Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Breath of the Almighty, Part 2

In my last blog, I wrote about how the Spirit of God is the called the Breath of God in the Bible. And I also covered the fact that when we are born again the Spirit 'breathes' into us the very Life and Nature of God Himself, and we become children of God. The Spirit of God is called the Spirit of Life in Romans 8:2.
The Spirit actually gives life to all living things and if the Spirit were to withdraw from any plant or animal it would immediately die. Note that when Jesus cursed the fig tree that it suddenly withered from the root, the source of its life. I believe it happened because, in response to Jesus' word, the Spirit withdrew completely from the plant.
From a careful study of the scriptures you will find that the Spirit brings to pass that which is spoken by God. In Genesis 1, the Spirit hovered over the earth and then the Lord spoke and it immediately came forth. The Spirit brings the Word into reality.

Now we will look at the Bible, the written Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:15-16 says "the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness". I really like the fact that the NIV translators chose to translate 'theo-pnuestos' as 'God breathed' instead of 'God inspired'. I think it will help us settle a very important dispute in theological circles regarding the inspiration of the scriptures.
Some very prominent Bible scholars are denying the inerrancy of the Bible. They are saying that the Bible contains the Word of God, but it is not free from all kinds of errors. They say that the Bible is 100% true theologically, but not necessarily accurate regarding historical facts. They say that God inspired the truth in the minds of the authors of scriptures, but when these men wrote them out they used their own limited knowledge when it came to historical events. Now these scholars are orthodox in their beliefs regarding the deity of Christ, the crucifixion and resurrection, the 2nd Coming and all that. However, they do not see as necessary the contention that the Bible is accurate in details irrelevant to the theological truths it conveys.
The Bible, bearing witness of itself, does not support such a conclusion. Peter wrote that the human authors of the books of the Bible were "carried along by the Holy Spirit" as they wrote. Jesus said that scripture "cannot be broken". Paul, in Timothy, says that God "breathed-out" (lit.) the scriptures. Can God breath error? Even in insignificant error. It is contrary to His character to do so.
Besides, the picture of inspiration given by the scriptures runs contrary to the view that God simply revealed the truth to some and they wrote it down the best they could. Well, if they just did the best they could, then they might have written the theological parts wrong. At this point, they might say that God kept these writers from error in regards to theology, only allowing them to write the truth. But if God did that then would He not have kept them from error in all things? Of course, He would.
These folks want us to believe that God only inspires people with ideas, He does not really inspire their words, spoken or written. It is obvious to me that these people have a very flawed view of how God inspires people prophetically. He can, and does, actually speak His Word directly through people at times. I have prophesied before and I can tell you from experience that the words themselves come from the Spirit. It is not like preaching and teaching where God inspires us to speak what we have studied and learned. You can prophesy what you do not know and what you do not understand.
This is easy to prove from the Bible. Both Daniel and John (in Revelation) write down prophecies given to them and they ask the angel what they mean. This is heavy evidence against the concept of idea inspiration versus word (verbal) inspiration. Also, Peter calls all scripture "a more sure word of prophecy".

So when God breathed out His Word, it was all truth. And it was all Life. God's Word has God's life in it. He breathed the breath of Life into His Word. "The Logos (Word) of God is a living thing." Hebrew 4:12 (Moffat) They are words like the ones we use every day. But God has breathed into them His own Life and Nature. Jesus said that His words were "spirit and life". John 6:63
The Word communicates God's very Life to us when the Spirit breathes on it as we read or hear the Word. Have you had the experience of reading along in the Bible when certain scriptures just seem to come alive to you? You suddenly understand and are blessed by those particular scriptures. That's when the Logos Word becomes a Rhema Word to you. Very often you will have the same inspiration that the author originally had when it was written. At other times, the Spirit will apply the Word to your life even if it is out of context. It is a Rhema word just to you.
I remember when I was praying about whether or not to come back to Chincoteague and work with my father. I had gone back up north to Cleveland by God's leading two years previously. I asked God to give me a scripture so that I could be sure of His guidance. He gave me Jeremiah 16:15 "The LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.’ For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers." What a wonderful fit to my situation. Now I know that is not what Jeremiah meant, but it is what the Spirit gave to me. God works by principle and His principles are in His Word. When a certain principle applies to me, the Spirit will breath on the appropriate scripture or scriptures and make them come alive to me. It is Jesus speaking to us, leading us into all truth. He is the Truth and the Life. So is His Word.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Breath of the Almighty, Part 1

