I am asked many questions as I continue this ‘second’ career journey of being a pastor.  Some of the more frequent ones are: ‘You mean you quit a good job to do this?’ (Answer: Yes, this one has better benefits!); ‘Where is your church?’ (We are currently ministering out of our home); and the question that gives birth to this blog, ‘Do you teach only from the New Testament and/or what do you think about the bible as a whole?

The answer to those last two is that I understand the entire Bible to be the inspired word of God.  I believe it contains timeless, infallible truth.  For me to arbitrarily decide to only consider one part, or only certain sections as being relevant would be rather presumptuous of me.  I based this belief on what the Apostle Paul wrote to his young understudy Timothy: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV)

Now, teaching from the fullness of the Scriptures can be a daunting task.  There are several (many?) parts, sections or verses that I do not fully understand, making it difficult for me to teach them.  And in full-disclosure, I am not familiar with either the Hebrew or Greek languages, which make up the majority of the Old and New Testaments.  I compensate for this lack of knowledge by having been instructed in the use of language tools, which allow me to delve into the original texts without having to be well-versed (pun intended) in Hebrew or Greek.

Using those tools on the two verses mentioned form Paul’s second letter to Timothy helps to strengthen my faith in the truth of God’s word.  The little word ‘all’ gets the ball rolling.  Allow me to get theologically deep for a moment: ‘All’ means all! The entirety of the Bible is covered in that little word.  It stands to reason, then, that if all the Bible is from God, I ought not be ignoring any part of it simply because I don’t fully get it, don’t see how it applies or, I don’t agree with it.

To the last point I need only put myself in Job’s place as he was lamenting to God the great calamities that had befallen him, wondering why they happened and by the way, where were you, God, when all this was going down? God’s answer to Job helps me when I find myself starting to question and or whine: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.” (Job 38:4 NIV)

If I am to take all of Scripture as inspired of God, I must take this humbling question to heart.  In doing so, I am more inclined to see my place in the universe as somewhere away from the very center of it! Taking in the totality of Scripture as being God’s own word allows me to also better process this type of response He gave to Job.  Though I will never fathom the depth of God’s character, I can know enough of it to realize that He wants only the best for his kids; and sometimes He must speak to us in ways or allow things to happen, that are sure to get our attention.  God is indeed love, peace, mercy, forgiveness and so much more, but He is also a God of justice, order and holiness.  I am not to bend His truth to fit my likings, rather I am to conform my will to His.

Helping me to do this is another word I investigated from the 2 Timothy passage above: God-breathed.  To the best of my knowledge, this wording is used only this one time.  The word translated God-breathed in the original Greek meant direct communication from the deity.  I have also heard this referred to as God exhaling his Word to us.  The overall sense to take away is that the written Word of God contains the very essence of God.

This raises the level of the Bible! It is not just a book of good ideas and healthy recommendations, but rather it is the heart and mind of God; His entire character and nature are contained on its pages (or at least as much as we can take in).  He has poured Himself into the Scriptures.  His perfect truth is reflected on every page.

There’s the rub.  If His character is accurately and completely portrayed in what we read in the Bible, there are some difficult things that we must be reconciled to.  The existence of a literal heaven and hell and that my sinful choices do have real consequences are just two off the top of my head.  That God in His perfection is angry when I blatantly act/live/speak in disobedience to what He has said is almost enough to make me say, ‘Enough, I can’t handle anymore of this truth of God’s word stuff.’

Yet God’s word is the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  So don’t stop now, read on! As true as it is that God is holy and righteous and hates sin; His love, mercy and forgiveness are equally true! As difficult as it is for us to wrap our minds around this, we must.  God is all these things I’ve mentioned, and infinitely more.

We must not fall into accepting only the parts of God (and therefore the Scriptures) that we are comfortable with or fit into our concept of how God is.  Those who believe He is only about judgment miss out on His unending love and kindness.  Conversely, if we take only the ‘softer’ side of God into account, we quickly lose sight of His holiness.  When that happens, we tend to go far to easy on ourselves and our thoughts and actions.  We cheapen the unfailing love of God by telling ourselves He will forgive us anyway, so what I do in the here and now is not that important.

To conclude, for now, if God’s truth is all encompassing (it is), where to we go from here? Please know that I am not promoting any ‘middle of the road’ compromise.  Anytime I/we attempt this, something important invariably gets left out.  Instead of middle of the road, I am suggesting we go ‘full circle;’ meaning that we, as best we can, consider the fullness of God’s character as it is described to us in the bible.  Because He is God, He can be both all judgment and all mercy rolled into one.

Truth be told, He has told us the truth, and nothing but the truth.  Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 NIV).  The sooner I/we can accept this awesome truth, the more willing we become to reign in our self-will so that we can discover His will for us, which truthfully is far better than we could ever hope or imagine.

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