Theme: How to Study the Bible
In This Issue:
- “How to Answer a False Doctrine” by Sean Cavender
- “Studying Passages That Help With Our Own Spiritual Growth” by Hannah & Sarah Crawford
- “How to Determine the Message of a Bible Book” by David Deuster
“How to Answer a False Doctrine”
Quite possibly one of the most difficult things you will ever have to deal with is your approach to false teaching. There are many factors that one must give thought towards in this important discussion. False teachers have been a plague to the Lord’s church since the days of the apostles. Paul identified false brethren who had snuck into the churches of Galatia (Galatians 2:4). Peter warned of how false brethren would distort the teachings of Scripture to suit their own purposes (2 Peter 3:16). John warned of many deceivers that were in the world, and identified their deception as anti-Christ doctrine (2 John 1:7). Jude dealt very plainly with false teachers, identifying their false teachings, and warned of how God deals with such false teachers (Jude 1:4)
The Intent of False Doctrine
Knowledge of false teaching is necessary because we must be prepared to answer false doctrines so that others will not be swept away by these deceivers. It is important to know how to answer false doctrines. It should come as no surprise that there will be those who are maliciously striving to lead people away from the truths contained in God’s word. The object of false doctrine is not to benefit you. False teachers proclaim their doctrine in order to gain followers, have respect, and want to cause harm to the Lord’s body. Paul warned of how he would not give a platform for these false teachers to proclaim their deceptions because of their intent to lead people astray (2 Corinthians 11:12-15; Galatians 2:5). We must be extremely cautious towards false doctrines and those who espouse such things.
Jude exhorted brethren to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). We need to be ready to embattle those who would might deliver some false teaching to the churches. There seems to be a growing number of people who do not want to hear sermons on false teachings. Some might object because they feel it is mean-spirited to identify such false teachers and their doctrines, but how else might we warn brethren to remain faithful, and be guarded against such falsehoods? If we do not contend, or fight, for the truthfulness of the gospel then we are laying the perfect groundwork for false teachers to come in as the guardians of truth, and deceive us. It is for this reason that Paul encouraged Titus to rebuke false teachers sharply (Titus 1:13). We must not be mean, but we must not give them an inch. False teachers will be argumentative, and strong in their teaching. We must be equally strong with our presentation of truth.
How NOT To Answer A False Doctrine
When we are answering a false doctrine, and false teachers, there are some things that we must NOT do.
- Don’t get personal. We are to remain in control of ourselves, and especially our temper, when we are dealing with false teachers. When answering their doctrine, do not attack the person. We should not give others a way in which they find fault in us, and will not hear us. Attack the false teaching, not the person.
- Don’t answer an argument that wasn’t made. We need to be prepared to listen to those who are espousing the false doctrine, and be ready to answer what they are teaching. If we waste our time dealing with arguments they never made then how does that benefit anyone? It is also not dealing with the doctrine that they are actually teaching. If we are to stamp out the false doctrines that may enter the Lord’s church, then answer the arguments that are being made in attempts to deceive.
- Don’t accuse a person of believing the consequences of their doctrine. There may be several consequences of believing any number of false teachings, but that does not necessarily mean they accept the logical consequences of their position. Point out, and teach them the logical consequences of accepting such a false position, but do not accuse them of something that they do not believe.
How To Answer A False Doctrine
First, you must identify the false doctrine. When identifying false teaching, you must identify the source of that teaching. The Holy Spirit was quite plain in revealing the desire of these false teachers – they desire to lead people astray (Galatians 2:4; 2 Timothy 2:14; 2 John 1:7). It will only benefit you to have knowledge of those who are teaching falsely, and what they are teaching. The Scriptures teach that faithful brethren need to mark and identify false teachers (Romans 16:17).
Secondly, you must be fair towards false teachers. You cannot misrepresent their doctrine. You do not want others to sympathize towards them because of your unfairness. Acknowledge what they say, and answer the false teaching. If they say they do not believe in something, do not force it upon them. If they are attacking you, be courteous towards them. Do not sink to their level. Conduct yourself as a Christian at all times, especially when dealing with false teaching.
Thirdly, study to show yourself approved (2 Timothy 2:14, 15). Paul warned Timothy of false teachings, the need to be aware of those false teachings, and how he must study the truth to be prepared to encounter those false doctrines. If we are not continually studying the word of God then we are prime candidates to be deceived by some who might be well studied, and dynamic speakers (2 Peter 2:2). False teachers will not claim to be a false teacher. We must be ready, and guarded.
