And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 22, Number
In this issue:
Paul urged the evangelist Timothy to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15, NASB). Diligence is essential to accurately handling the word of truth. Treating God’s word with earnest care brings God’s approval. Only then can we be unashamed workmen who are acceptable to God.
An oft-repeated reason for rejecting the Bible as the complete, final, and authoritative word of God is because “you can prove anything by the Bible.” And, that is true if one’s intent is to scour the Bible for any morsel that seems to sustain one’s preconceived notion. Sadly, that is what many people (including religious people) do.
Context (immediate and distance) of the passage, which covenant is applicable, whether the language is literal or figurative, and a host of other factors contributing to understanding the Bible are thrown out the window for the sake of clinging to what one is determined to believe and do. Such misuse of the Bible leads man to reject the Bible altogether.
Yes, we can make the Bible say what we want it to say. But, that is not the same as understanding what the Bible teaches and what God expects of us.
Others adopt a “whatever you think it says” approach to Bible study, understanding, and application. As long as you are comfortable with what you think the Bible says, that is all that really matters to them. This misuse of the Bible discourages people from engaging in serious Bible study. They become content to “choose the church (the path, the doctrine) of their choice.” Many, many religious teachers and leaders validate this misuse of the Scriptures, having long since abandoned belief in the verbal and plenary inspiration of the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16; 1 Cor. 14:37).
Our faith is that God entirely inspired the Bible. God gave the apostles and prophets of Christ spiritual words to communicate His mind (spiritual things, 1 Cor. 2:10-13). We believe in truth, that God’s word is truth, and that we can know and abide in the truth (Jno. 8:31-32; 14:6; 17:17).
We reject the self-defined, ever-shifting view of truth voiced by Pilate when he retorted to Jesus, “What is truth?” (Jno. 18:38). While a growing number of brethren recoil from the notion of “absolute” truth (be it doctrinal or moral truth), we uphold the stated will of God that the faith was once for all delivered – and that we can know it and live it in (Jude 3; Jno. 8:31-32).
We commit ourselves to “understanding what the will of the Lord is,” but not to boast in knowledge (Eph. 5:17; 1 Cor. 8:1-2). We seek to hear and do the words of Jesus to enter the kingdom and have the assurance of God’s salvation (Matt. 7:21-23, 24-25; Jno. 12:48).
Truth is not a moving target. God’s word is not relative, contingent on one’s culture, one’s experiences, and one’s subjective vantage point.
The apostle Paul assured the Ephesian Christians that when they read what he wrote, they could understand his knowledge concerning salvation in Christ. He said, “how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” (Eph. 3:3-4). The Ephesians were no more capable or gifted than we in their ability to comprehend the message of the gospel. You and I can understand the truth when we handle God’s word accurately.
Truth is not about endlessly telling and hearing some new thing (Acts 17:21). Truth is certain and practical. So, let us read some words of truth so we can know the truth, abide in Christ’s word, and be free from sin (Jno. 8:31-32).
1) Truth teaches us how to be saved from our sins. Truth says, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:16). “And” is a conjunction, joining two words or phrases of equal importance. So, God saves the person who believes and is baptized. We cannot leave either belief or baptism out and produce salvation; both are essential for salvation. Therefore, “just believe” to be saved doctrines are false. Salvation by baptism without belief (such as infant baptism) is also false.
What the Bible teaches about how to be saved is not hard to understand. It is impossible to reconcile what the Bible says about being saved with what many teach about salvation. Sadly, they refuse the Bible and its plan of salvation. When we accurately handle God’s word concerning how to be saved, we will avoid error and help save the lost.
2) Truth teaches us that morality matters to God. Truth says, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Any number of the sins listed here (including all manner of sexual sins) were considered appropriate in first-century Corinth. Yet, living the Corinthian model of morality was sin and death in God’s sight.
Culture and conscience do not define morality. Morals originate with and are determined by God, not by human beings and the general acceptability of conduct at any given time and place. (The mores of Corinth were immoral in God’s sight.)
Was it moral to murder the male babies born to Hebrew slaves because Pharaoh made it the law of the land (Exo. 1:15-22)? Is it moral to murder unborn babies because human laws allow it (Exo. 21:22-23; Rom. 13:9)? Who decides what is morally decent, men or God? The answer is evident to those who accurately handle God’s word.
