Bibliology #4 – Sufficiency

The sufficiency of Scripture answers the question if we are to look for other words from God in addition to those we have in Scripture, or is the Bible enough for knowing what God wants us to think or do? The definition can be described that Scripture contained all the Words of God He intended His people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell for salvation, for trusting Him perfectly, and for obeying Him perfectly.

Salvation
Paul mentions in 2 Timothy 3:15 that “from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus,” which means that in Scripture we have all the words of God we need in order to be saved.

Trust
David says in Psalm 9:10 that “and those who know Your name will put their trust in You. For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those you seek You,” which means that in Scripture we have all the words of God we need in order to trust Him.

Obedience
In Jeremiah 7:23 it is said that “this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it will may be well with you’,” which means that in Scripture we have all the words of God we need in order to obey Him.

The sufficiency of Scripture implies that God has not spoken to mankind any more words which He requires us to believe or obey other than those which we have now in the Bible. It does not imply that God cannot add any more words to those He has already spoken to His people. It rather implies that man cannot add on his own initiative any words that God has already spoken (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32, Proverbs 30:5-6, Revelation 22:18-19). Practically it should encourage us as we try to discover what God would have us to think or to do. We should be encouraged that everything God wants to tell us about for our salvation, trust and obedience is to be found in Scripture. This doesn’t mean that the Bible answers all questions that we might think up, for “the secret things belong to the Lord our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29). It does mean that when we are facing a problem of genuine importance to our Christian life, we can approach Scripture with the confidence that from it God will provide us with guidance for that problem.

Summary and Conclusion
What then can we say in summary? It ultimately comes down to a desire for wisdom, for “the beginning of wisdom is: acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7), and a step of faith “so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). We must not forget the importance of the role of the Holy Spirit in overcoming the effects of our fallen condition, and to give us revelation of the truth of the Bible. We have in the Bible God’s very words, and we must not try to improve on them in some way, for this cannot be done. Rather, we should seek to understand, approach them with an open and humble heart and mind, and then trust them and obey them with our whole heart.

Does Bibliology help you in your understanding of the Bible? In other words, to what extent does the Bible have authority in your life? Do you feel encouraged that Scripture is meant to be understood by all, although sometimes it takes effort? Does understanding the necessity of Scripture stir you to more study of it? Do you feel that the Bible provides sufficient answers for your life? If not, is that because of a lack of understanding, of trust or of obedience? How does this help you in sharing your faith with non-believers? All these questions are so relevant to our every day life that I think it is sometimes good to understand the theory (doctrine) behind these things so that we can be more focused and determined in our efforts.

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Bibliology #3 – Necessity

The necessity of Scripture answers the question how much people can know about God without the Bible? And for what purposes are the Bible necessary? It can be defined as such that the Bible is necessary for knowing the Gospel, for maintaining spiritual life, and for knowing God’s will, but it is not necessary for knowing that God exists or for knowing something about God’s character and moral laws.

The Gospel
Let’s look at the necessity of Scripture for knowing the Gospel. In Romans 10:13-17 Paul says, “‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!’ However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” So, one must call upon the name of the LORD to be saved. You can only call upon the name of Christ if you believe in Him. You cannot believe in Christ unless you have heard of Him. And you cannot hear of Christ unless there is someone to tell you about Him. The conclusion that can be drawn from this is that saving faith comes through hearing (the gospel message), which comes through the preaching of Christ (which is proclaiming His word).

Spiritual Life
The necessity of Scripture for spiritual life is maintained by daily nourishment with the Word of God, and spiritual growth is maintained by nourishment with the Word of God. Jesus says in Matthew 4:4 that “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God,” and Peter encourages us in 1 Peter 2:2 “like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you my grow up to salvation.”

God’s Will
The necessity of Scripture for knowing and understanding God’s will means that God has revealed His words to us that we might obey His laws and thereby do His will. And if we are to have a certain knowledge of God’s will, we must attain it through the study of Scripture. Deuteronomy 29:29 says that “the secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law,” and John says in 1 John 5:3 that “to love God is to keep His commandments.

God’s existence
What about people who do not read the Bible? People can obtain a knowledge that God exists and knowledge of some of His attributes. David says “the heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1), and Paul tells to the people in Lystra that “in the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:16-17). Even without the Bible, people have had evidence in creation that God exists. It is questionable though if this is a knowledge that can bring salvation.

