Dashed Hopes In Christ

Hopelessness

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel (Luke 24:21a).

These words were spoken by the men taking a journey to Emmaus whom Jesus approached and started asking questions of. Apparantly, they were discussing the events that had happened; i.e. Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection. Jesus joined them and asked a question. Scripture says somehow, they couldn’t recognise him:

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus , about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them . But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” (Luke 24:13-17a).

The first response to that question Scripture tells us was sadness: “And they stood still, looking sad” (Luke 24:17b). These words are not encouraging since it showed a sense of disappointment. Now what better explains all of this is that these were people with misplaced hopes of the ministry of Jesus Christ. They had defined Christ’s ministry according to their most immediate felt needs. During Jesus’ lifetime on earth, the Jewish nation was under Roman rule and hence the Messiah, in their understanding was going to deliver them from that rule. Another of such misplaced hopes is seen in Acts 1:6 before Christ’s ascension: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” the disciples asked.

You see, one thing is clear here. Their agenda differed from God’s. While they looked to the restoration of Israel from Roman rule; God’s agenda was on a global scale gathering a “great multitude…from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev 7:9). Many people in the same sense come to Christ with wrong hopes. Some come with the hope of an improved life, better life prospects, looking for a spouse, seeking healing for a disease etc. In the gospels, we see a group of people who sought Christ for the wrong reasons. And Christ rejected them:

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus f on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man (John 2:23-25).

Clearly, these people didn’t have a true heart in seeking after Christ. And Christ knowing what is in man (speaking of his divinity) rejected them. Now it is one thing to come genuinely to Christ for salvation and another thing to come with our expectations rather than his will. In such situations, you are likely to have your hopes dashed and blame Jesus or say Christianity doesn’t offer what it promises. No, in actual fact, Christianity doesn’t promise some of the things people hold so dearly like prosperity and a good health.

So we are not disappointed in our walk with Christ, let’s bear in mind the only thing guaranteed and promised in Christ is the forgiveness of our sins and the promise of eternal life if we come to him by faith and turn from our old ways. All other things apart from these are not guaranteed and will lead to dashed hopes.

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“I Can Do All Things Through Christ”…You May Have Been Misinterpreting The Text.

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Paul’s epistle to the Philippians is one exuding with great joy, praise and adoration. In this epistle, you encounter words like “rejoice in the Lord” (3:1); “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (4:4). What is most fascinating is that Paul wrote these words while in prison. The epistle to the Philippians, therefore, is one of Paul’s prison epistles. Now it is fascinating because, in our normal human reasoning, a man in prison shouldn’t be exuding with such admonishments to be joyful. John MacArthur notes that “In spite of Paul’s imprisonment, the dominant tone of the letter is joyful (1: 4, 18, 25, 26; 2: 2, 16– 18, 28; 3: 1, 3; 4: 1, 4, 10)”¹. Philippians without doubts contains great themes not only of joy, but also of the humiliation of Christ and the great exchange that took place:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him a name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Here is a Christological statement telling us of the humility, humiliation, and exaltation of Christ. Albeit, despite these great themes, there is one text in Philippians which is often widely quoted, and often widely misinterpreted. That text is Chapter 4:13. It reads,

I can do all things through him[Christ] who strengthens me.

Paul’s words here have been interpreted to basically mean the ability to achieve great feats in whatever endeavour a believer sets their minds to. A believer has exams to write, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me“. A believer is attending a job interview, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me“. A Christian businessman is chasing a contract, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” A believer competes in a sports event, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me“. An online article aptly describes how this text has been used in the sports arena by some athletes.

Tim Tebow put Phil 4:13 under his eye before football games. Jon Jones, the former UFC light heavyweight champion, has it tattooed on his chest.

What we must not do is pluck biblical texts out of context to say what we want them to say. Unfortunately, that is what many believers have done with Philippians 4:13. In hermeneutics, that is, the science of biblical interpretation, this is called eisegesis—reading into a text a meaning that is not there. On the contrary, we must be doing exegesis—reading meaning out of the text. Now, it doesn’t matter how sincere we may be with a text; once it is taken out of context we are being unfaithful to God’s word.

So, you may ask, how must we view Philippians 4:13? In dealing with any biblical text, the immediate context and the larger context of the bible is to be taken into consideration. We shouldn’t, for example, interpret a text in such a way that other passages of Scripture are contradicted. Thus, in the immediate context of Philippians 3, what do we learn?

