How to Receive God’s Word

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be

quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger
of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness
and receive with meekness the implanted word,
which is able to save your souls.”

James 1:19-21

Through James, God is telling His people how to receive His written Word, the Bible.

In verse 19, the word translated “quick” or “swift” has the idea of an eagerness to learn. In personal Bible Study we “hear” with our eyes as we read the Bible. Our hearts are open and willing to be instructed.

“Quick to hear” means wanting to learn.

In public worship at church, we are “quick to hear” when we prepare our heart to listen, when we come to church well-rested and fully alert to receive God’s truth.

This attitude requires humility since pride and arrogance are the antithesis of wisdom and actually shut down the learning process.

A heart that is “quick to hear” isn’t framing its own internal arguments, but is intent on benefiting from the teaching of God’s Word.

All of the apostles’ teaching was first conveyed orally to the churches, either by the apostles themselves or by those who heard their message and relayed it to the church. Then the message was inscripturated by letters and gospels under the inspiration of God.

In fact, it is widely accepted that James was the first inspired letter after the ascension of Christ. This is early NT Scripture. To grow spiritually healthy in Christ believers have to be “quick to hear” God’s Word.

Second, believers who willingly submit to God’s Word must be slow to speak (19b).

This second trait is the “conjoined sibling” of the first. They can never be separated without disfiguring both. We never experience “quick to hear” without also experiencing “slow to speak.” They always go together.

In this context, “slow to speak” involves not thinking about one’s own thoughts and ideas while someone else is trying to explain the meaning of Scripture. This is a picture of disciplined restraint. It starts on the inside. “Slow to speak” begins in your heart.

The churches to which James wrote were less structured and invited more personal interaction as well as creating a climate where abuse was possible.

The speaker could be easily interrupted, and hasty, irreverent, or worthless comments could detract from the ministry of the Word. James commands those who had such interrupting tendencies to be “slow to speak.”

And third, Believers who willingly submit to God’s Word must be slow to anger (19c – 20).

The Greek word ὀργὴ (anger or wrath) in verse 19 doesn’t refer to an explosive outburst, but rather to an inner, deep resentment that seethes and smolders.

It’s an anger that is often unnoticed by others. It is therefore an anger that only the Lord and the believer know about. And for that very reason, it is a special danger in that it can be privately harbored.

In the context of James, it refers to an attitude hostile to scriptural truth when it doesn’t correspond to one’s own convictions, manifested—even if only inwardly—against those who faithfully teach God’s Word.

Solomon said in Proverbs 29:11, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” Anger destroys those who harbor it.

So that’s an overview of three keys to receiving God’s Word with a willing heart.

May we all be directed by these thoughts when receiving God’s written Word.

Love in the Truth,
Pastor Kevin

 

No Person Knows When the World Will End

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words

will not pass away. But concerning that day and hour
no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son,
but the Father only… Watch therefore, for you
know neither the day nor the hour.”

Matthew 24:34-35, 44

This past Friday afternoon my phone rang at the church office.

On the other end of the line was an un-churched mom in a rural area just outside of our city. She asked to speak to the minister. I told her I was the pastor of the church and asked if I could help her. What she said next is an illustration of the times in which we now live.

She told me that her children were terrified about the end of the world this Saturday (May 21). The fierce wind storms and thunder storms the night before had only heightened their fears of doomsday. She was calling to know what to tell her children to calm their fears.

Since I was aware that Harold Camping had predicted that Saturday, May 21 would be the end of the world, I had some awareness of the situation. So I started by telling her what Jesus told us in the Bible: that no one knows the day or the hour of the end of the world.

Through our conversation I learned the no one in her family attends any church and they lived according to the bits and pieces of news and rumors the children pick up at school.

I encouraged her to find a church to get encouragement and support from other believers in her area from God’s Word. She needs a faithful Bible-teaching pastor and the fellowship of God’s people – a thought which false teacher Harold Camping disdains.

Camping says God is finished with the church.

So I explained to her that she and her children need to understand that false teachers like Harold Camping have been setting dates for the end of the world for many years.

Each time the newly selected date comes and goes, false teachers and their followers invent reasons why they need to recalculate and produce a new future date. The insanity cycle goes around and around and around. They have always been wrong, as Scripture says they will be.

