Bible Interpretation Seminar by Dr. Bob Utley, Lesson 1

Bible Interpretation Seminar by Dr. Bob Utley, Lesson 1

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“You Can Understand the Bible”
with Dr. Bob Utley 2009 Bible Interpretation Seminar
Lesson 1 For more information, contact:
www.biblelessonsintl.com I am so very glad
to get to share this with you and I want to talk a little bit
about how this came to be, if you’d let me. First of all, if you
didn’t get a copy tonight, this is available online free,
the whole thing and I put
these little cards up front. If you just go
to freebiblecommentary.org, click on the “Other Bible Study Aids,”
you’ll see “Seminar” and the notebook is there,
the whole thing, and an audio presentation
and a video presentation that’s 8 hours long, ha, ha, ha, ha! If you go to my website
and drop down to the bottom, you will see
a 4.5-hour version of this that I did just 2 years ago
at First West in Monroe, Louisiana. I have been thinking about this
most of my life since I was called to preach. This is something
I think about every day. Every one of these commentaries
that I have written is a reflection of the truths
that come out of this seminar on how to understand the Bible. Now, brothers and sisters,
these first few sessions are not going to be
comfortable for you and they’re not going to be
real pleasant for me because I am going to try
to drive a Mack truck through what
you’ve always heard. Because I don’t believe you’re really willing
to try something new until you see how pitiful
we are interpreting the Bible and how much we’re putting
an American spin or a 21st century spin
or a Baptist spin or my personal preference spin
on God’s word and claiming God is saying things
that God never said. Now, first of all,
I want you to know I never teach this
without praying about it because I’m not here
to do two things. I’m not here to impress you and I’m not here to get you to vote
whether you like it. I’m smart enough
to know that I don’t know. The older I get,
the more I write “mystery” across my experience of life
and my understanding of Scripture. But I would like to stretch you. I would like for you
to give me the chance to help you find a better way to learn to self-feed
on God’s word. My real goal is not
that you agree with me theologically or that you like what I do. My real goal
is that I whet your appetite and empower you to do personal
Bible study for yourself. Now, to do that,
I’m going to deal with every controversial issue
you ever thought about. If Baptists have ever fought
over it, I’m going to bring it up. ‘Cause I’m going home tonight;
well, maybe tomorrow. I have a typist
that lives very close to here and I just turned
this seminar into a book and she just finished
the first draft this week so I’m going to pick up
the first draft so I can put the book online free. It’ll probably go to 300 pages
or something, I don’t know, but I hope you’ll pray for me. I’m trying,
in this latter part of my ministry, to touch the world
for Jesus Christ. Not for Baptists. And I really want God’s people to know what they believe
from Scripture. I think it’s fair to ask any person, “Can you show me
where you got that from the Bible?” That’s not an ugly statement because so much
that we’re hearing— and if you watch
Christian TV or radio, you are getting
so much “baloney macaroni” in God’s name. And my view
is that most Christians do not know the difference. This seminar is designed
to do two things. It’s designed to give you
a track to run on for personal Bible study and to give you a shield
against sincere religionists and it can accomplish both things in somewhere
between 6 and 8 hours. So I’m not sure how many
Sunday nights I’ll be doing this. For two Sunday nights
we’ll be gone. One, I won’t be here next week. I have
a grandchild responsibility and second is the Super Bowl and I’m smarter
than trying to compete with that. So the third week,
after 2 weeks, we’ll come back. If you can’t wait, go online. But then please laugh
at my jokes anyway because it embarrasses me
when I try to do that. Now, what you have in your hands
is the first few pages. The first few pages
was a summary that I did at chapel at East Texas Baptist
on a special meeting called the “Intersection
of Faith and Reason.” And I tried to lay out
my personal testimony about searching for truth
and why I believe the Bible, the evidences
for a supernatural Bible that I’ve covered with you. And then I’ve talked
about some things we should not do in Bible study and then I’ve really laid out
for you in a few pages the summary of all we’re going to do
for the next few hours. It’s perfectly fine
for you to read that first. I understand that. There’s going to be
so much coming so fast when we finally get into this. And people say,
“But there was just too much.” Okay, I know that. This is 40 years
of my life in 8 hours. I would say, pick out one
or two or three things that you think really have validity,
that really speak to your spirit, that you can incorporate
immediately into your Bible study and at least do
those two or three things. If you can’t buy
the whole system, if you reject the whole system, try to find why God
wanted you to come tonight. There’s a reason
he wanted you to come tonight. One of the primary things
that I say is that you and the Bible
and the Holy Spirit are priority. Not pastor and you,
not denomination and you, not commentary and you. You, the Bible,
and the Holy Spirit have priority. We don’t call New Testament Greek
“Koine Greek” for nothing. It was not given to the scholars,
it was not given to the Academy. If it had been,
it’d be written in classical Greek that has many more
fine grammatical distinctions. No, no, this book was written
for the person on the street who read Greek as a second
language for business. Therefore, a lot of the distinctions
in classical Greek are falling away
and the Bible was given for the common man so they could understand
the love of God. We have allowed scholars
to take this book out of our hand and I promise you,
if I got 20 PhDs up here, they would not agree on anything except when to go home
and where to eat, maybe. So this is not
a book for scholars. You’re going to think I’m picking on you
the next few hours. Most young preachers
say to me after the first
couple of these sessions, they go, “I’m never
going to preach again.” Wait a minute, brother,
