Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). Paul’s exhortation to be regularly testing the sincerity and purity of your own faith is not given in order to make you doubt your salvation every other day. Faith in Christ is exactly that: faith in Jesus’ finished work, not in our own faithfulness. However, we are to be regularly doing the hard work of honest self-appraisal.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). Paul is speaking here to Christian believers, to those who have trusted their past, present, and future to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. And Paul reminds Christians that the Holy Spirit within us now gives us the true witness that we are his. The Spirit, it is important for us to recognize, is not lying to us. This is not merely some pep talk that the Spirit gives us, in order to make us feel better:
Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, interpretation is part of almost every human’s daily life. Communication would not be possible without a common understanding and means of interpreting. However, even with years of practice, we can all misjudge or misinterpret someone else’s—even our own spouse’s—words, actions, or facial expressions. This danger of misinterpretation is even greater when we come to the Bible.
Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Imagine a woman named Jane. She is a mature and growing Christian who loves Jesus, gives wise counsel, and helps others come to know more about Jesus … but she does not pray, read her Bible, or go to church.
For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you … your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything (1 Thessalonians 1:8). Paul, writing to the church at Thessalonica, commends them for their “acoustics.” The message they had received was being reverberated throughout their community, and beyond.
Sometimes it is said regarding a friendship or romance that “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” But when it comes to our interaction with God’s Word, it is more accurate to say that “absence makes the heart grow cold.” If we are not regularly exposing ourselves to the Word of God, we tend to lose our appreciation for its value and power. And as our appreciation for the Word of God grows weak, so does our appreciation for God himself.
True faith is an act of the will, in the sense that God gives us a new will in the new birth, along with faith (John 1:12-13; Ephesians 2:8). God does not make us robots; he successfully woos our hearts. Faith is not merely an act of the will, because it is also the act of the Holy Spirit in our souls, drawing us to Jesus Christ, and bringing us to trust in him as he is revealed in his Word (James 1:18).
Here’s a brief meditation I wrote down from Psalm 119, a great text for Bible reading. You might find it encouraging as you continue looking for wonderful things in God’s law this year: “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18).
Although the writing of the Bible spanned some 1,500 years and now even the most recent book of the Bible is almost 2,000 years old, the unashamed contention of historic Christianity is that the Bible is error-free from start to finish. The Bible makes numerous and uncompromising claims as to its own authenticity and divine origin (over 3,800 such claims).
The doctrine of the “perspicuity of Scripture” is a well-known and important teaching within the Christian faith. This doctrine refers to the fact that the Bible is clear, that it communicates perfectly. All scripture is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible can be understood by anyone, barring mental handicaps (2 Timothy 3:15). This doesn’t mean it is easy to correctly understand; rather, the Bible requires careful, thoughtful study (2 Peter 3:16). Equally vital as the doctrine of Scripture’s perspicuity, however, is the balancing consideration of the “perspicacity” of the reader.
I recently finished reading through the Bible for the sixteenth time. While this is a personal milestone I’m thankful for, I certainly am not boasting about it. In fact, when I consider that George Mueller, who was converted at the age of 20 and died at the age of 92, read the Bible through 100 times while simultaneously caring for over 10,000 orphans—I am a bit embarrassed and reminded I have a long way to go!
I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another (Romans 15:14). Paul, writing to everyday and average Christians in the church at Rome, insists that every Christian should be “able to instruct.” Paul gives two criteria for our being ready and able to give the right kind of counsel: being full of goodness, and being filled with knowledge. We can’t help others draw closer to God if we are not ourselves walking closely with God.
I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Notice that Paul couches the amazing Christian claim that “Christ died for our sins” in both Scriptural and historical language: “in accordance with the scriptures.”
In studying through a difficult passage of Scripture recently, I came across a quote from Charles Spurgeon that applies to every passage of Scripture: “My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater.
While knowledge of the truth is very important, it is possible to put so much emphasis on the letter of it that the application is forgotten. Paul reminds us that knowledge alone just puffs a person up, while knowledge according to love actually builds up. So here is a thought for pastors, especially, and by implication the people in the pew as well.