Experiential Exegesis

EisegesisExegesis is when a person interprets scripture from what is in the text. Eisegesis is when a person interprets and reads information into the text that is not there. Exegesis is what we are supposed to do and Eisegesis is what we are to avoid. What I have noticed is that preachers often interpret scriptures based on their experiences. People often receive this eisegesis because they have had the same experiences.

It seems that there is a tendency to justify our decisions and lifestyles, good or bad, from the Word of God. Instead of admitting our sin and our moral failures, we manufacture, in scripture, that which would give approval to our conduct.

One of two things must happen for this to come about. The first is that we must reduce the fact that we are as bad as the Bible says we are. In other words, we must deny our total depravity. We must deny our failures and faults. The second is that we must reduce the demands of God. We must deny that God requires absolute obedience, righteousness, and holiness. Instead of God’s will being accomplished despite our sin and failures it sounds as if God’s will is done because of our sin and our failures.

It is too easy to justify our moral failures and unbiblical decisions as God enlarging our territories instead of it being God’s grace and goodness in spite of our sinfulness. They are not the same. It would be hard for us to say that when Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden and refused re-entry it was really God simply enlarging their territories. The consequences, results, and God’s gracious response are not the same as God’s giving His approval to our unrighteousness. God working all things out for good does not mean that what we did was good. We cannot remove the responsibility.

What is often said is that God can do what God wants to do. That is true! One time, he spoke through a donkey but that is not His normal avenue of communication. God overcoming our sinfulness is not God celebrating our sin. God making good come out of a sinful situation does not mean that God approved and orchestrated the sin. We must be careful that we are not making God the author of sin.

The Bible does not justify my sin, it convicts and condemns my sin. He is gracious and He is good as He makes the good result even in our sinfulness. Our sin is still a sin even when God makes good come from it.

Naked and Hiding

fig leavesAnd the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? 

The promise of the deceiver was that the eating of the fruit would result in the opening of their eyes. And indeed, their eyes were opened. But, it was only to see their own nakedness. They knew they were naked. Naked of God, naked of everything that was holy and good. Naked of the innocence they enjoyed before. Naked of the glory of God. They were naked in both body and soul.

How do they behave now that they know their nakededness? Do they run to God for forgiveness? Do they seek God to cover their nakedness?  Nope! They were now dead to God and became earthly and sensual and instead of asking God for mercy, they sowed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons or coverings.

This is a accurate representation of all mankind since. We see that we are naked. We in some measure confess it. But instead of looking up to God for salvation, we patch up a righteousness of our own making, hoping to cover our nakedness by it. But our righteousness will not stand the judgment of God. It will do us no better service than the fig leaves did Adam and Eve.

Later they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. Before this destructive decision, Adam and Eve fellowshipped with God, praised and glorified God. But now, instead of rejoicing at the voice of God, instead of meeting him with open arms and receptive hearts, as before, they now hide themselves in the trees of the garden.

By their fall, they had become an enemy of God. They now hated and were afraid to even speak with God their maker. And the same is true of us. We know our nakedness and we labor to cover it with the fig leaves of our own righteousness. We hide ourselves from God and we will not come and never will come to God on our own.

Notice God seeks Adam and Eve. God calls out to Adam, Where art thou? Adam does not call out to God. Where are you Adam? They were not with God as usual. They were not praising God as usual. They were not exalting God as usual. They were not fellowshipping God as usual. They withheld their presence, they withheld their attendence, they withheld their worship. Why? Because of their sin, their nakedness and their pitiful fig tree religion. A tri-fold embarrassment.

Sin had driven a wedge between man and God. God did not change, he showed up at the cool of the day just like normal. But Adam and Eve were not just late, they were absent. They were no-shows, hiding in the trees ashamed of their nakedness and ashamed of their coverings. Naked, hiding, and separated from God.

The serpent failed to disclose all of this, didn’t he? Adam and Eve begin to discover that they were mistaken. The seprent was a liar and this fruit was not good but it was bad, very, very bad.

Ye Shall Not Surely Die

apple

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

There are dual truths to consider. The devil is a liar and we are so very gullible. The devil is always shading the truth, giving just enough truth to make it worth considering. We are mostly an undescerning lot that gives little thought beyond the present.

