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The older I get, the more amazed I am at how many errors I was taught, and simply accepted without question. Was it mere laziness on my part or just no knowledge of how to study? I know which answer I prefer, but it is probably not the right one. Now I have gotten to the point that I actually prefer to do my own discovering. If I hear something from someone else, the first thing I want to do is check it out--especially if it sounds too perfect.
Why do we need to study? Here comes the first mistake you will often hear: Because the Bible says, “Study to show thyself approved.” Wrong! That word, “study,” which is in the King James translation, is a King James era word that does not mean “study” as we know it, to open a book and read. It means “work hard” or, as my American Standard translates it, “give diligence” and can be applied to anything, not just sitting down with a book.
I have developed a passion about not misusing scripture. That’s what the Devil does, especially in Matthew 4 when he tempted the Lord, so I do not want any part of it. There are better passages, correct passages, we can use, notably, Acts 17:11: Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, examining the scriptures daily, whether these things were so. Do I want to be “noble” in God’s sight? Then I’d better start studying my Bible and not accepting what I have always heard, even if good old brother So-and-So said it.
One of my biggest areas of study is in the use of words. Do words really matter? If Paul can make an argument based upon the number of a noun, Gal 3:16, and Jesus can make an argument based upon the tense of a verb, Matt 22:31,32, you had better believe they matter. And remember, Jesus was quoting from a translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, not from the original Hebrew scriptures, so yes, we can make arguments that specific about the scriptures, even if using a translation.
And precisely because of that, I worry about our culture, with the way people look condescendingly on those who are concerned about such things as bad grammar and poor communication skills, as if they were petty and obsessive and other more crude terminology. The more I read, the more horrified I become. I have read no less than three novels in the last year using “ahold,” as in, “I could not get ahold of her.” It was not always in dialogue passages, where dialect would excuse it; it was used as if it were an actual word. How many of us hear (or say) every day, “Hopefully, the weather will hold out”? The weather will not do anything “hopefully,” much less hold out! It cannot hope. And then we have people who make adverbs out of any noun they find by adding “wise” to it. Weatherwise, trafficwise, newswise. So now we have, “Hopefully, things will hold out weatherwise,” instead of “I hope the weather holds,” which is not only better English, but fewer words!
And what does that have to do with anything scriptural? Our use of words can affect those we talk to about their salvation, for one thing. We have gotten so careless that we often use words incorrectly, leaving false impressions about the truth, and what we really believe, and those words can be dangerous: We have heard that certain who went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls…Acts 15:24.
I may surprise you with the application I make here. We often use words like “Trinity” and “Synoptic Gospels,” sometimes just to look intelligent (at least that was my excuse), without knowing their full theological import. What denominations believe about those words is NOT what you and I believe about them. Look them up before you use them in front of your friends and neighbors. Most people have access to a Zondervan Bible Encyclopedia, either at home or in the church library. And most people have access to the Internet. You can find anything on the Internet. So what does Trinity involve in the theological sense? Not just the oneness in mind, thought, and action of the Godhead (which I prefer as the scriptural word), but such notions as the Eternal Sonship, implying that Jesus derived somehow from the Father. It also completely denies the scripture, “This day have I begotten thee” Acts 13:34, by stating that Jesus was always the Son. The reading gets really heavy and you probably will not finish it, but you will see that you do not believe what the average denominational minister does when he says “Trinity.”
As to “Synoptic Gospels,” all we usually mean is that Matthew, Mark, and Luke are similar, and John is different. However, the whole doctrine states, among other things, that since Matthew, Mark and Luke are so much alike, they must have been taken from one another, with Mark obviously coming first (Markan priority), and they were certainly not written by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And that is just the beginning.
So words are important, both how you use them and where. Just because you can spout a dictionary definition of a term does not mean you fully understand the ramifications of that doctrine. Be careful that you know what you are talking about, and be careful of your companions when you use certain words. In our assemblies we can sing, “Blessed Trinity” and know exactly what we mean. In our Bible classes we can talk about the Synoptic Gospels and know that we all believe Matthew wrote Matthew, but out in the world you cannot.
So here is your first assignment: look up some of these things; and other phrases you may have wondered about. Find the five basic tenets of Calvinism (TULIP). That is what most of your religious friends believe. Look up “the imputation of Christ’s perfect life.” Make some notes. And above all, be careful how you say things. God decided the best way for Him to communicate with us was through his Word. Our carelessness and laziness can easily be translated “irreverence.”
Oh how I love your law. It is my meditation all the day, Psalm 119:97.