We are clearly in a day that majors in fulfilling the prophecy of 2 Timothy:4:3-4. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
Examples abound. Many churches that profess to be Bible-believing fellowships do not live up to their claims. They say they believe in the inerrancy, the authority, and the sufficiency of the Word of God. However, in practice they have mixed what God has said with the so-called wisdom of mankind. Here’s how that plays out, starting with the sufficiency of the Scriptures.
The evangelical church is a major referral source for the mental health community. More often than not, Christians dealing with mental and emotional problems are referred to psychological counselors by their pastors, especially to so-called Christian psychologists. This is a field that attempts to integrate secular psychological concepts with biblical teachings. As I mentioned last month, the foundational concepts are drawn from the theories of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and to them we could add Karen Horney, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and many of their disciples. All such theories are antichrist at best.
Yet, even if those men and women had something of value to offer (which they don't) to supplement the Bible, that supplementation in itself would be a denial of the sufficiency of the Scriptures. Does the Bible claim that it is sufficient? Absolutely.
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Peter:1:3).
Then there's 2 Timothy:3:15-17: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
Consider just these four verses to which dozens more could be added. God has communicated in His Word “all things that pertain unto life and godliness….” The “all things” includes the “knowledge of Him,” as well as that which is “able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Again, the Scriptures are “given by inspiration of God.” They are God-breathed, meaning they are His words, not mankind's. When His instructions are obeyed, they are “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy:3:16-17).
Whether we use “throughly” or “thoroughly” with the word “perfect,” Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines them for us: “Fully; entirely; completely. Finished; complete; consummate; not defective. Having all that is requisite to its nature and kind.”
When God had the Israelites make the tabernacle and all its related components, its execution was carried out by those filled with the Spirit of God (Exodus:35:31) and gifted in all manner of workmanship, and the material they had was sufficient for all the work to be done. They weren’t left to their own artistic expressions! How much more so, then, would be the content of His Word that “pertain[s] to life and godliness”? What did He omit that fallen and sinful man would need to supply?
One of the major reasons why pastors look to psychological counselors to “assist” the Scriptures is their own ignorance of psychotherapy. Many assume the practice is scientific. That is a myth. The National Science Foundation (not exactly a friend of biblical Christianity!) subsidized a 3-year study involving 80 eminent scholars in order to ascertain the scientific validity of psychotherapy and concluded: “I think, by this time, it should be utterly and finally clear that psychology cannot be a coherent science....” Furthermore, psychotherapy claims to address and solve all the issues of life—in direct opposition to the instructions of the Word of God.
What then of the authority of the Bible, which many pastors and believers profess to believe? Too often that belief, like the purported belief in the Bible’s sufficiency, doesn't hold up. If one turns from the Scriptures to other sources in order to remedy their mental, emotional, behavioral, or spiritual problems, then those other sources become the person's authority, not the Word of God. That being the case, claiming to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture is meaningless.
Tragically, that is the state of Christianity today as the prophecy of 2 Timothy:4:3-4 declares. So exactly how does “not enduring sound doctrine” come about? In many ways—some of them are quite subtle, others rather blatant. Some Christians don’t even bother to bring their Bibles or Bible apps to church. They rely on the pastor to read the verses for them, which often constitutes “spoon feeding” and hardly promotes biblical discernment or maturity. Topical preaching, in contrast to expository preaching (verse by verse), too often allows a pastor’s sermon to avoid difficult or controversial passages. That usually takes place when the verses address subjects such as the role of women in the church or homosexuality. Topical sermons also have a way of deviating from what God is saying, which may lead to popular social views that may influence the preacher.
How then should we go about establishing, or in some cases, re-establishing sound doctrine? The solution is not complex. Simply read the Word of God and do what it says! One can’t do what the Bible says without having read what it says. I’m of course addressing this to those who have been born again by the Holy Spirit of God, because no one can effectively do what God’s Word says without being enabled by the Holy Spirit. That is true without exception.
There are, however, numerous ways to study the Bible. As a recommendation, here’s how I have been studying God’s Word for four decades, in which I include things I highly suggest (see as well September 2022’s message “Meditating upon the Word of God”—https://bit.ly/3rtlOHo) and stay away from things I believe need to be avoided.
I thoroughly enjoy group Bible studies. I take part in one almost daily. That is what I love to do when the opportunity presents itself. The Bible study procedure I follow is always the same in the studies in which I participate. It begins with each person reading a verse or a few verses in the chapter of a specified book of the Scriptures. Typically, that begins with the first verse of the chapter and is read through to the end of the chapter. The idea is to keep in mind the context of the chapter as the study progresses. Once that takes place, the leader of the study begins reading a few verses from the beginning of the chapter in order to initiate the discussion.
The thought of leading a Bible study is intimidating for many people. It shouldn’t be! My first qualification for selecting a Bible study leader is: “Does the person know how to read?” Do you think I’m kidding? No! Nearly every Bible study I’ve been in has been made up of individuals with various levels of biblical knowledge and spiritual maturity. As the verses are read, the discussion is open to comments, questions, and to other verses helping to explain what the specific verse is saying.