Some years ago, a friend of ours in a bible study told about a conversation she had with her young son. He asked her, "Mom, where did I come from?". Although they had already had this discussion before (so she thought) she began, "When a mommy and daddy love each other...", but he interrupted her. He said, "No, Mom, I know that. Where did the inside of me come from?" She knew what he meant. He was asking where his spirit came from. She wasn't sure.

Here she was, a Christian of many years, and she had never thought about where one's spirit and soul come from. Her son was curious about something that we hardly ever think about. Where does the inside of us come from? We ought to know.

Thank God, the Bible tells us. "The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath (spirit) of life; and man became a living being." (Gen. 2:7) God made Adam's body first, then gave him a spirit. He breathed life into him. We all get our bodies from our parents, but our spirits come from God. God is called "the Father of spirits". (Heb 12:9)

It is interesting that the Bible states that God 'breathed'. God does not need to breathe, does He? If He breathes, it is for our benefit. God's breath has creative power. "By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host." (Psalm 33:6)

It is also interesting that both the Hebrew and Greek words for breath also mean 'spirit'. So the breath of God is the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus met with the disciples after his resurrection, "He breathed on them and said to them, 'receive the Holy Spirit'". (John 20:22) (Please do not confuse the receiving of the Spirit in this incident with the Baptism in the Holy Spirit where the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in other tongues. That is a different thing.) Yes, they received the Spirit the day that Jesus breathed on them.

What did they get? They got new life, the Eternal Life that God had promised them. Eternal Life is the nature of God imparted to our spirits in the new birth. Jesus had breathed Himself, His Spirit, into the disciples. They became "partakers of the divine nature". (2 Pet. 1:4) The disciples became spiritually children of God. It was not adoption; it was a new birth, a new creation. "Therefore, if any one be in Christ, he is a new creation, old things are passed away, all thing become new and all things are of God." (2 Cor 5:17,18a) There is a direct link between the old and new creation. In the old creation, God breathed into Adam natural human life. In the new creation, Jesus breathes into us the very Life of God. As Ezekiel prophesied long ago, "I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you." Ezek. 36:26 Our spirits, that were dead in trespasses and sins, were brought to life. A new, born-again spirit was given to us and the Holy Spirit came to dwell in us.

We are not "sinners, saved by grace". We are new creations in Christ. The new creation will not be fully manifested until after the final judgment when we enter the new heavens and new earth. But it began with Jesus Christ. It continues in us today. We need to grow and let the good work that He has begun in us be perfected until the Day of Jesus Christ. (Phil 1:6)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Watch Your Language

This Sunday our pastor preached an excellent sermon on the tongue. We all need to hear this from time-to-time, but something bothered me, not about the sermon but about the Scripture reading – James 3:1-12. Our church uses the New Revised Standard Version and verse 7 read, “For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species”. Human species? The translators were very careful to use ‘human species’ instead of ‘man’(NIV). Now I have read many translations and all of them have certain passages that are clumsily translated and I do not make an issue of it. But what is behind this is something different. It is someone’s agenda. It is the attempt to make our Bibles and our speech “gender-neutral”. Although it is well-intentioned, I think it is a bad idea.

Languages, those still in use, are constantly changing. New words appear and older words often fall into disuse. Words acquire new meanings, gain additional meanings and lose other meanings. Words that are acceptable in one era are considered rude or vulgar in another. In defending the ‘gender-neutral’ agenda one translator said that the use of male pronouns to refer to both males and females, for example, was falling into disuse and, therefore, should be discontinued. I do not agree. What is happening is that some are trying to push the language in that direction. We all use language to suit our own purpose and to influence others, but I object to those who try to force changes in the English language to promote their own goals.