What the Bible teaches about morality is not hard to understand. It is impossible to reconcile what the Bible says about morality today, and what many accept as moral. Sadly, they refuse the Bible as their standard of morality and the purity of life God approves. When we accurately handle God’s word concerning morality, we will avoid sin and advance sober, righteous, and godly living (Tit. 2:11-12).
3) Truth teaches us about the church. Jesus said, “I will build My church” (Matt. 16;18). Scripture says, “He is the head of the body, the church,” and that there is “one body” (Col. 1:18; Eph. 4:4). Scripture also says Jesus purchased the church with His blood (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25).
These statements concerning the church are not hard to understand. They teach the value and importance of the church. Doctrines and practices that conflict with these truths are not from God. For instance, the church was built upon Jesus, the Son of God, not upon Peter (Matt. 16:16-18; 1 Cor. 3:11). Peter was not the head of the church. Neither is the Roman Catholic pope. Christ alone is the head of the church (Eph. 5:23).
Others tell people to “join the church (they mean denomination) of your choice. This makes the church rather inconsequential, divided (denominated) by doctrines, governments, morals, and policies. Such disregard for the church is an affront to Christ, who died for it.
What the Bible teaches about the church is not hard to understand. It is impossible to reconcile what the Bible says about the church with the denominated landscape of churches today. Sadly, most prefer the church of their choice instead of the church in the Bible, the church of Christ. When we accurately handle God’s word concerning the church, we will seek to be added to it by the Lord (Acts 2:47, 37-41). And, we will take care to give glory to God as His church (Eph. 3:21).
4) Truth teaches us about marriage and the home. Truth says that God created man and woman and gave them marriage for their lives together. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). One man and one woman for life is God’s marriage design (Matt. 19:3-6). Marriage is sacred and honorable, not frivolous and temporary. God will judge those who defile the purity of marriage (Heb. 13:4).
What the Bible says about marriage is not hard to understand. It is impossible to reconcile the Bible with the distortions of marriage now accepted by many, including polygamy, polyandry, same-sex marriage, and adulterous remarriage. Sadly, many refuse the Bible teaching on marriage. When we accurately handle God’s word concerning marriage, we will learn to cherish it and live in the blessings God arranged marriage to be.
Yes, there are some things hard to understand in the Bible (2 Pet. 3:16). But, not impossible. We can grow in our knowledge of the truth and live with God’s approval by accurately handling His word (2 Pet. 3:18; 2 Tim. 2:15).
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
"Will COVID-19 Make People More Religious?"
This headline appeared in the “The Secular Life: Thriving Without Gods or Gurus” on the Psychology Today website, written by Phil Zuckerman, Ph.D. His subtitle was, “Most likely, yes.” Zuckerman (a sociologist) believes atheists Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud were correct to relegate religion as “the opium of the people” (Marx), an illusion to cope with a world of suffering (Freud). When man pushes God out of his mind, faithlessness masquerades as insight and wisdom (Rom. 1:21-22, 28).
Scripture reveals physical calamities may or may not come directly from God’s hand, but He uses them to discipline His people and judge the nations (Eccl. 8:17; 9:11-12; Job 1-2; Amos 4:6-13; Heb. 12:4-11). The wise will consider God and return to Him during such events.
On Monday of this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reinforced the secular mindset that discounts God. Concerning New York State COVID-19 cases, Cuomo said, “The number is down because we brought the number down. God did not do that. Faith did not do that. Destiny did not do that.” He continued, “A lot of pain and suffering did that. That’s how it works. It’s math. And if you don’t continue to do that, you’re going to see that number go back up. And that will be a tragedy if that number goes back up” (dailywire.com). Man did it all; God did nothing.
The thoughtful believer does not ignore sound science or mathematics. Neither does he dismiss God’s involvement in His world. Indeed, human scientific and mathematical discoveries validate divine creation and providence (Psa. 19:1-4). God infused His creation with order; sin brought chaos, disease, and death (Gen. 3:16-19). God uses the earth both to sustain humanity and to execute His will in the kingdoms of men (Matt. 5:45; Acts 14:17; 17:26; Rev. 6:7-8).
God works in this world, answering the prayers of His people and ruling the nations (Jas. 5:14-15; Jer. 18:1-11). The issue is not God or science; it is God and science.
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 04/16/2020
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA