Monday, February 22, 2016

The Knotty NOT NOT Problem in Scriptures - Part I

I remember from English class that two negatives make a positive. That is, if I say, “Jesus was never unfaithful“, that would be taken as “Jesus was always faithful.” The two negatives, ‘never’ along with the ‘un’ should always be taken as the equivalent of ‘always’. That is that I was taught and possibly you too. I believe that is correct.

However, that teaching does not always hold true in a more general sense: not in our normal speech, and not in the Scriptures. By incorrectly generalizing that rule, some false understandings can develop.

Consider this verse from John 14:24 (NASB),
“He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.”
The ‘does not love’ when paired with ‘does not keep’ creates a double negative. Does that mean that someone who ‘does keep’ can be assumed to ‘does love’? That is, is it correct to assume this passage means ‘He who keeps My words is one who loves Me’? I suggest the answer is, “Not necessarily.”

The proof of our love does not come from our actions. What we do may be indicative of our love, but only God knows the heart.

Therefore, John 14:23 (NASB) includes the positive statement,
“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.’”
This now clarifies the intent of verse 14:24. True love creates true obedience, while lack of true love creates disobedience.

The difference between the first example, “Jesus was always faithful”, and John 14:23,24 comes down to how the two negatives are formed. In the first example, the two negatives refer to one object, the word ‘faithful’. In the second example, there are two objects, ‘love’ and ‘keep My words.’ If there is more than one object, the rule about two negatives may indicate the positive but it does not always apply.

In Part II of this series, we will look at another example of the Knotty NOT NOT problem.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

All Scripture is Breathed Out by God - Part III

Today I read an article by another author that does not give credit to the Holy Spirit for inspiring the Bible. This author suggests that the writers of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John each modeled their descriptions of the resurrection story based on the writings of Moses. He was discussing the rhythm of the verses, not the individual writings. The article was interesting but it left out one key ingredient: the role of the Holy Spirit in inspiring the Bible.

How easily we talk today about Paul's writings or John's writings without mentioning the Holy Spirit. Or we ponder questions like, "Who wrote the book of XXX?" (fill in the XXX with the book of your choice) without a word about the Holy Spirit.

Certainly some books identify an individual: “I, John, your brother … was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 1:9). Or consider “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus …” (Romans 1:1). I would be naive to suggest that a human being was not involved in recording the inspired words.

The important thing, I suggest, is the recognition of the source. As we saw in the first post in this series, 2 Timothy 3:16 states, " “All Scripture is inspired by God …”.

Then we looked last time at Hebrews 3:7—preceding the quote of Psalm 95, that verse states, “Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today if you hear His voice, … ’”. This verse does not give the name of a human author, just the Holy Spirit.

We see that again in Acts 1:15,16 where it states,
“At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, ‘Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.’”
This verse does not state that David foretold this. Instead, it gives recognition to the Holy Spirit who used the mouth of David. There is a big difference.

When others hear us speak about authorship of one portion of the Bible or another, we may know about the inspiration of the Holy Spirit but they may not. To those on spiritual milk, or even those who have yet to make that journey, PLEASE, let us help them. The power of the Scriptures takes on much greater authority when we mention that the Holy Spirit inspired it into the hearts of Paul or John or anyone else.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

All Scripture is Breathed Out by God - Part II

In the first post of this series, we looked at 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is breathed out by God" (ESV). I concluded that message by stating, "When you read this book we know as the Bible, think of it as the Holy Spirit's writings for you." In this posting, we'll look at Psalm 95 and the related verses in Hebrews 3:7-11.

Unlike many of the psalms that state, "A Psalm of David" or "A Psalm of Asaph", Psalm 95 does not identify a person's name. That psalm is among a collection of similar psalms from Psalm 93 through 100. Each one begins with either a song to the Lord or a recognition of His majesty. From that standpoint, they appear as man looking higher toward the Lord, signing praises about Him and knowing His awesome power. Again, no man is identified at the beginning of the psalm.

The first part of Psalm 95 is a song. In modern times, songs have been recorded that celebrate the words of the first seven verses.

The first part of Psalm 95 establishes that the entire psalm is written to the believing community, the so-called sheep of His pasture.