wait a minute. I am trying to slap you, but I’m not trying to slap you
out of the park, okay? The worst thing you could do
is hear me the first two times and not come back. If you don’t plan
on coming back, I kind of wish
you’d go home now. The other thing is I hope
you’re not a new Christian because this might confuse you. This is targeted for Christians
seeking understanding. This is targeted for mature Christians
wanting to grow. So I’m going to bring up
the “hiccups” of the church, the hiccups of our denomination. Now you know
all denominations have hiccups and the little joke
is if you leave and try to find the perfect church
and you join it, you’ll screw it up
so there are no perfect churches. We have to find a church that kind of sort of fits
into our understanding of the will of God for our life
and work in the system though all systems are flawed. I’m going to point out those flaws. Now, I don’t do
that with great joy. I do it to illustrate
Bible interpretation principles. Do you kind
of understand my heart? I mean, every church
I’m interim at, I do this seminar
because the reason I’m interim is to do this seminar. So I wish you would turn
with me past that introduction to the first page that says, “You Can Understand
the Bible, Introduction,” page 7. Are we together on that? And you will see that I’m just going to try to cover
7, 8, and 9 tonight and I probably
won’t get through. Now, this is an outline
so what I’m going to do is elaborate the outline. So you’re welcome to take notes. I think it’s going to go
too fast for you. You’re welcome to get online
and listen to it or see it on video. If you heard it one or two times,
it would start making sense. But let me say this
to you again. And I feel like I have that here so I’m just asking it
I guess for the camera that you all are going to keep this
and let other people watch it, would you let me
have the freedom to tell you exactly what I believe
with my personality and its intensity without you
interpreting that as dogmatism? And I want to let you have
the freedom to hear me through your Holy Spirit filter
and go… I want to give you
the freedom to reject it after you think about it
and look at my evidence and I want to have the freedom not to feel
like I’m going to offend one of you. Is that okay? And if I offend you, pray for me.
I don’t mean to do that. But I am going to slap
the snot out of you. You just wait.
You’re happy now. I’m about to kick
your sacred cow. And if I don’t,
then I’ve failed. Brothers and sisters,
we are interpreting the Bible terribly. The reason our churches
are in such disarray, we think we’re people
of the Book and we’re people of tradition. If you don’t believe that, change the order
of service next week and watch what happens. We say, “Oh, those Catholics,
they believe in tradition and the Bible.” Really? And we don’t? Why is there such a need
for personal Bible study in the group that claims
to be Bible-oriented people and is one of the few groups that has an adult
Sunday school for adults. Why would we need to talk
about Bible education? Because most Christians
never read the Bible. Never, never. Brothers and sisters, if you think “Open Windows”
is Bible studies, thank God
you’re at this seminar. “Open Windows” is a devotional book
that has far more to do with a person’s personal experience
and half a verse and little or nothing to do
with Bible study. Thank God if you have
a regular devotional time but do not confuse that
with personal Bible study. Most Christians
never read the Bible and what they do believe they heard
from somebody they trust: their mother, their favorite preacher,
denominational literature. Thank God for all of those
but none of those are authority. Most Christians’
entire understanding of the Bible is based on between
10 and 20 proof texts taken completely out of context
and that’s all they know and they
couldn’t find those texts if someone asked you
where they were. And yet we claim
to be people of the Book. We claim to be Biblical people
and we are ignorant of the Bible. If I passed out,
not a theology test, not some terrible
“What is predestination?” None of that,
just a content test on “name the apostles,
list the epistles of Paul,” it would embarrass you and me at the level of ignorance
among the adults in a Southern Baptist church. And we wonder
why we fight all the time and split
over the color of carpet and the translation
and the hymnal and somebody’s personal style. We are almost Biblically illiterate
and dogmatic in our ignorance. You say,
“Oh, can you back that up?” I think you’re going to be amazed
at how much that you believe has little or nothing to do
with the Bible and a whole lot to do with American Baptist
Southern culture. People say,
“Oh, you’re a Baptist. You don’t spit, dance,
or chew or go with those who do.” None of that’s in the Bible. People don’t even listen to us
because of our terrible PR. Terrible PR. They don’t know
we’re mission folks. They don’t know
we believe the Bible. They just think we’re against
anything that has fun. That’s what
we’re known as, poopers. If you don’t believe it,
go ask your neighbor. Ask the guy across the desk
what they think of Baptists. “You’re the guys
that fight all the time, right?” And yet what we fight over
has always, almost, little to do with the Bible. We’ve come to believe that salvation is a ticket
to heaven or an insurance policy. We believe
that once we pray a little prayer, that’s the end of the deal
and no matter what we do we’ll go to heaven when we die,
and that’s a lie. Salvation
is not a ticket to heaven. There is not even
a sinner’s prayer in the Bible. And yet we’ve been so convinced
that one little act down front and a couple of days
sitting in the pew spread out over a few years
is the will of God for our life, which shows that we’ve never
picked up His book and read it. Never. Our Sunday school classes tend to pick one verse
from Revelation, one from James, one from Mark,
two from Jeremiah, spin it together
with an American spin, and we think that’s Bible study. You can make the Bible
say anything doing that. And a book that can mean
anything means nothing. Now, number B,
why do we neglect it? Why do we neglect it? Well, we’re Americans and we’re used to
instantaneous results in everything. I mean, let’s just take,
you go to a coffee machine, you want light, medium, dark. You want one sugar, two sugar.
