Al's Blog: The Text is the Thing

April 3, 2012

I have about three kinds of issues swirling around in me this morning that are begging to be addressed.  You may have little interest in any of them but they are things that cause me concern as reflective signs of our age.  I want to write about all three but the third of the three is by far the most urgent in my soul.  The first has to do with our perspective on pleasure.  We have come to see it as a right and not a privilege.  The biblical worldview is six days of labor and one day of rest and worship.  That is not our perspective, now is it?  It concerns me.  The other issue is how much our lives in the part of the world in which I live are controlled by the routines related to the school calendar so that life shuts down when the schools do the same.  Makes me wonder to myself is our investment and involvement in church is just a part of what we do when school is in session.  Does it concern anybody else that churches by the hundreds no longer do worship at all on Sunday evening and many find ways to take the summer Sunday evenings off.  But what is really pressing in on me this morning is how it is so critical that in our preaching and teaching and living that we make the text of Scripture the main thing.  We live in such a spiritually dark time that even the best and most attuned to God can be snared by Satan if we do not stay tied tenaciously to the Biblical text.

Follow the flow of the corruptions of the church from the first century to now and you will find that they have come at three significant places.  The first is the doctrine of the Trinity.  We so much want to understand what we cannot understand that we make of it less than it is.  We slip into modalism and make God the Son so distinctive from God the Father that we forget that at no time was God the Son not fully reflective of God the Father.  We fail to see that God the Spirit does nothing that is not of the essence of the identity of God the Father and God the Son.  Or we slip into Unitarianism and forsake the fundamental functions of the three that are wonderfully unique but strangely mysterious.  It is God the Father who is the sovereign over all creation but it is God the Son who is the source of all creation and God the Spirit who sustains all of creation.  Distinctive expressions, but one in essence.

The second doctrine that gets corrupted if we are not careful is the doctrine of the integrity and absolute authority of Scripture.  Theological understandings and personal preferences begin to shape our understanding of Scripture rather than Scripture shaping our theological understandings and personal preferences.  Prosperity preaching can only be done and believed by those who do not take seriously the totality of the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture.  Physical healing as our right and the main focus of our praying can only happen in a place and among a people who are reading Scripture from a particular and very peculiar perspective.  Doctrinal arguments in our day between Calvinists and Arminians happen far too often because we pay far too much attention to what we believe than to what the Bible says. 

The third doctrine that gets corrupted is the identity of Jesus as fully God and fully human.  Cults have come from the failure to stay tied to the text where it is clear that at no time was Jesus not both fully God and fully man.  We read in John two and elsewhere that He knew what was in humans because He knows all people and He knows what is in us.   There is nothing that He does not know and has not known.  Paul tells us that He did not consider His equality with God something to be “grabbed” or “exploited.”  He was and always equal with God because He is God but He did not seize that position as a privilege from which to display His powers like turning stones into bread or to punish His punishers when He could have called the angels to the cross.  He is as omniscient and omnipotent as the Father and Spirit because He is fully God and fully man. 

For those of us who preach and teach or those of us who lead small group Bible Studies or do one on one discipleship, the text is the main thing.  Stay with it.  Stay in it.  Stick to it.  We live in far too subtle an age to move any distance away from it, and frankly; what people in my opinion are starving for is a Word from God which we already have!  Just make the text as plain as possible.