James teaching salvation by works … or salvation by faith plus works? It could appear that he is. But does Paul not tell us that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone (see Eph 2:8)? Absolutely! In short, James is decidedly not teaching salvation by works and yes, Paul does boldly teach salvation by grace alone. Again, there are several factors that aid in a proper interpretation of James 2. First, within the passage itself, James clearly explains exactly what kind of ‘faith’ he is describing. James is contrasting a mere verbal faith (note esp. v. 14, ‘someone says he has faith … can that faith save him’) with a true and living faith (illustrated by Abraham and Rahab, vv. 21-25). In other words, James’ contrast in 2:14-26 is not between faith and works, but rather his contrast is between a true faith and a false faith (i.e. a mere verbal faith). Furthermore, and in light of the ‘internal consistency principle’, the clear testimony of the Scriptures is that of ‘justification by faith alone.’ Paul unambiguously writes, “Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ … by works of the law no one will be justified (Gal 2:16). Or again, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Rom 3:20).
Brothers and sisters, God is truth and his word is truth. God does not deny himself and his word does not deny itself. There are no contradictions in God and there are no contradictions in the word of God. Thus, may we come to the word of God as servants with humble and receptive hearts. And may we interpret that which is ambiguous or less clear in light of that which is unambiguous or more clear. And may we be those who ‘rightly divide the word of our Lord.’