You want one cream, two creams. Put your quarter in,
there it is. We want that
in Bible study. “Okay, Bob,
I’ll give you an hour. Teach me to interpret the Bible.” And I can’t do it. Give me 10 years,
maybe I can help you. We are so spoiled
to instantaneous results, why do you think
we’re overweight people and we spend billions
on diet stuff and pills that are just baloney? We won’t push away
from the table but we’ll buy the magic bullet and, of course,
the magic bullet’s never there. There is no magic bullet
in Bible interpretation either. Instantaneous results
cannot be achieved in this area. But I can’t tell you
the peace and joy of long-term personal
understanding of the Bible that protects you
from all the weird people that claim to know God in our day. Secondly, we don’t see knowing
the Bible as our responsibility. I submit to you and I hope
you’ll check me on this, that our understanding
of clergy and laity has more to do with developed
Roman Catholic doctrine than it does
with the New Testament. Every time the Greek word
“kleros” is used, which is simply
the word for “casting lots,” which the priests
did to get part of the sacrifices, it refers to the whole body
of Christ, every time. Every time the word “laos” is used,
from which we get “laity,” laos is nothing more
than the Greek word for “people.” We’ve made a distinction between the ordained
and the unordained that the New Testament
knows nothing about. I even submit to you there is so little Biblical evidence
on ordination as we do it that you’d be shocked
if you ever looked up the texts. And the ones there are,
don’t say what we claim to be it. You say, “Holy moly,
our whole system.” That’s what
I’m trying to say to you. You see, you say,
“Now, preacher, you’re called. “This is your gift.
You should do that. That’s you.
Just you tell us what it says.” What happens
when you change pastors and the theology changes? You’re just led around by the nose by somebody
who speaks behind this pulpit? Do you think everything
that’s said behind a pulpit is true? I think Baptists
really think that. “Well, somebody
said it in a black suit.” Well, shoot. What if I said to you, “Well, I don’t have
the gift of evangelism so I never share my faith.” What if I said, “I don’t have
the gift of prayer, so I never pray.” What if I said,
“I don’t have the gift of giving, so I never give.” You’d say, “Wait a minute. All Christians participate
in some level in those gifts.” So too Bible interpretation. I used to say,
“When you get to heaven, you’re going to stand before God
and your pastor won’t be there.” I never meant to imply
your pastor wouldn’t be in heaven, I just meant to imply
when you stand before God, you’re not going to say,
“My pastor made me do it,” like Eve tried to do
with the serpent. You’re not going to blame,
“Baptist Sunday school made me.” No, no, they may have helped
but you started it. Every one of us
are going to stand before God for our understanding
of the Bible and how we’ve lived it. And if we don’t protect ourselves— I grew up in a Baptist church and I’m sure that the leadership
didn’t mean to do this, but I began to think
the more things you don’t do, the closer you are to God. That is horrible. The more things you don’t do means nobody wants to be seen
in public with you. It has nothing to do
with godliness. It has to do
with pharisaic legalism and I need to know
the difference between that. Because of this clergy
laity dichotomy. “That’s your job,
you study it, you tell us.” You can’t. There’s too many voices
coming from that side of the aisle. The next one,
this trend toward specialists. I remember
we went to India one year on a partnership mission. I was in Lubbock
and the shots are cheaper; a lot of shots to go to India. There were 16 of us. We went out to Reese Air Force Base
to get these shots. They had this little air gun.