Not A Booster for Great Achievements

Firstly, Paul’s words “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” should not be taken to mean the believer can do any great thing they set their minds to. In fact, with a correct understanding of the text, I dare say “you cannot do all things through Christ who strengthens you.” Eyebrows raised? Of course, the text says exactly that so why am I saying otherwise?
Please hear me out. The fact is, Christ doesn’t empower you to be able to do ‘everything’ you want to do. If you are not a trained surgeon, for example, you cannot perform a surgery simply because you believe “you can do all things through Christ”. This may sound an extreme example but that is a perfect picture you paint if you believe you can do all things. You cannot pilot a plane if you have not been trained to do so, simply because you can do all things. In fact, you cannot fly because you believe you can fly. You are not a bird.

It has been noted earlier that Philippians is a prison epistle. Think of this: what greater feats is a man in prison attempting to achieve when he writes “I can do all things…?” No, Paul cannot do all things in the sense of achieving whatever great feat he can set his mind to. This is someone in prison, who is probably bound in shackles and couldn’t even move about freely. Achieving arbitrary great feats will not be his focus at that time. A man in prison will perhaps be making good use of the limited time he has. He wouldn’t be having “conquering the world in great achievements” on his plate at all.

Contentment

In Philippians 4:13, what Paul is speaking about condenses simply into contentment. You see, Paul is in prison and the Philippian church have finally had an opportunity to show their concern for his upkeep: “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity” (v.10). It could be that perhaps hitherto, they had not had the opportunity to show their concern to Paul in prison, yet, through divine providence, it had become possible and Paul shows gratitude for their concern. However, perhaps for them not to feel compelled under duress to further provide for him, Paul quickly explains he is not appreciating them out of need. He tells them: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be a content” (v.11).

Paul here makes it clear he has learnt contentment in whatever situation he finds himself. And this is the crux of the whole text: contentment. Building up to v.13 Paul will again speak of how he has learnt contentment in every situation: “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need (v.12). This is very instructive to us today in a world that constantly calls us to crave for more. A consumerist spirit has gripped many and they are never content with what they have. But not so with Paul. He tells us he has learnt to endure both plenty and lack. Where did he learn this from? He learnt it by emulating Christ. Remember, earlier he had advised the Philippians to “have this mind among [themselves], which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Learn from Christ, he is saying. Set your mind upon him. Let his humiliation be an example to endure whatever situation you find yourself. Be content with whatever you have and learn to trust in God in the bad and good situations.

Logically, if you have read v.12, the meaning in v.13 must now begin to stand out when Paul says “I can do all things through him[Christ] who strengthens me.” The ‘all things’ refers in the first place to coping with need or plenty. The apostle’s words are better translated ‘I can do all things in him…’. It is ‘in Christ’ that he has learned to do this.² If you have never seen contentment in Philippians 4:13; begin looking at the text in its context. I will conclude with the words of Sinclair B. Ferguson in his book ‘Let’s Study Philippians’:

Christians today live in a society which is permeated by a spirit of discontentment. Greed has destroyed gratitude, getting has replaced giving. But in the pursuit of self-sufficiency, we have lost our way. We have developed spirits driven forwards to gain more, incapable of slowing, stopping and remembering that those who sow the wind reap the whirlwind…It is time to pause and to ask: ‘Am I content, in Christ?’ If not, it is the first thing I need to begin to relearn³.

Notes:

1. Note on Philippians 4:13 from The MacArthur Study Bible, 2006, Thomas Nelson.

2. Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Philippians (Edinburgh:Banner of Truth, 2005), 108

3. Ferguson, Let’s Study Philippians, 109

Revelation: Hearing God

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The word revelation is used loosely in our time in relation to Christian theology. Some speak of God speaking to them, giving them a revelation through dreams, visions and prophecy. Someone may approach you and say God has revealed something to him about you. How are we to respond to such extra-biblical revelation?

The answer is to understand what revelation is, how God has spoken through the ages and how he speaks today. Such an understanding will free us from the error and danger of men and women who come with what they term revelation. One place in Scripture we can turn to in further answering the question about revelation is Hebrews 1:1-2.

Long ago, at many times and a in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things,  through whom also he created the world.

When we say Revelation, we are speaking of how God has made himself known in human history. R.C. Sproul aptly says “Everything we know about Christianity has been revealed to us by God. To reveal means “to unveil.” It involves removing a cover from something that is concealed.” [2] Theologians identify two avenues by which God has revealed himself in human history, namely, General Revelation and Special Revelation.

General revelation, is, as named, general and is available to all. This revelation of God manifests in the world around us. God has revealed himself to all human beings through nature and no one has an excuse to deny the existence of God. Any denial is actually a suppression of the truth (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:19-21).