Fourthly, deal with objections. When you encounter a false teacher they will certainly have objections to the truth of the gospel. You need to be ready for their objections. Sometimes it will require additional study, but it is essential in trying to stamp out their false notions. Patience and longsuffering are essential qualities that will help you in dealing with these teachers. Do not ignore their teachings, and squabbles. Deal with their arguments and objections to the truth.
We must be prepared and constantly ready to deal with false teaching. The main purpose when answering false teachers is the salvation of their souls. Never forget that. They must acknowledge the falsehood of their doctrines, and the truthfulness of the gospel. They must recognize they are fighting against the Lord. Will you help lead them out of their error?
1.Romans : Rom 4:23
Studying Passages That Help With My Own Spiritual Growth
Hannah and Sarah Crawford
Spiritual growth is something that all Christians can work on throughout our entire lives, but sometimes it’s hard to know what passages to read or where to start. Everyone is different and, although something may work for one person, that does not guarantee that it will also work for others. There are many passages in the Bible that discuss and instruct us on how to grow and what we can do to help others grow. However, before we can make any changes, it’s important that we know what our purpose in life is and what God wants of His people.
Rom. 12: 1-14 tells us how our bodies are for praising and glorifying God and that each one of us has a talent or gift that can help the church grow. Some people may feel that others in the church are more important than them, but that is not what the Bible teaches. Each person has a talent that can aid the church, but also motivate others to grow in that area. Later in verses 19 and 21 it instructs us on how we should handle problems we have with others. We must trust that God will repay others since He is the judge over all and we are to overcome the evil we face with good. Although the world may mock us and insult our beliefs, we must still trust and follow God and not be discouraged by what others say or do since each will be held accountable for their own actions (2 Cor. 5:10).
Rom. 10:1-4 can only be satisfied through following Christ. In order to submit oneself to God, there has to be a zeal for God and knowledge of the truth. We live in a society where following God is not always encouraged because it means people are wrong and no one wants to hurt anyone’s feelings. As Christians, we are to follow God and not man (Matt. 6:24). Although the trends and values of man may change, and no matter how people may try to blur the lines between right and wrong, God never changes (Mal. 3:6). In Genesis chapters 6-9, we learn that Noah did right and obeyed the Lord and did so in spite of the world being against him. It is also told in the New Testament “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Heb. 11:6-7). In an effort to spare feelings, people confuse an attempt of correction with judgment. Although we are not to judge people (Matt. 7:1-5; James 4:12), we are commanded to “…reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2). There will be difficult times when our faith is tried and when we may falter but we should use those times to make us stronger and here are some verses we can turn to in such times: Rom. 5:3-5, Rom. 8:28, Rom. 8:37-39, and Phil. 4:13.When we choose to follow God, we are with the few (Matt. 7:13-14). God never promised it would be easy but He is always with us.
I Peter 3:15 says “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” To do this, we must study the Bible (Romans 10:14-17; I Pet. 2:1-5). “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). We have to yield to God and study His word because it contains His will for us (John 14:1-11; 2 Tim. 1:8-12).
“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season…” (2 Tim. 4:2). Studying with family, friends from church, or classmates from school can allow you to see things from a different perspective. It may cause you to look at things in a way you haven’t noticed before. It may even bring to your attention areas of uncertainty that require further study. Spiritual growth is an everyday part of our lives but if you are looking to grow more, start small and then do more (don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do too much at once or making unrealistic goals). If you come across scripture that you really like or that encourages you no matter what the situation, write it down and put it somewhere you will always see it (wallet, purse, bathroom mirror, etc.). You can also make a list of your favorite verses to where you can read through them every day, memorize them one by one, and keep adding to the list as you come across more scripture in your studies.
Here are just a few that we have:
2 Tim. 1:13; 3:16-17
Rom. 12:1-2, 8:28, 8:37-39
“How to Determine the Message of a Bible Book”
Much work is required to determine the central idea and outline of a book. Simply consulting a commentary, doing word studies or utilizing other study methods do not yield the necessary information needed to achieve this task. It is a lofty goal, but it is not one that is outside of our reach. Any time that we create goals for ourselves, we must do so with a considerable amount of planning and forethought. The same is true for bible study, especially when it comes to identifying the message of a book. Because God chose to reveal His mind in “books” we should first study them as a whole, then examine their contents carefully and then “assemble the parts.”
