Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Does Baptism = Salvation?

A Biblical View of Baptism

It is often asserted that the Scriptures teach that water baptism is necessary for salvation. While baptism certainly is necessary for obedience to Christ and a submission to his Lordship in our lives, it should never be maintained that the physical act of baptism is necessary for the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. In accordance with the sovereign plan and purpose of God the Father the Spirit applies the finished and atoning work of Jesus Christ to the hearts of God’s chosen people. This application is accomplished through the instrument of faith (itself a gift of God- Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29) and by His grace. Any addition to this equation amounts to a theology of ‘works righteousness’ and is contrary to the plan of salvation clearly set forth in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

A Definition

The word ‘baptism’ is a Greek word directly transliterated into the English language. The word ‘baptizo’ in the Greek means ‘to dip, immerse’. I am fully aware that there is some disagreement among believers over this definition, yet I am setting forth a primary lexical meaning of the word. I would refer the Christian to Mark 1:10 and John 3:23 for support of such a rendering. We discover in these passages that Jesus, after being baptized, “came up out of the water” and that John the Baptist required ‘much water’ for baptism. If the word baptism meant ‘sprinkle’, then the meaning of these passages are somewhat muddied (forgive the pun). I will also point out that the ‘mode’ of baptism is indicated in these passages, namely, immersion into water (cf. also Mark 1:5, Acts 8:36-39) rather than sprinkling or pouring.

But a lexical understanding of a word does not tell us the ‘meaning’ of the word. What does the rite of baptism in the New Testament teaching of John, Jesus, and the Apostles mean? In answer to this we must examine the Scriptures thoroughly. But we can affirm unequivocally from the start that the physical act of baptism in and of itself has no mystical spiritual effect. It is a sign and symbol of spiritual realities. A physical act does not put into effect spiritual realities- it signifies or symbolizes what has occurred in the heart of one regenerated by the Spirit. This is a crucial point to make. If one must physically do something to effect spiritual realities, then this is a gospel of righteousness and salvation by works. There is simply no way around it. If one believes that baptism (the physical act of being immersed into water) is necessary for salvation, then one holds to salvation by works, not by free grace through the agency of the Holy Spirit. The view that requires physical water baptism as necessary for salvation also calls into question the sovereignty of God (it is His sovereign grace which elects, calls and saves people, not the physical rite performed by men- Ephesians 1: 4-5), justification by faith alone (it is only by faith in the work of Christ that we are made righteous before God- Romans 3:22), the work of the Holy Spirit (who effects faith and belief, regenerating the dead hearts of men to life- Galatians 4:6), and the substitutionary atonement of Christ (Christ died for sin, atonement can be found in no one else- 2 Cor. 5:21, Gal.2:21, 1 Pet. 2:24). Ultimately, a view of baptism as necessary for or effecting salvation is a full assault on the fundamental truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Baptism is a picture of the work of God in salvation. A brief examination of Romans 6:3-4 would help us in developing this:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Those who hold that baptism is necessary for salvation would point out that this passage actually upholds their position. Doesn’t the passage say that when we were baptized into Christ Jesus (physical baptism) we were raised to walk in newness of life? Yet, this understanding of the baptism spoken of in Romans 6 as ‘physical water baptism’ is not tenable. Apart from the theological problems such a position presents, an easy way to refute this teaching would be to find a place in Scripture where salvation is clearly shown to precede physical water baptism. If we turn to Acts 10 we discover that the Gentiles in Caesarea heard the gospel as preached by Peter and were saved (10:44-46). Peter himself proclaims this to be true in v. 47: “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” We discover that conversion through faith and repentance occurred prior to any physical act of baptism. This is in agreement with Paul’s gospel presented in Romans 10:9-10:

…if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Paul does not include the physical act of water baptism by immersion as important to ‘salvation’. It is confession and belief. Some might say that ‘confession’ here is confession in the physical act of baptism- but the exegetical acrobatics would have to be tremendous to draw such a conclusion.

So we discover that ‘baptism into Christ Jesus’ in Romans 6 indicates the spiritual baptism we go through when we believe on Christ: “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). We go down with him in death (and die to our sins), we are raised up (made new, born again), and we are able to walk with Christ and live a new life. When we understand the reality of our conversion as death, resurrection, and continual renewing by the Spirit (effected in spiritual baptism- Colossians 2:11-14), we can rightly understand the significance and picture of physical water baptism. Baptism is a beautiful picture of the work of Christ. It is a bold proclamation to the world of one’s changed life, of one’s new identification with Christ, of one’s commitment to walk in newness of life. In seeking to make water baptism a significant and powerful event by vesting in the act itself saving power, one actually does just the opposite. When water baptism is made to replace the work of conversion by the Spirit through the work of Christ accepted by faith and repentance, the powerful and significant work of Christ and the Spirit is of secondary importance to physical, willful acts done by men.

