Stringing the JewelsTeaching the Word of God in Simplicity
Two theologians entered a church to pray. The first theologian prayed thusly – “I thank you Father that I am not like this other theologian here. I compose long, complicated and elaborate explanations of Your Word, while everything this man writes is so short,” he finished with disdain.
The other theologian could barely raise his eyes toward heaven. He smote himself on the chest and prayed, “Father forgive me for trying to keep things simple.”
This take off on Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the sinner (Luke 18:10-13) expresses the attitude of some teachers of the Word who seem to think complicated is better.
If you are in that camp I would like to remind you of the fact that God values simplicity. In the beginning He created a beautiful garden, placed His children in it and then kicked back to watch them play and enjoy what He had given them. God actually enjoys simple. When His children disobeyed His command to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3), suddenly everything went from simple to complicated and the peaceful life God had originally planned for His children was cruelly violated.
God had made a very simple statement to Adam and Eve, basically saying, “Don’t eat or you will die” (Genesis 2:17). And the first theologian was right there on the scene to complicate God’s simple instruction with “That’s not what He meant” (Genesis 3:4).
There are a lot of theologians out there who, whether they realize it or not, are emulating that first theologian’s technique. We need to be able to recognize when someone is trying to derail us from the truth. If anyone has been schooled in a particular theology and parts of it do not line up with the whole of what the scriptures are actually saying, then an elaborate thesis can sometimes be used as a means of decoying the student into a particular religious philosophy.
God’s Word is written very simply. The teachers He appointed to pen His Words by His Spirit did not overwhelm us with complicated explanations, but wrote simply and to the point. We can wrestle with the Word when conviction or some other excuse compels us to try and rearrange what God is actually saying, but we do so to our detriment.
When studying the Scriptures the context must always be consider as well as any relating texts. The Jews practiced the technique of “Scripture linking.” They would take a keyword, then search other texts to see how the same word was used as a means of enlightening the particular passage they were studying.
Also the technique of linking Scriptures together as a means of illuminating the meaning of a subject is illustrated for us in the Word as an effective means of teaching Scripture. The writer of Hebrews effectively links a series of different verses from the Old Testament together from verses five through thirteen as the finale of chapter one. The Apostle Paul actually “talks” with the Word in Romans three, verses ten through eighteen, where he eloquently links Scriptures and parts of Scriptures together to paint a word picture of God’s judgment on the wicked.
This technique for study is criticized by some, even though the Word gives us a clear model for its value and use.
The Bible is like a treasure chest filled with jewels. Each scripture is a rare gem of God’s truth. A good teacher of God’s Word is like a fine jeweler. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, the jeweler sets each jewel in its proper order to create the finished work.
Like a beautiful necklace, the jewels of Scripture should stand out on their own. The setting that the jeweler creates should accent and enhance, but never overwhelm or detract from the beauty of the jewels.
The Scriptures have been designed to interpret themselves; the light of each jewel illuminates the other. If a doctrine is correct, then all the other jewels will relate to each other in perfect harmony.
We need to guard ourselves from those who are operating under the influence of that first theologian, who reconstructs the precious jewels of God’s truth into elaborate settings of falsehood, designed to focus our attention on what is man-inspired, detracting our vision away from the simple beauty of the words that God has provided for his children.
Jesus prayed, “I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hid these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes” (Matthew 11:25).
The Pharisees and the scribes who were the theologians of Jesus’ day, were extremely proud of their knowledge of the Scriptures, yet it availed them nothing when the actual truth of God’s word appeared before them in the presence of the Messiah they failed to recognize -because, “God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5).
If we are seeking to discover the beauty and hidden treasure contained for us in God’s Word, let’s remind ourselves of God’s preference for the simplicity of “babes” and approach this treasure as skilled, yet humble jewelers.
Copyright 2011 by H.D. Shively