The serpent says, “Ye shall not surely die.” God will not be so cruel and inflexable that he would damn you only for eating a piece of fruit.  It is the play of the devil to convince us that God did not really mean what he said. God is only making idle threats to keep us in under His subjection. What a false hope that we can go on in our sin and not surely die.

The serpent adds, “God doth know that in the day ye eat therof, ye shall be as gods’.” So the grand temptation was that she would hereafter no longer be under control and woud be equal, if not superior, to God that made them, knowing good and evil. Satan points out a way which seems right to sinners but does not tell them the end of that way is death.

The Bible says, that when Eve saw that it was good for food. I am guessing here that the reason she saw that it was good for food was that the serpent MAYBE had taken a bite of this forbidden fruit and remarked how delicious it really was.

Satan had now gained quite a bit of ground with Eve. She saw that it was good for food and that it was pleasant to the eyes and a tree to be desired to make one wise. What she saw conceived lust in her heart. She saw and she desired. Her eyes were connected to her heart. The longer she looked at this fruit with her eyes, the more she began to long after it with her heart.

Then we have one of the most disturbing sentences in all the Bible. “She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband, and he did eat.”If we ourselves are good, we will stir others to goodness, but if we are evil, we shall entice others to do evil as well. There is a close connection between doing and teaching. How needful it is for us to take heed that we do not sin, lest we should become instruments of the devil to ensnare, perhaps, the very ones we love.

What Does The Word Say?

SERPENT IN THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.”

I imagine Eve was near the tree of good and evil maybe looking at it and wondering what there was about this tree that made it differ from the others. While there were many trees in the garden, for some reason this tree demanded her attention. What about this tree made it forbidden for her and her husband to take of it.

As she considers this tree, Satan, possessing the body of a serpent, speaks to her. He asks her to remember the words of God. “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Satan tempts her to think not about what God has given but what God has withheld. He focuses her what is forbidden.

The first error is having a conversation with the devil at all. She was not obligated to give him an answer. But answer she did. Eve responded, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.”

She begins recounting God’s words correctly, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it.” That is exactly what Jesus said. Her second error was that she adds something that God did not say, “Neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” God did not say that.

Eve may have easily supposed that she would have to touch the fruit to eat it and therefore it would be forbidden to even touch this fruit. However, that is not what God said. The question was about what God said and not what she supposed. Eve had altered the word of God.

This is still a danger today. We have people attributing their thoughts and ideas as if they were the very words of God. God has spoken clearly and completely in the Bible. We must learn and obey what He said but we are not obligated to believe nor obey what man adds to it. We must be careful not to mix our assumptions in with God’s words.

I imagine that the serpent has a piece of the fruit of this tree in his hands. It seems that he was in a different form than serpents today since the fall confined them to slittering in the dust of the ground. So what Eve sees is someone touching the fruit of the tree and not dying. In Eve’s mind, there is the planting of the seed of doubt, not based on what God said but based on what she assumed.

We must be careful to know, believe, and tell only what God has said in His Word. Only His Words are inspired, inerrent, and infallable.

Reaction

I have spent part of the morning reading reactions to the removal of Perry Noble as senior pastor of NewSpring Church. I understand the necessity of the leadership of the Newspring to move based on the apparent refusal of their pastor to repent of his growing dependence on alcohol. Now before you say, “But he did repent, he said he was guilty of sin and was sorry” let me remind you that there is a difference between saying I am sorry for your sins and repenting of your sins. Repentance is a turning from your sin. According to the churches announcement the leadership has been dealing with this issue for some time and Noble had refused to deal with the problem. That is not repentance. What we heard is Noble being remorseful because of being caught and reprimanded. True repentance is granted by God and does not originate with man. An apology is not repentance.

My concern is not that the leadership removed him for his unrepentant behavior but why they did not feel the same way about the way he over and over again mishandled the texts of Scripture and as he mangled Biblical doctrine. From performing secular songs in a church worship setting, to allowing women to preach from the pulpit, to bringing in a Church of Christ Duck Dynasty baptismal regeneration proponent, to changing the Ten Commandments to something they are not, to the twisting of the Word of God every time he stood before the church. Why was the leadership not appalled by his preaching a different gospel than the one that Bible proclaims to the same degree they were about his behavior? Why where they not concerned that a false gospel was being given to thousands of people week in and week out for sixteen years?