Physical water baptism is important. It is a crucial point in the life of the believer and I by no means want to diminish the need for a Christian to proclaim his faith in Christ and death to the world in the public act of water baptism. But I can not (for the reasons stated above) negate the work of Christ by supplanting it with a physical act performed by human hands.

There are many questions surrounding the various passages in the New Testament which mention baptism. We will examine each in its context and seek to answer some of these questions. Yet it is important to remember the theological issues at stake, we cannot allow one verse to override the theological truths set forth in the whole counsel of God’s Word. We often encounter interpretive difficulties in the Scriptures for a variety of reasons, yet we should never build a doctrine on one or two passages (especially at the expense of broader and greater evangelical truth found throughout the Scriptures).

A Survey of the New Testament Teaching

A text often used in support of the position that baptism is necessary for salvation is found in John 3:5. Nicodemus the Pharisee has come to inquire into the teachings of Jesus. Nicodemus asks in John 3:2, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus’ words seem rather odd in response to Nicodemus’ statement, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” It certainly seems that Jesus is equating entrance into the kingdom with water baptism. But it should be first noted that Jesus speaks of being ‘born of water and the Spirit’, baptism is not even mentioned in this passage. Actually, in the context of the passage, Jesus is teaching anything but salvation via physical water baptism. Nicodemus was seeking from Jesus the formula of works or deeds that he might perform and so inherit the kingdom of God. Nicodemus was captivated by the ‘signs’ of Jesus’ ministry, and Jesus’ response was a call for the Pharisee to realize the ‘spiritual’ nature of the kingdom of God.

The teaching of Jesus throughout the Scriptures attests to the fact that
there is no possibility of inheriting the kingdom by human effort. The kingdom is gained by the gracious intervention of God in the heart of a man. Physical signs and wonders are peripheral to the need for spiritual renewal effected only by God. Mark’s gospel declares this clearly:

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mk. 10:23-27)

The amazement of the disciples in the passage above indicates how revolutionary Jesus’ words were in the face of the common rabbinic teaching of the day. Salvation, entrance into the Kingdom of God, is through the working of a sovereign and gracious God in the hearts of men. Nicodemus was undoubtedly coming to Christ for answers regarding this new and strange teaching of Jesus. Nicodemus, though skeptical, could not shake the fact that, even though Christ’s teachings were difficult, the words and works of Christ seem to come from above. In light of the common rabbinic and pharisaical teaching of the day, we can be assured that Jesus was not setting forth salvation as obtainable through the physical act of baptism. So the context allows us to better interpret John 3:5 and we should also recognize that the direct words of Christ by no means point to water baptism as effecting salvation.

Again, any interpretation of this passage as making baptism necessary for salvation is an inference based on the phrase ‘born of water and the Spirit’. But this passage should rather be interpreted in light of the in-breaking of the New Covenant instituted by Christ. In the New Covenant, the hearts of the people of God would be washed by the Spirit as he is freely poured out. Ezekiel looked forward to these things being realized in the days of Christ and the New Covenant:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

Ezekiel speaks of a coming day of ‘spiritual washing’. The rebirth is a cleansing by spiritual water. The New Testament speaks of this elsewhere:

…he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5-7)

…just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water by the word…
(Ephesians 5:25-26)

There is a ‘spiritual washing’ that takes place upon ‘regeneration’ (when the Spirit quickens the heart to life). We know that the ‘regeneration’ of the Spirit precedes any physical act or deed of men, otherwise it would not be by grace and mercy as taught in the passages above. The fact that ‘regeneration’ or ‘salvation’ (rebirth, born again, born from above, etc.) occurs not in the act of baptism but in faith and belief is manifestly shown in a myriad of passages:

Those who received his word were baptized… (Acts 2:41)

(The reception of God’s Word, only possible by the regenerative work of the Spirit in one’s heart precedes water baptism.)

When they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women…” (Acts 8:12)

(Those who believed were consequently baptized- again salvation accompanies belief, not baptism.)