Special revelation on the other hand is how God has revealed himself to humankind apart from nature and through special means unavailable to all. Special revelation is therefore salvific; that is, it leads to salvation. The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) highlights the inability of people to come to faith through General revelation: “Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation” (WCF 1.1). Special revelation varies in nature and this is precisely the point of the text when it says “at many times and in many ways.” Some of these many ways include theophanies, dreams, visions, and through prophets.

Clearly, we note that God is not a silent God but a God who has through human history revealed and made himself known specially: “God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” This sets a contrast between the prophets of long ago and Christ in these last days as God’s means of revelation.  Prophets held a high place in Jewish religion for it is through them God spoke to the Old Testament people. “Our fathers” also in the text is to be understood as the Patriarchs of the Old Testament, who are the progenitors of the recipients. So God at a certain point in history; the past, revealed himself to the Jews by Prophets all recorded in the Old Testament.

In the the Old Testament which is also the Hebrew Bible or Tanak, the Jews have three main divisions — Torah (Law), Neb’im (Prophets) and Ketubim (The writings). You will recall when Jesus spoke with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, he preached to them about himself from Moses (the Pentateuch or Torah) and all the Prophets (Luke 24:27). Prophets indeed held a high place in Jewish religion. When Paul said in 2Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is breathed out by God…”, he was speaking primarily of Old Testament Scripture made up of the writings of prophets–Major and Minor. It is in the same sense Peter’s words were written in 2 Peter 1:20-21.

Now moving from a lesser argument, that is, God speaking through the Prophets at different times and many ways, the author turns to a greater argument–Christ as the final agent of God’s revelation. Sinclair Ferguson in his book From The Mouth Of God identifies how God’s revelation of himself moved progressively to its culmination in the person of Christ.

First, it is historical: God has been active in history in order to show his power and love. Second, it is verbal: God has provided his own interpretation of his actions. He has given us a permanent record of his words … through…the pages of Scriptures. Third, it is progressive and cumulative. God gave his revelation in different ways and at different times. But now he has given his final revelation in these last days. Fourth, it is Christ-centred: God’s revelation reached its fulfillment when he spoke his final word to us in his Son, Jesus Christ. [3]

As we have seen, God’s revelation in the past (long ago) has been through agency of prophets through various means. But in these last days (the very day Jesus touched down to the earth until now) God’s revelation of himself culminated in the person of Christ: the God-man, the Immanuel. Christ is superior over all other forms of revelation. God has spoken his final words to us through Christ.

Since God’s final revelation has come, the implication therefore is that revelation has ceased for there is nothing new to reveal about God that has not been revealed in the person of Christ. And all of God’s special revelation has been recorded in Scripture to teach, reproof, correct, and train us in all ways necessary to please and glorify him. We therefore don’t need a prophet to speak into our life for direction or even a dream or vision to guide us. God’s written word is sufficient for in it we hear God’s word revealed through the Son: “This is my beloved Son: hear him” (Luke 9:35 KJV). Hearing the Son is only possible through the written word.

…therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased (WCF 1.1)

I will finally conclude with the words of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones as quoted in John MacArthur’s book, Strange Fire:

Again, we must note that often in the history of the Church trouble has arisen because people thought that they were prophets in the New Testament sense, and that they had received special revelations of truth. The answer to that is that in view of the New Testament Scriptures there is no need of further truth. That is an absolute proposition. We have all truth in the New Testament, and we have no need of any further revelations. All has been given, everything that is necessary for us is available. Therefore if a man claims to have received a revelation of some fresh truth we should suspect him immediately. [3]

Notes

1. Sproul, R. C.. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith ( United States Of America: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992), Kindle Edition

2: Sinclair B. Ferguson, From The Mouth Of God: Trusting, Reading, And Applying The Bible (Edinburgh: The Banner Of Truth, 2015), 7

3. John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending The Holy Spirit With Counterfeit Worship (Nashville: Tennessee, Nelson Books, 2013), Kindle Edition.

—- Adapted from article originally posted by author as Christ:God’s Final Revelation  on Sovereigngracegh.org

The Son Of God Is Not Called Jesus Christ. He is called Yeshua Hamashiach—Owusu Bempah

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A video has been making the rounds with Rev. Owusu Bempah of Glorious Word Power Ministry International purporting “that the real son of God is called Yeshua Hamashiach reiterating that Jesus Christ was an impostor. “The son of God” he said, “is not called Jesus Christ. He is called Yeshua Hamashiach.” The video and transcript can be viewed here.