My more personal concern is people that I know who sit under Biblical preaching have rushed to the defense of a false teacher on social media. It reveals their lack of discernment, Biblical ignorance, and their inattentiveness. It indicates that doctrine does not matter and the proper handling of Scripture is of no great concern. It proves that they don’t fully understand what the Bible describes as the gospel. This lack of Biblical understanding is terribly disappointing.

Should we pray for Perry Noble? Absolutely! We should pray for him physically and spiritually. Todd Friel posted a tweet desiring that salvation would become a reality in Noble’s life. He was promptly blasted for his judgmental attitude toward a person’s salvation. However, are not those people making judgments about Noble’s salvation being a reality? Are they not making assumptions as well? We can’t know anyone’s heart, whether they are saved or not but the Bible says by their fruits you will know them. Just examine the spiritual fruit. I pray that God will lead Perry Noble to look away from himself, that God will destroy his pride, that God would crush his self-reliance, and cause him to look to Christ alone as his only hope in this life and the life to come. I also pray that the leadership of NewSpring will look for a pastor that will be doctrinally sound, Christ exalting, and gospel centered and not entertaining, cool, and relevant. I pray that God will be glorified in and through all of this.

Giving Account of Ourself to God!

The-Judgement-Seat-of-Christ-540x34010 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.  Romans 14:10-12

The thing I think that we have to remember is that all of us must stand before God’s bar of judgment. Each of us will stand and give account for our own lives. Don’t you think you have enough that you must answer to God for that we really don’t have time to try to straighten out our brother on these disputable matters. What we must remember is not I need to judge my brother but that I will be judged of Christ.

The emphasis here is on ourselves. There is much to do to get my own conscience in line with the Word of God. Too much to do to be consumed on correcting my brother. We should share truth, we should point them to the Bible, but then we need to mind our own business and let God be their master. On that day we will be busy enough answering for our own life; we don’t need to be spending our short life meddling in the lives of others.

Again, if we hold our convictions loosely, realizing they can be wrong, needing confirmed and corrected by the Word of God, and that we will answer to God that will help with our need to make everyone confirm to our convictions.

Conscience!

ConscienceOur consciences are like snowflakes, there are no two that are identical. While we may have many of the same moral ideals, there will be some areas in which we all will differ. We will notice these differences very quickly and long before we appreciate what areas overlap in agreement.

We must remember that our conscience is prone to error and on its own is not sufficient to unerringly guide us. While all of our consciences are different, all consciences fail to meet God’s standards. Therefore, while we may be fully persuaded in our mind of the correctness of our understanding of third level issues we must hold them loosely and be willing to allow them to be corrected by the Word of God. Our main problem is that our culture shapes our conscience more than the Scriptures. This is further problematic due to our inability to adequately distinguish between which of our convictions are cultural and which are biblical.

One example of this is divorce. The Scriptures explicitly condemn divorce. Yet, living in a culture where divorce is accepted and even promoted in certain cases, our consciences lean toward cultural convictions instead of biblical convictions. So our consciences are subjective and therefore not an absolutely reliable guide. This is why we must hold third-level beliefs loosely and make sure they are submissive to the objective truth of the Bible.

One of the errors we can make is that we help people embrace cultural conversion rather than genuine conversion to God in Christ. We can wrongly lead others to conform to our cultural convictions instead of repentance from sin and faith in Christ as written in the Word. We want people committed to God, Christ, and the Word and not to our set of non-essential convictions. I feel we would rather see people agree with our conviction of eschatology instead of committing themselves to Christ.

This is why faithfulness to church and our own consistent Bible study is so important. We must constantly be subjecting our consciences to God’s standards and not the cultures. It is God who must and who will adjust the conscience. Our consciences are being sanctified by the Word of God through the power of God in the Spirit of God.

Again there are truths we MUST believe to be Christian, other things we must believe to be a unified church, and there are things we do not have to agree about and yet we can love one another and fellowship with one another until the Lord adjusts our consciences.

Welcome and Don’t Argue!

welcomePaul writes in Romans 14:1, “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.”

God has rescued us from sin and Satan in the work of Christ and has placed us in the church, the body of Christ. It is God who choses the members of the church. He chooses who will be members of Lakeview Baptist Church. What this means for me is simply this; God chooses who my friends will be. If I choose my friends, they will be much like me: same likes, same dislikes, same political views, same theological beliefs but in the church, God chooses my friends and the friends that God chooses for me might have different opinions from me, different ways of doing things, different politics, and different likes and dislikes.