The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home…(Acts 16:14-15)

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your whole household. Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house…then immediately he and all his family were baptized…the jailer…was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family. (Acts 16: 30-34)

In Acts 16:30-34 we discover plainly the requirements of salvation: belief. Those who ask, “What must we do to be saved?” are not told that they must be baptized, they are told they must believe (Romans 10:9-10). Granted, baptism immediately follows the reception of the preached Word and belief on the Lord Jesus. But the immediacy of baptism does by no means show that it is necessary to salvation. In each of the instances, salvation is dependant not upon baptism but upon faith and belief. It is dependant upon the working of the Spirit in the ‘washing of rebirth’ as promised by the prophet Ezekiel. This washing by the Spirit is what is pictured and signified in the physical act of water baptism (the passage which demonstrates this biblical truth most clearly may be found in Acts 10, already discussed above).

In the final analysis, we can interpret the words of Christ in John 3:5 as referring to the realities of spiritual rebirth. It is safe to assume that in his wording he referred at least secondarily to the baptism of John. Yet this admission is not tantamount to saying that Jesus gave any saving power to the act of baptism. The baptism of John, as a public profession of repentance, signified one’s entrance into the kingdom. The Apostle John proclaims the nature of entrance into the kingdom in the prologue to his Gospel:

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, no of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13)

Nowhere is any mention made of water baptism by John! If baptism is necessary for entrance into the kingdom, how could the Apostle leave such an important part of the equation out? When Paul is asked in Acts 16:30 what one must do to be saved, how could he simply say, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved”? If baptism is necessary for salvation, how could he not include any mention of baptism in his formula?
Paul again leaves us in the dark in Romans 10:9-10 when he claims that confession and belief is all that is necessary for salvation? Why is there no mention made of water baptism? How is it that in Acts 10 we see the Gentiles are saved when they hear and believe the Gospel as preached by Peter: “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”(Acts 10:43) Not only does Peter leave water baptism out of the equation in his proclamation of the gospel, Luke records that the people in attendance ‘receive the Holy Spirit’ prior to any attempt to even approach the baptismal waters!

But what about the difficult passages used in support of the position that water baptism is necessary for salvation apart from John 3:5? A classic text which is cited to show that baptism is necessary for salvation is found in Acts 2:37-39:

“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The context of this passage is the first apostolic sermon to the people after Jesus’ ascension and the Spirit’s arrival upon the twelve at Pentecost. After hearing the proclamation of the Gospel by Peter, we find that the men in attendance were ‘cut to the heart’ and inquired as to what they should do in response to the preaching of the gospel. Isn’t it clear that Peter gives them the ‘formula’ for salvation? He tells them to
‘repent and be baptized…and you will receive the Holy Spirit’. So it is not just repentance that is necessary, but repentance and baptism. And it is not until this combination of repentance and baptism is carried out that one will be able to receive the Spirit. It certainly seems that with one verse my whole definition of baptism has been taken apart!

I will not argue that the above passage ‘seems’ upon a superficial reading to indicate that baptism is necessary for salvation. But one should not use the above statement by Peter to build a doctrine of 'baptismal regeneration’ without regard for the whole counsel of God’s Word regarding salvation and the significance of water baptism. If one is to hold to baptismal regeneration, it must be conceded that other cardinal theological truths of the Christian faith will fall (sovereign grace, justification by faith alone, etc.) I will say that apart from the theological problems that such an interpretation of this passage in Acts 2 introduces, the interpretation itself is unnecessary and exegetically torturous.

We know that the receiving of the Holy Spirit is not dependent upon the rite of physical water baptism from Acts 10:44-47. We also know that there are many other passages of Scripture (John 1:12-13, Acts 16: 30-34, Romans 10:9-10) which give clear teaching on salvation yet make no mention of baptism as necessary. We should let Scripture interpret Scripture. If we take Peter’s words at Pentecost alone, without an examination of other biblical teaching on the subject, then we might assume he thought baptism in water was necessary. Yet, the theological problems of such a position make that assumption unlikely. And as we read further in Acts, we can rule out such an assumption entirely.