They give it to you in the left arm. One of my ladies said, “Sir, I’d rather
have this shot in my hip.” This little corpsman went,
“Frank, we’ve got a hip.” I asked him, I said, “Do you do
left arms and right arms or?” He was such a specialist he only could do
one thing in one arm. Now, that’s what’s happened
to us in Bible study. People say, “Well, you’ve got
to have a PhD in church history, “a PhD in Greek,
a PhD in archeology, a PhD in systematic theology,
a PhD in hermeneutics.” Have you ever
met those guys? Have you? You think they know? Friends, this complication
of specialists. If you don’t know what that word
“oncology” means or “urology,” you go to the wrong person,
they’ll fix the wrong thing. How many different
kinds of doctors they got? We’ve done that to the Bible. The Bible’s not written
for specialists. It’s written for people
made in the image of God. God wants
to communicate with you. He didn’t want to communicate
through a priest to you, through a pastor to you, through a Sunday school
teacher to you. God wants
to communicate with you. There’s so many interpretations,
everybody gives up. Well, get ready for that. I guess the thing
that really started me on this, my home church,
First Baptist Bel Air, I was a young preacher. Somebody would say
something in a meeting and suddenly three other people
in the same church would disagree
and it’d become ugly. It’d almost become violent. And I thought, “My goodness,
if there’s this kind of anger and tension in one church,
what is it between denominations?” There are going to be
conflicting interpretations. Matter of fact,
I’ll just tell you the truth. These hermeneutical principles
cannot tell you what a text means but these principles can tell you
what a text cannot mean. And I think we’re way down
the road for self-understanding if we can rule out many
of the popular interpretations that for the reasons
I’m going to show you cannot refer to the Scripture text
they’re calling on. Let me just
get your attention with one. I think maybe I told you this but I used to go
to Orange, Texas every year and do a January Bible study. I’m an Old Testament professor
and a lady said to me, “Don’t you teach
the Old Testament?” I said, “Yeah.” And she said, “Where does it say
you can’t sell your dog?” I said,
“I don’t think it says that.” She said, “We had somebody
come through here “and show us in the Bible where it says
you can’t sell your dog.” I said,
“Well, did you write it down?” She said, “Yeah.”
“Well, show me.” So she turned
to Deuteronomy 23:18, King James, of course, where it says, “Do not give
the hire of a dog.” Now if the brother
who had said that, in all sincerity they said it, would have read the verse
before it or the verse after it, they would have
picked up immediately that a “dog” in Deuteronomy
is a male prostitute of the Canaanite fertility cult, not Fifi, Rover,
Bark-bark, Fou-fou. He just read an ancient text
that’s 3000-plus years old in a different language,
and a different culture, and put
an English definition on a word and told the people of God, “You’d better not,”
and the people of God bought it. And that’s just one illustration
of how much we’ve let people put on us in this area
of rules and regulations that the Bible knows nothing of, but Southern preachers
know so well. The second thing
I want to talk about is this idea, number two, of dogmatism. I’m not talking
about you, of course, I’m talking about
the Baptists in California. Surely our Sunday school literature
is not trying to mold our minds. I used to get tickled to death
every time “speaking in tongues” came in a Sunday school lesson,
my quarterly jumped it. Every time a warning
to Christians about their salvation occurred in a text,
my quarterly jumped it. Every time it said
anything possible about tithing, my quarterly picked it up. You and I have been brainwashed
by the literature we’ve read. Every one of us are historically,
denominationally conditioned and there’s
nothing wrong with that. You can’t get away from it. I like to use the illustration
of we all wear a set of filters, all of us. There’s nobody neutral here. We all have these filters
of momma and preacher and where we were born
and where we grew up and what personal
experience we’ve had and where we went to school. All of us have those filters but the problem
is many of us read the Bible to back up
what we already believe instead of allowing the Bible to challenge
what we already believe. We only read
what we want to read. We only let it say
what we’re comfortable with. Therefore, what we’re doing
is molding the Bible, not into God’s Word,
but into our word. No wonder
the world doesn’t want it. Now, I can’t ever
get rid of these filters. But if I know
they’re there, maybe I can limit
their influence. And the trick is
all of us have these filters. Notice number D
on the two, if you would. This is the best illustration
I can do here. If you were in ministry, you know that you get
the weirdest calls during the full moon. I don’t know what it is. I call it
the “werewolf effect,” but whenever
somebody has committed the unpardonable sin, they call the preacher
at 3 o’clock in the full moon,
every time. So it’s the full moon in Lubbock
and a lady calls me and says, “Bob, Jesus
just appeared to me in the emergency room
at Methodist Hospital.” It’s 3 o’clock
in the morning, it’s full moon. Now, my first reaction was… and my second reaction was,
“This lady is alone and hurting. “There’s been a crisis
in her life and family. “That sounds to me like something
Jesus might have done.” Now here’s my third reaction. “I’ve been in that hospital,
hurting, lonely. Why didn’t Jesus
appear to me?” Now watch this. If it hadn’t happened to me,
it can’t happen to her. If it happened to her,
it ought to happen to me. Now, friends, those are two wings
of the bird of destruction because neither one
of those are true. I’ve been in Baptist
testimony meetings. “Oh, I was sick. “I asked Jesus
to come and help me “and he appeared
at the foot of my bed and touched me
and I was healed.” I’m saying to myself,
“I have been sick as a dog. “I prayed,
‘Lord, help me, God.’ “Am I lost? “Am I lost?