That is why Paul tells us in Romans 12:16, “Be of the same mind one toward another.” And in Philippians 2:2 Paul commands the church to “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”

Being of the same mind does not mean that we will always agree about everything. We MUST agree on the major doctrines of the Bible, but we will disagree about smaller issues. That is why Romans chapter 14 teaches us how to love one another even when we disagree, otherwise, when we have disagreements in the church, we will sin against each other. We might even spit the church or quit attending. That is not the way of God, but is the way of the world.

Paul tells us that we are to welcome a weaker brother and not argue over opinions. Or in other words, we are to receive and not make third-level truths an issue.

In almost every church in the Bible consisted of a mixture of Jew and Gentile. They both brought their own traditions and opinions to the table. The Jew was very careful to obey as many Old Testament laws as they could, especially the laws about observing holy days and refraining from certain kinds of food, like meat that was not prepared properly and may have been left over from the previous day’s idol sacrifices at the pagan temples. Just because they were now Christians does not mean these traditions were easy to change immediately. His conscience still convicts him if he eats meat. So in Paul’s day, may Jewish Christians were still obeying many of the Jewish laws.

On the other hand, Gentile Christians had no law keeping traditions at all. There was no conscience toward these eating laws for the Gentile. So “weak” here does not mean their faith in Christ was weaker than the others. However, it meant that they still were troubled by their conscience about traditional matters—so their conscience was weak. I think we would put these traditions in the third-level category. You had some who were very strict (weak in faith) and those who were free (strong in faith). Yet, Paul says to welcome them and to not make the traditional baggage an issue.

This idea of hospitality and tolerance of third-level issues are important in the church. J.D. Crowley reminds us why Paul saw this as important. “When you’re splitting firewood, you try to hit the log right where there is already a gap. So Satan saw that there was a natural gap in the church between Jews and Gentiles, and that’s where he tried to split with his axe. Some who were strict about food laws started to think that they were better than the free group. They were judgmental toward those who ate any kind of meat and didn’t follow certain holy days. As far as those who had the freedom to eat meat, some of them thought they were the better Christians. After all, they were the ones following Christ who said that it was okay to eat everything. So they were tempted to look down on the Christians who had too many rules.”

The sad truth is that many churches have split and countless fruitful relationships have been destroyed over issues that should have never been divisive. Satan took aim and hit the gap and it easily split. Paul is telling us here to remove the gap.

The Duties of Church Members!

Church-membershipChurch membership is not just a formality. It is not just a checking of a box. It is more than just putting your name on a list. It’s much more than what many think. Church members have the duty to imitate and submit to the leadership of the church, to regularly assemble with the church, and to love and serve their fellow members. These duties are the means by which we grow in godliness and help others grow in godliness as well.

Hebrews 13:7, 17 says, “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God:whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves:for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief:for that is unprofitable for you.”

God has provided leaders in the church who are given the responsibility to look after your spiritual well-being. They are called to lead, guide, and feed the membership of the church. They are commissioned to take care of and do what is best for the spiritual growth of those under them. When we join the church we are committing ourselves to submit to the leadership that God has called to take care of us.

Hebrews 10:24-25 adds, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another:and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

The writer of Hebrews reminds us of our duty to assemble together with our fellow members to provoke them to love and to good works. The primary way to encourage your brothers or sisters to love and do good is to encourage them in person as we assemble together. To join a church means you commit yourself to the duty of showing up when the church assembles. This verse reminds us that our assembling is for the good of others and should not be neglected.

Romans 12:3-18 reminds us that church members have the duty to serve one another. “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you:bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”

Paul says that God has assembled a diverse group of people in the church. Each has a role of service to play in the overall body. Each is important to the rest of the members and for the health of the body as a whole. Church members are not spectators or cheerleaders, they are servants to every other member.

I go through great pains to make sure that our members know these truths before they join. I want to make sure they fully understand what membership consists of. I emphasize their attendance, their submission, their supporting the work financially, and their serving the body of believers. Sadly, many agree and then fail to meet these duties. The result is the entire church suffers because of their negligence.

May we ask God to help us be what we are Biblically supposed to be as members of God’s church. The church needs every member being a real member.