Keys To Discernment: The Prominence Of God’s Word

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Let me begin with a gentle reminder that I intend my blog as a whole, and my Bible Study posts in particular, for women. I want to obey 1 Timothy 2:11-14 and Titus 2:3-5  by avoiding any possibility of teaching men. Dear brothers, unless you’re my husband or an elder at First Baptist Church Weymouth, I respectfully ask you not to read this Bible Study series. Thank you.

Okay ladies, shall we continue looking at Paul’s introductory remarks to the church at Colossae? We’ve been noticing that Paul uses this opening section of his letter to set the tone for the main points he wants to convey. I’ll show you the full section for the sake of context before we jump into the second part of verse 5.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. ~~Colossians 1:3-8 (ESV)

Last week we learned that Paul capitalized on the hope of the resurrection and eternal life to draw his readers’ attention away from worldly concerns. In so doing, he set the stage for the practical application of his teaching (see Colossians 3:1-4 and Colossians 3:16). In the second part of verse 5, he explains that the Colossians gained this hope through hearing the Word of truth — the Gospel.

Paul focuses on the Word of truth because he will shortly begin dismantling the errors that have wormed their way into the Colossian church. He could have simply named the false teachings and left everyone to figure out how to follow truth, but he instead gives them tools for future discernment. The Word provides stability for Christians, as we depend on the apostles’ teaching to guard us against the winds of false doctrine (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Verse 6 beautifully articulates how the Word of God has already taken root in the Colossian church. Indeed, Paul assures them, it has borne fruit in the whole world. This glorious increase happens through the grace of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus illustrated in Mark 4:26-29.

Since God’s Word has already been firmly planted in Colossae, Paul will later encourage the church to walk in Christ Jesus (Colossians 2:6-7) in accordance with the teaching they have received. Verse 7 of our current chapter tells us that they received the ministry of Epaphras. Since Paul describes Epaphras as a faithful minister, we can safely assume that he faithfully taught them the Word of God.

Verse 8 reveals that Epaphras has reported back to Paul regarding the Colossians’ love in the Spirit. Their love gives evidence that God’s Word has begun to work in them.

Do you see how Paul’s seemingly standard opening comments prepare his original readers for the epistle? Similarly, this section gives us a little preview of what we’ll learn in the coming installments of our Bible Study. Next Monday, Lord willing, we can finally get into the doctrine that Paul uses to teach the Colossians — and by extension us — discernment. I look forward to having you join me then.

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Throwback Thursday: A Sinful Disagreement

Originally published April 5, 2017:

Open Bible 03A woman speaking at a retreat I attended years ago shocked me by stating: “I don’t agree with Paul concerning the roles of women.” Now, it’s one thing to dislike the gender roles delineated in Paul’s epistles, and I admit to struggling with the prohibition against teaching in terms of this blog. (I don’t know how many men read it, but I try to discourage them from doing so.)

In disagreeing with Paul, this speaker was actually disagreeing with Scripture. Her comment disturbed me then, and it has continued to disturb me throughout the years. The entire Bible, whether we like it or not, is God’s Word. As such, it claims authority over us and leaves no room for dissension.

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

If God Himself has breathed out Scripture, then the gender roles it prescribes obviously reflect His intent for men and women. For that matter, the Word of God reflects His intent in regard to a wide variety of issues. When we elevate our opinions over Scripture, daring to disagree with certain parts, we betray our arrogance.

Let me clarify why I call it arrogance. If we don’t believe the Bible to be God’s Word, then we subjectively determine our own moral and ethical standards, thereby making ourselves God. And if we claim to believe the Bible is God’s Word, then any disagreement with its human writers is actually disagreement with God. Either position makes me shudder!

A friend of mine often says, “It’s not about what we think; it’s about what God says.” His maxim doesn’t mean (as some have misinterpreted) that Christians ought to disengage our intellect. On the contrary, studying Scripture and accurately applying its teachings in practical ways (such as a woman blogging about the things of the Lord) requires discernment, and discernment is an intellectual exercise. My friend’s point is that our opinions don’t matter as much as what God clearly says.

