Hidden Treasures waiting to be found!
Part II: The Elementary Principles of Christ
Chapter 5- A Sure Foundation
Psalm 119:9-16… With what should a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me wander from Your commandments. In my heart I have treasured up Your word that I might not sin against You.
Blessed are you, O Jehovah; teach me Your statutes. With my lips, I have declared all the ordinances of Your mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies as much as in all riches. I will muse upon Your precepts and regard your ways. I will take delight in Your statutes; I will not forget your word.
The Holy Bible from the first book of Genesis to the last book of Revelation is the inspired word of the living God. When I was a non-believer, I took up the challenge to disprove the Bible. I was a confused pagan, dabbling in the occult and the New Age movement-and firmly believed that Christianity and belief in the claims of the Scriptures was foolish and misguided. I did not realize that to me, the gospel was veiled-because truly the god of this world had blinded my eyes.
Thankfully, the Lord used the fact that I considered myself open-minded, as a point of entry to reveal Himself and His truth to me. Inevitably I came to to the irrefutable conclusion that the Bible is true, reveals God’s heart, and His plan for our salvation through the finished work of Christ on the cross. For anyone to walk the narrow path that leads to true redemption, they must recognize and believe in the inerrancy of Scripture.
God spoke by way of revelation, inspiration, and illumination. From about 1400 B.C. over the next 15 centuries- He quietly called some forty men and women into His presence. He spoke the burden of His heart to those chosen forty different people from all walks of life… privileged to write down the story of creation, the fall, the history of His people- and the eternal truths of justification, sanctification, and glorification. His method of revelation had thereby occurred.
The Almighty Author then carefully guided each of his chosen in the task of writing down what needed to be stated. Each of the forty was an individual living in different circumstances, with varied levels of education, and personal trials of life. The words of the highly educated Paul are more complicated than those of the uneducated Peter. But from Moses to Amos to Malachi to Paul and Peter- and all the other writers, all have the signature of the Holy Spirit and carry the divine approval of Heaven itself.
Hebrews 1:1, 2… God, having spoken of old in many portions and in many ways to the fathers in the prophets, has at the last of these days spoken to us in the Son, whom He appointed Heir of all things, through Whom also He made the universe.
We find that God’s revelation to mankind was through different modes of communication. He often spoke to men through angels. Also at times He spoke with a loud voice or a still small voice. He spoke to men through dreams and visions, and on at least 10 different occasions, He as Christ appeared as the Angel of the Lord. Three examples of Christ’s pre-Bethlehem appearances as the Angel of the Lord are when He wrestled with Jacob (Genesis 32:24-30), spoke to Moses by way of a burning bush (Exodus 3:2), and chose to appear to Joshua as the Captain of Heaven’s armies (Joshua 5:13-15).
So we recognize that God revealed Himself to mankind through many different ways. But how was He able to ensure that all the different recipients of revelation would record precisely what He intended? In order to understand the concept of inspiration, it helps to define the word itself. The term “inspiration” is found only once in the New Testament. 2 Timothy 3:16… All scripture is given by inspiration of God… The Greek word is theopneustos and literally means “God breathed”.
Of all the various theories of inspiration that have been considered in theology, what is known as the plenary-verbal theory– that all (plenary) the very words (verbal) of the Bible are inspired by God is the truth. By the testimony of Scripture itself, this can only be the correct view. It does not guarantee the inspiration of any modern translation of the Bible, but deals only with the original Hebrew and Greek languages. Also, it must be remembered that many things recorded in Scripture are accurately stated, but not approved by the God of the Word. Therefore God records many wicked acts such as lying, adultery, murder, polygamy, etc. and yet he sanctions none of this.
Matthew 4:4… But He answered and said, it is written, Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out through the mouth of God.
2 Timothy 3:16,17… All scripture is God breathed and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.
2 Corinthians 2:12-14… But we have received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit which is from God, that we may know the things which have been graciously given to us by God; which things also we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things with spiritual words. But a soulish man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he is not able to know them because they are discerned spiritually.
2 Peter 1:19-21 (NKJV)… We also have the prophetic word made more sure, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
This recognition of the Bible as the inspired Word of God does not permit error in historical, prophetic, or scientific statements. What has been found with very careful study for many hundreds of years, is that in fact all branches of science, history, archaeology, and fulfilled prophecy reveal the seamless accuracy of Scripture. For those who would like to study this in much greater detail, I highly recommend Evidence that Demands a Verdict (revised edition- 2 Vols. in 1) by Josh McDowell. This among many other reference resources should be added to a Christian’s library, in order for one to grow up into the full stature of Christ. Another important title by this author is A Ready Defense. This book prepares a Christian and helps to articulate our precious faith with confidence, and substantial verifiable data.
