And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:11-16

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually has he wills.

31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.  And I will show you a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 31

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and dif I deliver up my body to be burned,1 but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it his not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures (protects) all things.

1 Corinthians 13:1-7

God has given (as in free, through grace) each of us in the body of Christ gifts.  The purpose of these gifts is not to exalt one believer over others, but to serve in the building and maturing of every member of His church so that we can look like Him and minister like Him. The gifts and offices are given by grace.  Grace is unmerited favor, something that is not bestowed because we “earned it,” and it does not make us “better” than others. When we get caught up in self pride in our office or gift and forget the purpose, we take what is meant to be exercised in love for the building up of others and instead turn these gifts into a wrecking ball, crushing spirits and destroying the body.

1 Corinthians 13 is strategically placed after chapter 12, which is a discussion of the gifts, and chapter 14, which discusses orderly worship.  Love is to be the “more excellent way.”  If we are behaving in such a way as to confuse or hurt someone, whether inadvertently or purposefully, we need to take heed. 

Alistair Begg in his Truth for Life sermons has presented an invaluable series on Christian love in the church this week.  I would encourage all to listen to the series.

www.truthforlife.org/broadcasts/archive/

 

 

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 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. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 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.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 1:19-26

Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Proverbs 27:5-6

17 Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another

Proverbs 27:17

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Galatians 5:22-26

None of us are perfect.  We all mess up from time to time, and hopefully, are consciences are tender enough for the Lord to lovingly correct us, pick us up, and send us on the right path.  But sometimes our hearts have been hardened, and we don’t want to hear correction.  The mere suggestion that something might not be right is met with our flesh rising up and lashing out in anger.  The flesh is fighting for its life.  It does not want to lay down and be over taken by the seed of image of Jesus Christ, planted in us by the Holy Spirit. It will convince us that we are right, and that our discomfort is because of the other person, and our anger is a “righteous indignation”.

This is why James tells us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.”  When we refuse to listen to others, cutting them off before they can finish their thought, we can miss what the Lord may be trying to tell us.  When we get angry quickly and allow ourselves to be offended by the message, then we trample the opportunity for the Lord to correct us, or prune us.  And that behavior does not produce righteousness.  Self-righteousness is not a fruit of the Spirit.  It is a work of the flesh, and we must be vigilant to shut it down when it rears its ugly head.

The Lord uses each of us in the body of Christ to sharpen, or hone, each other.  Paul says in Romans 12:3:

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

We must be careful not to surround ourselves with an entourage who will only tell us what we want to hear.  A faithful friend will try to tell us the truth in a loving way.  It is up to us to be willing to receive it in a loving way. 

Finally, God loves us so much, that he won’t give up on us.  If we rebuff correction time and time again, He will keep at it.  If you find yourself in the same ugly circumstance time and time again, that would be a clue.  Stop and listen.  And be quick to love.

I need to state here that my posts are not intended to be a full exposition of Old and New Testament surveys.  I just want to get the general point across.

 The New Testament is the revelation of the New Covenant, which was foretold in Jeremiah 31:31-34:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make pa new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

 If we are not teaching the born again walk from the position of the new covenant, as heirs of the kingdom, with the new nature implanted in us by the Holy Spirit, then all we are doing is preaching the law.  The law, in essence, was a picture of what the new man would be like.  Just preaching what we should do doesn’t get us there.  It is merely recapping the law that we couldn’t keep in the first place. 

Transformation comes from nurturing the seed of faith that was planted in us at the time we turned to the Lord to believe on him for our salvation.

 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

(2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

 

When reading the Bible, it is important to keep in mind the contexts of the Old and New Testaments.  Both are historical accounts of the happenings during the eras they report on.  But in the Old Testament, God is dealing with an unregenerate people.  Their spirits are still dead inside them, and God speaks to them as such.  The Old Testament has many layers of purpose besides being historical. Included, it relates the law which God proscribed Israel to follow, it points to the redemption of mankind through the Messiah, and serves as a shadow of the New Covenant.

 

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

 

(Colossians 2:16-17)

 

They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”

 

(Hebrews 8:5)

 

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.

