To Discern the Word of God

“For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:23)

When one reads the Bible a sense of amazement should come over them. The reason is that even as the Bible was written by the hand of men it is not authored by men. These men were privileged that God would use them to record His Word for all to read and study. Therefore the Scriptures are the Words of the Creator of all there is. As we read in the first 10 words of the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) The Bible is amazing in that we can re-read a passage of Scripture and gain a completely new concept from the passage. The Bible is a living word and is not written to the ear of men but to the spirit of men. The Holy Spirit brings the Word to life and reveals new truths with each study.

Another amazing feature of the Bible is that the record was written in a 1500 year time frame. It was written by 40 or 41 different men who do not contradict each other in the doctrines taught in the Scripture. Because of the years of the writing it is not as if these 40 men gathered and worked together to create a marvelous work of convincing fiction. The only common bond between these men is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who is the author of all truth. They heard God’s Word and they believed and in their faith in His Word they wrote it for all of mankind.

In the Old Testament, as in the New Testament, men are saved through faith by the grace of God. Abram, called by God at Ur, (Genesis 11:32) was to leave his home and travel to a place that God would show him. Abram obeyed God and traveled to the land of Canaan. There God promised Abram a son whose descendants would be a numerous as the stars in the sky. Abram was advanced in his years and his wife was barren. Yet Abram believed God and acted in that belief which is an expression of faith. The Lord counted his belief as righteousness. “Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6) The Apostle Paul, a New Testament missionary, refers to that doctrine of being save by God’s grace through faith in his letter to the Galatian Church. “Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” (Galatians 3:6)

The Bible reveals the redemptive plan of God for man. That plan is that man can find his salvation by the grace of God through faith. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) As we travel through the Scriptures of the Bible God’s plan of redemption becomes more and more revealed from the beginning in Genesis to the end in Revelation. The Bible is the top sold book in the world and sadly the least read. The problem is man’s attention is fixed on this world with a fatal neglect for the eternal world to come.

Many people try to read the Bible but have trouble understanding its meaning at times. This lack of understanding causes them to lose interest and they set it down to collect dust. Others try to interpret its meaning and then someone else will tell them that it means something completely different. One may say “well that is your understanding’ and the problem is what the true meaning is. We have to remember that we are only people and therefore think in the ability of our finite minds. God who has the wisdom to create all that we know and beyond thinks way beyond our means. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

The Apostle Peter tells us that no Scripture in the Bible comes from one person’s interpretation. I repeat the book was written by man but was not authored by man but God. “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:20-21) If holy men were moved by the Holy Spirit to write the words found in the Bible, then the interpretation of what is written must come from the Holy Spirit. Man cannot fully interpret the Scripture because he does not have the complete knowledge of the author. We need God to speak to us through His Word.

People have a habit of reading the Bible as if they were shopping. They pick and choose the verses they like and pull them out to say what they want to hear. It is not a good way to understand what is being said if it is taken out of context. Man cannot fully interpret the Scripture but often misinterprets it. Not trying to be disrespectful of others belief but many cults are formed by taking Scripture out of context or adding or subtracting to it. Islam claims to follow the God of Abraham. Yet, Mohammad has re-written the Scripture to satisfy his own desires. He has omitted the Lord Jesus Christ and inserted himself as the great prophet. He and others are playing with the fire of God’s judgment by doing this changing of the Scripture. All of us must be careful not to imply a falsehood or deny a truth. “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19) We must read the verse of the Bible in its context of its subject, the context of the chapter we are reading, and in the context of the book. We cannot take out a verse and believe it to say something that it does not.

The Bible is the Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth because we are all leaving here and the primary question is where are we going to spend our eternal lives. There is only one choice for the wise. The Bible is the book given to us by God to lead us to His Kingdom. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; o that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

On the evening before Jesus went to the cross to sacrifice Himself that we could receive the free gift of salvation form God His Father He knew that we as men would have trouble understanding the Word of God. He prayed to the Father that He would send us a helper to reveal the truths of His Word. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (John 14:26)

On the Day of Pentecost this prayer was answered and the followers of Jesus were indwelled by the Holy Spirit. All of Jesus’ decuples today receive this blessing that the Spirit of God will interpret the Scriptures and guide us into all truth. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (John 16:13)

Only are spirits know the thoughts of our minds. What goes on in our minds is known by none other than our spirits. Neither can we know the thoughts of God except by His Spirit living in us. The Apostle Paul knew this truth and wrote to the Corinthian Church these words. “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:11)

We are but men, we are not gods, and we cannot think or operate on the level of the almighty God. To do the work that He has set before us we need the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit. We are spiritual beings trapped within a weak flesh body that hinders and is in opposition to the spirit. In our weakness we need the power of His Spirit to empower us. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16) Abiding in the Holy Spirit is the power of God living through us. “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27)

When discerning Scripture there are some things we need to look at. We need to be aware to who the Scripture was written to. We need to identify the audience that it was written for. Who wrote the Scripture and to who he was writing it to may be a factor also. We need to know if the content is historical or prophetic. We must always look to see how what we are reading applies to us. It is God’s Word to us.

Scripture must be discerned within the context that it is written. It is not just the verse but the broader context of the chapter, the book, and the Bible. Prayer is needed when reading God’s Word. I look at His Word as His prayer to me. I look at prayer as a conversation with God. A conversation requires talking and listening. We talk to God and then we listen with our spiritual ears to hear His response. When we pray for understanding in the spirit then we must also listen for that understanding. This is how the word becomes living by His Spirit revealing the truth to us. No one really can understand the things of God without the Spirit of God.

My father told me that if I was reading something in the Bible I had already read don’t say I already know this. God’s Word is a living word and a fresh message can be given to us by the Holy Spirit. We serve an infinite God and His wisdom here and there will always be far above us.

God’s Word is the power to share the good news of His Kingdom that is soon to come. When we speak His Word we are speaking His truth. It is an awesome privilege which is an awesome responsibility. We don’t fully know the truth, we depend on the Holy Spirit to reveal it to us. He is faithful and true and in the hour of our need He will provide. “So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.” (Luke 21:14-15)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, June 8, 2017

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