We therefore see that God chose to reveal Himself and His plan of redemption, and we understand that without inspiration no Scripture would have been written. He called and chose children of mankind to be the emissaries of His revealed will. It is also of critical importance that we recognize that without illumination, no sinner would ever come to Christ. Illumination is precisely the method used by the Holy Spirit to shed his divine light upon all who seek to understand the deep things of God. The Holy Spirit broods over mankind looking for sincere hearts that He can woo to come to Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6… because the God who said, Out of darkness light shall shine, is no one who shined in our hearts to illuminate the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 11:6… But without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to Him, for he who comes forward to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
In order to overcomeour natural blindness and to break the power of Satan’s hold on the mind, the Holy Spirit illuminates His Word- for truly the entrance of His Word gives light (Psalm 119:130). It is necessary to clarify that no Christian should consider illumination as automatic. God has not promised to reveal His profound biblical truths to any believer who will not search the Scriptures for himself or herself.
2 Timothy 2:15… Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
There are many branches of so-called Christendom that are confused with liberal theology which does profound damage to the Scripture, and is an offense to God. The sure foundation of God’s holy Word must not be compromised with carnal reasonings. My wife and I and our children attended a Baptist church in the West LA area for nearly 10 years in the 1980’s. My wife Robyn worked at the Church elementary school, which both our son and daughter attended. We dearly loved the church family including and especially the pastor and his entire family. His children and ours were and still are very close. Unfortunately the pastor decided that he had received new revelation concerning the word of God, and proceeded to throw out all the portions of scripture that reveal the wrath of God, eternal judgment, hell, etc. He felt justified because he stated that Christ died for all of mankind’s sin, and was a God of love, and not judgment.
We discussed these issues at length with pastor, until finally with very heavy hearts we were compelled to leave. We saw the church dwindle from a thriving body with standing room only, to a small group that could barely keep the doors open. His theology also gravitated to an over-emphasis on deliverance ministry with everyone needing deliverance according to his formula. It was a very sad reality of a fractured ministry that had had such great potential for advancing Christ’s Kingdom. The wreckage of confused souls who left the ministry can only be accounted in eternity, and yet we continue to pray for him and his family which we still love.
Each of us who are called Christians need to spend daily time in the Word. It behooves us to study every book of the Old and New Testament with a journal and pen in hand in order to write down the many questions that will come up. We must then seek the counsel of mature godly men and women who will be able to answer our questions, in particular the pastor and leadership of the church we attend. This again is reason enough why we must be in relationship in a church body: so that we can grow in maturity and spiritual fruit, and be of service to the congregation as well as the greater body of Christ.
There are several books of the New Testament Epistles that stand out to me continually, because of their daily significance in my walk with the Lord. Two of them are Ephesians and Hebrews. Ephesians is a favorite because of its elevation of believers to the right hand of the throne of Heaven seated with Christ… right now! It gives us a heavenly perspective of our inheritance, for from that privileged position we are individually and corporately as a church able to overcome all the schemes and strategies of the adversary.
Part II of this book is titled The Elementary Principles of Christ, although I felt it was it necessary to begin Chapter 5 with the emphasis of the sure foundation of the reliability of the Holy Bible- in every book, every chapter, and every verse. As stated earlier, this Word is the Sword of the Spirit- which we are called to handle adeptly. So the question now is ‘What are the Elementary Principles of Christ?’ and where can the follower of the Way, the Truth, and the Life find them?
Before these principles are delineated in Hebrews 6, we find them alluded to at the end of the prior chapter:
Hebrews 5:12-14 (NKJV)… For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
The book of Hebrews is one of my favorite in the New Testament because of the panorama of God’s redemptive process that it systematically lays down. The New Covenant in Christ is superior to the Old in every way: it is a better covenant with better promises, with a more excellent ministry, better sacrifice with the better blood of Christ, and the building of the better Tabernacle with each of us as members of His Eternal Body. In the sequel to this book, Cleansing the Temple, we will unpack and carefully study the many treasures of both Hebrews and Ephesians. What we see in this portion quoted, which continues in Chapter 6 is the urgent need for maturity in the believer.
Hebrews 6:1-3;11,12… Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits… And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
We therefore see seven principles described which the author (I believe it is Paul), kind of tongue in cheek states that they should be able to move beyond, pressing forward to maturity. In our case we are going to park there for a while and study these foundational (elementary) principles of Christ. How can we build on a sure foundation without a clear understanding of what the Word itself declares are basic to our structure of understanding, and critical in going on to maturity?