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Volume 2, Issue 9:

Study and More Study

In this issue we are addressing the appalling biblical and theological ignorance in the evangelical church today. The ignorance is on both sides of the pulpit, but the judgment will be stricter on those who have set themselves up to teach before they have learned.
- DW

There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write `damnation' with your fingers.
- Charles Spurgeon
The Scripture is to be its own interpreter, or rather the Spirit speaking in it; nothing can cut the diamond but the diamond; nothing can interpret Scripture but Scripture.
- Thomas Watson
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
- 2 Timothy 2:15
Compare Scripture with Scripture. False doctrines, like false witnesses, agree not among themselves.
- William Gurnall
Bible study is the metal that makes a Christian. This is the strong meat on which holy men are nourished. This is that which makes the bone and sinew of men who keep God's way in defiance of every adversary.
- Charles Spurgeon
The Scripture is both the breeder and feeder of grace. How is the convert born, but by `the word of truth'? (James 1:18). How doth he grow, but by `the sincere milk of the Word.'? (1 Peter 2:2)
- Thomas Watson
Now it is each minister's duty to love God, not with a part, but with all his heart; and to serve him, not only as well as some weaker brother is doing, but with the fullest effectiveness possible for him, he being such a man and in such circumstances as he is. It should be with each minister as with the faithful and devoted bondsman. He may be gifted by nature with a giant frame, so that with a dull and inferior axe he cuts more wood for the master in the day than another with his natural feebleness who has the keenest axe. By `putting to more strength,' he may even cut the average day's task. But if, by grinding his axe thoroughly, he is enabled to cut even two days' task in one, if he loves the master, he will grind it. And even if his day is advanced towards the middle of the forenoon, if he finds that an hour devoted even then to a thorough grinding, will result in a larger heap of wood well cut by nightfall, he will stop at that late hour to grind.
- R.L. Dabney
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Be well instructed in theology, and do not regard the sneers of those who rail at it because they are ignorant of it. Many preachers are not theologians, and hence the mistakes which they make. It cannot do any hurt to the most lively evangelist to be also a sound theologian, and it may often be the means of saving him from gross blunders. Nowadays we hear men tear a single sentence of Scripture from its connection, and cry `Eureka! Eureka!' as if they had found a new truth; and yet they have not discovered a diamond but a piece of broken glass.
- Charles Spurgeon
The first condition for powerful preaching is the presence in the Christian ministry of a commitment to sound learning and hard study.
- Iain Murray

Easy Chairs/Hard Words, Part 6

By Douglas Wilson

"Look," I said, "I have heard you mention that many Christians don't study their Bibles. Were you saying that anyone who disagrees with you on this question of God's sovereignty hasn't done his homework?"

