The Spirit of Doubt
Introduction: Mention how some consider the Bible as nebulous and a book concerning which you cannot be sure. As a result of this basic view, they expect the Bible to be presented not as a matter of fact but loosely, with a great deal of room for diversity of opinion and compromise. "After all, we cannot be sure what the Bible teaches on various subjects; therefore, we must be elastic and avoid dogmatism," we are told. Not a few in the church, even among preachers, are of this persuasion. Thus, they consider those who have deep conviction and are resolved in their beliefs and understandings of the teachings of the Bible as dogmatic, arrogant, and "those who think they know it all." How should we view the basic teachings of the Bible, fluidly or as matter of fact? To answer this question, I call your attention to the following passage:
"1: Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 2: Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; 3: It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4: That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed" (Lk. 1: 1-4).
While the foregoing statements particularly concern the gospel we call Luke, what is said basically applies to the entirety of God's word. This is why there is only "one faith," it is totally sufficient, and must be believed and loyally defended (Eph. 4: 5; 2 Tim. 3: 16, 17; Jude 3). Consider the language of verse three: "It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first " (KJV). If we literally translate the statement we have, " having investigated (parekolouthekoti) from their source (anothen) all things (pasin) accurately (akribos). Hence, God's word is "sure" and that in which one can confidently believe (2 Pet. 1: 19; Acts 27: 25). Also of interest is the purpose clause (reason for the writing of "Luke"): "That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed" "Thou might know" is from the Greek epignos (epignosis), to know fully. W. E. Vine comments on epignosis in this fashion, "denotes exact or full knowledge, discernment, recognition " (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). Consider now the expression "the certainty." Asphaleia (Greek word from which "certainty" is translated) means, "primarily, not liable to fall, steadfast, firm, hence denoting safety" (Ibid.).
The Bible is not a collection of speculative, uncertain, and theoretic teachings that produce a "could be, might be" philosophy and mindset. We are to "know the truth" and the truth sets free, Jesus said (Jn. 8: 32). The ones described by Peter who had fallen away had "known the way of righteousness" (2 Pet. 2: 21). "Known" is from epignosis. Hence, they did not almost know, know in part, or possess abstract knowledge: they had fully known the essentials of the gospel. Such knowledge causes one to speak boldly and with authority (Acts 4: 13, Tit. 2: 15, Eph. 6: 19). The scriptural preacher is not mealy mouth, indecisive, and inconclusive in his preaching and teaching. He speaks as one who knows, fully knows the will and word of God (2 Cor. 3: 12, cp. Phili. 1: 14, 2 Tim. 4: 2).
Having examined relevant words and teachings concerning the confident manner in which we are to believe, accept, and teach God's word, let us now make some applications:
I. The Sonship of Jesus.
A. Modernism wants us to believe "Jesus was just a good man, perhaps a prophet." Some in the church are saying, "Jesus was just an ordinary guy, like you and me." However, the scriptures irrefutably present Jesus as the Son of God, the only begotten of the Father (Jn. 3: 16).
B. Sonship necessarily means the son partakes of the nature of his father; in Jesus' case, he is deity (Jn. 10: 36). We either believe in Jesus' Sonship or we are doomed to "die in our sins" (Jn. 8: 24).
II. The plan of salvation for the non-Christian.
A. Not all will be saved, according to the scriptures. In fact, only a few will enjoy salvation (Matt. 7: 13, 14). Only a few will be saved because the vast majority will not "obey the gospel" (Rom 10: 16).
B. Belief, repentance, confession of Christ's deity, and water baptism for the remission of sins are set forth as the means of the sinner obtaining salvation (Jn. 8: 24; Acts 17: 30, 31; Rom. 10: 9, 10; Acts 2: 38). The child of God enjoys forgiveness and continued salvation as he "walks in the light" and "confesses his sins" (I Jn. 1: 6 ff).
III. The church Jesus built.
A. Jesus did build his church, as promised (Matt. 16: 18, 19, Acts 5: 11). Jesus' church is made up of all the saved of the earth, universally speaking (Eph. 5: 23, 24, 27).
B. Christians in a given locality band together and form a local church (I Cor. 1: 2, Rev. 2, 3).
a. The work of the church is edifying the saved, teaching the lost, and administering need to saints on occasion (Eph. 4: 16; I Tim. 3: 15; Acts 4 ff.). The church is not a glorified social club, welfare society, or after thought on God's part.
IV. How the Christian is to live.
A. The teaching that "how a Christian lives has nothing to do with his salvation" may be comforting to some; however, it is patently false (Eph. 4: 1). The Christian must grow or be lost (2 Pet. 1: 5-11, Col. 1: 10, Gal. 5: 4).
B. Holiness of life is a requisite and teaching and contending for the gospel is part of being a Christian (Phili. 2: 16; Jude 3).
a. The Christian is to be an active member of a faithful local church, fulfilling his various duties (Heb. 10: 25-31).
V. The scriptures offer no doubt regarding heaven and hell.
A. Heaven and hell (geheena) are real places that God has prepared (Jn. 14: 2-4; Matt. 25: 41).
B. Heaven will be a place of indescribable bliss that the saved will enjoy for ever and hell shall be a place of horrible torment which will be suffered for an eternality (Rev. 21, 22, Matt. 25: 46; Mk. 9: 42, Matt. 25: 46).
VI. The Bible is presented as the source of faith and standard of conduct and teaching.
A. Faith is not miraculously and directly imparted, as some teach. Faith "comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10: 17). The miracles of Jesus are designedly recorded to produce faith (Jn. 20: 30, 31). Paul knew Peter and others had sinned because "they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2: 14, 11-13).
B. We know those to whom we are to extend fellowship by the fact they teach and bring "the doctrine of Christ" (2 Jn. 9-11). As a consequence of the importance of God's word, we must not "add or subtract," pervert or alter, or hold back the gospel of Jesus Christ (Rev. 22: 18, 19; Gal. 1: 6-10; I Cor. 9: 16).
a. All religious controversy must be settled by the authoritative word of God (I Thes. 5: 21, see, 19, 20; Acts 17: 2).
Conclusion: In this age of theory and "we can not know for sure about anything," it is wonderful to have a belief system concerning which we may "know with certainty." Read the succinct comments of Commentator Matthew Henry regarding Luke 1: 4: "It was intended that he should 'know the certainty of those things,' should understand them more clearly and believe more firmly. There is a 'certainty' in the gospel of Christ, there is that therein which we may build upon; and those who have been well instructed in the things of God when they were young should afterwards give diligence to 'know the certainty' of those things, to know not only what we believe, but why we believe it, that we may be able to give a 'reason of the hope that is in us'" (Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible).