July 24 – What is the Point?

July 24 – What is the Point?

2 Timothy 3:16-17

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (1 Timothy 3:16-17)

Early in adulthood, I became consumed with a desire to determine which facts I knew would stand the light of eternal day, facts which would never be abandoned or altered. So it was that I reexamined every point of doctrine, endeavoring to sift opinion from certain fact.

For me this was no barren academic search for ultimate truth. I was driven to the search not only by a newly applied intellectual honesty – not to say spiritual integrity – but at the same time by an increasing conviction that God is not nearly so interested in what I know as He is in what I am and in how I behave. My whole life had been revolutionized by the dawning realization as Andrew Murray once put it, “Scripture was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our conduct.” The Bible was not only given to teach us what to believe and what not to believe, it was also given to show us how to behave and how not to behave (1 Timothy 3:16). All of my rigorous Bible study should have been for the purpose of making the application to life, transferring the truth into day by day living.

For example, take the Bible doctrine prophecy. I had gone about delving into the future and attempting to write history ahead of time in great detail, like any good prophetic student or teacher. Yet the Bible tells us why prophecy is given – clearly not for the use commonly made of it. (John 13:19); “And now I have told you before it comes to pass, that when it is come to pass, ye may believe.” (John 14:29). This is clearly the I tell you before it comes to pass, that when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am He” purpose of prediction after it has been fulfilled. But what about the great mass of unfulfilled prophecy, does it have any purpose for today?

The common definition of Bible prophecy, “Prophecy is primarily forthtelling God’s message, not foretelling the future,” is usually ignored by Bible students of prophecy. So I investigated and discovered that of some 164 prophetic passages in the New Testament,[55] 141 are directly related to conduct and apparently given to affect conduct–not to increase knowledge. “This hope purifies.” “Comfort one another with these words.” “Watch for the Lord is coming.” Only 23 passages seem to be given primarily to give information concerning the future. The study of Bible prophecy should be, then, primarily for two purposes: the study of fulfilled prophecy to confirm our faith, the study of unfulfilled prophecy to influence our conduct.

What a release from mental gymnastics, peace among the brethren, and godly profit would exist if prophecy were so studied and Bible students refused to study for the sake of satisfying curiosity, refused to detail future events beyond the clear basic teaching of the Bible, and certainly refused to base fellowship on adherence to certain strongly held prophetic minutiae. If God had purposed to satisfy our curiosity concerning the future it surely would have been no more difficult to do than it was to give the great basic teachings on which His people agree. And for His primary purpose in giving prophecy – to influence our conduct–the clear teaching of the Bible is more than sufficient. “It is not for you to know times and seasons, which the Father hath set within his own authority. But ye shall receive power . . and ye shall be witnesses” (Acts 1:7, 8). Prophecy is only one example, of course.

I began to realize that omniscience is not required of us. But faithfulness is. And this included faithfulness with what we know. In the realm of Bible study, at least, a lot of knowledge is a dangerous thing. For we are responsible in a special way to live what we know (Luke 12:47, 48).

As my life began to be radically realigned by the living Word through the light and power of the Spirit, and my knowledge, though far less inclusive than formerly, became much more certain and life-controlling, another conviction began to dawn. Though the doctrines of the one Body of Christ and Christian unity were sometimes discussed, I became increasingly aware that there was precious little reality to it, especially among ministers and church leaders. The divisions among Christians were real and deep.

What was the cause? In local situations, as in Philippi, division is often caused by personal sin, wrong attitudes and conduct. But in the great, deep-running divisions the basic cause is almost always in the realm of knowledge: difference in doctrine. Agreement in teaching concerning life and conduct is all but universal. Disagreement in matters of doctrine cuts sharply and deeply.

Is this inevitable? I have finally concluded, without much satisfaction, that perhaps it is, because we are all still human. But I continue to hope that it is not inevitable, because I do know one thing: such division is not the will of God. It grieves His Spirit. It mutilates the very hallmark of Christianity: “Behold how they love one another.” It denies God’s design in creation and redemption: oneness with the Father and with His sons, our brothers in Christ. It brings us squabbling, mob-like to the very portals of the Home He prepares for us, a home where perfect unity will be forever unmarred. It shadows the very nature of God for those outside the family.

The pattern is so simple. Knowledge puffs up and divides. Christ enters, infinite in all things, and we are deflated, humbled, shorn of all pretended knowledge, of all personal ambition, and of all denominational or organizational pride, jealousy, and exclusivism. Then love – not as sentiment, but as an all-consuming way of life – can operate for the building up of the one Body moves forward.

[55] Excluding the book of Revelation which is devoted exclusively to the subject.

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