Tuesday, July 9, 2013

and I'm Guilty, too!



I suppose the thing that will be the most unique aspect of this wee missive is that this, unlike most of my other weblogs, is a compilation of several hours drawn from several days and, or should I say, as the lyricist said, “restless days and sleepless nights” (the Dells circa 1954).  It’s the result of a number of things, really.

First, I suppose I am bothered by the troubling trend in the church today of picking and choosing the parts of the Bible they are comfortable with and dismissing the rest as if it were so much fodder.  This is disconcerting because the claim of Scripture itself is this:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV)

A number of things jumped out at me as I studied this short passage in greater depth.

The word translated all in verse 16 is the Greek word pas. It means literally the whole body, which begs the question, the whole body of what?  Fortunately, the Apostle Paul, who penned this epistle, anticipated our inquisitive nature with the inclusion of the very next word: Scripture (GR. graphē!  All Scripture.  The whole body of Scripture! Well, what about the whole body if Scripture?

Theopneustros.  A compound Greek verb; theos (God) and neustros (breathed in). Shake it all up and put it all together and you get pas graphē theopneustros.  Literally, “God has inspired by breathing into the writers, the whole body of Scriptures…”

Now, when a conservative Bible scholar, theologian, preacher, or even just a bothersome old conservative evangelical Christ-follower like me says “that explains my understanding of the inspiration and authority of the Bible”, here’s what most of us mean.  Better still, let me narrow the field of focus even further since this is about my sleepless nights and restless days. 

We all have something that drive us, or something that forms the basis of the framework for our moral decision making. For me, that something is the Bible. It’s what I mean. One might even call it the foundational principle for my personal statement of faith.  The cornerstone upon which the entire foundation and structure of my faith are anchored, for it is upon the veracity of this truth all the others depend. If this singular thing – the God breathed, absolute, infallible authority of His Word, without error or any kind in the original manuscripts (the documents first recorded in written form) means what it appears to mean, then we are left with no other recourse than to accept that it is all inclusive. 

It says all Scripture.  The whole body of work.

It says God Himself breathed the very words into being through the pens of the forty some odd known authors of Scripture over a period spanning some 1900 years, into the sixty-six books that compile the canon of the modern English Bible, the most popular of which has for years been the 1769 King James Version (the Bakersville-Birmingham Revision), generally mistakenly cited, marked and sold as the 1611 “Authorized Version”. 

Now, why would I even mention that?

To clarify an important distinction.  With few mislead exceptions, no respected conservative scholar or preacher believes that the translations are also inspired, theopneustros-inspired.  Translated as clearly and accurately as humanly possible, yes, but God breathed inspiration?  No. And that distinction is critical because it takes into account the possibility of human error, irrespective of good intent, following the handiwork of Almighty God.

Now this reflects back on the first real point of this essay.  If God is personally responsible for every word, sentence, paragraph, punctuation mark, concept, idea, and conclusion in the original manuscripts from which our modern Bibles have been as carefully and painstakingly accurately translated as humanly possible, then we who claim to be Christ followers are obligated by the very fact of our acknowledgment of Jesus as Lord to accept as true and genuine every word whether we like them, are comfortable with them, agree with them, or not!  Is it really necessary for me to point out that HE is the creator and WE are His creation?

The other way around, by the way, is called religion.

Meanwhile, I can’t impress upon you enough the importance of the conclusion I have just drawn for you.  So, allow me to recap:

·         The Bible, in its original manuscripts, was word for word, thought for thought, inspired by God.
·         There are no mistakes of any kind in the original verbally inspired manuscripts.
·         The Bible does not merely contain God’s Word – the Bible IS God’s Word.
·         Everything the Bible says is spoken with the authority of God whether we like it, are comfortable with it or not
·         Translations of the manuscripts are not inspired, i.e., God Breathed, in the same sense as are the manuscripts.
·         A writer who pens scripture under the inspiration of God (Paul, for example) speaks with the same authority as when the Gospels or Luke in Acts directly quote Jesus.

It’s important that you understand that because from here on out the ride is going to get bumpy.  Your acceptance or rejection of those points will determine whether they are shock absorbers or broken leaf-springs.