He never appeared to me. Is there something
wrong with me?” People say to me,
“Well, the Holy Spirit told me.” Now, I know where
I’m going, so hang on. I always say to them,
“If the Holy Spirit told you, “you have no option
but to obey what he told you. “But I do not have to do it unless you show it
to me in here.” Do you understand
the distinction? Your subjective experience
of God is wonderful and priority but it is not authority
for anyone else at any time. So don’t tell me because you did it
the way you did it that that’s the way
everybody else ought to do it ’cause nobody put you on the
“Ought To Do It Committee.” And oh, how we like to mold
everybody into our image. If you don’t believe that,
look around this room at the homogeneity
right here tonight. There are four sources
of revelation. I, as a Christian, believe
that all of them have validity but that for us as Christians,
one has to have ultimacy. And here are the four
kinds of authority. Number one is revelation. We believe God
has been speaking. I have spent
all my time with you, almost, talking about the validity
of the revelation and the supremacy
of the revelation of Jesus. Now, these are the biggies. God has spoken and,
for us as Christians, that revelation
is the only source for faith and practice. In Southern Baptist life, you know the definition
of a liberal? Somebody who doesn’t
believe what I believe. When you begin to think
that your belief is God’s belief, you are hard to live with ’cause I assure you
the more you know the Bible, the more you’ll know
God’s not a Baptist. I love Baptists.
I thank God I’m one. Don’t take
what I’m saying wrong, I’m just saying,
we get too locked in tradition and think
we’re being Scriptural when in reality we’re biased, dogmatic,
indoctrinated people. When I say to Baptists, “Can you show me
in the Bible where it is?” They go,
“Adrian Rogers once said.” Well, thank God
for Adrian Rogers but he’s not
authoritative either. And the Methodists
want to quote Wesley and then Reformers
want to quote Calvin and the Baptists
want to bring up Spurgeon and I want to hear Paul
and James and John. Is the Bible the only source
for faith in practice? Or not? Thank God for church leaders,
they come and go. Some influence for decades but we don’t hang doctrine
on church leaders, do we? Do we? Reason is important. Once I get into this, you’ll see that I’m going to try
to convince you by Scripture and reason. I’m going to present the Bible, then lay out
what I think it means. I think reason is crucial. I think I must put into words
what I believe the Bible says so another normal
human being can evaluate it. But if I make reason ultimate,
then I become a rationalist. What about experience? Oh, I thank God
for Christian experience. I sit on this front row
every Sunday and have a Christian experience. My mind goes back
to places where I met God and God’s done
wonderful things. Oh, it’s just wonderful but I don’t base my theology
on my experience. But I’m afraid
many people do. And they begin to tell me if I don’t experience
what they experience that I’m a second-class Christian. I’m forever being told
by Church of Christ that I’m out ’cause I didn’t have
the right formula and Charismatics ’cause I didn’t have
the right experience. You can’t kick me out, fool. I’m in Jesus. Tradition is a wonderful thing. Coming to church
is a tradition. Reading the Bible
is a tradition. Traditions are good.
They’re not bad. Until we get a new convert and we give him a ten-page list
on what Baptists do and don’t do. Or we take our young people
and we teach them only the things
that Baptists do and don’t do. Now, suddenly,
instead of a new believer, we turn them immediately into a dogmatic,
pharisaic legalist. What a new Christian
needs is about 2 years with the New Testament
and a warm Sunday school class and that’ll fix it. All that’s necessary
to get rubbed off will get rubbed off without you,
thank you. We try to make
instantaneous mature Christians out of new believers by giving them a bunch of rules
they can’t comprehend, understand, or walk in. Traditions are good
but I make this statement: Every generation of believers ought to have the right to judge
the traditions of their parents in light of Scripture, amen? Now, some of you are old enough
that you don’t believe that. ‘Cause the truth is if I don’t do it the way
your granddaddy did it, there’s something
wrong with me. Could there be
there’s something wrong with your granddaddy? You know
what’s happened to me and this has been
penetrating to my life. I’ve gone overseas
every year once or twice to do evangelism
for 30-plus years. And I have met the greatest Baptists
all around the world and they had never thought
about doing church the way you and I
do it in Texas. Never thought about it. Suddenly it dawned on me
how parochial, how narrow, what blinders I wore
because here are great Baptists, not other, but Baptists, and they
deal with texts totally different than I was told texts
were supposed to be interpreted. And they showed me
in the Scripture why they do it and where. And suddenly I said,
“Oh my God, have I been preaching Bob,
Baptist, or Bible?” And the answer is quite often
it was Bob and Baptist. Quite often. And I just wonder tonight
if you know the difference. I use the illustration if I knocked
on a trailer house door, a guy came with a big cigar,
a tattoo, and a nose pierced, what would I talk about first? Jesus Christ. Oh, and a Coors light. Everything is irrelevant
except do you know Him? But, well,
we’ll jump on the tattoo. We’ll jump on the beer. We’ll jump on the cigar. Just beat this fool
out of those things and that man will go to hell. And you’ll think
you’re so spiritual. ‘Cause the real issue
is not to clean that man up. The real issue is that man
needs to meet Jesus Christ. Jesus will clean him up. I had a young boy
come to my class a few years ago. He had a rainbow Mohican.