Meanwhile, people who are untaught and ignorant of Bible doctrine get caught up in the frenzy with reactions ranging from hopeless despair all the way to unrestrained licentiousness.

At the same time, people who have no relationship with Jesus Christ see the true teaching of Scripture and prophecy as less credible and view all Christian teachers with greater suspicion. They begin to scoff and mock the warnings in Scripture intended for those with ears to hear.

When they lie and misrepresent God’s Word by saying, “The Bible guarantees it!” (as in this photo) their judgment is only intensified. This is the devil’s classic ploy: to discredit God’s word by associating it with those who abuse and ignore what it teaches.

Date setters and other kinds of false teachers who ignore the clear statements in Scripture about no one knowing the day nor the hour (or the week or month, for that matter!) will all be judged by God in His own perfect timing.

For the present time, false teachers serve to separate the wheat from the chaff in the world. Those who reject Bible doctrine and orthodox theology will be left to the unchartered waters of man-made inventions, superstitions, and every form of nonsense that is loose in the world.

I told this troubled woman that Saturday would come and go without incident and on Sunday she would realize that what I’m telling her is true. Then I told her that other false teachers would set new dates for the end of the world – and they will also be wrong. She shouldn’t believe them.

I reminded her that Scripture tells us the only way to be ready for the Lord’s return is to live a holy and godly live through faith in the finished work of Christ on our behalf.

Christians need not fear those who say, “The end is here!” or “This is the date of the end of the world!” because concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only (Mt. 24:36).

Resting in His sovereignty,
Pastor Kevin

 

God’s Desire to Save the Lost

On Sunday evenings, our church has been studying what the Bible says about how God saves people. We’ve considered God’s intention in salvation as it relates to doctrines such as election as well as God’s purpose in evangelism. We’ve seen that these twin purposes of God work together to accomplish the same glorious end.

However, we also need to consider God’s desire in salvation. The general desire of God to save sinners is distinguished in Scripture from His ultimate intention, which cannot be thwarted.

God’s will of desire is not the same as God’s ordained will of decree. For example, God desires that all people wouldn’t sin, but all people do in fact sin; therefore, this desire of God is not based on His sovereign will of intention, but rather on His stated will of desire.

When God wills something with His sovereign will of decree, that thing will happen. God created the heavens and the earth by His sovereign will of decree and it came to be for His good pleasure. God’s sovereign will of decree in salvation is that all whom the Father gives to Jesus for salvation will in fact come to Jesus (Jn. 6:37). Nothing can thwart this purpose.

We’ve also seen that Christians have been sent by their Savior with a great invitation. Our God is a missionary God. He sends His people into the world to make the gospel known to all.

The Father sent His one and only Son from His heavenly throne down to the “far country” where we live. He came to redeem a people for Himself; to purchase redemption for every person given by the Father to the Son. This was God’s intention in sending His Son to earth.

The invitation to believe the gospel, to come to Christ, to repent of sins, to be saved by grace through faith goes out to every nation and to every individual under heaven.

The same God who ordained the doctrine of election is the same God who ordained biblical evangelism as His chosen means of bringing every one of His elect to Himself. Both of these truths reflect the explicit teaching of Scripture.

According to the Bible, no one is able to respond to the gospel unless God enables them to do so (Jn 6:44, 65; Mt 11:25-27, Eph 2:1-9). This too is explicitly taught in Scripture.

However, God does desire the salvation of all people in a general sense and God is the Savior of all people in a general albeit temporal sense.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 and 4:10 are often used as proof-texts to deny the particular redemption of God’s elect. These verses appear to teach that God wants to save everybody, but He can’t for reasons beyond His control (i.e. “the free will of man”).

Those who believe that God intended to save everybody have to add that second clause to escape the charge of universalism. Yet that’s exactly where general atonement leads when you read verses guaranteeing the salvation of Christ’s sheep and then apply it universally, the logical conclusion is universalism.

Clark Pinnock is a modern example of a Bible “scholar” who once held to a biblical view of theology and even biblical inerrancy, but then he began to question some of the hard truths of Scripture. He gradually moved from a reformed view of the sovereignty of  God toward Arminianism, then toward Pelagianism, then open-theism, and eventually he embraced universalism.

But why should anyone be surprised at this? Each step leads logically (and theologically) to the next step. Pinnock is just being honest in going where his theology has led him.

