This last Sunday we did something we have never done before; we took live questions through text messaging about the sermon. The Scripture passage for the day was Galatians 1:6-9, which states:
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
Here are the questions I was unable to answer and I will attempt to do so now. I hope to do this every week. If I do not have a prompt response, it is likely because I needed to research the answer. So here goes:
Question #1: “What do you think of presenting the “wonderful plan for your life” gospel in this day of Christian beheadings and persecutions instead of first allowing the law as a schoolmaster to introduce the perceived need of forgiveness and then in response lead others to Christ’s grace and redemption.”
Answer: I’m not exactly sure where this question is leading, but I assume the person was suggesting I preach in such a way to compare the “good news” of the “gospel” compared to the bad news of ISIS instead of starting with the Law of the Old Testament being like a “schoolmaster” or “tutor” (Gal. 3:24) to lead us to Jesus and the need for forgiveness. Please again, forgive me if I don’t understand the question – but my response is yes and yes.
Yes we need to learn about the good news of Jesus and compare it to the bad news of ISIS and let people decide for themselves which one seems most reasonable. At the same time, yes we need to learn that we are sinners (the point of the Law being a “schoolmaster” or “tutor” to lead us to the conclusion we need grace because we can’t save ourselves) and that we are in need of being saved, rescued, which is the good news of Jesus.
I will be teaching on Islam, the Crusades, and the modern conflict at 9:00am May 3, 10, and 17.
Question #2: “With so many denominations, and so many Bible versions, short of learning Greek & Latin, how can I trust any teacher or teaching?”
Answer: You don’t need Greek or Hebrew. But you do need three things: (1) You need the Holy Spirit; (2) You need a good translation; and (3) You do need to learn to “exegete” Scripture.
Related to what pastors or teachers to trust, if he doesn’t have a MDiv and is not ordained, then he is less likely to know how to correctly exegete and apply the text (this is not to say an unlearned pastor can’t teach, but his training matters). The following is how you can measure the teachers authority based on God’s word. (I.e., you need to self educate to be able to discern for yourself)
About (1) the need for the Holy Spirit, without the Spirit you will never fully understand the Bible (see 1 Corinthians 2:6-16; 2 Peter 1:20-21; and 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:4).
About (2) you can trust the NASB, ESV, NIV, NLT, RSV, HCSB (there are more, but these I know are good). The difference between the NASB and NIV, for example, has to do with the NASB translators were trying to translate word-for-word, while the NIV translators were trying to translate concept-for-concept. So the NASB is more difficult to read, while the NIV is more reader friendly. The difference is a translation verses a summary in today’s English.
About (3) “Exegesis” = this means to draw out of the text the original meaning as was meant for the original audience, and then discern if there is meaningful application for today. In every sermon I am trying to do this to show you the basics of how to exegete a text and apply it. And we need to make sure we don’t “eisogete” the text, which means to read our opinion into the Scripture. To prevent “eisogesis” you need to buy a Bible with a good commentary – a study Bible. The best study Bibles do not give a slant. So I recommend in this order: #1 – the Zondervan Study Bible (NASB or NIV); #2 – the Reformation Study Bible (ESV); and #3 – the Ryrie Study Bible (NASB or NIV). This will help give you the history, the definition of terms, other verses for cross-reference, and how different theologians have applied the text.
About “eisogesis” – DON’T play biblical roulette = randomly turning to a page and then just start reading. Unless you know how to “exegete” the text, you will automatically “eisogete” the text and miss-apply it to your life.
Last but not least, start in the New Testament with the Gospel of John Then Romans. Then the rest of the New Testament. Then the Old Testament.
Question #3: “Why does God require death as a consequence of sin?”
Answer: good question. God is Good, Holy (without sin), Just., and all powerful. These are four (of many) attributes of His character. Being good means He is the standard of what good is. Everything is judged by His character of goodness. And everything is fallen (tainted or corrupted) because of human sin. Because God is Holy (“Holy” means to be separate from sin), it is impossible for Him to be around sin. So if He let sin into His presence, He would no longer be Holy. And being “Just” means He must do justice. Doing justice doesn’t mean you let sin go. Sin must be punished. Death has three meanings: (1) to be separated from God; (2) to die physically; and (3) to enter eternal death. Adam and Eve sinned resulting in separation from God for all of us. This was temporary. Physical death is temporary as well. Eternal death means you have not submitted to God’s plan to forgive sin, take care of sin in a just way that God planned, and that you prefer to remain in you sin. The result of this decision is eternal death and separation from God in a place God does not exist. This place is hell. In this situation, the consequence is not so much because of actions we have done, but more because a person refused to submit to God’s plan of the sacrifice of His son in your place to take care of the just punishment deserved for sin.
God’s justice means He will always act in accordance with what is just and right. If God were not just, then He would not be good. If He were not all powerful, then He could not punish sin and would no longer be able to enact justice. If He were not good, then in His power He would make mistakes in enacting justice and no longer would be just.
The good news is He is also love, mercy, and therefore found a way to enact justice, remain holy, and be good providing a way to overcome sin and death.
The rest I will try to cover tomorrow.