Thursday, January 10, 2008

Satan the Scriptures and Sound Doctrine (Part 2)

I decided to use the text of Matthew 4 for my most recent Awana council lesson. I really want the children (as well as adults) to get a better grasp of the Bible. But not only that, I want children and adults alike to know more reasons why we should know and love the Bible. And in an attempt to do that, I wanted to show that Satan knows the Scriptures well and he intentionally uses, abuses, and confuses them in an attempt to draw us into sin.

In order to illustrate this, I decided to look at Matthew 4 while cross-referencing it with Genesis 3. It seems to me that Satan accurately quotes the Psalms when he tempts Christ in Matthew 4 while he totally distorts and confuses God’s Word when he tempted Eve in Genesis 3. I believe that this gives us a glimpse of two different tactics that Satan uses when he attempts to deceive believers and non-believers alike who may have some knowledge of the Bible.

When dealing with Eve, the devil mis-referenced what God had told Adam in the previous chapter. Adam was commanded not to eat from only the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan’s question to Eve implied that God had restricted her enjoyment from the whole garden. But what makes the situation even worse is that Eve herself apparently didn’t know God’s command. She communicated that they had been commanded not to eat or even to touch that forbidden tree. And I cannot find a reference in Genesis 2 where God instructs Adam not to touch the tree, only not to eat from it. When you combine the fact that Satan twisted God’s words and cast doubt on what God had said with the fact that Eve didn’t know what God had indeed said, you have a recipe for confusion and sin.

I don’t think that this attack method is limited only to Eve’s singular situation. We can see so many people in modern Christendom (especially the emergent church) who want to converse about theology but usually they ask the same question from the garden, “has God indeed said…?” And more often than not, these conversations call into question the very explicit and foundational teachings of the Bible; the exclusivity of Christ in salvation, eternal punishment for the ungodly, and substitutionary atonement to name a few. Furthermore, proponents of the same types of “new” or “generous” orthodoxy (which many times is not orthodox at all) try to use Jesus’ words as the trump card to all other Scripture in an unfair way. If I were to say to some adherents to more emerging and inclusive theology that the Bible condemns homosexuality (which it does in Genesis, Leviticus, Romans, and Corinthians – among other places), the common retort is that Jesus didn’t say a word about homosexuality, therefore it must be acceptable. It is true that Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality that is recorded in the gospels or Acts, but He also didn’t say anything against raping your neighbor’s daughter. Is it fine to rape your neighbor’s daughter? Absolutely not! And the reason that it is not acceptable to rape is the same reason that it is not acceptable to have homosexual relations. The Bible clearly condemns rape and homosexuality regardless of the fact that Jesus didn’t comment on either. Don’t allow Satan to trick you with the logic used in this type of an argument and be led astray from the truth as so many of our contemporaries inside of Christendom are.

I actually think that it is easier to deal with this type of attack as opposed to the second of Satan’s revealed tactics. If someone, anyone, uses a Scripture to condone some action or belief but after simply looking up the verse I can tell that it has been violently altered (changed words, inserted words, removed words, etc.) so as to fit the promoted views, that is an easy enough Scriptural attack to deal with and then move on. But when ravenous false teachers quote Scripture to justify heresy or sin, it becomes a problem that is more difficult to deal with when they are not overtly changing and editing the wording of that verse. When tempting Christ, Satan accurately quoted (as far as I can tell) the words from Psalms 91:11,12 but he applied them in a completely unbiblical way. Jesus meets this attack head on and quotes Deuteronomy 6:16 declaring that no one puts God to the test, and this stops Satan in his tracks. In other words, no matter what Psalms 91:11,12 say, if you apply that in a way that contradicts the rest of the Bible, you’ve got your application all wrong.

Since no one has insight equal to that of Christ, I gave the children some advice to use in situations where something is being said or taught that just seems wrong but the person speaking seems to be accurately quoting a bible verse. The advice (I believe it originally came from the ministry Stand to Reason) is that Christians should not read a Bible verse. Don’t read a Bible verse? The point is not to tell people to ignore the Bible. The point is to admonish Christians not to read one single verse, but instead to read the context of that verse so that we can better discern the meaning of that specific verse. Sometimes that may mean reading only the paragraph or two surrounding the verse and sometimes you may need to read the whole chapter or more. And other times, you may just need to read other verses (and their context) that seem to say the same thing or something different in order to begin to grasp the overall meaning of what the particular verse in question has to say.

The single defense against false teaching is the same thing that is necessary for promoting true teaching and theology; The Word of God. Only by knowing what the Bible says and what God means by what He said in the Scriptures can we rightly understand anything about God. It is important to know and understand what God has spoken to us because without it, believers are almost as helpless as a blind man in a maze. We’re “almost” as helpless because believers have the Holy Spirit indwelling us in order to help us, but without the Word of God we don’t have anything solid by which to judge our feelings and thoughts or the teaching of others.

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