A lot of what is written in the Bible  - well, to be honest, most of it – is written for family.  That’s why so many anthropologists, historians, secular theologians and literary scholars read and re-read it, but still don’t ‘get’ it no matter how many times they read it.  Being part of the family is like opening a box of cracker jacks and getting a decoder ring or joining the masons.  You learn the code.  In this case, when you become a Christ follower, you get a gift: the promised indwelling of the third person of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit.  One of the things the Holy Spirit does is teach His children what the Word of God means.  Without the Holy Spirit, you just won’t get it.  It’s how a dear friend of mine can argue, and rightly so, that she’s read the New Testament dozens of times and Jesus never said there was anything wrong with homosexuality. Paul said it, but not Jesus.

And she’s right.  And wrong. 

Right, because that’s what outsider’s see when they read the Bible. Wrong, because she’s not family!  She doesn’t have the indwelling teacher.  If she did, she would know that because Jesus is God and God inspired EVERY WORD, the only logical conclusion is if Paul said it, that’s the same thing as Jesus saying it!  If you don’t get that it’s because you’re not family! There is nothing in the Bible (the original manuscripts) that is mistaken about anything. It is absolutely critical that you remember that. The original manuscripts are without error of any kind. In the ages since, humankind charged with the keeping of the Holy Writ were as meticulously cautious as humanly possible in making accurate translations and reproductions, but the mere fact of human  involvement all but guaranteed that accidental – and some not so accidental errors would find their way into new translations.  Cultural distinctions would cloud the religious politics of the times as much as they would those in the secular world. And it need not be said that when Constantine convened the second council of Nicea in AD 325, that even then elements within the church sought to remove words, ideas, concepts, and even entire sections from the pages of the now recognized canon of Holy Writ because they didn’t like them; they were uncomfortable with them; their ‘pet sin’ was highlighted in one of the removed sections.

Some of those crying foul did so because even the seeds of Godless, non-Christ followers who would one day knock on your door, smiling, and inviting you to read their magazine or learn about the Jesus who visited the Americas and left an ancient manuscript written in a language no recognized linguistic scholar outside their circle has ever seen or heard of, with stories of a vast North American civilization for which absolutely no archeological record exists.

These are just a few scratches on the surface of the mountains of evidence that continue to be discovered that support the Biblical account of life on this small blue-green orb located in the low rent section of the western spiral arm of the Milkway galaxy, of which noted scholar Douglas Adams is on record for having dismissed as “Mostly harmless”, a statement made prior to the initial broadcast of Honey BooBoo.
But, I digress.  My primary point is this.  Paul wrote that all Scripture is divinely inspired.  What is meant by this has already been explained, but let me remind you. Divinely inspired means God Breathed.  It means no mistakes of any kind.  Not content, spelling, punctuation, data, math, science, history, etc.  That very strict definition applies ONLY to the original manuscripts written by the original authors.  Inspiration in this sense does NOT apply to translations.  Including the King James.  And no, Paul did NOT preach from the KJV. And NO, the version we call the 1611 Authorized Version is NOT the 1611 version.  It is the 1769 Bakersville-Birmingham Revision, which gave us the spelling and typeface we have now.  The translation itself is the same, but the spelling was revised to make it more readable for the contemporary reader, something, strangely, modern promoters of the 1611/1769 KJV are opposed to, believing, it would seem, that God would prefer that we all speak archaic English that even the Archaic English of the time didn’t speak, hence the 1769 revision.

Then, moving on, John introduced his Gospel, with a statement very much like the one with which Moses opened Genesis.

Moses wrote “In the beginning God…”.  He wrote more, but this is enough for our purposes. The Phrase ‘in the beginning’ is a reference to a period of time before time as we know it existed.  We call it eternity.  Moses is saying, Before time was, God is.  Go head.  Wrap your head around that!  And while you are there working that out with your TI Scientific Calculator,  consider this.  ‘God’ in this sense is ‘ĕlôhı̂ym’, a grammatically unique form of the Hebrew plural meaning ‘at least three’! Tied up and wrapped in a pretty bow, the first for words of Genesis are telling us right off the bat that in that time that was before time as we know it, in other words, eternity past, a triune Godhead, whom the Scriptures would later clarify consists of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, not existed, but rather EXISTS!

Now add the first words of John’s Gospel to this narrative: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1 NKJV) to further clarify, John continues in verse two: “He was in the beginning with God.”