Now, his statement doesn’t deserve a response because it is not an issue at least at the level of Christian scholarlship. It is simply a case of ignorance. But considering that he is a so called Reverend and the number of controversies he stirs in this country, it is right to put the issue in its right place.

In the first place, the name “Yeshua” is the English transliteration of the Hebrew word ישוע. Now unless one has the ability to read Hebrew, that word is meaningless. Yeshua in Hebrew simply means “Saviour” and the Greek transliteration is “Iesous” from which we have Jesus—the English transliteration. So unless you are reading the New Testament in Hebrew, there is no point for a Hebrew word —ישוע–Yeshua in an English Bible especially so when the New Testament was originally written in Greek.

He went on further to say that “The name Jesus Christ was given by Constantine”. This is incredibly ludicrous.  Yeshua Hamashiach, again is another transliteration from Hebrew to English. In English it means “Jesus The Messiah” which is English transliteration of the Greek Iesous Cristos; also a transliteration of the Hebrew Yeshua Hamashiach. Mashiach means “anointed”. John recorded this in Christ’s discourse with the woman at the well:

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he. (John 4:25-26).

He continued Jesus Christ is not the name of the son of God. There was this man who came called Nero who was killing the followers of Jesus Christians who were not even called Christians but Nazarenes.  He could feed them to lions and other dangerous animals but their numbers increased.

There’s some truth in the above. Historically, it is true there was a man named Nero who persecuted Christians. An online article “Who Was Nero?” captures something about Nero worth considering:

Nero took the throne approximately two decades after Christ was crucified. Although still in its infancy, Christianity was spreading rapidly during this time. In fact, approximately fourteen of the New Testament’s twenty-seven books were written in whole or in part during Nero’s emperorship. Also during Nero’s reign the apostle Paul was confined to house arrest in Rome (AD 60—63), where he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Nero was the “Caesar” to whom Paul appealed for justice during his trial in Caesarea (Acts 25:10–12).²

Rev. Owusu Bempah in his statement also claims Christians were called Nazarenes. That is also false. The name Christians—believer and follower of Christ — was first used in Acts 11:26. The word is another Greek-English transliteration meaning follower of Christ: Christos; a Christian, i.e. Follower of Christ — Christian. ³

Before the name Christians (Acts 11:26), The followers of Christ were called People of the Way (Acts 9:2). Remember Christ said he is the way, the truth and the life ( John 14:6).  There are men on pulpits who don’t know what they believe. However, these men are drawing crowds and leading people astray. These things could have easily been cleared if Owusu Bempah had spent some time reading around. We live in sad times as a Church in this nation. I pray God gives us discerment and raises preachers who will only preach the truth and not engage in “irreverent babble, [which] will lead people into more and more ungodliness” (2Timothy 2:16).

Notes

1:https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Jesus-Christ-not-the-son-of-God-he-was-an-impostor-Owusu-Bempah-597752?video=1

2:https://www.gotquestions.org/who-was-Nero.html

3: http://biblehub.com/greek/5546.htm

 

Evangelist Prays Over ‘Bloody’ River: Christianity or Superstition?

 

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Much of what we call Christianity in this country is superstition carried over from animistic beliefs garnished with biblical jargon. For instance, many will explain every sickness or death as having an evil spirit behind it. In Ghana, nobody gets sick or dies of natural causes. Every sickness, death or misfortune ought to be explained ‘spiritually’. Either somebody in your family is “doing you”(an expression that means one is being  manipulated spiritually in the dark world by another) or a work colleague, business partner, family or friend is behind a misfortune of another.

Professing Christians have become obsessed with the devil to the point of making God appear powerless and out of control. I am tempted to believe the God of these so called believers is not the God of the Bible. Christians are counselled against  visiting their hometowns because family members will harm them spiritually. Others are instructed not to remit their relatives—even parents.

When I hear these things, I ask what happened to the sovereignty of God over his creation that Christians believe or must believe?

And all these, sadly, comes from Christian pulpits and churches. Preachers have become purveyors of fear instead of preachers of the love and grace of God which forgives sin through faith in Christ Jesus. Social media seem to have heightened our superstition.

On Saturday 7th October, there was a reported case of a river in the New Juaben municipality turning red like blood. This incident, according to a chief in the community was a result of a chemical pollution in the river. The Ghana Police’s preliminary investigations also corroborated the chief’s assertion. Below is an excerpt from a news item carried on Citifm.

Our preliminary investigations show that, it was not blood, but rather some unscrupulous persons might have poured some chemicals into it upstream and that was what was flowing downstream.

