A Commitment to Bible Exposition

 

 

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A Commitment to Bible Exposition

Dr. Alex Tang

            We believe that the Bible is the authoritative and inspired Word of God

that is useful and relevant at all times. Therefore, we are committed

to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word for the equipping of

Christians to follow Jesus Christ’s example to live in every sphere of life.

 

1.                  Introduction

Every person, organisation, community or country has a set of core values. This set of core vales is what drives us, what motivates us and what makes us who we are.  Core values are fundamental to all that the organisation does and is. Core values gives the organisation its distinctiveness or uniqueness. Every organisation has its set of core values, whether they are aware of them or not. It is the duty of the leadership of any organisation, especially a church, to discern its own core values because unless they understand its core values are, they will not understand what God wants the organisation to do. But what are core values? Core values are the organisation’s fundamental set of convictions on which it base all its action and policies. They are the driving forces of the ministry. Core values are intrinsic. It is what makes one organisation different from another. It has always been present in the organisation. Most of the time it is assumed but not articulated. But core values are what we would die for. The Disney movie “Lilo & Stitch” is centered on ‘ohana’, the Hawaiian term for family. “Family means nobody is left behind or forgotten.”

                                   

We hear statements like “Holy Light is strong in Bible teaching” or  “ Holy Light is a cold church”. These statements are in fact pinpointing two unspoken core values of the church, that of ‘a commitment to Bible exposition’ and ‘a commitment to caring and authentic relationship’. Relationship takes time to build. Hence those who have not developed relationships will feel left out, hence the ‘coldness of the church’. The commitment to caring and authentic relationships do not leave room for ‘cocktail parties’ communication.

 

What the leadership has done is to dig deep into the psyche of the church and came up with 10 core values. These core values is what Holy Light Church (English) is. The core values are the soul of the church. These core values is God’s heart in the church. It is what makes Holy Light Church (English) unique and different from every other church in the whole wide world.

 

§         A commitment to Bible exposition.

§         A commitment to prayer.

§         A commitment to awe-inspiring worship.

§         A commitment to seeking and saving the lost.

§         A commitment to building everyone to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

§         A commitment to caring and authentic relationship.

§         A commitment to a well-mobilised laity.

§         A commitment to unity of body and team work.

§         A commitment to building strong Christian families.

§         A commitment to excellence.

 

How does these core values comes about? A soul of a person develops by his mind, his past experiences, his emotions, his needs and the Hand of God. Similarly its theological heritage, its history and the Holy Spirit form the core values of Holy Light Church (English) HLCE.

 

2.                  Historical Perspective

To truly understand HLCE, we must understand its history. According to many theologians, the Church came into existence in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit fell like tongues of fire on the people and three thousands believed and were baptized. The initial believers were Jews but later the Gentiles were converted and the Church spread from Jerusalem, Judea, Asia Minor and outwards.

 

§         In 313 AD, Emperor Constantine guarantees freedom of religion.

§         In 381 AD, emperor Theodosius the Great declares Christianity the state religion.

§         When Theodosius died in 395 AD, the Roman Empire was divided into an Eastern and a Western Empire.

§         In  1054, the church was split into the Eastern Greek Orthodox Church and the Western Latin Roman Catholic Church.

§         In 1517, Martin Luther’s ‘95 theses’ started the Reformation or Protestant movement.

 

 Martin Luther never intended to break away from the Roman Catholic Church but to reform it from within. His arguments can be summarised as:

§         as opposed to all the traditions, laws and authorities that have grown up over the centuries ( especially papal infallible), Luther emphasized the primacy of scripture: “scripture alone”.

§         as opposed to all the thousands of saints and thousands and thousands of official mediators between God and man, Luther emphasized the primacy of Christ, “Christ alone,” who is the center of scripture and the point of orientation for all exegesis of scripture.

§         as opposed to all pious religious achievements and efforts by men and women (works) to attain salvation of their souls (which were ordained by the church), Luther emphasized the primacy of grace and faith: “grace alone” – the grace of a gracious God as shown in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ and “faith alone”, the unconditional trust of men and women in this God.

 

However, Luther started a Reformation with the northern part (Germany) of the Roman Catholic Church breaking away. The new leaders of the movement were Huldrych Zwingli in Zurich and John Calvin in Geneva. Luther started the movement but it was John Calvin who systemized the theology. His theology became known as Calvinism. All the Protestant churches embraced Calvinism. In Europe, these churches were known as Reformed churches. In Britain, these churches are known as Presbyterian churches. So when the Presbyterian churches spread to China and from China to Malaysia and started churches including HLCE, the main emphasis is on Calvinism. And the main emphasis of Calvinism is: “scripture alone”.  Therefore, the core value of commitment to Bible exposition can be traced all the way back to the Acts 2 church.

