2 Timothy 3:16
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3.16-17)
We have a great medical manual telling us what a healthy body is and how you get and maintain that health. Not only for our body but for every member of the body. In fact, that is the purpose of the manual, to enable us to have healthy attitudes and behavior.
Any manual has as much reliability as its author, so when we say this ultimate manual is from God we are recognizing its absolute authority. Thus, the degree of our health is directly proportioned to our faithfulness in following the medical manual. It is a wonderful provision, but the tragedy is that the people who swear allegiance to this book are shot through with malignancies of all kinds. Some of the malignancies move through the body more rapidly than others, some are curable, but all are deadly if not treated. Today I want to call your attention to three varieties of cancer that eat away at the authority of this book, and thus undermine the health of members and of the entire body.
I’ve called these malignancies leukemia, tumors, and skin cancer, but you may discover better names, more appropriate analogies. The first malignancy is the leukemia of affirming error in Scripture.
I call it leukemia because, though it starts with a few innocent-looking cells in the bloodstream of the body it inevitably grows and spreads, contaminating and destroying. Only rarely has this cancer been arrested, and then usually only for a brief period of remission.
The manual says ALL Scripture has God as its source. Nowhere does the Bible affirm error. If Christ ever thought there were error, he never let on! Rather he said not the dot of an “i”, the cross-stroke of a “t” would fail. Scripture cannot be broken, he said, though present-day evangelicals increasingly break off pieces here and there. Maybe they’re smarter than Jesus? The authority has shifted from the author to the picker and chooser.
The second malignancy is the tumor of misinterpretation. If a person affirms the full trustworthiness of Scripture, he can still go astray through assigning a meaning to the words that the original author did not intend. I call this a tumor because it can be an isolated instance and if you catch it in time and cut it out, it need not spread. But it is a destructive malignancy and if let run its course it could spread the infection to other passages. The text says that it is Scripture that is God-breathed, not my interpretation.
Since it is important, in hearing the authentic voice of God, to allow Scripture to say what it intends. Understanding the single meaning intended by the author is of utmost importance. There should be in your hermeneutical medical bag enough surgical instruments to cleanly cut out any significant tumor of misinterpretation.
Thirdly there is the skin cancer of misapplication. If a person genuinely accepts the full authority of Scripture and carefully works to expose the meaning intended by the author it is highly unlikely that he will fall victim to a fatal malignancy. But he can get some troublesome surface blemishes that can destroy if not cared for. He can get the right meaning but misapply it. Not the question “what did the author mean?” but what response does God desire today? So we isolate the destructive cells, we clean out the malignancy, we keep it from spreading. How about you? Had a cancer check recently? That troublesome symptom that doesn’t go away? Catching the malignancy early prevents a host of damage. To that end we re-commit in understanding the scriptures- without error, interpreted appropriately and applied as intended.