My Perspective of Scripture

Over the years I have heard lots of teaching in Christian churches and conferences, and I have become increasingly concerned that the Scriptures are being mis-used by many teachers.  It is easy for us to pick and choose verses to believe, and to disregard the rest.  "A man (or woman) hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest" as Paul Simon wrote in his song, 'The Boxer'.

It has also come to my attention that Christians tend to believe that anything written in the Bible happened as it was supposed to happen, and is worthy of emulation.  As a result we follow the examples set by King David and the apostle Paul, and disregard the leading of the Holy Spirit and the will of God.

For example I have heard it taught that we are supposed to submit to our leaders and to follow their instructions.  The Scripture given for this is found in the Acts of the Apostles where Paul goes to Jerusalem, reports to the church what God had done through him and his ministry as follows:

Acts 21:18-30  Paul went with us to see James the next day, and all the church leaders were present. Paul greeted them and told how God had used him to help the Gentiles. Everyone who heard this praised God and said to Paul: My friend, you can see how many tens of thousands of the Jewish people have become followers! And all of them are eager to obey the Law of Moses. But they have been told that you are teaching those who live among the Gentiles to disobey this Law. They claim that you are telling them not to circumcise their sons or to follow Jewish customs. What should we do now that our people have heard that you are here? Please do what we ask, because four of our men have made special promises to God. Join with them and prepare yourself for the ceremony that goes with the promises. Pay the cost for their heads to be shaved. Then everyone will learn that the reports about you are not true. They will know that you do obey the Law of Moses. Some while ago we told the Gentile followers what we think they should do. We instructed them not to eat anything offered to idols. They were told not to eat any meat with blood still in it or the meat of an animal that has been strangled. They were also told not to commit any terrible sexual sins.

The next day Paul took the four men with him and got himself ready at the same time they did. Then he went into the temple and told when the final ceremony would take place and when an offering would be made for each of them. When the period of seven days for the ceremony was almost over, some of the Jewish people from Asia saw Paul in the temple. They got a large crowd together and started attacking him. They were shouting, "Friends, help us! This man goes around everywhere, saying bad things about our nation and about the Law of Moses and about this temple. He has even brought shame to this holy temple by bringing in Gentiles." Some of them thought that Paul had brought Trophimus from Ephesus into the temple, because they had seen them together in the city. The whole city was in an uproar, and the people turned into a mob. They grabbed Paul and dragged him out of the temple. Then suddenly the doors were shut.

So here we have the leaders of the Christians in Jerusalem wanting to keep peace with the Jewish people in Jerusalem and to avoid a conflict from arising due to Paul's arrival.  So they advise Paul to participate in the Jewish rituals to show that he had not forsaken the Law of Moses and the temple rituals.  Paul heeds their advice, but the result is the exact opposite of what the church leaders predicted.

During an adult Sunday School class I felt prompted by the Spirit to bring this passage to the attention of the Messianic Christian teacher of the class, and to ask him if these Christian leaders' advice to Paul was carnal advice or spiritual advice, since the advice had the effect opposite to that which was intended and expected.  The teacher completely ignored my question, and went on with his lesson!  I then mentioned that Jesus had previously appeared to Paul in Jerusalem shortly after Paul's conversion experience, and told Paul to get out of Jerusalem because the Jews would not receive his testimony about Jesus.  Paul actually argued with the Lord on that occasion, but Jesus prevailed, and said "Go!"

I submit to you, dear reader, that the Old Testament is the history of people, some of whom obeyed God more or less, and most of whom disobeyed God completely.  I further submit that the Gospel accounts of Jesus life and teachings are the most reliable source of instructions for those who desire to know Him and follow Him and to be reconciled to God through Him.  Finally, I submit that the New Testament epistles are the story of the followers of Jesus who more or less obeyed Jesus, and more or less did the will of God while still relying more or less on their own understanding and still, more or less, following the traditions of men rather than the leading of the Holy Spirit.  We cannot just 'do what the Bible says' and expect good outcomes without discerning by the Spirit's help what God's will is in any situation.

I find one shining example of someone who 'did it right'.  In Acts chapter 8 we find a Christian named Philip being told by a messenger of the Lord to leave an amazing city-wide revival in Samaria to go down a desert road.  Philip obeys the leading of God, leaves the revival, goes down the desert road and meets an Ethiopian eunuch on that desert road, chats with the eunuch enough to bring the eunuch to faith in Jesus and obedience to Jesus in water baptism, resulting in the eventual evangelization of the nation of Ethiopia!!  I suggest that obeying God often does not make sense to us, but results in amazingly good results.  And I further suggest that obeying men or 'what the Bible says' often seems to make a lot of sense, but does not result in good results. 

With God all things are possible, but without God we can do nothing of eternal significance.

I, in conclusion (if you have read this far, dear reader) I suggest that we make it our goal to be who we are meant to be by the grace of God, to do what we are supposed to do by the grace of God, to stop leaning on our own understanding by the grace of God, to trust Him with our whole hearts by His grace, and to obey God by abiding in Christ so that His obedience works in all of our lives along with His joy and His peace.

The result should be that we stop acting like Christians, and start being real disciples of Jesus Christ and children of God, and displaying the righteousness, peace and joy of His Kingdom in the Holy Spirit of God.