However, as usual, superstition came into play. Residents of the town are said to have been superstitious about the incident. What is troubling however is a Christian minister of the gospel joining in the superstition chants. A news item on GhanaWeb, “Lawrence Tetteh exorcises ‘bloody river’ of demons” reads as below:

The Founder of World Miracle Outreach, Dr Lawrence Tetteh has visited the New Juaben municipality in the Eastern Region to exorcise the ‘blood red’ Nsukwa River of any evil spirits after the water body suddenly changed colour on Saturday, 7 October.

The evangelist prayed for blessings for the townsfolk and asked for God’s intervention for “Koforidua to live in peace”.

During the prayer session, he said: “…We cast every demon, we say Koforidua shall be peaceful. There will not be bloodshed; there will not be anything evil, the people of Koforidua will be blessed”.

He added: “As we see this thing in the river; the river is looking like blood, whatever it is and wherever it comes from we bless it in Jesus’ name, Amen!”

This is sad and nothing close to Christianity. Dear Christian friend, let’s put our thinking caps on and be a little more discerning—it is a biblical charge. A social media commentator’s words will aptly conclude this short post.

Instead of switching on our brains and acting like intelligent humans, we dance around like heathen and call on God to do for us what we must do for ourselves.

Kofi Bentil

Accurate Reading And Interpretation of The Bible

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Do 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 (2Timothy 2:15).

Paul writes to young Timothy his protegé instructing him on several doctrinal issues in his role as a pastor and particularly in this verse, Timothy is instructed on “rightly handling the word of truth”. Though a pastoral letter, the charge nonetheless holds true for every believer. We are all called upon to engage in a right handling of the word of truth. If the Bible is the word of God and it is, then you and I have a responsibility not to misinterpret God’s word. You don’t want your words to be misinterpreted to mean what you didn’t mean, do you? Why would you go as far as misinterpreting God’s word?

In different instances, I have engaged in disagreements over how a biblical text was handled and I have met with words as “That’s your opinion” “I  have my own opinion”. “That’s how you choose to interpret the text, I choose to interpret it differently”. You probably might have heard similar words spoken to you or you might have spoken those words yourself to someone who disagreed with you on a biblical text. In a world of subjectivity, this might sound appealing.

The problem however is that the bible is not left to our subjective interpretation and “opinionising”. The Bible has an objective meaning in its context. Though it is God’s word, it is written in human language and all the rules of reading, comprehension and interpretation of literature or any written document applies. The Bible is God’s word but it is a book and must be read as a book.

Do Your Best

Though it is a book, yet the Bible is the sacred word of God and we must handle it accurately and not misinterpret it. If you wouldn’t want your own words misinterpreted and given meaning you didn’t intend, it must follow then that if no human being will tolerate a misinterpretation of their words, I doubt God will tolerate same. The phrase “Do your best” gives a picture of effort, preparation and diligence.

Prior to vs 15 of 2Timothy, Paul had drawn certain analogies from the life of a soldier, athlete and farmer. These analogies help us understand well the phrase “Do your best”. The soldier seeks to please his superiors, the athlete competes according to the rules and a farmer works hard. The Christian must do same in their lives and especially the handling of God’s word. She must seek to please God in all she does and especially in the handling of God’s word. And must, as it were, live according to the “rules” that govern Christian living. And finally work hard–not be lax in Christian conduct. The phrase “Do Your Best”, in the Greek–Spoudaźo[1], speaks of zeal or being zealous. To “Do your best” therefore speaks of zeal in presenting ourselves as one approved–that is people who please God. And one of the many ways in pleasing God is handling His word accurately.

Rightly Handling The Word

Suppose you are to engage the services of any professional, what will be your standard for selection? For example, if you are to engage the services of a tailor/seamstress ( fashion designer), would you engage one who cuts clothes indiscriminately without precision and accuracy? Would you engage an architect whose drawings are inaccurate. And who would live in a house that tilts to its side? I doubt if anyone would. But if these are important, why do people leave their lives and eternal destiny into the hands of people who “wrongly handle the word of truth” and teach their followers same? “Rightly  handling the word of truth” speaks of accuracy, precision, exactness and straightness. “Precision and accuracy are required in biblical interpretation, beyond all other enterprises, because the interpreter is handling God’s Word. Anything less is shameful”[2].

The question I will try and answer now is, “how can we handle the word of truth with accuracy and precision?” I will offer some points here.