Pastor Spenser shook his head. "No, I'm not saying that at all. I'm saying that, in my experience, most of them have not."
"But you would agree that there are fine Bible scholars who differ with you on this?"
"That depends on what you mean."
"What do you mean?"
"There are men who are fine Christians who do not understand this truth. There are men who are fine scholars who differ with it. But when they dispute this truth, in certain key passages, there is an unfortunate lapse of their scholarship."
"May I play the devil's advocate?"
"Who are you to say what the correct interpretation is? Isn't it arrogant of you to say that you are right and all the others are wrong?"
"It is not a question of whether I am right. It is a question of whether God revealed this truth in his Word, or not."
"I don't get your point."
"We must not, as Christians, determine whether or not God has revealed something by how many men acknowledge the revelation. The content of the revelation is determined by the careful and laborious study of the text. It is not determined by counting noses. Not even scholarly noses."
"Are you saying that you cannot make a mistake when you go to the text?"
"No, certainly not. I have made many mistakes. But I may only acknowledge my error when someone shows me the mistake from the text."
"Now how does this relate to the question of God's exhaustive sovereignty?"
"I have had many Christians tell me I am wrong about all this predestination business. But only a handful of them have ever endeavored to demonstrate the error I am supposed to be making from the text."
"What do the rest of them do?"
"They break down into two basic categories. The first group talks just long enough to establish where the disagreement lies; after that, they avoid any discussion of the issue. Thinking about it discomfits them. The second group will talk about it; indeed, many times they enjoy talking about it. But the authority to which they appeal makes any resolution of the question impossible. Their authority, their court of appeals, is reason, common sense, and armchair philosophy. They will say that reason requires us to acknowledge that we have `free will.' Otherwise, how could God blame us? For who resists His will? This group acknowledges the authority of the Bible - on paper - but does not submit to the arbitration of Scripture."
"Why do you think this is?"
"I cannot say; I merely see the results of it. Only God sees the heart. I am not competent to say what obstacles may exist in their hearts, although I do not doubt they are there. It is my business to see to it that there is no obstacle to their understanding in my heart."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean any kind of pride, haughtiness, impatience...whatever. If there is any of this on my part, it may well be used by God to keep fellow Christians from these wonderful truths. In the providence of God, matters are arranged in the church in such a way that it is possible to stumble your brother."
"Can you give me an example of this from Scripture?"
"Sure. In 2 Timothy 2:25, it assumes that God is the Giver of repentance. When a man repents, he is the recipient of a gift."
I had looked the passage up. "Well, it sure looks that way."
"Now many Christians deny that repentance is a gift of God. In a discussion with such a person, what do you think the temptation is?"
I grinned. "To beat them over the head with this verse?"
"Exactly. Now back up and read the previous verse, this verse, and the verse after."
I looked down. "And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will."
I glanced up again. "But isn't this talking about a debate with a non-Christian?"
"Yes, it is. And if we ought to correct unbelievers with such humility, what should our demeanor be toward brothers?"
"Got it." I said.
"Now notice that the behavior of the one who knows the truth is connected with the possible change of heart of the one listening, if God is gracious and so wills it."
"So how do you tie this in with our discussion? If all this is so clear in the Scriptures, why do Christians deny what you say the Bible teaches?"
"I would suggest that the problem is not with those who don't believe it, but with those who do."
"How so?"
"Some Christians deny God's exhaustive sovereignty, and they live in a manner consistent with that denial. Other Christians affirm it, but then go on to deny it with their lives. The second group has more to answer for."
"You can't be saying that the church is in this sad condition because this is the way God has willed it?"
"Well, yes, I am. If God controls everything, then He certainly controls this."
"But why? That seems so contrary to everything I have ever learned about God and His relationship to the church."
"I don't know why either. I am not sure a creature could understand why. But I do know that I am not going to water down clear statements of Scripture just because I want to worship a God who meets with my approval!"
"Is there any passage of Scripture that teaches that God controls backslidings?"
"Yes. Isaiah 63:17. `O Lord, why have You made us stray from Your ways, and hardened our heart from Your fear? Return for Your servants' sake, the tribes of Your inheritance.'"
"So you are also saying that the reason so many Christians deny this truth is..."
" that God has willed it. Yes. He has hardened our hearts. And, anticipating the question, it does not lessen our responsibility in the slightest."
"Is it wrong to ask why God does this?"
"No. Isaiah asks why. I believe that when Christians acknowledge that God has done this, and begin tearfully asking why He has done it, we will be on the edge of true revival. True revival is something He gives."
I was shaking my head. "I don't know..."
Pastor Spenser went on. "The modern evangelical church is drowning in an ocean of theological stupidity. Here and there are handfuls of the `orthodox' clinging to the wreckage of what was once a great ship. In such a condition, it is impertinent to even be tempted to pride."
"But why would God do that to His own ship?"
"He has done it, and He is God. That is enough. By all that Scripture teaches, His reasons were good, just, and holy. And when we consider the glorious future that is promised for the gospel in the world, we should take courage as we pray for revival. It will be clear to us later."
"And in the meantime...?"
"In the meantime, those Christians who have been given an understanding of this should not puff themselves up. We know that what Job says in Job 42:2 is true. `I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from you.' But they must also respond to this truth the way Job did in vv. 5-6. `I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.'"
"How are you applying this?"
"It is one thing to hear truth, and agree with it. Many have come to believe these things simply because they are attracted to a system which is logically consistent. Or perhaps they are repelled by the shallowness of so much of our preaching and teaching today. Or they are the studious type, and like to read books by the Puritans."
Pastor Spenser went on. "But it is quite another thing to be given a vision of the glory of God and to be, like Job, undone by it."
"Are you saying it is bad to be studious, or systematic?"
"No, not at all. Hard study is required by God, as well as to compare carefully one portion of Scripture with another. Over many years, many people have told me that I study too much, but the Holy Spirit convicts me regularly that I study too little."
"What are you saying then?"
"Hard study can be compared to chopping wood, assembling the kindling, and putting all the wood together for the fire. There are churches that have a good idea of where the wood should go, but they have forgotten there is supposed to be a fire."
"And others...?"
"Others, theologically shallow, know there is supposed to be a fire. But they use grass, thorns, paper, and a lot of lighter fluid."
"How do you see your work?"
"I have chopped a lot of good wood - although less than I should have - and I have assembled it. Now I am waiting, and praying to God."
"Praying for what?"
Pastor Spenser thought for a moment. "Praying for the fire to fall."