Do you know what that is? That’s that hair down the middle
but different colors. He was a preacher. These other guys
that wear the black suits said, “He’ll never be able to
preach around here.” Well, that was true. This young man came to me
and said, “I’m a wakeboarder.” He said, “I’m about to marry
the number-one wakeboarder in the United States.” And he said, “I can reach
wakeboarders for Christ.” Thank God for that Mohican. That boy had
a great commission task to a target group
that had nothing to do with the legalistic
Baptists in East Texas. Just think. Now, if every preacher
had a Mohican, we’d have a heart attack,
all of us. But see, “If you don’t look
like me, act like me, believe like me, there’s
something wrong with you. There may be something
wrong with you.” It’s so hard. It’s so hard to hear
what I’m saying. I’m telling you,
this is so hard to receive. I’ve been praying God
would let you at least receive it and think about it
and pray about it before you get
so mad and so callous. The trick is, you watch, in 3 or 4 weeks this crowd
will be cut down by 2/3. You watch. ‘Cause people came tonight because they wanted Bob
to give them the magic fat bullet. Tell them about the Bible and make them
feel better about themselves but when it comes down
to real work, real personal study,
and real commitment, the Western church will leave and go listen to health, wealth,
and prosperity brother. I heard it when you were, this morning,
giving announcements, “What can we do to serve you?” We’re not here to serve you. We’re here to serve Him. Church isn’t about you,
you gray-haired person. It’s not about your comfort. It’s not about your lifestyle. It’s not about
what you feel comfortable with. We’re here
for a lost community. And I guarantee you,
sure is nice to be pampered. Sure is nice
when our personal preferences are wanted by the staff
so they can meet our needs. This is Western Christianity
at its apex of individualism, that has totally lost
the corporate focus of the New Testament witness that whatever it takes for the health and growth
of the body of Christ we lay down all of our rights,
all of our revenue, all of our time that the church
may be built up. See, we don’t want
to know the Bible. We just want to know
a few proof texts that make us feel better
about our extravagant, eccentric,
self-centered lifestyle. Amen or oh me? What’s it going to take? Well, it’s going to take prayer. It’s going to take persistence. It’s going to take training.
Thank you for coming. I know I’m fussing at you,
but I thank God you’ve come. It’s a sign you’re hungry. It’s a sign you’ve had hope. It’s a sign
you wanted to know more. I thank God for that. I was down
in Louisiana just on Saturday, doing this seminar, and there were so many pastors
with no seminary training. There were so many
Sunday school teachers in this large church. It’s not
like I have nothing to say and it was some kind of dummy
that just came off the street. Advertised, promoted,
and 30 people chose to come, one retired pastor, one black pastor
and none of the others. The truth is we really
don’t want to know anything that turns church
from a 1- or 2-hour a week what’s-in-it-for-me
Western experience. But I want you to know that God,
however old you are, whatever your gifts may be, God wants to use you
in a radical way for the rest of your life,
whatever that is. And you cannot find
that information out without self-feeding
on His word and the ability
to independently seek His will. Thank God for Christians,
thank God for church, thank God for staff. I do not thank God for a lazy,
self-centered Western church. This may be the weakest
form of Christianity the world has ever known
and we think it’s normative. I’m not giving you
my personal opinion. I’m giving you the philosophy
of an ancient church method. The method
I’m going to share with you comes from Antioch of Syria
in the third century. This is a reaction against the allegorical
school of Alexandria, Egypt, that developed in the second. Some of the people
that you may know are Chrysostom or Theodore of Mopsuestia. The classical
16th century reformers of Martin Luther, John Calvin,
Melanchthon, Zwingli, they all followed the principles
that I’m going to give you. This is exactly the set
of principles that Kay Arthur and the Precept Ministries advocate. This is exactly the principles
that John MacArthur advocates in the Bible Church
out in California. There’s nothing weird
or new about what I do. It’s the passion
with which I give it to you that may be different. And I’m hoping
that you’ll understand that my passion
is not a dogmatism, but it is a God-given passion,
calling the church to self-feed. This historical, grammatical,
or literal method of interpretation offers us the only, the only, the only hermeneutical
Bible interpretation approach that offers consistency
and verifiability. I hear some people preach
and I agree with what they say though I disagree
where they got it from and I want to say to them,
“How did you come to that?” But there’s no way
to evaluate a sermon, and how many
have we heard like this, where a text is read and everything else
has nothing to do with this text. Now this text
is where the authority is but we’re Baptists