Read Your Bible

First and foremost you must read the Bible if you will come any close to rightly handling the word of truth. Many believers don’t know what the Bible teaches simply because they don’t read it. They believe the Bible is God’s word, but they can’t even tell of the last time they read the Bible. Writing about why people don’t study their Bible, R.C. Sproul in his book Knowing Scripture nailed it to one reason–laziness: “We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy” [3]

Read It Orderly:

“…it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught”(Luke 1:3-4)

Luke tells us something about his gospel account which is true of every book of the Bible. The Bible is an “orderly account” of events. It is not a disorderly, haphazard, magical words appearing on a paper.

Study Your Bible

Reading and studying are two different things. “There is a great deal of difference between reading and studying. Reading is something we can do in a leisurely way, something that can be done strictly for entertainment in a casual manner. But study suggests labor, serious and diligent work“[4].

There is a level of seriousness that comes with studying that is not required of reading. Again we turn to Luke’s gospel. He said to Theophilus:

…having followed all things closely.

This statement indicates an attention to detail and facts concerning gospel truth. This same disposition of mind is required in studying the Bible. Luke poured over– examined, investigated, scrutinised, paid attention, analysed and engaged–the facts of what was handed over by the eye witnesses of Christ’s life, i.e. the apostles (Luke 1:2). As believers, our regenerated  minds have been empowered with the capacity to “spiritually discern” God’s word in contrast to the unregenerated  man who can’t discern  or receive spiritual things. So dear believer, do just that! Engage the text! Take note of phrases, meaning of words, figurative expressions, grammatical  constructions and pray the Holy Spirit to illuminate your mind.

Present Yourself To God As one Approved

As believers we need to grow in sanctification and mature in holiness. Our effort in cooperation with the Spirit of God towards sanctification as believers is not what secures our salvation, yet it is necessary for our spiritual growth and usefulness. See the result or the objective Luke hoped to achieve with his orderly presentation of his gospel to Theophilus: “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught”.

This is important for us Bible readers. An orderly presentation of truth brings clarity. It gives roots to faith. It solidifies ones beliefs. Paul tells Timothy something similar to the impact Luke hopes his gospel would have on Theophilus (2Timothy 3:14-15).

When we rightly handle the word, it makes us wise in our faith walk and saves us from error of false teachers: But avoid irreverent babble , for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.”(2Timothy 2:16- 18).

Basic Tools Of Hermeneutics

To rightly handle the word of truth we need tools to help us. At this point I will share three basic tools of hermeneutics.  Hermeneutics “…is the study of the principles and methods of interpreting the text of the Bible…The purpose of biblical hermeneutics is to help us to know how to properly interpret, understand, and apply the Bible”[5].

Analogy Of Faith

This rule holds that Scripture is its own interpreter: “Sacra Scriptura sui interpres“. What this teaches basically is that no interpretation of a Scripture or Scriptures must contradict any other Scripture. Since God doesn’t contradict Himself, we must expect His word to also be in harmony as a whole. Biblical interpretation therefore must be approached with the whole body of biblical revelation in mind. When we interpret a Scripture, we must be sure that our interpretation agrees with other Scriptures rather than contradict. Where a Scripture is contradicting another, we must solve the contradiction or throw away our interpretation.

Literal Translation

It has been said already that the Bible is a book and as such must be read as a book. When we are told to read the Bible literally, what is being spoken of here is that we must  “…interpret the Bible literally… as literature. That is, the natural meaning of a passage is to be interpreted according to the normal rules of grammar, speech, syntax and context”[6]. So the next time you approach the Bible, take notice of the words you are reading

Genre Analysis

Bible is a Greek word biblio which means book. So the Bible is a book. It is not only a book but a book made up of different collection of books of different genres. The genres of the Bible includes historical narratives, wisdom literature, Psalms, Letters (epistles), Gospel, Prophetic writings,  Apocalyptic writings and each of these  genre must be identified and read with the rules governing a particular genre. Now genre analysis involves the study of figures of speech and style, literary devices and any other literature forms. This tool goes hand in hand with literal translation. So in genre analysis, we consider the literary style of every particular genre and how to interpret it.

There are many other tools of hermeneutics. But these three are basic and a good foundation for further reading.

Notes

1: Study notes on 2Timothy 2:15, ESV Study Bible, ©2008, Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois

2: Study notes on 2Timothy 2:15, THE MACARTHUR STUDY BIBLE Copyright © 2006 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE (kindle edition)

3: Sproul, R.C Knowing Scripture, © 2009, InterVarsity Press[kindle edition]

4: ibid

5: http://www.gotquestions.org/Biblical-hermeneutics.html

6: Sproul, R.C Knowing Scripture, © 2009, InterVarsity Press[kindle edition]

PepperDem Ministries, Feminists and The Bible

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PepperdemMinistries , a feminist group has been making the rounds on social media recently. They have addressed a plethora of issues within an admirable short period. In this article, I will want to respond to one of their numerous issues— what I call a misinterpretation of biblical texts in pushing their ideologies. I will do this by focusing on two of their posts.