A Life Led by the Spirit #1 – Deliverance

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:1-11)

The depth of the book of Romans may be evident to us all. The Bible itself is inexhaustible, but I dare say that the book of Romans may be the most inexhaustible book within the Bible. Maybe. Frederic Louis Godet in his commentary on this book calls it “the holy of the holiest of the Word of God.” I don’t know if I want to go that far, but it is an interesting statement nonetheless. In any case, I will attempt to write some thoughts on the center chapter of this book, chapter eight, which is also probably the most uplifting chapter.

What an Insurance!
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
What a statement! What an assurance a Christian can receive. No condemnation from any source, at any time. “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already,  because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18). The only prerequisite is believe. If you believe in Jesus Christ you are justified, and you will not be judged. It does not depend on your walk with God (your sanctification), only on your justification. That’s how you become to be in Jesus, by believe, which is through faith, which comes from God as a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9), which means that you are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body (1Corinthians 12:13).

A Different Law
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh
but according to the Spirit.
” (Romans 8:2-4)
Two laws: “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” and “the law of sin and of death.” Those who are in Christ Jesus have been set free from the law of sin and death. That doesn’t mean that we do not experience this law anymore, but that this law does not have any dominion over us anymore. We can overcome it, but it is a choice, daily, moment by moment. Jesus did not only die for your sins (each and every one of them), which makes sure you kept on being justified regardless, but also for your sin nature, so that you can overcome you nature and live by the law of the Spirit of life. Now that’s incredible! Jesus condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement if the Law might be fulfilled in (not by) us, because if we try by our own efforts we will fail miserably at all times. In a sense a terrifying statement as it means that whatever we, how well meant socially or economically, etc, it is useless if it’s in the flesh and won’t do you any good theologically, unless it is done by the Holy Spirit in you acting through you. It’s religion. A tough concept I think!

All is Futile. We Need the Spirit
For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:5-8)
Now remember that the book of Romans is written to believers, not unbelievers. In verse we read a contrast between two types of believers, the one trying to live for God by human effort (and fails) and the one who is walking by the Spirit. By which one are you led? Your own ability or His ability through you. I must confess that I go by my own ability so many times, too many times. It’s a self-glorification. It’s pride. Yet in that case, my mind is death. Sobering thought. Why do I keep on thinking that I know better than God?? It puzzles me. Yet the flesh (the sin nature) will never be improved. We are powerless to change our nature, therefore we cannot in our own effort please God. We need the Holy Spirit, and if we have the Holy Spirit we must use Him.

Live in the Spirit
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:9-11)
Every believer of Jesus Christ has the Holy Spirit, and it’s one Spirit (Ephesians 4:4-6). Do not divide Christians in camps of “Spirit-filled” or “non-Spirit-filled.” If a person is not filled with the Holy Spirit, they are not a Christian at all. Simple. The question is if He is in control of your life? I think it’s safe to assume that we all want life in the constant fullness of the Spirit. We are missing out. How do you know that you have the Spirit? Has the Spirit led you to Jesus? Has the Spirit led you to honor Jesus? Is the Spirit leading to become more like Jesus? Is the Spirit at work in your heart, convicting you of sin? If the Spirit is alive in you it’s because of Jesus’ righteousness, not our own! That should keep us humble.

Conclusion
First and foremost, you need to be in Christ. If not, then this chapter or acutually this book doesn’t apply to you. You then need to realize that you have the possibility to live under a different law, the law of the Spirit. Yet this is not possible on our own account, you need the Spirit to do that. Now if you are in Christ the great thing is that He, meaning the Spirit, is also in you, and so you can actually live by the law of the Spirit. What an insurance!

Baptism #9 – The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

This will be the last session on baptism. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is peripheral to baptism, but a topic of much confusion. And I must admit that I am as confused. But I feel I have to write about it anyways. The confusion about the baptism of the Holy Spirit is regarding whether there is one pouring out of the Holy Spirit, default given to every believer upon accepting Jesus Christ as your savior (also called “baptism unto life”, which leads to newness of eternal life, and is evident in the fruit of the Spirit), or if there is a second pouring out of the Holy Spirit, given only when asked for that gives a person much greater spiritual power and boldness, and the ability to live a more victorious Christian life (also called “baptism unto power”, which leads to power to witness, and is evident through the gifts of the Holy Spirit). My aim is to clarify this here.