so you’ve got to read a text but then everything else
is personal opinion or what I think or my theology or Baptist traditions
from the 16th century. There’s no way to verify whether this is true
or false or effective. There’s no way to do that. I’ve got to go back
to the source of their authority and say, “Did that text
mean that in context? Could that be what the original
author intended?” Because the only inspired
person in Biblical interpretation is the original author. And the way to interpret the Bible
is to try to understand it as the original hearers
would have understood it in their day. There is no other way. Then you can bring
some evidence from history, from context,
from grammar, from the meaning
of the words in that day, from parallel passages, from the genre
or kind of literature it is, then you can bring evidences
and let other believers say, “Here is my evidence. “Pray about it,
look at it, check it and then walk
in the light you have.” It’s when people say,
“Well, I never heard that so there’s something
wrong with you.” There may be something
wrong with you. You say, “No, I go to church
twice a week.” Well, that settles that. One’s presuppositions
about the Bible— I’m almost out of time,
I know— are the first determinative factor so let me quickly go over
what I believe about the Bible. If you agree with me on this, you’ll probably agree with me
on much that I say though you know
that my teaching method and particularly in this seminar is called the
“Donkey and the 2 x 4 Approach.” You recognize it? Number one,
the Bible came from God. I’m committed
to that, to the core. He wants us
to know Him and His will. He is speaking;
we are not listening. Now, I don’t believe
you’ve got to be good. I don’t believe
you’ve got to tithe. I don’t believe you’ve got
to go to church regularly. I don’t believe
you’ve got to be this system or that system
for God to speak to you. I am saying to you, “God wants you
to understand the Bible.” The Bible is written
for you to understand. The Holy Spirit
is a clear writer. If there is confusion
in Bible study, it’s not because God wants it. It’s not because
you’ve been bad. It’s not because
you don’t have the right IQ. It’s not because
you haven’t been to seminary. All of that’s irrelevant. God has written a book
to speak to you. If you are a normal human being,
this book’s for you. Not for scholars,
not for the seminary. Not for the pulpit.
It’s for you. Second, the Bible,
like hermeneutics, is not an end in itself but a means
to meeting God through Christ who is God’s supreme revelation. What I mean by that is,
and I hope you hear me, I don’t bow down to my Bible.
I’m not a bibliolatrist. I believe in the one unchanging
eternal God and His Son. Let me ask you a question. How do I know
about the character of God outside the Bible? How do I know
about the person of Jesus Christ without the Biblical witness? I don’t know God. I don’t know Christ.
I don’t know the Spirit. I don’t know
how to be saved. I don’t know what’s maturity
and not maturity, if Scripture is not true. God has spoken
and he’s spoken through a word in a particular culture
in a particular day that he expects me
to have the ability to understand what the original writer
was saying, there’s only one meaning
to Scripture, what the original writer intended, but there are many applications
or significances of that truth. That’s why the Bible can function
in a preliterate tribal society and in a Bible professor’s
Bible study at MIT. The truth never flexes. The application and significances
is applied differently. Number three, the Bible is written
in normal human language. The Spirit spoke clearly.
There are no hidden meanings. We don’t have to go deep. The meaning
is on the surface but the problem is the surface
is in a different language and a different culture. But the meaning
is on the surface. The Bible is primarily redemptive
for all human beings. It’s far more important
to know God than know the Bible but you can’t know God
without knowing the Bible. And the goal of the Bible is that human beings
made in God’s image are reunited in fellowship
with the God who created them for fellowship. That’s the major purpose
of the task. The Bible is first of all redemptive and only secondly
as a guide for Christian life. Number five, the Holy Spirit
is an indispensable guide but we must balance. Look at these two texts. 2 Timothy 2:15, “A workman that does not need
to be ashamed rightly dividing
the word of truth.” Now the second one,
number two, is all the texts where it says, “I cannot understand the Bible
without the Holy Spirit.” And yet somehow the Holy Spirit will not give me truth
without me seeking truth. And somehow I must cooperate
with the Spirit to have truth. And once he gives me truth,
then I must live out that truth. So there’s a decision
to be made. I’m going to learn
to study the Bible better and I’m going to commit in 2009 to try this method on a short
New Testament book. Thirty minutes, three
or four times a week, I’m going to give this a shot. I’m going to present myself. I’m going to allow the Spirit
to work through me in this. Now, number B
is what I talked about that you say, “Well, I’m not a gifted teacher.