Firstly this;

I do not subscribe to the bible because quite honestly, in it’s entirety, it doesn’t preach a lot of the values that i do in its entirety. It also doesn’t center around facts, and i am not superstitious. However, I would like to know why the following verse is never read in full. I mean since y’all are always on about context and that. You tend to hear pastors hammer on verse 22, but what about the rest of it? So hear (sic) it goes. Ephisians (sic) 5:21-32 21 Submit to ONE ANOTHER out of reverence for Christ.

Denial of Biblical Authority.

I may be wrong to say this for the whole group. But at least that a member says “I do not subscribe to the bible” gives cause for concern. The concern is that, any post with a biblical text may be tainted by this ‘non-subscription’ to the Bible. What this means is that the Bible holds no authority for any view it expresses against the feminist agenda. Again, this member holds herself high above the Scriptures; which means that, her values are higher than what the Bible preaches. She goes further to question the factuality of the Bible and calls it superstitious. Right from the word go, the authority of the Bible is shut out in this discourse. Meanwhile, other members of the group look into the Bible for their case. What are we to make of this? Does the group believe in the Bible or this is an isolated case of a member who doesn’t believe in the bible?

Now, despite the fact that this member doesn’t subscribe to biblical authority, she throws a challenge to what could perhaps be described as a pet scripture against male headship of a family. She asks for the context of Ephesians 5:21-32. And I take that challenge.

So here is Ephesians 5:21 “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” and Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22).

There appears to be a call for mutual submission here, which, if true, fuels the Feminists agenda. But will mutual submission between husband and wife be a proper interpretation in both texts? No, it won’t be. Without hesitation; as a married Christian man, I will state emphatically that husbands are not called to submit to wives (in the same sense the word is used in vv. 21-22). Husbands are only called to love their wives. And wives called to submit to their husbands.

In Ephesians 5:21, Paul is not speaking of submission in the same sense he is speaking of it in v.22. Verse 21 is not speaking to a ‘husband and wife’s’ union but rather to the whole body of believers; whereas v.22 is speaking specifically to the union between husband and wife. Ephesians 5, if we pay attention, is dealing with various human relationships in the church. Verses 1-21 address the first of such relationship the Ephesians had—they were Christians. Paul therefore outlines general relational conduct amongst them as believers. Paul opens chapter 5 saying:

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.” (v.1).

“Therefore” in v.1 is a conjunctive adverb connecting an idea Paul was addressing from the previous chapter. Let’s back up to Ephesians 4 to understand Paul. I will dwell on Ephesians 4:31-32 since it is sufficient to explain what Paul is saying in Eph 5:21. Paul wrote; Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

An analysis of the verses above will be helpful.

Note the phrases: “put away from you“, “Be kind to one another” “forgiving one another“, Christ forgave you“. Who is Paul addressing? He is addressing the general Christian body in Ephesus and instructing them to live in mutual respect and love towards one another (of course that includes husband and wife). Remember in Ephesians 5:1 Paul addresses all of the Ephesian Christians to “walk in love”

Let’s now enter Ephesians 5:19-21 and we see this same idea of mutual respect and love (not limited to husband and wife) among believers: “19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” You see the same phrase “one another” repeating here? and it has nothing to do with “husband and wife”. It is a call for mutual respect, love and care among all Christians in general.

Now from v.22: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” through to Ephesians 6:1-9, Paul begins to address specific requirements in specific relationships: Husband and wife (vv.22–33), Children with Parents (Eph. 6:1-3), Father with children (6:4), Servants with Masters (6:5-8) and Masters with their servants (Eph. 6:9). The submission in v.22 is different from v.21 in the sense that it calls specifically to the wife to submit to the husband. What is she submitting to? She is to submit to the headship and leadership of the man as the head of the home. The verses that follow clarifies that: For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body , and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (23-24).