This has been done successfully before. Think of the word ‘gay’. Fifty years ago it meant ‘happy’; now it means ‘homosexual’. Was this a natural development of the word or did some promote the word because they wanted to promote their social agenda? It is definitely the latter. The homosexual ‘community’ promoted it and the media helped them to make it the most common word to refer to them. It worked. You might say it is good or bad, but it certainly helped homosexual activity to be more acceptable than it formerly was. (Now I am not saying that it is okay to use some of the more colorful terms for homosexuals, but that is another issue.)

Some in the church and in academia are pushing the language in what they believe is a good direction, but it is making speech more awkward even if it is politically correct. The first time that I heard a preacher say ‘humankind’ instead of ‘mankind’ it sounded extremely artificial to me. It still does. Are we making the language better by making it more awkward? Those who speak this way do not want to emphasis the ‘man’ sound in ‘mankind’, so they say ‘humankind’. The funny part of this is that the root of the word ‘mankind’ and ‘humankind’ is the same –it is ‘man’. But you emphasize “man” in mankind’, but “hu” in ‘humankind’.

Even worse, when listening to a series lectures by Bible scholars, I heard several of them use the phrase, “God is building God’s kingdom” instead of “God is building His kingdom”. Now they are trying to avoid using “His” with reference to God and the reason is good enough. God, as a pure spirit, has no gender and they do not want to imply that He is male. (Oops!) And I agree that we might need to explain that fact to some young Christians, but that should part of our normal instruction anyway. One of my problems with this is that it just sounds silly. I know that we need to be respectful and sensitive in our speech, but I think we should sound human as well. (Now this is the right way to use the word ‘human’.) Communication, in speech or in writing, must not only be accurate it needs to have a ‘flow’. It ought to be easily readable (if it written) or be easy on the ears (if spoken). Translating the Bible is hard enough without adding to it someone’s agenda, be it good or bad. Let’s translate it the way people speak and not the way we think they ought to speak.

At this point, you might be thinking that this is a small issue that only affects English ‘style’. Consider John 14:23 in the TNIV: “Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.’” Beautiful, isn’t it? It is, but there is a problem here. In the Greek, the word translated ‘them’ is not plural but singular. The translator did not want to use ‘him’, the best English equivalent, but opted for ‘them’ to keep it gender-neutral. The problem is that it changes the meaning of the passage. This promise is not given to a group (church or fellowship) but to the individual Christian. A person reading the TNIV or NRSV would not know that. What a shame it would be if someone who read this never found out that Jesus and the Father wanted to make their home with them on a individual, personal basis. I really do not think that what might be gained by promoting a gender-neutral agenda is worth what it does either to our English Bible or to the English language.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A New Blogger

My name is Brian Scarborough. I live in Chincoteague Island, Virginia with my wife, Christy. We have two awesome daughters who are now both married to good, Christian husbands. I have been teaching the Word of God for about 30 years now and it is about my favorite thing to do.

This blog will mainly be about the Bible and subjects related to the Bible. The name, Logos and Rhema, come from the two Greek words for 'word'. Logos generally refers to the written word and rhema to the spoken word of God. More on that in a later blog.
Now I will have some postings on economics, and social and political issues from time to time. I may also comment on the media which I hold in very low esteem.

I am an opinionated person, but I feel that I am a well-informed one. My views, on almost all subjects, is conservative. That means that I am conservative in theology (Christian theology) and in politics and in economics and in my social views. Now that means something different in each area. By socially conservative, I mean that I am a traditionalist - traditional family and all that. Being an economic conservative, I lean libertarian, meaning minimal government intervention in a free market. And, of course, my politics follow my economic and social views.

Now there are varying opinions on what it means to be a conservative politically or even socially and economically. However, there really is no debate about what it means to be theologically conservative (or liberal for that matter). It means that I believe that the Bible is the Word of God, that is, inerrant and verbally inspired in the original autographs. I am a Protestant conservative meaning that I do not look to any teacher or church to interpret the Bible for me. That does not mean that I do not listen to others or that I think that I have all the answers.
It does mean that I believe that Jesus is the Son of God (deity) and that he died for our sins and was raised from the dead physically. We can only be saved (justified and born again) by faith in Him.

It is my hope that others will find this interesting and, of course, I would happy if others would agree or adopt my views. But it has always been my purpose as a Bible teacher to get people to think about various Bible subjects in a new way and to be inspired to dig deeper into the Word. I want all of us to think and live biblically.