There is a ton of theology there!  Let me try and tie it up for you. In both places, the phrase “In the beginning…” is the same reference: eternity before time as we know it began. Genesis confirms that a triune God was there in that period of eternity.  John clarifies that Jesus, who is called the Word of God elsewhere in the Bible, was one of the three there in the Eternal past before time began.

By now I imagine you are probably asking yourself, “Yeah, OK, that’s nice, but what’s the big deal?  I mean, come on, Dave, what’s any of this got to do with, well, anything?

Good question!

According to my word processor, this is already 5 days in the writing, two weeks prior to that worth of soul searching, fixating, thinking and praying, four pages and almost 2,000 words long.  I think I’ve overshot the ideal length for a BLOG thingie by, well, a good bit.

So, it’s time to get personal.  ME personal, as a lead in to why I’m really writing this.

Easy to grasp (if you’re family) but really hard to explain (if you’re not) is the concept ‘love the sinner but hate the sin’.  Again, that falls into that lost understanding area that you have to have the special decoder ring to ‘get it’.  This is because, humanly speaking, most of us can’t separate the two.  It’s that simple.  I know I can’t – or, rather, I couldn’t before Christ radically changed my life.  Now it makes perfect sense to me.  Why?  Because I know two secret things!  I know how totally buggered my life is!  And I know that since November 21, 1965 when I knelt at the cross, confessed my sins and asked Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior, He looks at all that crap and says “Forgiven!”  Are there consequences?  Sometimes, yeah.  Does it hurt?  Sometimes, yeah.  Does He rebuke me now and then when I’m going off on my own and not following Him like I should? Oh yeah!  Personally, I believe that’s what the second stroke was about.  He wanted my attention and subtle wasn’t working.  But in all that, does He love me?

Oh yeah, He Does! That’s the real point of this whole thing. I am a sticking, rotten, putrefying sinner.  And that’s on my good days! God absolutely abhors my sin(s). And yet, He love me so much he came to this Earth, took on the form of humankind, setting aside temporarily some of His Godly attributes, was born and lived as we do but without sin, and gave himself willingly, lovingly, and voluntarily on the cross at Calvary to take my place on the ultimate alter of sacrifice for the salvation not just for the Jewish race, but for all humankind who would believe in Him.

As for those ‘good things’ I do in my life?

“But we are all like an unclean thing. And all our righteousnessess are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6 NKJV

Take a close look at this verse.  Isaiah starts out by saying WE are like unclean things. OUR righteousnessess; WE all fade; OUR iniquities. Whoever Isaiah is railing at, he is including himself among them, and the checklist doesn’t help clear it up any because he begins by saying ‘we’re unclean”, something a leper was required by law to shout when he comes within range of people. He further defines just exactly what is unclean: “our righteousnessess,”and “Our iniquities”. He then uses a metaphor to help his audience gain perspective: “As Filthy Rags”.

The Hebrew for this is “בּגד  בּגד (‘êd begged), and while there is some debate among scholars, a close translation of what Isaiah is saying here would be :

“But the whole lot of us are as some foul, defiled, polluted thing., but everything that we call good, right and pure about ourselves, is nothing more than unclean, soiled menstrual (‘êd begged),  rags!”

Now here’s the hard part.  Who is the “WE”, “OUR”, and “US” of and to whom does Isaiah speak?

He is speaking to the Children of Israel, the Chosen People, but not only that – he is speaking specifically to the religious leaders of the time.  The Priesthood!  And he’s telling them “Your (OUR) religion of good works sucks in the eyes of Almighty God!

Now to take this a step further, he is speaking, by extrapolation, to the church as well!  And Isaiah is telling the church the same thing.  “All your goody-goody playing church on Sunday morning and acting like everyone else around you the rest of the week sucks!  It’s two-faced hypocrisy and it reeks of used menstrual rags!

And we know this because remember, boys and girls, this book was written to God’s people.  It was written for Family.  It was written to remind us that the only thing standing between the Child of God and eternity in Hell is the Blood of Christ!

Now, I said I was going to make this personal, and I am.  I will give a full accounting when I stand before the Lord one day, so all you’re going to get is some of the lowlights, and to make it easy, I’ll use an easy to follow outline most of you will be familiar with.  It’s found in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 20.  You’ll know it more by its popular name: The 10 Commandments:

"I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
1.      "You shall have no other gods before Me.

GUILTY.  No, I haven’t made any golden calves, but face it – any time anything comes before God in your life, you’re guilty for this one.