So we shouldn’t shrink from addressing these difficult texts in their context to understand what God is saying to us in these wonderful verses. We’ll find that God is the Savior of the world in a general sense, but nothing is beyond His control, especially in His intention to save His elect.

Keep in mind, we must take every doctrine of the faith and every belief and we must relate it to every verse of Scripture so that its shape and form will be biblical.

As a basic rule of biblical interpretation, the explicit teaching of Scripture always controls our interpretation of the implicit teaching of Scripture. Therefore, an implicit (or paradoxical) verse of Scripture must not be used to overthrow the clear meaning of an explicit teaching in Scripture.

These verses (1 Timothy 2:1-4 and 4:10) could be used by universalists if they let the implicit teaching (what the verse appears to say) overrule the explicit teaching of the rest of the New Testament where universalism is clearly denied.

But again, this method of distorted interpretation isn’t possible without doing great violence to the clear teaching of Scripture throughout the rest of the Bible.

That said, let’s look at what 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and 4:10 are actually telling us.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” [1 Tim 2:1-4, ESV]

Later, in 1 Timothy chapter 4, verse 10 says…

“For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” [1 Tim 4:10, ESV]

Combining these two passages, we read that God desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth and that God is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

Are these verses the definitive rejection of the doctrines of election and definite atonement?

Only if you believe that the Bible contradicts itself or if you interpret the explicit teachings of Scripture by means of the implicit. Both of these approaches will lead you into error.

In 1 Timothy 2:4, God says through Paul that He is “our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

There are three things to notice in this verse. First, Paul is addressing a situation in Ephesus where some teachers may have denied that God is the Savior of the world in a general sense.

In Ephesus, Caesar was worshiped as the “protector, provider, and savior” of the people of the empire. Paul wants the church at Ephesus and the world at large to know that God is truly the Protector of the world, the Provider for the world, and the Savior (or deliverer) of the world.

Paul refers to God as our Savior throughout First Timothy (1:1; 2:4; 4:10). He wants the world to know that God desires all men to come under the wings of His salvation and deliverance.

Second, In 1 Timothy 2:4 the word “desire” is from the word theloThelo reflects God’s will of desire which flows from His feeling and inclination. God is inclined to save anybody. It’s God’s nature to save as an act of grace, not because people deserve to be saved by Him.

But there’s another word for God’s determined sovereign will; that’s the wordboulomai. This will (or desire) comes from God’s precise determination; it inexorably fulfills God’s intention without fail.

So 1 Timothy 2:4 is referring to God’s inclination to save anyone, not to His actual sovereign intention (as is the case for God’s elect, 1 Timothy 4:10).

Third, the phrase “all people” in 1 Timothy 2:4 is used in the same context as “all people” in 1 Timothy 2:1 – “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…”

The “all people” in this context doesn’t refer to every single individual. He isn’t saying that our prayer list should be an exhaustive and tedious register of every name of every individual in the world. That would be impossible, since we don’t know every name or every person.

What he means in 2:1 by “all people” is all kinds of people. We should pray for all kinds of people in the world, for all types of people. Then Paul enumerates some of the kinds of people for whom we should pray in particular: “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:2).

Then in verse 4 of this same chapter, the phrase “all people” is used again the same way. God desires and is inclined to save all kinds of peopleall types of people in the world. And this is in fact what the rest of Scripture describes.

Revelation 5:9 says of Christ, “for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…”

God is saving people from every nation and people group in the world. People are coming to Christ out of paganism, out of dead religions, out of Roman Catholicism, out of the Hindu and Muslim religions, out of atheism… all kinds of people are being drawn to the Savior.

Then in 1 Timothy 4:10, when God says through Paul, that He “is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” He is referring to the salvation of all kinds of people in one sense, and in a second sense he’s referring to salvation as God’s benevolent temporal deliverance of all people (i.e. common grace), but especially as Savior of those who actually believe.

So he distinguishes between general deliverance by God as the Savior of all people from God’s particular saving work in the lives of those who actually believe the gospel. That’s the difference between temporal common grace and sovereign election when it comes to salvation. 

When we exposit through First Timothy later this year, we’ll cover these verses in the context of Paul’s instruction to Timothy, but this overview of two verses from that epistle provides a general understanding of how implicit verses are to be interpreted in light of the explicit verses regarding God’s will of desire and His sovereign will of intention.

With love in the Truth,
Pastor Kevin