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INTRODUCTION

This is the second article in a ten part series about why the UMC split over the issue of homosexual practice is a Bible engagement crisis.  In my last post, I: (1) defined the term “Bible engagement” and (2) identified the four steps necessary to evaluate if a situation like the UMC split rises to the level of being a Bible engagement
crisis.  

In this post, I show that the Bible teaches that a Christian must practice Bible engagement. 

CHRISTIANS MUST PRACTICE BIBLE ENGAGEMENT

The Bible teaches that a 21st Century Christian is to practice Bible engagement.  Jesus made this clear when he quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 as recorded in Matthew 4:1–4 (ESV) [underlining added]:

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

Referring to this text, Dr. Wayne Grudem writes:

Jesus says in Matthew 4:4 (quoting Deut. 8:3), “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (NASB). Here Jesus indicates that our spiritual life is maintained by daily nourishment with the Word of God, just as our physical lives are maintained by daily nourishment with physical food. To neglect regular reading of God’s Word is as detrimental to the health of our souls as the neglect of physical food is detrimental to the health of our bodies.

Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 118). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

Bible engagement through many ways is one application that comes from Deuteronomy 6:6–9 (ESV):

6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Even though the instructions in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 were to the Israelites, they reveal some basic principles applicable to 21st Century believers.   God’s Word is to be a part of a Christian’s daily life so that biblical teachings reshape his or her values, attitudes, and ways.  How a Christian lives is important because it either confirms or denies that they say.  The logical inference from the teaching that the Bible is to be the guide for Christian living is that a Christians is to practice Bible engagement.  These observations are taken from a compilation of Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary (pp. 147–148). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books and Wiersbe, W. W. (1999). Be equipped (p. 47). Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub.

Bible engagement though eager thorough study is a noble thing to do with eternal benefits per Acts 17:11-12 (ESV):

11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a
few Greek women of high standing as well as men.

A Christian is not to depend upon another’s interpretation, but exegete the Scriptures themselves.  One commentator writes:

Examining the Scriptures daily (καθʼ ἡμεραν ἀνακρινοντες τας γραφας [kath’ hēmeran anakrinontes tas graphas]). Paul expounded the Scriptures daily as in Thessalonica, but the Bereans, instead of resenting his new interpretation, examined (ἀνακρινω [anakrinō] means to sift up and down, make careful and exact
research as in legal processes as in Acts 4:9; 12:19, etc.) the Scriptures for themselves.

Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Ac 17:11). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

According to 1 Peter 2:2 (ESV), Bible engagement is a necessity for a Christian to grow spiritually:  

2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—

Verse 2 above should be read in light of 1 Peter 1:23–25 (ESV):

23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

One commentator writes about 1 Peter 2:2:

All believers need to long for the spiritual milk or nourishment of God’s Word in the same way that a baby longs for milk. Crave refers to an intense and continuous desire. Spiritual growth begins and continues through the application of the Word of God (see 1:23–25).

Walls, D., & Anders, M. (1999). I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude (Vol. 11, p. 28). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

A 21st Century Christian must eagerly practice Bible engagement to learn what God’s Word teaches, and thereby, receive daily spiritual nourishment so he or she can grow spiritually. 

JUST ANY KIND OF BIBLE ENGAGEMENT WILL NOT SUFFICE

But, a Christian must appreciate that NOT just any kind of Bible engagement will suffice.  Slip shod, inaccurate Bible engagement will only lead astray.  Mankind has the inclination to listen to what he or she likes:

Confrontation with truth can produce a great deal of discomfort, especially for those unwilling to submit to its authority. This is why people have always tended to gather “yes” men about themselves, those who say what we like to hear.

Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, p. 320). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

In 2 Timothy 4:3 (ESV), Paul instructs Timothy that “sound teaching” is mandatory for the Christian:

3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,

In order for Bible engagement to result in “sound teaching,” it must meet the biblical standard.  2 Timothy 2:15 articulates the biblical standard for Bible engagement. 

In the next article, which is the third in this series, I will examine 2 Timothy 2:15 to establish a foundation for the biblical standard for Bible engagement.

Please send me any comments to steve@stevebelsheim.com or use the comments feature of the blog.

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