Sadly, even professing Christian denominations find themselves either ignoring the clear teaching of Scripture, or interpreting it in such a way that validates the sinful lives and worldviews in an effort to be ‘open and affirming.’ An openness to sin means you have closed your heart to God’s Word.
Many in our churches need a clear understanding of Scripture–so how does this happen? How do we make sure we haven’t journeyed off the narrow, orthodox path that God lays down. In his book Beyond the Battle for the Bible (GNP, 1980), J.I. Packer gives us some help:
First, God gives understanding through the Holy Spirit. “Only through the Spirit’s illumination shall we be able to see how teaching applies to us in our own situation. . . . That does not cancel the need for study, any more than it invalidates the rules of interpretation. . . . The Spirit works through our diligence, not our laziness” (30).
Secondly, God gives understanding through Christian community. In looking at Colossians 3:16, Packer notes,
“Only as we gratefully share with others what we know and receive from them what they know will the word of Christ (the Christian message) dwell in us richly (abundantly and enrichingly), in the way that produces wisdom. Many of us are at a disadvantage here; we have had it so drummed into us that the only sure way to learn God’s will from the Bible is to go off with it into a solitary place anddig into it on our own that we cannot easily accept that the interchanges of church fellowship, both institutional and informal, are the main channels of entry into spiritual understanding” (31).
What are the main means within the Christian community?
Scripture shows that the main means of learning from God is to hear his message preached and to involve oneself in the give-and-take of Christian fellowship in exploring the contents of Holy Scripture. (32)
So what follows?
- “You and I should take most seriously the preaching under which we sit in our churches.”
- “We should take most seriously the value of group Bible study as a means to personal understanding, and make a point to involve ourselves in it.”
- “We should take most seriously the value of practicing fellowship with Christians outside our own circle by reading their books–including classic books from the Christian past, and expository books written from standpoints other than our own within the Bible-believing spectrum. (Thus Calvinists should sometimes read books by charismatics, and charismatifcs should sometimes read books by Calvinists.) This will help us get some of our blinkers off, and see over the top of some of the ruts we are in.
An excellent word from Dr. Packer.