I assume it’s a given that no one knows all the Bible. And therefore, we can say with a reasonable sense of certainty that while all pastors and Bible teachers know many parts better than others, they know some sections hardly at all. It’s certainly true in my case. Yours too, I’m guessing. And that’s what has prompted the following…..
A pastor said to me, “You can say all you please about your supposed-doctrine of once-saved-always-saved, but my Bible says, ‘The soul that sinneth, it shall die.'”
I responded, “True, it does say that in the Old Testament (see Ezekiel 18:4,20). But Romans 8:2 says, ‘The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.'”
Here’s what that means to all of us…
When Jesus died on Calvary, He paid for our sins, once and for all, according to Hebrews 9:26-27. And in doing so, He put a new law on the books. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” That simple statement, repeated in numerous ways throughout the New Testament, is the “law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus” which has set us free from the law of sin and of death.
According to Romans 8:2, this new law has canceled the old one. Has nullified it. Made it of no effect.
You know how that works. Something like this…
A town passes an ordinance. However, the state legislature passes a law that overrules that law. The state has precedent over the township. And, if Congress passes a law that overrules the state law, guess which one rules: the law passed by the U.S. Congress.
Or, look at it like this. The U.S. Constitution may be amended by a vote of Congress which is ratified by three-fourths of the fifty states’ legislatures. And when that becomes law, it cancels out or nullifies any previous law or amendment in the Constitution which contradicted it. The 21st amendment, for instance, canceled the 18th (which gave us prohibition).
And so, the “law of sin and of death”–which states, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die”–was in effect until the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus became the rule. And we are now in that blessed time. We give thanks for that!
I am saved by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Saved for good, saved from sin and hell and myself, and saved for all time. It is impossible for anything to undo this salvation (see John 10:28-29 for starters).
So important for the pastor/teacher to know the Word
When a pastor does not know his Bible, he will end up preaching a lot of erroneous doctrine. He may be sincere and be doing his best, but he will be preaching hearsay, opinion, denominational positions, personal convictions, and the like. He may preach it strongly and with great force so that those who do not know the difference will say he has the anointing upon him, when all he’s doing is raising his voice and sounding certain. The old line says, “My pastor’s not always right, but he’s never in doubt.” There’s a lot of that going around. God’s people must never mistake certainty for the Spirit’s anointing.
Jim Bakker of PTL fame (notoriety?) admitted that during his time of fame and influence, he went to seed on III John 2, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” From that single reference, he derived what is called the “prosperity gospel,” aka “health and wealth.”
Had Mr. Bakker taken the time to study the Bible–no one ever accused him of doing that to my knowledge–he would have seen the balance Scripture gives on that subject. One wonders how many people he misled, how many he hurt, and how many have lost their confidence in the Lord or His Word as a result of such false teaching.
Newspaper columnist Cal Guy was upset at the money some preacher was pulling down. I forget the details, but will never forget the scripture he used. “After all,” he wrote, “the Lord Jesus told His disciples to ‘provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts.'” A reference to Luke 10:9.
He was right, as far as it went.
The problem with using that reference is that in context, the Lord was putting the disciples through boot camp and training them to be able to live by faith. And before He left them to return to Heaven, Jesus reversed that command. “He said to them, ‘When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?’ ‘Nothing,’ they said. Then He said to them, ‘But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack, and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one….'” (Luke 22:35ff.)
When a person–writer or pastor or columnist, anyone–knows only certain parts of the Bible, he runs a high risk of misusing the Word, of misleading his readers/hearers, and missing the truth.
Take the matter of losing one’s salvation. Is there one instance of anyone in Scripture losing his salvation and ever getting it back? And yet, those who preach the possibility of losing salvation are always calling people to be saved again. Hebrews 6:4-6 clearly states that if it were possible to lose it, it’s impossible to regain salvation since it would require Jesus returning to the cross.
If one does not know The Epistle to the Hebrews, he will fall pray to a host of errors. The biggest error will be preaching the law of the Old Testament as God’s way of salvation today. But the consistent and repeated message of Hebrews is that Christ’s gospel is superior in every way to the Old system. Acts 15 should have forever settled that. Sadly, for those who either do not know the Word or choose not to believe it, it doesn’t.
If one does not know The Epistle to the Romans, he may end up preaching a salvation of works. Romans is the clearest teaching we have on salvation. It is Paul’s explanation of the gospel. And it brings to mind his statement in Galatians 1:8. “Even if we or an angel from Heaven preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” Interestingly, Paul repeats that statement in the very next verse. People like Mormons (i.e., members of the LDS church) would do well to know this since their leaders are preaching a different gospel than the one found in Romans. Such teachers are found to be false by the very Word.
If one does not know Colossians, he may end up calling God’s people to observe certain festivals, keep the Old Testament Sabbath, and live by a rigid code of what foods are clean and unclean. But Colossians chapter 2 says these things are a shadow of things to come, of which Christ is the substance.
And if one does not know Revelation, he will…. well, he will have a lot of company.
I’d like to end on that as a note of whimsy, but lest I offend a lot of good teachers and sincere students of the Word, it might require just a note of explanation. My belief is that no one in the long history of the Christian movement has thus far come up with a satisfactory explanation for all the symbolism and prophecies in Revelation as well as Daniel and Ezekiel. But that has not stopped every new generation from supplying a new cluster of experts on Bible prophecy. No doubt someone somewhere has indeed interpreted it correctly. But we’ll get to Heaven before we know his/her identity. Therefore, for my money, a pastor would do well to know the glorious parts of Revelation–the first three chapters, and the worshipful insights throughout, and the last couple of chapters–and teach the rest of it with gentleness and humility.
I told a lady who was well-known as a teacher of prophecy–and who as a member of my church was asking to be given a forum for her teaching–that we would give her a classroom and let her invite people to come, but she had to be willing to do one thing. “At the end of each session,” I said, “I want you to say to the class, ‘That’s my opinion. I could be wrong.'”
She was aghast. The very idea, implying that she could be wrong! And that’s why, during my fourteen years as her pastor, she never once taught her class in our church.
A little humility is always in order when teaching the difficult portions of the Word.
“Some of the Scripture is difficult?” I can hear someone saying–as they have said in my hearing–“That is blasphemous to suggest if God inspires it, it’s hard to understand.” I give you the words of the Apostle Peter himself at the end of the Second Epistle of Peter….
“…our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” (2 Peter 3:15-16).
And that is all we are saying in this little epistle of our own.
God bless your pastors to get it right. Amen.