Peter in this passage sees ‘repentance’ as the key. In the context, repentance (following the pattern of John and Jesus) signified the ‘washing of regeneration’ by the Spirit as promised by Ezekiel. And physical water baptism was a bold and very public expression of this repentance and ‘Spirit’ renewal to the Jews who felt that the sign of circumcision was the sign of one’s entrance into the kingdom. So, for Peter it is perfectly natural to call men who ‘claim’ repentance to express this inward renewal in the outward expression and sign of baptism. Peter, like John the Baptist, called his countrymen to be obedient by following Christ in baptism. We would do well to follow Peter’s example. When we proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ we should call people to repent and believe, and we should urge them to publicly and boldly proclaim their allegiance to Christ by submitting to him in baptism. But it is a devastating theological error (and error of interpretation) to make the physical act of water baptism necessary for salvation. To say water baptism is important and necessary to the Christian’s walk with Christ is not to say that it is a necessary part of salvation itself.

But what about Peter’s words in his epistle? The controversial passage reads:

…and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. (1 Peter 3:21-22)

The ‘water’ which symbolizes baptism in the context of the passage is the flood waters of Genesis 6 which surrounded Noah and his family who were safely protected by God in the ark. For the believer who follows Christ in baptism, this ‘water’ symbolizes the power of God to raise his Son Jesus Christ from the dead and to raise from the dead all who trust and believe in Him. We go down into death with Christ, and are raised up again by the power of the Spirit (1 Pet. 3:18). The flood waters in Genesis 6 symbolize our baptism into Christ Jesus by the Spirit of God. The flood waters don’t symbolize physical ‘water’ baptism, or the ‘removal of dirt from the body’ but our spiritual baptism into Christ (Acts 1:5, Romans 6:3-4) upon repentance and faith, “the pledge of a good conscience toward God”. The water of the flood and the water of physical baptism are symbols of the baptism that saves- the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s heart.

When Peter says that ‘baptism now saves you also…It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ’ he is further showing that the baptism spoken of is the inward working of the Holy Spirit. The resurrection of Christ from the dead was effected by the power of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, “He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). The same Spirit who rose Christ from the dead also raises us from the dead in the baptism of the Spirit. Salvation does not come through the outward act of baptism, but from the inward work of the Spirit who causes us to plead for a good conscience toward God (a request for forgiveness of sin and a new heart). Water baptism is the picture of one who has been ‘raised to walk in newness of life’, one who has gone into the waters of death, and been kept safe and secure by the power of the Holy Spirit who has brought him from death to life.

An important study to pursue in looking further into this issue would be an examination of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatian church. The entire letter is a polemic against those who would add to the gospel of Jesus Christ any sort of ‘works of the Law’. In that context of course, the work that was added to justification by faith alone was circumcision. But, we can easily see the parallel to our discussion here. The Judaizers in Galatia were claiming that one must believe on Jesus Christ (as would one who holds to baptism as necessary for salvation) yet, the process of salvation includes the physical act of circumcision. Many in the debate at hand would claim whole heartedly that one must believe on Jesus Christ- yet, the physical act of baptism is a necessary step in the process toward salvation. This is a gospel of works righteousness- whether one claims it is part of a process combined with faith- it is no different than the first century Judaizers who claimed that Gentile Christians not only need to have faith and believe, but must be circumcised and follow the Law. It is no surprise that many of the groups who insist upon water baptism as necessary for salvation are often marked by very rigid legalism- their understanding of the gospel demands it from the outset.

Any believer must affirm that water baptism is crucial. It is an ordinance given by Christ in His Great Commission to the Church. It profoundly expresses to the body of Christ and to the world that one has a new master and new lord, the Lord Jesus Christ. Water baptism signifies the deep and beautiful realities of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. Baptism is an act of submission, it is an act of repentance, it is public confession. But it is not an act which saves. While we should urge those who claim to know Christ as their Savior to follow Him in baptism, we should never let the outward acts of submission and obedience equal the inward realities of the work of the Spirit. This is legalism and is contrary to the Gospel. The outward act of physical water baptism signifies and expresses the inward workings of the Spirit in the heart of one saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.


Saturday, January 22, 2005

Digging Deeper- an outline for biblical exploration

Digging Deeper:
Reading, Studying, Understanding, and Applying God’s Word

Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Matthew 4:4

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. John 17:15-17

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

And we also thank God continually because, when you received
the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as
the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. 1 Thessalonians 2:13

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,
a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 1 Peter 1:23

I. The Bible as Window, Picture, and Mirror:

A. Window: When we read any passage of Scripture it is a ‘window’ into another world.

· It is a window into the life and events of the author- inquire of the passage regarding this author.

· It is a window into the life and events of those to whom it is written- inquire of the passage regarding those to whom this passage was first intended.

· It is a window into the lives and events that are being told.

B. Picture: When we read the Bible we read something written by someone. It is crafted- with a purpose, style, reflections, etc.