In the second part of Psalm 95, verses 7-11 were quoted in entirety in the book of Hebrews:
7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
   on the day of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your fathers put me to the test
   and saw my works for forty years.
10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
   and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
   they have not known my ways.’
11 As I swore in my wrath,
   ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
Hebrews 3:7-11 ESV
I am currently studying the book of Hebrews at a Bible Institute named Psalm 19 Ministries. The institute director, Iris Godfrey, pointed out the importance of the first part of Hebrews 3:7, shown above. She noted that with, ‘Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says’, we need to understand that the voice behind Psalm 95, and for that matter the whole Bible, was the Holy Spirit. Read it again for yourself. It was not David, it was not a priest, it was not any other man, it was the Holy Spirit. That is what the text says.

The Holy Spirit breathed Psalm 95!

As an aside, I believe that the book of Hebrews is a great way of seeing hidden things in the Bible. If you were only familiar with the Old Testament writings, you would not understand the last portion of Hebrews 3:11, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ Likely, you would think of rest as the land of milk and honey that was promised to the Israelites before and after leaving Egypt.

I believe this portion of Hebrews 3 is attempting to expose the hidden meaning of the word rest. Surrounding Hebrews 3:7-11 are two themes. In v3:1-6, the theme is God's house; in v3:12-4:11, the theme is rest. In a chiastic sense, these two themes are being compared and equated. In other words, the promised land of Moses' time is now replaced with a new land, the land of the Kingdom of God, the land where Jesus reigns, and the land where the sheep can follow into God's home. That home, I suggest, includes each and every temple within us, those who believe. John 14:2,3 defines that temple as a room, meaning a room in our heart.

If man wrote the Bible, subtleties such as the new meaning of rest would never have been written. Only our God could have done that. The Holy Spirit inspired the entire Bible.

Monday, February 1, 2016

All Scripture is Breathed Out by God - Part I

Do you recognize patterns easily? Can you sense when something is typical based on your prior experience? Or more exactly, can you discern when something is dramatically different from what is expected?

I've lived in Upstate New York since 1957. That's a long time. During those many years, I've come to recognize our weather patterns. Today, the first day of February, is often in a transition from our January thaw to the frigid winter conditions of February. This year is no exception. March and April are months of change in a more dramatic way with spring flowers just beginning to show. Freezing rain is a problem we sometimes encounter—we seem more likely to get those in late fall and early spring although I recall a significant storm in January about sixteen years ago. Its all part of the patterns.

An ice storm in July would be really freaky. We typically receive lake effect snowfall in the winter from Lake Ontario as an inch or two each day. Some of those lake effect snowfalls can be massive events. But not in the summer. That is not our pattern.

In the Bible there is a verse that is often quoted from 2 Timothy 3:16. Using various translations, the first part of that verse reads:
All Scripture is inspired by God (NASB)
All Scripture is breathed out by God (ESV)
All scripture is given by inspiration of God (KJV)
All Scripture is God-breathed (NIV)

The pattern is the same regardless of the translation. Even The Message, which is a paraphrase, reads,
Every part of Scripture is God-breathed (MSG)

As you read the Bible, you begin to recognize patterns. The gospels are very different from the Psalms. The writings attributed to Paul are not like the prophetic books. Winter is different from summer.

Reading further in the Bible, we start to see repetitions in the Word that take on another form. The heart of God begins to take shape. Jesus hidden in the old, revealed in the new.

For example, love as we see it in the writings that begin with Matthew is still love in those prior writings—we have to discern how love was displayed in the old and then presented in the new. It is the same love.

These various translations seem to get it correctly in 2 Timothy 3:16. The Lord was the source, not man, of the content that we now know is the Bible. Through the Holy Spirit, God somehow breathed or inspired each word, sentence by sentence, in its original language: Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek. It was the same spirit poured into different men at different times with the same heart of God.

When you read this book we know as the Bible, think of it as the Holy Spirit's writings for you. They are not just the words that Paul, Matthew, or Moses wrote—if we focused on that approach, we would perceive discrepancies. Think of these as words of the Holy Spirit, breathed into imperfect men, translated by other men, and now read by an imperfect you. It is that same heart of God and His same voice.