 

3.                  A Commitment to Bible Exposition

In the Reformed or Presbyterian tradition, there are 4 important points to note about Bible exposition.

3.1              Any Bible exposition must pays close attention to the correct interpretation of the passage.

It is very important that any passage in the Bible must be interpreted correctly. The common error is to take a passage or a verse out of context to support our ideas. Someone said that ‘ a verse out of context is a pretext’.

James 3:1

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teaches will be judged more strictly.

God will hold us responsible for how we interprete the Bible.

 We must allow the Bible, which is the Word of God to speak for itself.

Jn. 1:1,2

JN 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.

There are at least 4 established methods of interpreting any text:

(a)                Historical method- grammatical.

Each biblical passage must be studied in its context – both its literary context and the wider situation in which it appears. This means the biblical language, types of literature, historical, geographical and social background

(b)               Allegorical method.

This method is characterised by the search for deeper meaning in the literal statement of the text that is not readily apparent in the text itself. The method often indicate the worldview of the interpreter rather than that of the original author.

(c)                Eschatological or final meaning method.

(d)               Devotional or personal/moral meaning method.

 

Method

Example: Temple of the Lord

Historical-grammatical

Building in Jerusalem in Jewish history

Allegorical *

A place where the human soul has communion with God and become divine.

Eschatological or final meaning**

New Jerusalem in the New Heavens and Earth

Devotional or personal/moral meaning***

Christ loves us and make His home in us

 

* Another example: Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey.

            Jesus is God the conquering hero, riding in triumph over a defeated Satan (donkey). The palm leaves were the sacrifices of the lives of the people which they laid at God’s feet.

** Another examples. Always looking for signs of the Second Coming. Watching Israel, watching for the rebuilding of the temple, speculation on the mark of the beast and the identity of the antichrist.

*** An example. Devotional reading is God’s message to you and you alone. Reading about God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac may mean God wants you to give up something that is so close to your heart that has displaced God. May not apply to other people.

3.2              The Bible has a fundamental unity, which includes the Old Testament and the New Testament.

                        2 Tim. 3 :16a

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  

There is a strong tendency for Christians to place more emphasis on the New Testament than on the Old Testament. We preach more from the NT, do more quiet time from verses in NT and encourage each other with verses from the NT. We must remember that the NT is the continuation of the OT. It is one book.  The writer to the Hebrews contrasts the ‘many and various ways’ in which “God spoke to our fathers by the prophets” (Heb.1:1-2). Paul traces God’s dealing with the world through successive stages associated with Adam, Abraham, Moses and Christ. The fact that Jesus quotes from the OT shows that OT is still relevant.

 

3.3              The Holy Spirit has a fundamental role in understanding the Bible.

1 Cor. 2:10-14

10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.  11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.  13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.  14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

3.4              The Bible must be understood in relationship to what it leads us to do.

2 Tim. 3:16,17

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

James 1:22-25

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror  24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

 

4.                  Concluding Remarks

The story is told of a village situated in a deep valley in the middle of a mountain range. One day, a young man decided leave the village and climb the mountains to seek his fortune. He was not heard from again for thirty years. His family assumed that he was dead. Suddenly he startled his family by returning. His eyes were dark and his face was lined with age. He told them of his adventures and that he has found a great city with lots of food  and was so rich that the streets were paved with gold.

 

            The villagers were excited and wanted to hear his stories again and again. When he grew tired of entertaining them, they insisted that he drew a map of the great city and the way to get there. The map was mounted in a pole in the centre of the village. Many years passed and the adventurer died. The map still remained in the centre of the village and became an object of a great deal of veneration. The people began to learn the names and directions on the map. Where the adventurer wrote ‘turn right’, there were debate whether right means ‘righteous’ and turning right is to become more righteous. Another taught that ‘turn right’ means that righted handed men and women are the chosen one of God. There is even some who said that the adventurer did not exist but were a personification of the village. But one thing the villagers never did: they never took the risk of  following the map to learn if the great city really exists.

 

We believe that the Bible is the authoritative and inspired Word of God that is useful and relevant at all times. Therefore, we are committed to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word for the equipping of Christians to follow Jesus Christ’s example to live in every sphere of life. The Word of God is to be applied to our lives. The Word of God is the promises of God.

                                                                                                                                                                        Soli Deo Gloria

 

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