2.      "You shall not make for yourself a carved image-any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;  you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,  but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

NOT GUILTY on a technicality – refer to number 1.

3.      "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

GUILTY

4.       "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

GUILTY

5.      "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

GUILTY

6.      "You shall not murder.

This is one of those fun ones.  My KJV ONLY friends who believe that the KJV is verbally inspired have to struggle with the fact that “Thou shalt not kill” is a mistranslation.  That creates tons of issues for you when you believe that KJV is ‘God breathed’ in the same sense that the autographs (original manuscripts) are.  The Hebrew word, ‘râtsach’, is very specific.  It means murder. Still, based on what Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, GUILTY.  Granted. Matthew was speaking about adultery, but the principle is the same.  “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7 NKJV

7.      "You shall not commit adultery.

GUILTY with the following caveat.  I have never been unfaithful to any of my wives, but that opens a whole new can of worms, with the divorce-remarriage thing, doesn’t it?  Bang the gavel.  GUILTY.

8.      "You shall not steal.

GUILTY

9.      "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Let’s just call it for what it is – lying.  GUILTY.

10.  "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's."

GUILTY, but again drawing to your attention the extenuating points made in laws numbered 6 and 7.
What’s my point?  Simply this. If I’m honest, and I do try to be, with admitted and aft-tallied failures, when you use the Ten Commandments as a scorecard, I’m zero for ten! An abysmal failure.  I flunk the easiest ones – don’t lie. Love your parents. Don’t drool over another guy’s stuff.

Yea if you ask most people who know me (ex-wives notwithstanding) they’ll probably tell you I’m a decent enough sort.

BUT I’M NOT! Remember the guy in Matthew 19?  We call it the parable of the rich young ruler.  Go ahead.  Draw your comparisons.  Where I’m zero for ten, this guy’s ten for ten! “All these things I have kept from my youth” he answered Jesus in Matthew 19:20 and Jesus didn’t contradict him!  Do you see the significance of that?  The kid was doing it all right and it still wasn’t good enough. And it wasn’t good enough because we aren’t good enough.  We are born with a sin nature.  We sin because we are sinners and we are sinners because we sin! If this guy couldn’t make it on his record, what chance do I have? What chance do you have?

Only one, and his name is Jesus. Jesus said I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.  John 14:6 NKJV.  Oprah says there are many roads to Heaven. Oprah is wrong.
Jesus said that God so loved the world, He gave his only son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. That’s what all those signs at the football games are trying to tell you. God loves you.  He sent His Son to Die on the cross for you. But He hates your sin. He makes the distinction. He draws the line. And because the same God who said ALL scripture is God Breathed, you can trust His word on it. He absolutely abhors your sin. So much so that at the moment when Jesus took the sins of mankind past, present and future upon His divine self at Calvary, He cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” because God could not bear to look upon the sins of mankind – even as His own Son bore them for our sake.

This is why there is no hypocrisy is saying that as a Christian – a Christ follower – I am obligated to humble my heart before God in this matter.  To hate sin while recognizing that the sin and the sinner are not synonyms for each other, and why I can look at what follows with complete confidence that whether Jesus said these words in the Gospels or not is irrelevant.  ALL scripture is inspired of God.  ALL Scripture. Paul, James, John, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus – same thing because In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God!

And on the basis of that, I can say with certainty, God said this. He used Paul to write the words, but make no mistake: GOD SAID IT! GOD CALLED IT SIN! And no amount of political correctness, presidential decrees, rainbow parades or pride days will change it.  God said it, that settles it whether you believe it or not. My prayer as you read these things is that God’s Holy Spirit will touch your heart and open your eyes to His love and the truth of His Word.

Romans 1:18-32 NKJV:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man-and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

And as you read this last passage from Romans, it is critical that you remember these things:


  1. I didn't say them, Paul did.
  2. Because ALL scripture is divinely inspired, it carries the same weight as if Jesus said it because, in a way, He did, given that Jesus inspired Paul to write it
  3. The righteous judgment of God applies equally to those who practice these things and those who approve of their practice.
  4. Most importantly, GOD STILL LOVED each and every one of us to separate sin from sinner; hate the sin and live the sinner when the sinner was faithful to the invitation of Scripture, "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 21:21 NKJV) for "If you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the Dead, you will be saved."(Romans 10:9 NKJV)

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