· Any obvious ‘sylistic’ factors? Metaphor, symbolism, metonymy, parallelism, etc.

· Does it seem like the author is dwelling on certain things? Is he leaving anything out?

· What words is he using? Repetition, unique wording, etc.

· What is the author communicating to us about the people, places, events? Why?

An obvious example of looking at Scripture as a ‘picture’ is in the poetic books such as Psalms. In poetry, understanding the ‘sylistic’ intention of the author is very important to understanding the meaning of the text and properly interpreting and applying it. Here’s an example:

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done. Psalm 62:11-12

C. Mirror: When we read the Bible we read something written by someone to someone. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we are included in this process as God’s people.

· How is your life like/unlike the author’s? The recipient’s?

· How does the intention of the author apply to your life?

· How do the lives, places, events, circumstances written about apply to you and your circumstances?

· How does God want you to apply this passage? Teach this passage?

II. The ‘Worlds’ of Biblical Interpretation:

In inductive study, finding the ‘worlds’ of biblical interpretation comes through what is called ‘interrogating the text’. We must ask Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? We need to be ready to roll up our sleeves and really peer into the passage. We must be ready to do the work of research involved in finding adequate answers for these questions.

A. The Five ‘Worlds’:

1. The World of Events- the world the writer is presenting (Moses tells of Joseph's 'world' in Gen. 37-50). Get into that world, study it, understand it. How does knowledge of this world help us in relating the passage to our world?

2. The World of the Audience: the world directly receiving this message of God's Word (Moses is writing in the context of the wilderness wanderings on the plains of Moab).

3. The World of the Author: What can we discover of the world of Paul? Peter? Luke? Isaiah?

4. The World-view of Scripture: what can we find through Scripture that teaches us regarding the passage at hand? What does the New Testament tell us about Joseph? What does the OT tell us about the book of Hebrews? Let scripture interpret scripture.

5. Your World

B. Understanding ‘Genre’: The ‘nature’ of these worlds depends
on the sort of passage we are reading. Ascertain the ‘genre’ of the passage, and how this specific genre causes us to adjust our questions, and the way we answer them.

1. Historical Narrative: Genesis, Kings, Acts
2. Poetic: Psalms, Song of Solomon
3. Proverbial: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes
4. Prophetic/Apocalyptic: Daniel, Revelation, Ezekiel
5. Prophetic: Major and Minor Prophets
6. Gospels/Biographical
7. Epistle: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, etc.

Here’s an example:

Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. Jude 1:5

Jude is writing a letter. When one writes a letter there are different intentions than when writing history or biography. Jude is not primarily writing about a ‘world of events’ but is writing a letter filled with instructions, warnings, encouragements, etc. directly to the audience. So, we will spend more time in the ‘World of the Author’ and the ‘World of the Audience’, the ‘Worldview of Scripture’ and ‘Our World’. But, in the above passage, there actually is a ‘World of Events’ inserted into the text. So we must interrogate that ‘world’ as well.

Another example:

A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life. Proverbs 22:3-4

So, do we take this proverb to mean that wisdom and prudence ALWAYS dictate seeking refuge in the face of danger? Is it true that humility and the fear of the Lord will bring us wealth- no matter what?

Seeing that this passage is from the book of Proverbs helps us in our interpretation. We should not read Proverbs the way we read the epistles, or the way we read Prophecy, History, etc. ‘Proverbial’ writing has a character all its own which tempers our interpretation of it.

C. The Importance of CONTEXT: the word level, sentence level, the paragraph level, the chapter level, book level, author level, Bible level, language/cultural level.

III. The ‘INDUCTIVE’ Study Method:

A. Definition: ‘Induction’ is the method of reasoning toward general conclusions from individual or particular facts/truths.
‘Deductive’ study would bring general conclusions to the particular facts under examination.

In the area of Bible study we must do both. There is no such thing as ‘pure’ induction. Beware of the fallacies involved in inductive study. We always bring presuppositions to the text and its particulars. An inductive approach seeks to intentionally challenge such presuppositions with thorough examination of the Scriptures.

B. The Doctrine of Perspicuity: God’s Word is clear. It is able to be studied, understood, and applied by all. You do not need a seminary degree to be a student of the Scriptures.