 

(Hebrews 10:1)

So now that we see that translating from the ancient manuscripts is not like translating sentences from your textbook in French class, it is more clear why a translator’s knowledge of God is of equal importance in the task.  I’m not setting aside the scholarly knowledge of the language and idioms of the culture of the biblical times, etc., but scripture is spiritual, and one must have the spirit of God dwelling in him in order to be able to discern their meaning.

But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,

 nor the heart of man imagined,

 what God has prepared for those who love him”—

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

(1 Corinthians 2:9-16)

The only way one can receive the spirit of God is to be born again (John 3), believing on Jesus Christ (not merely a mental assent) to the effect that He makes alive in us the spirit which was dead because of the sin of Adam:

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for fall men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

(Romans 5:15-19)

I will write more on the subject of what “born again” means, but the point here is that with a dead spirit, translation and interpretation of the scriptures is futile.

In my previous post, I made the statement that translations of scripture are only as accurate as the translator’s knowledge of the language, as well as his or her knowledge of God.  To understand what I am saying, you need to know what the translators are working from.

The original scriptures were written in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament), and some small portions in Aramaic.  In the translations we have today, the content is all laid out in chapters and verses, and most modern bibles even have sections laid out with topical titles in an effort to assist the reader.  But the original (or earliest) manuscripts were not that way.  The Greek manuscripts were written in all capital letters, with no spaces and very little punctuation.  There were no chapters or verse numbers. Hebrew manuscripts were very much the same. Here are examples of portions of Greek and Hebrew texts.  And here is a link to a discussion on punctuating the bible.

So you can see that translation is not just a cut and dry task, and the interpretation of where a sentence ends or begins can be unclear.  While most translations do their best to be accurate and true to the original, we must be aware in our own study that what is translated may not be the meaning that was intended.  That is why we need consult many versions, rather than sticking to one translation.

And above all, we need to read prayerfully. Remember, the Holy Spirit is our Teacher, and will reveal to us all things.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

(2 Timothy 3:14-17)

15And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

(2 Peter 3:17-18)

I have deep respect for the inspiration and authority of the bible. It is my conviction that all scripture is inerrant. That is the platform from which I launch my study of the Word. If you want to argue that foundation, go do it on another blog. I have no interest here in that debate. For me it is settled.

However, it is not my belief that all translations of the scriptures are inerrant, nor does every sermon delivered portray an accurate reflection of what God has revealed about Himself and our relationship to and with Him. Bible translations are affected by the translators’ knowledge of the language, as well as their knowledge of God. A pastor or teacher’s deliverance of the word of God is affected by their study of the Word, and, most importantly, the submission of the heart, soul and ear to the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

14Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 16But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness . . .

(2 Timothy 2:14-16)

In my forty-plus years of walking with the Lord, I have sat under a wide range of teachers. Some were skillful and anointed in their handling of the scriptures, delivering accurate interpretation and soul-piercing application. Many were not. I have sat in congregations and winced while the pastor or teacher proceeded to quote scriptures out of context, using them to proof-text their own opinions. I remember sitting in one service when the pastor preached from a scripture using the old King James Version, but applied the 21st century definition of the words to the 16th century language. BIG difference in the meaning. Too many rely on traditions to interpret scripture, delivering second-hand lessons instead of first-hand revelation gleaned from disciplined study and much, much prayer. We too often get taught from the soul rather than the Spirit. It does little benefit to the church in the pursuit of maturity in Jesus Christ. In fact, it does much to retard spiritual growth.

Well, what to do?

10The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.

(Acts 17:10-12)

Paul’s charge to Timothy to show himself approved as someone who rightly handles the word of God does not only apply to church leaders. It applies to each and every one of us. Ultimately, we are responsible before God for our own relationship with Him. We are not to sit dumbly in the congregation and swallow everything that comes from the pulpit without question. We don’t pray through church leadership, we have direct communication God through Jesus Christ. While the church leadership is there to help teach and exhort us to grow up, that is not our only source of instruction. In fact, Jesus did not leave us orphans. (I’ve quoted the following verses separately for the sake of brevity, but I encourage the reading of them in context).

16“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;17that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

(John 14:16-17)

25“These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you.26“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

(John 14:25-26)

We have the Holy Spirit to teach us all things. He will bring to our remembrance all that Jesus taught. For us in this day, that means we need to read the word of God in order for the Holy Spirit to teach us regarding it. How to do that will be a continuing topic of this blog.