The central message is often times found at a single point in the text. However, it is important to remember that in normal writings the main thought of a paragraph is not always found in the first sentence. Likewise the main message of the book is not always found in the first verse or in some cases the first chapter. For example, the book of Galatians sets forth a contrast in law and gospel in much the same fashion as the book of Romans. Most bible students agree that Romans 1:16-17 sets forth the message of the book as “justification by grace through faith.” However as one studies the book of Galatians, it is not until chapter 2 that Paul sets forth his message in the book. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:16).
The central message can sometimes be found by noting recurring ideas in a passage. As one reads and repeatedly reads certain passages, an outstanding idea comes to the fore. By observing this we can obtain the emphasis of the author. For example, the book of Hebrews mentions several times the idea of “better things” or “things higher” and “everlasting.” Noticing that the writer uses these same phrases time and time again helps us to see the message of the book emphasizes the superiority of the priesthood of Christ and the gospel to the Levitical priesthood and Law of Moses. Likewise the author makes mention of five exhortations that all point to the preeminence and superiority of Christ.
Listed below are three “practices” that I have found helpful in identifying the central message of a book.
- Read the book intentionally. This means to read the book in a single sitting. It is almost impossible to ascertain the whole message of a book if one chooses to read it in parts. As you read, do your best to ignore the chapter and verse divisions. Many of these unfortunate chapter and paragraph divisions occur and cause a casual reader to miss the point of a passage or obscure the full significance of a writer’s meaning. For instance, in times past I had used Matthew 18:20 where Jesus says, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” as meaning that where two are three disciples are assembled the Lord is in their presence. However, looking at the fuller context of the passage it becomes clear that the “two” refers back to verse 16, where at least that number of witnesses is required to settle a matter where a brother is unwilling to repent. “In my name” then means that those two or three are acting in accordance with the Lord’s teaching on discipline. Knowing that the book as a whole sets forth Jesus as king it harmonizes with the fact that the binding and loosing on earth is in accordance with what the Lord has legislated in heaven. Likewise, most modern translations mark a new paragraph at James 1:12. This could lead to a misunderstanding of the relationship between James 1:9-11 and the broader context of verses 2-12 and the function of verse 12 as a conclusion to the preceding discussion (James 1:2-11). Even when you encounter a difficult passage in a book it is often easily understood as you harmonize the verse within its context. The place of a verse in a book is often the key to understanding it and what God teaches through it.
- Read the book independently. This means without a commentary or other study aids. Commentaries can be useful helps, but should be placed secondary in use to the bible. We must remember that the writers of these works are not inspired men and can make mistakes. It is easy to find a certain commentator who agrees with an idea we may already have. Simply relying on commentaries can be dangerous and without doubt is a lazy practice. If our goal is to gain insight to the original message the Spirit revealed then we need to allow the Spirit to speak the mind of God in absence of the thoughts of man. Likewise, it is good to read in a bible where you have not made any notes yourself. Otherwise, when you see the notes you have written your thoughts will naturally rely on previous bias and may hinder you from seeing new things. As you begin reading the book through again and again, begin taking notes and making observations on what you are reading. Remember there is more to bible study than just reading. It is important to take time to meditate on the words that you are reading and to go over your notes and review at the conclusion of each study session. Someone once said that meditation is like stirring the ingredients in the bowl. If we have made the effort in our study to read, think and take notes, then we need to combine those “ingredients” thorough meditation as the Psalmist said, “Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works” (Psalm 119:27).
- Read the book indefinitely. As you read a book for the second time, you begin to build on what you observed in your first reading. This also provides opportunity to begin taking notes on the book. Start to look for connective phrases and words the author uses repeatedly. This is important for a few reasons. First, you begin to familiarize yourself with the flow of the book, which allows you to easily identify the transitions and links the author uses in developing the message. For example, Paul makes a clear transition from Romans 11 to Romans 12 as he starts to make practical application of justification by grace through faith. Secondly, as you continue reading you begin to notice reoccurring thoughts, words and phrases. By itself, 1 Corinthians 15 seems to be a bit out of place as to the theme of the book. However, as you study it as a whole you will see that Paul has been anticipating the resurrection throughout the letter. His aim in offering reprove to the brethren is to prepare them for that day and to assure them that their labor is not vain.