C. The Three Levels of Inductive Study:


There are three false approaches to God’s Word:

· We think it will magically make an impression on us without any effort on our part
· We don’t really believe we can understand what we’ve read- or we don’t believe its true
· We are waiting for our pastor of favorite Bible scholar to tell us what to think on a given passage

Observation is simply asking, “What does the passage say?” It is the groundwork it takes time, practice, and sweat. If you aren’t disciplined and diligent in your observations, then your interpretation and application is flawed.



Ask the 5 W’s and an H as you read and study:
· WHO wrote it? Who said it? Who are the major characters? To whom is it being said? About whom is it written?
· WHAT are the main events? What are the major ideas? What are the major teachings? What are these people like? What is spoken of the most? What is the purpose?
· WHEN was it written? When did certain events take place? When will something happen? When was something said? When did he do it?
· WHERE was this done? Where was this said? Where will it happen?
· WHY was it needed to be written? Why was this or that mentioned? Why was so much or so little space devoted to this or that? Why did this happen, why should this happen?
· HOW is it done? How did it happen? How is this said or illustrated?

These are the building blocks of observation, laying a solid foundation for accurate and sound interpretation.


There are many pitfalls in trying to rightly interpret God’s Word:
· We feel we have cornered the market on God’s truth.
· We jump to conclusions very quickly
· We cut corners in observation and make bad interpretations
· We don’t seek the whole counsel of God’s Word
· We don’t seek the Godly counsel of respected men and women of God whom we trust and are approved by God - we become lone ranger interpreters
Interpretation is simply asking, “What does the passage mean?”. Interpretation isn’t always separate and distinct from observation. As you carefully work “exegetically” (exegesis: drawing meaning from a word or text in Scripture) you will make good and valid interpretations.
Golden Rule of Interpretation: Let Scripture Interpret Scripture!! After exhaustive cross referencing and laboring in the Word - then turn to word studies, Bible Dictionaries, and commentaries.
Silver Rule of Interpretation: Don’t Over Interpret!! Don’t let your zealous cross referencing and word study override the natural understanding of a word or passage in its context.


Application is your obedient response to the truth of God’s Word in practical everyday living.

Application is letting personal study of God’s Word with the goal being a transformation of heart, mind, and soul with a deeper commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord in your life.

Golden Rule for application: 2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Overview of the Book

A. Pick a book of the Bible- Read and re-read this book as a whole.
B. Identify the Type of Literature
C. Use the 5 W’s and an H
D. Discover Facts about People and Events
1. Identify obvious names
a. mark distinctively all people mentioned
b. as you mark- ask the 5 W’s and an H
2. Identify obvious events
E. Mark Key Words in the Book
1. Words vital to the meaning of the text
2. Often repeated- in chapter, segment, or whole book
3. Mark words distinctively or colorfully
4. Find and mark synonyms
5. Mark key phrases and sentences
6. Realize each key word answers one or more of the 5 W’s and an H
7. Key word reveal subjects which reveal themes
F. Discern the Main Theme of the Book
1. Summary Statement in the text
2. Summary statement will be revealed in careful and diligent overview work
G. Discern the Themes of Each Chapter
1. This will be done again in your specific chapter analysis
2. Does your chapter theme relate in some way to your book theme?
H. Identify Clearly Defined Segments
1. Major Divisions (usually beyond chapter divisions)
2. Usually dealing with some subject, doctrine, person, place, or event
I. Develop An At a Glance Chart
1. Gives you a visual overview
2. Identify and relate the parts to the whole

Chapter Studies

Identify themes and key-words for particular chapter: compile lists.
Set out distinctive characteristics of the chapter: people, places, time references, events, doctrines
Interrogate the chapter as the whole book in step one.
Read through the chapter with key words, key themes in mind – look for contrasts, comparisons, symbolism, metaphors, intro/concl, etc.
Determine a chapter theme and a paragraph theme.

Basic Tools for Bible Study

1. An accurate, comfortable translation of the Scriptures (not the Living or New Living Translation): NIV, NAS, RSV, KJV
(it is good to have a King James handy if you are using Strong’s).

2. Concordance- find one in your translation. This is a tool that lists all uses of Biblical words in their original language. An absolute MUST for a believer.

3. Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries:

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Vine, E.W. and Unger, M.F.

Complete Word Study Dictionary- Old and New Testament (2 vols.) Zodhiates, Spiros.

4. Bible Dictionaries, Theological Dictionaries, and Systematic Theologies. (Helpful Systematic Theology – Systematic Theology or Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem)

Commentaries- make sure it is authored by a reputable scholar.


Sunday, January 02, 2005

New Year's Resolution

Blog more.