From my perspective, a group Bible study is not a Bible class taught by a teacher. It’s more of a group discussion where any and all involved are encouraged to participate. Those with greater knowledge of the Scriptures can certainly add to the discussion, but then I've been greatly edified by very young believers through their comments and questions, as well as their spiritual insights. I’ve had years of experience with Dave Hunt in Bible studies, and he knew the Word of God better than anyone I’ve ever known. But interestingly, I don't remember him ever dominating any of the studies as the teacher!
When a group Bible study is made up of born-again believers, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, who will guide believers into all truth (John:16:13), is present within each of them. They are a Spirit-led resource that can be used for the edification of everyone involved, no matter what their level of maturity and knowledge may be. I certainly appreciate having those in a study who have years of experience in walking with the Lord and studying the Scriptures. Nevertheless, as I said, I've also been blessed by very young believers who are just learning the Word of God.
The group study also leaves opportunities to challenge some unbiblical ideas, no matter the maturity of the participant. That takes place by simply asking for biblical support for what someone is advocating. In other words, asking “can you give me chapter and verse” (from the Scriptures) is an important question for maintaining a continual basis for biblical truth.
Sometimes we get caught up in the way the world thinks and does things, and we forget that putting biblical Christianity into practice is a miraculous endeavor. It’s not an exercise that’s dependent upon those with expertise, but it’s rather an endeavor empowered by the Holy Spirit (Zechariah:4:6).
I believe the main benefit of a group Bible study is to determine what God himself is communicating to those who have put their faith in Him. The theological term for that is “exegesis,” the goal of which is to understand and do what God himself has said. When a study drifts away from that purpose, eisegesis takes place, which involves an interpretation that expresses the interpreter’s own impressions or bias rather than the true meaning of the text.
There are a few things that relate to eisegesis that also occur in a Bible study that need to be avoided. There can be a tendency to focus on one’s feelings when trying to explain a verse, usually introduced by the question, “How do you feel about that verse?” In truth, one’s personal feelings about a verse have no bearing on discerning the truth of it.
Some Bible studies use books that have been produced in order to help the participants get involved in the study. Unfortunately, they often contain directions that lead the group into subjective responses such as feelings, imaginings, dreams, and so forth, that deviate from the objective truth that God has communicated. A typical example of this is when the Bible study participant is instructed to imagine oneself as a specific Bible character and how he or she would deal with a certain situation.
The Bible is God’s communication to humanity. Other than His prophets transcribing what He, our infinite God, has communicated, the Scriptures include no input from finite individuals. That would be speculation at best, which simply constitutes the guesses and other erroneous ideas from the minds of the participants. However, the Scriptures do encourage extrapolation, which involves finding verses that help to explain or support a certain verse. For example, many verses declare that only one God exists. “Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God” (Isaiah:44:6). Yet, Colossians:2:9 declares that Jesus is God, as well as do many other verses. “For in Him [Jesus] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” This clearly reveals that Jesus is God. So, either Isaiah:44:6 is mistaken and there are two Gods, or there is only one God consisting of two Persons.
By including the Holy Spirit, Scripture further explains that indeed there is only one God, and He consists of three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “But when the Comforter [the Holy Spirit] is come, whom I [Jesus] will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me” (John:15:26). Through the help of other Scriptures (i.e., extrapolation), we can see that the Word of God is self-authenticating. In other words, Scripture itself is the best interpreter of Scripture.
Bible studies are the antidote for the consequences of 2 Timothy:4:3-4. They are the remedy for “not enduring sound doctrine.” Moreover, they can supply that which the Scriptures declare every believer needs, as is stated in Acts:2:42: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” They assembled together (Hebrews:10:25). They continued steadfastly in biblical teachings and instructions, i.e., doctrine. In our times, fellowship often leads to the sharing of meals together and/or remembering what Christ accomplished for us through His death, burial, and resurrection. Bible studies also feature prayer, praying that the Holy Spirit will quicken the Word in the participants’ hearts so that they might be doers of what is read and not hearers only. That’s a great way to begin the study. Additionally, one of the major blessings of the Bible studies in which I’ve been involved included praying for one another at the close of the study. Hearing the needs of a brother or sister in Christ who requests prayer and then praying for him or her is a wonderful way to draw closer to each other in the love of Jesus.
As you might suspect, the most frequent request we get from readers of TBC is to help them find a church that preaches the Word of God. I’m sure there are “7,000” that remain steadfast and true to God’s Word. The problem is, however, connecting those in need of a church within a specified area with a solid church. There may not be one within a reasonable distance. We also know from the Bible that as the apostasy increases, the number of churches faithful to God’s Word will decline. What can we do?
Although either attending or starting a Bible study is not the ideal solution, it does supply many qualities that will help a believer to grow in the Lord as well as provide opportunities to minister to fellow Bible-believing Christians. As the Lord draws closer to His return and the times of apostasy seem to overwhelm us, my prayer is that we will seek the fellowship we all need, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews:10:25).