Yes, God says many things that I, in my flesh, really don’t like. It would feel good to support gay marriage, indulge in sex outside of marriage, brag about my “accomplishments,” spend money exclusively on myself, and be a woman pastor, but all those pursuits disregard Biblical instruction. How I feel about those matters must bow to the Lord’s wisdom. He is, after all, both Creator and King, having full authority to determine how things should function. How can a Christian possibly disagree?

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A Lesson In Using Scripture To Practice Discernment

Beth Moore knows how to use Twitter to keep herself in the limelight, evidently. On Tuesday September 24, she came out with an interesting Twitter thread:

Beth Moore deification of Paul Tweet

If she hadn’t written that third tweet, she would have been pretty much fine.  Her last sentence in the second tweet was perhaps a little snide, but most people probably would have let it slide. To her detriment, however, Continue reading

The Essence Of Spiritual Warfare

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Standing for truth, in an increasing number of evangelical churches, means that we cause division.

Yet Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament epistles, saw division very differently than 21st Century evangelicals see it. Consider this quote:

Paul regards divisiveness as those who depart from sound doctrine. Doctrine is not the cause of disunity, departure is. ~Carl Trueman

Responsible reading (not to mention study) of Paul’s epistles bear out Trueman’s point. The apostle wrote several of his epistles (most of them, actually) with the purpose of clearing up doctrinal error and preserving correct teaching. As a matter of fact, he drew an interesting correlation between refuting false teaching and Continue reading

Do You Use Thomas Jefferson’s Scissors?

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Photo taken at Dreamland Wax Museum in Boston

Legend has that Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States of America, would use scissors to cut out portions of the Bible that he didn’t like. I’m not sure he literally did so, but almost no one believes he held to orthodox Christian theology. According to this article on The Jefferson Foundation website, he certainly made himself a judge over how much of Scripture we should believe.

Yes, I wrote an article on this topic only last Friday. But l didn’t get to really address the underlying problem with the attitude that we can determine which parts of Scripture to embrace and which parts to reject.

Humans have elevated themselves over the Word of God since the beginning of creation. Look again at Satan’s tactic in seducing Eve:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. ~~Genesis 3:1-7 (ESV)

“C’mon, Eve, God didn’t really say that! Oh He did? Well, surely you know He just wanted to keep you down! You can stand up to His oppression.  As a matter of fact, eating this delectable fruit (doesn’t it look yummy?) will make you as intelligent as He is. I mean, you can already outwit Him just by ignoring His ridiculous little command.”

Pride always assures us that we know better than to believe that the Bible is actually God’s Word. When something in its pages doesn’t square with our theology, we play with the original language, decide it’s no longer applicable or we ignore it altogether. Like Thomas Jefferson and Eve, we declare our ability to decide what parts of Scripture to believe and what parts to cut out.

Such pride exalts self over God.

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Who Gives Us Permission To Edit God’s Word?

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Yesterday I wrote an article using Scripture to substantiate the doctrine of hell. As painful as it is to think about people going to hell, we cannot dismiss the Bible’s many warnings about it simply because they offend our sensibilities. More broadly, we cannot interpret Scripture through the grid of human philosophies.

As we discuss hell, women preaching, Charismatic teaching or any other topic of debate, we need to look to the Word of God as the arbiter of truth. Not to C.S. Lewis or John Calvin. Not to sermons or YouTube videos. Not even to blog posts on The Outspoken TULIP. These resources may or may not be helpful if they point us to Scripture, but we must be careful not to let them have equal authority to God’s Word.

Furthermore, we must never allow ourselves to edit God’s Word to suit Continue reading

Preparing To Hear God’s Word

Do you pray that the reading and preaching of God’s Word each Sunday morning will speak to you? Hymns certainly allow us to meditate on the Lord’s various attributes, often helping us learn vital doctrines of the faith, and fellowship with other believers usually strengthens us in our walks with Him. But reading and sitting under faithful exposition of Scripture must remain the centerpiece and pinnacle of Sunday corporate worship.

For those of you who manage to read this blog post before you attend worship services this morning, I pray that the hymn I present today will encourage yo to prepare yourselves to hear from God through the reading and preaching of God’s Word. And if you read it later on, may it inspire you to pray for next Sunday’s Scripture reading and sermon.

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