The Christian cannot be satisfied so long as any human activity is either opposed to Christianity or out of all connection to Christianity. Christianity must pervade not merely all nations, but also all of human thought. The Christian, therefore, cannot be indifferent to any branch of earnest human endeavor.It must be brought into some relation to the gospel. It must be studied either in order to be demonstrated as false, or else in order to be made useful in advancing the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom must be advanced not merely extensively, but also intensively. The Church must seek to conquer not merely every man for Christ, but also the whole of man.
- J. Gresham Machen
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ...
- 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Equally, theological preaching is the primary means of pastoral care. The flock is to be fed - indeed, pastors must never forget that it is possible to kill them not only with heresy, but with starvation. Only the truth can sanctify them (John 17:17). To change the perspective, if they have not girded their loins with the truth, they lack an essential part of the armor of God (Eph. 4:14). Doctrine cannot be set against experience.
- Donald Macleod
There is no one feature of the divine government, no one property of the physical or intellectual constitution of man, no one principle of his social organization, no one characteristic in the economy of his salvation, that proposes a bounty for indolence.
- Gardiner Spring
He (the minister) is, then, to be ready, on all occasions, to explain the scriptures. This is his first and chief work. That is, not merely to state and support the more simple and elementary doctrines of the gospel; but also to elucidate with clearness the various parts of the sacred volume, whether doctrinal, historical, typical, prophetic, or practical. He is to be ready to rectify erroneous translations of sacred scripture; to reconcile seeming contradictions; to clear up real obscurities; to illustrate the force and beauty of allusions to ancient customs and manners; and, in general, to explain the Word of God, as one who has made it the object of his deep and successful study.
- Samuel Miller
And can so much work, and such work as this, be done by raw, unqualified men? O what strong holds have we to batter, and how many of them!...O brethren! what men should we be in skill, resolution, and unwearied diligence, who have all this to do? Did Paul cry out, `Who is sufficient for these things?' And shall we be proud, or careless, or lazy, as if we were sufficient?
- Richard Baxter
For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
- Romans 15:4
How shall the heart be reached, except through the head? How can a rational creature be made to feel intelligently, unless we cause his reason to apprehend that which may be the object of rational feeling? If any affection is produced otherwise, it must be merely animal or else evil. Heat without light is blind, as light without heat is cold...To the objection that didactic preaching is dry, I answer, that if it ever seems to be so, this is the fault of the preacher and not of the truth.
- R.L. Dabney

Credenda/Agenda is a publication of Canon Press, which is the literature ministry of Community Evangelical Fellowship, 110 Baker, Moscow, Idaho, 83843; phone: (208) 882-2034; Douglas Wilson, editor.

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