I’m not a called preacher.” Well, we all participate
in these spiritual gifts at some level. Come on. If you’re going to stand before God
for how you interpret the Bible, wouldn’t it be smart to find someone that’s gifted
in that area and at least
look how they do it? I’m not an evangelist but if I want to learn
how to share my faith, I find somebody
who has the gift of evangelism and go with them. If I want to learn how to pray, I found somebody
who has the gift of prayer and I go pray with them. You’ve got a bible teacher.
Will you let me help you? Will you at least
check my evidence before it’s so radical
you can’t hear me? The Bible
has a spiritual dimension that goes beyond
the original author. We know that
for several reasons. Daniel 12:9 says, “Seal this up.
It’s for the future.” We know that because of multiple
fulfillment prophesies. The Spirit is the ultimate author
of the Bible. Sometimes,
particularly in prophesy, the Bible goes beyond
the understanding of the original author. Other times,
the original author is the key. Now, look at number D. The Spirit will help us find the central basic message
of a passage. I hope there’s some
English teachers here. Don’t stand up. You all make me nervous, but do you remember
in high school we talked about a paragraph and a paragraph was defined
as a group of sentences that has one central truth. We sometimes call it
the topical sentence or the topical central truth. Every phrase, sentence, clause,
in this paragraph limits, explains, defines,
this one truth. The smallest text we should ever
try to use to interpret is the paragraph. Words only have meaning
in sentences. Sentences only have meaning
in paragraphs. Only in the context
of a paragraph. The Spirit will help us find
the central truth of paragraphs, not all the details, so we can beat
our friends at Bible trivia and make the Methodist neighbors
feel uncomfortable. God’s not going to give you
truth for that. But if you want truth,
he’ll give it to you. The Bible does not directly address
every modern question. It is historically conditioned— Deuteronomy 23:18—
it is sometimes ambiguous. Yes. Truths are sealed for the future
and therefore hidden. Yes. Some truths relate primarily
only to certain cultures. I remember a culture that I heard about
a missionary tell me, they worked with this tribe
in Africa for decades and nothing happened
and one Christmas, one of the missionaries
preached on the genealogies and this tribe opened up
to the gospel because in this tribe
if you knew your ancestors it was an evidence
that you speak the truth. I’ve never preached
on the genealogies. Oh, boring, boring, boring. But God has some texts that are the unique keys
to some cultures. And the genealogies
which, for me, simply proved the line
of Judah for Jesus, for this culture, opened the door
to the Good News. The reason
we don’t understand all texts is all texts weren’t written
for us or to us. Our problem
is we read the Bible like the morning newspaper and read modern contemporary
English definition in the words and think every verse
is written to us and every verse is a separate
propositional truth from God and it is not. Well, I’m past my time. I pray, Lord, these precious people
will come back, heh! I thank you in some ways
for the call of my life to do this, in other ways
I don’t thank you because modern
western Christians don’t want to hear about this. They just don’t want
to hear about it. God, I pray you do
whatever it takes to help your people
be hungry for your book, whatever it takes. And I pray that you
would help us to defend ourself between the false teachers
and the cults and the false spirituality that swirls
around western culture today. I thank you, Lord,
that we make a big deal about adult Bible study. I pray you’d accentuate and develop and deepen
that sensed need. I thank you for these people
who love you, who want to know you more. I pray, Spirit of God,
that you would lead them and guide them
and protect them through this time. I thank you that they’ve come
for a seminar like this. I thank you
for those that are hungry and I pray that the world
cannot satisfy that hunger in any way, only you. I thank you for the opportunity
of sharing this and I pray for those
whose lives it will change. And I pray you would send them
into your harvest fields and I pray you
would change them so much that family
and friends and neighbors would want to know
what’s different. And I pray you’d help us
be the people of God in this part
of Texas in this time. And forgive us
for being trapped by culture and forgive us for being trapped
by selfishness and forgive us
for being trapped by tradition. Have mercy on us, O Lord,
in Jesus’ name, amen. I really think
I don’t want to do an invitation but I’d like to do this. Would you take
just a moment to pray with the person next to you. Maybe one row could turn around,
pray to the next row. Number one, would you pray for me
as I present this that God will protect me
from overstating or forgetting important parts? Would you pray
for our church that God would allow
his Spirit to speak to us in a radically new way? For more information,
please contact: Bible Lessons International P.O. Box 1289
Marshall, TX 75671
800-785-1005 www.biblelessonsintl.com
www.biblecommentary.org

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