What is baptism of the Holy Spirit?
The clearest explanation of the baptism appears in 1 Corinthians 12:13. Paul is dealing with a situation where the Corinthian church was splitting into factions over the issue of spiritual gifts. Overemphasis on certain spectacular gifts had led to the attitude that some people had the most desirable gifts, while others were deficient. In response, Paul exclaims “for by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13). His main point? All believers share the reality of being baptized by the Spirit. What does it do? It makes us part of the body of Christ, and will guide us into all truth. When does it happen? If every believer has been baptized in the Spirit, then it must happen at the moment you accept Jesus Christ in your life. Baptism in the Holy Spirit can be defined as: at the moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit places a believer into permanent union with Christ and with other believers in the Body of Christ. This is echoed in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that “in Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14), and to “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30). All believers are sealed by the Holy Spirit, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, for the day of redemption. All believers are “waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23).

What is All the Confusion About?
So, why is there so much confusion (or should I say disunity in the body) when it comes to the Holy Spirit? Firstly, in the time that Jesus was still on the earth, He said, “if you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13), which could lead to the believe that you need to ask for the Holy Spirit in order to receive Him. Yet, this asking is in the form of the initial asking upon conversion. Secondly, anyone who believed in Jesus before Pentecost did not yet receive the Holy Spirit. That is why Jesus “commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-8). “And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” (Acts 2:3-4). It is also evident from what Jesus commands here that the pouring out of the Holy Spirit is for being witnesses to Christ (which means it’s a baptism unto power), yet Pentecost was a “special” event, as it was the initial pouring out of the Spirit. Jesus said earlier: “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you” (John 16:7-14). Jesus is speaking to all disciples here. He does not make a distinction. This is why Peter in his sermon after Pentecost could say, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38), for the Holy Spirit is given to each who repents of sin. In two instances later in Acts, the baptism in the Holy Spirit was temporarily delayed in order to demonstrate to the Apostles that Samaritans (Acts 8:14-16) and Gentiles (Acts 10:27-48) were equally a part of God’s plan of salvation, but we always have to remember that it is Jesus who is the baptizer, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11b).

Peculiar Instances
I must admit there are three instances regarding the receiving of the Holy Spirit that I am still confused about. The first is recorded in the Gospel of John where Jesus visits the disciples after His resurrection, it is recorded: “So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:19-22). This is not as much confusing but rather interesting, as it seems that the disciples there present received the Holy Spirit (Jesus breathed on them) before the day of Pentecost. It could be said that this is where the disciples are born again. The second is recorded in Acts regarding the conversion of Paul (Saul): “So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 9:17). It seems that Saul was actually born again when Ananias layed hands on him, because here it is where he receives the Holy Spirit. Interesting side note is that Paul received the Holy Spirit before being baptized (Acts 9:18) – just to dismantle the notion that baptism is required for receiving the Holy Spirit (as the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not for the purpose of cleansing from sin, but for the purpose of empowering for service). The third is when Paul came to Ephesus and found some disciples who were not aware of the existence of the Holy Spirit and were only baptized by John the Baptist (Acts 19:1-6). They were baptized again, but now in the name of the Lord Jesus, and only then they received the Holy Spirit. “It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said to him, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ And they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying” (Acts 19:1-6). Why did Paul ask them if they did receive the Holy Spirit when they believed? Apparently, there was something about these disciples that prompted the question from Paul. These Ephesian disciples reveal that they have very little knowledge of God’s nature as revealed in Jesus. One can imagine that these Ephesian disciples heard about the coming of the Messiah through John’s message, and they heard of their need to be ready to receive the Messiah and to ready themselves through repentance.  Yet they actually do not seem to have heard that the Messiah had in fact come, and had not heard of their need to trust in His specific person and work. When they heard that the Messiah had come, they believed, were baptized in the name of Lord Jesus, and received the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion
So, what can be said then? There is one Spirit and one baptism (Ephesians 4:4-5). The one Spirit is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity. His work is regenerating, quickening, enlightening, convicting, comforting, drawing, uniting, indwelling, teaching, cleansing, leading, assuring, witnessing, sealing, assisting, interceding, transforming, preserving, confirming, fructifying, and endowing. The one baptism is the spiritual baptism that happens at the conversion, when we receive the Holy Spirit, and are united with Christ forever, and made part of the body of Christ which is the church. And the Holy Spirit “will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16:13-14). The Holy Spirit will not speak on His own initiative. He will only speak to glorify Jesus. And so Jesus must be glorified for the Holy Spirit to manifest Himself. For “all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23), Jesus said. And Jesus also said, “he who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive” (John 7:38-39). And this Spirit is not exclusive; it is given freely to anyone who believes, and you don’t have to ask for it.