The marital union for the Christian is analogous to the relationship between Christ and his bride—the church. And wives are called to submit to their husbands as they submit to Christ. Christian husbands also have their enormous task to fulfil in loving their wives as Christ loved the church. That’s an enormous responsibility. Indeed, as sinners, men will abuse this responsibility purposed to make them cherish their wives. And of course, wives may find submission difficult because of the effects of sin. That however doesn’t “rewrite the script”. The husband is the head of the family just as Christ is the head of the church– his bride. This is a biblical mandate and rejecting it is rejecting biblical authority which our dear sister (I hope she doesn’t scream don’t call me your sister) has done. She doesn’t subscribe to the Bible. To her, the Bible doesn’t deal with facts; the Bible is superstitious.

Dear Christian wife, will you take your theology from someone who rejects biblical authority and places herself over and above the Bible? You must not be in competition with your husband over equality. He is the head of your home just as Christ is the head of the church. Does that mean oppression? No. Biblical Manhood is not oppressive but protective.

Secondly, this, and I will base the rest of the article here.

SOLOMON. Dude continues to carry the title for “wise”; man to have graced this earth. But he is also the greatest “man-whore”; to have lived among humans … Solomon gets to be still favoured by God in his whorish behaviour. He didn’t have to repent his ways. He didn’t even have to feel remorseful … Let me throw you a challenge. Reflect on all the Bible characters we have discussed so far: 1. David: Murderer and Adulterer 2. Jacob: Pure evil thief, impersonator, dubious and diabolical creep. 3. Samson: Gullible idiot 5. Adam: Complacent, Pitiful irresponsible caretaker. Dear daughter of Eve, let me throw you a challenge today. Sit down and match up your flaws against that of these men listed here. Sit down from across the list, pour yourself a glass of wine and drink up to your flaws. I can assure you, you are a saint by all standards! I am on a mission to normalise flawed women, because women are also human and they deserve Second chances in life.

Human Depravity

There is something common we share with the biblical characters. What we read of these male characters is just what all of us are –sinners. Apart from Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life to die to save sinners who come to him in faith, the Bible, without exception, judges all human beings as sinners separated from the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). The heart (of men and women), the bible tells us “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer 17:9). If at any point in our lives we compare ourselves to the biblical characters and reckon we are better than them, we slip into the sin of self-righteousness (Luke 18:9-14).

Sit down and match up your flaws against that of these men … pour yourself a glass of wine and drink up to your flaws.

Drink up to your flaws?

Pepperdem is advising women to celebrate their flaws— after all, they are unlike the men mentioned in the Bible: “you are a saint by all standards” No! Woman with flaws, you are not a saint by all standards. You are wretched by the only standard that matters: God’s standard of holiness: “None is righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:11). The Bible doesn’t teach us to celebrate our flaws. Neither does it call us to compare ourselves with ourselves and be complacent in our rot. Rather, the Bible calls men and women unto repentance (Acts 17:30; Titus 2:11-12).

Missing God’s Grace In The Biblical Narrative

This statement, “Solomon gets to be still favoured by God in his whorish behaviour” is simply an affront to God and his grace. It misses the whole point of God’s grace in Scripture. Pepperdem is playing God and choosing to determine who gets favoured and who doesn’t. Solomon doesn’t deserve God’s favour is what I get from this statement. Now, despite what we read of these sinful personalities, their biography is without editing and embellishment to present them as perfect. You see, the Bible is the story of a Holy God reaching out to sinful –fallen– humanity. Right from the garden of Eden, when Adam disobeyed God; a plan of salvation was set in place. (Genesis 3:15). What God had to work with was sinful humanity.

The Messiah came into our human history through Mary and the genealogy of Christ traces him through the line of all these wretched souls — David, Solomon, Jacob, Tamah, Rahab and the list continues. This is the story of the Bible; God working with imperfect human beings to accomplish his purpose. We must note that God didn’t normalise their sins. God was displeased with David’s sin for instance (2Sam 11:27; 12; Ps. 51). Not only that, David’s sin attracted God’s discipline and punishment. It is wrong to say this of Solomon; “He didn’t have to repent his ways. He didn’t even have to feel remorseful” when indeed, God punished him (1Kings 11:9-11; 11:14).

Finally,

Look To Christ For Your Second Chance, Not Men.

What exactly do the daughters of Eve want a second chance for? I suppose a second chance for their flaws. Whatever it may be, they should look to Christ for that second chance. A woman caught in adultery was brought to Christ. He dismissed her accusers and got a second chance. Christ encountered a woman battered by broken relationships. She has lived with five men when she encountered Christ. She got a second chance (John 4). Ultimately, even Eve got a second chance together with her Adam. God clothed their nakedness (Gen. 3:21).

I will end by saying I am not against empowering women. However, when the Bible is to be used for any such agenda, we must be faithful to sound biblical interpretation.