By Chris Lopez
“If any man speak , let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man ministers, let him do it as of the ability which God gives: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praised and dominion forever and ever. Amen” 1 Peter 4:11.
There are numerous New Testament passages that emphasize our responsibility to preach and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 4:2-4; 1 Corinthians 9:16; Mark 16:15; 2 Timothy 2:2, 24-26; Acts 8:4). There are clear instructions for us to believe the gospel message (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 15:2; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 1:13).
In the New Testament, there are a number of phrases that are used interchangeably which describe the gospel (Romans 1:16; 1 Peter 1:25). Jesus states we can know the truth (John 8:32). The truth is the “Word of God” (John 17:17). It is the “incorruptible seed” (1 Peter 1:22,23). It is referred to as “the faith.” It is called the “doctrine of Christ” (2 John 9) “the faith”, “all righteousness,” “the right ways of the Lord” and “the doctrine of the Lord” (Acts 13:8, 10, 12). In Samaria, Philip preached “the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (Acts 8:12) and to the Ethiopian Eunuch he preached “Jesus” (Acts 8:35). “All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that a man may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”2 Timothy 3: 16,17. We must handle the word of truth accurately (2 Timothy 2:15).
The word “oracles” is used both in the Old Testament and New Testament. For instance in reference to Moses, we find the words “living oracles” used in (Acts 7:37,38). The law the Jews received was called, “the oracles of God” (Romans 3: 1,2) and the phrase, “first principles of the oracles of God” which refers to the milk of the word and not strong meat (Hebrews 5:12). These inspired men of God spoke and believed the message or the oracles of God they shared. “The Oracles of God” are the teachings of God found in the Bible.
Vine’s Expository of New Testaments gives some background information on the word “Oracle” – “a word, narrative, statement,” denotes “a Divine response or utterance, an oracles,” it is used of (a) the contents of the Mosaic Law, Acts 7:38; (b) all the written utterances of God through O.T. writers Romans 3:2; (c) the substance of Christian doctrine, Hebrew 5:12; (d) the utterance of God through Christian teachers 1 Peter 4:11.
Notes: Divine “oracles” were given by means of the breastplate of the high priest, in connection with the service of the tabernacle, and the Septuagint uses the associated word logeion in Exodus 28:15 to describe the breastplate” (Vine’s).
RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF TRUTH
In order to “rightly divide the word of truth,” we must learn how to find God’s will for us. There are two ways of approaching this objective. One way is through a subjective standard in religion. This is based on feelings, opinions and our own personal preference of right and wrong and differs from one person to another and is unreliable (Proverbs 14:12, Jeremiah 10:23).
The other method of finding God’s will is by following an objective standard in religion. In this method we recognize an objective standard of authority, there is a standard of what is right and wrong and we can find or ascertain the truth (John 8:32). It is the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We will be judged by the Words of Christ (John 12:48). To be saved we must “abide in the doctrine of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-9; 2 John 9; 1 John 1:7-9).
God selected specific ways to tell us how to learn His will, the Bible uses direct statements, approved examples and implication to enable us to know His will.
An example of direct statement is the command for people to repent and be baptized (Acts 17:30; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16). In order to practise New Testament Christianity today, we also must have approved examples for what we do.
An example of an approved example is the partaking of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. Jesus commands us to partake of the Lord’s Supper when He instituted it (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22: 17-20). These accounts do not tell us when to partake the Lord’s Supper. We learn that we are to partake of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week in Acts 2:42 and Acts 20:7. After the church began, there were no examples of partaking of the Lord’s Supper on any other day.
We learn by implication that Saul of Tarsus repented in Acts 9, although not specifically stated. In reading Matthew 26: 69-75 there is the account of Peter denying Christ. There is no specific statement of Peter’s repentance in Matthew’s account but there is clear indication in Luke 22:31-34 which implies he did repent in the statement that Jesus said, “…when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
SOME RULES IN UNDERSTANDING GOD’S WILL FOR US
There are some basic rules for interpreting the Bible.
(1) Let the Bible interpret itself. It is its own best commentary. For example Peter states that baptism is “for” the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). In other words we must be baptized in order to be saved. There are some who would try to say we are baptized “because” we are saved. One way to answer this question is to let Peter tell us what he meant in 1 Peter 3:21 where he tells us: “Baptism does now saves us.” So 1 Peter 3:21 tells us the meaning in Acts 2:38.
(2) Let the easier passages interpret the difficult passages. Some passages are more difficult than others to understand.
“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given to him has written to you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction” 2 Peter 3:15-16.
We can know what the passage does not teach even if we cannot be sure what it does teach. For example, it may be we cannot explain or understand all of the figurative language found in the Bible. But we can know what they do not teach as they would not contradict any easy passage of Scripture. We may not be able to explain what the thousand years are in Revelation 20, but we know it does not support the doctrine of Premillennialism because of clear passages that show the kingdom is already in existence (Matthew 16:18-19; Acts2; Colossians 1:13).
(3) There are no contradiction in the Bible. The Bible was written by about forty different writers over a period of 1,600 years. The writers of the Bible were men who lived in different periods of times, who had different occupations, and who lived in different places. In many cases, the writers did not know each other. In spite of all of this, there is no contradiction in the Bible. No other book can even try to make this claim. This could not happen accidentally.
(4) The context of a passage is important. We need to know who the writer is and to whom he is writing to. We need to look at the immediate context as well as the context of the entire Bible. A distinction must be made between the Old and the New Covenants, faith and opinion, as well as temporary and permanent.
THERE IS A PATTERN
There are passages in the Bible showing a pattern that people must follow. God told Noah to build an Ark (Genesis 6: 11-15). Gopher wood was specified along with the measurements. Noah did all that was commanded him. Moses made the Tabernacle following the pattern God showed him on the mountain (Hebrews 8:5).
Since the beginning of time God demanded obedience from his creation. In the Garden of Eden, He commanded Adam and Eve concerning the forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:15-17). God did not accept any excuses they made for disobeying His command (Genesis 3:1-6, 11-13. When Nadab and Abihu substituted their own thinking for the commands of God in Old Testament worship, it cost them their lives (Leviticus 10:1-3). When God through Samuel, commanded Saul and the Israelites to utterly destroy the Amalekites, God did not accept partial obedience (1 Samuel 15: 1-24). To get to heaven we have to follow the pattern of teaching delivered by God to Christ and the apostles. There is one true church promised to be built by Christ (Matthew 16:18) and established in Acts chapter two. We must study the Word (2 Timothy 2:15; Acts 17:11) to ensure that we are added to the Church of the Bible, live in accordance to His commandments, worship as God prescribed and speak as the oracles of God.