Appreciating the Scriptures
by Fred Pruitt
The “Bible” was one of my major stumbling blocks in my initial coming to Christ. The idea it was “God’s Word” and infallibly true was an affront to my pride. The Lord had to go around behind me (distracting me from the scripture objection) in order to fully pierce me with His Love Bomb. But He did, and as I have testified many times before, almost from that moment on the scriptures began to fall into place and “believing” became easier and easier, through what the Spirit was imparting to me through the scriptures in those beginning days. It was five wonderful months of basking in the new life glory that did not abate during all that time.
Here is what the Lord says on the last page of the New Testament, Rev 22:10-15:
“And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”
Every time I read that, I believe it. I do not know what it all means, or what forms the working out of all that will take. But I know it is something that is more than a message of individual overcoming, but is, as I see it, the final outworking, the revelation, the “shout it from the housetop” extravaganza for the end of the age or transition from one realm to another. What happens in that all-revealing moment, is that each thing in the universe and all creation will be fully seen in crystal clarity what each is. That is what it means when it says, “to every man according as his work shall be.” From God and His highest host to the most lowly of created creatures, everything will become fully what it is and stand in its own principle.
What of this mysterious thing, this book, this Bible I have been quoting and referencing for decades now? In a sense, it defies description. There are a few passages in which the book seems to announce its own worth and validity, but even without those passages, the book stands on its own. I know what it is to me, and that was settled long ago. Therefore, I have no need to address that question for myself again. Nevertheless, I’ve been tested almost hourly ever since, because my “rational” brain still finds it all absurd – all of it, God, Jesus, the Cross and Resurrection, ‘Is any of this stuff real?’ etc. – but it has been good exercise for me all these many years. I’m like one of those kid-size humanoid balloons you can punch and punch repeatedly and it won’t go down. Just bounces right back. And I’ve learned, really learned, “Tis not me but HE.” Punch away! In all this the rational one now knows his place, and also now voluntarily holds in the, “not my will, but Thine,” waiting room until such time as he is needed.
It’s like practicing piano. I took lessons starting when I was in the second grade. I liked playing the piano and making music. It was the 30 minutes every day I HAD TO (if you knew my mother, you know there’d be no question) practice. And any way you looked at it, that was 30 minutes out of my play time! But the days came that I could play the piano fairly well, playing difficult pieces at recitals. Finally, when I was in the seventh grade, I could’ve gone further with the piano, but the Beatles had just appeared, and I got a guitar. Even though I can’t play very well anymore since I never practice, but it taught me the basics of music that is still part of my makeup.
The question is, what are the scriptures to you? I don’t use words like inerrant or infallible. That’s just more human reason. No, I use words like Light and Treasure. About gold and precious jewels of the Spirit, that shine off its pages. About things hidden from the wise and prudent, but revealed unto babes.
There is one conversation I remember from my “looking into Jesus” days, that always stands out. It was with Janis’ father, Jim Watson Fowler. He did not have “higher education” but he made up for it in true humility and grace. I went to see him because someone had told me about a certain Christian “belief” and I wanted to ask him about it. He was an ordained Baptist minister and a man of genuine love. He also know his daughter and I had been cohabiting, something common now but not then. Still, he never had anything but kindness to show me.
I had gone to ask him about the doctrine of eternal security. I really didn’t know one Christian “doctrine” from another at the time. I was a complete ignoramus regarding all that. He explained it to me but it didn’t mean much to me at the time. Plus, I was also having a hard time with the whole idea of “grace,” and wasn’t ready yet for its particulars.
But what else he said during our kitchen table conversation is still with me now. He quoted 1 Cor 2:14 – “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
In the nicest way possible, my father-in-law told me I was incapable of understanding it (the scriptures, Christ, Holy Spirit, etc.), because I was only the “natural” man, not having the mind of Christ. Only those who live in the Spirit can see and understand the things of God. I didn’t know then what to make of it. But I found out he was right.
I’m talking about a miracle, if you see it. If you have seen the wonder and miraculous quality of this book, you know! No matter how much the scholars take it apart and explain it away, to those with eyes that see, the story told from Genesis to Revelation, with numerous authors with probably different viewpoints and theologies, is one continuous thread of redemption and restoration, one complete story, that no “plan” of man could have pulled off, since it was put together over a thousand or two years and no visible “master plan.” As I said, to the eyes that see, it all fits, it all works, and it is all leading to one glorious end. Kings, priests and prophets of old longed to know and see, what we are given through grace and mercy and love to see right now in our midst. Let us not be ignorant of the time of our visitation – as many were ignorant in their time.
We really cannot define the Bible in a human way. When we attempt to take it apart like that, we end up with textual criticism, contradictions, two Isaiahs, synoptic gospels which all had Document A common, Documents B and C which somehow amalgamated together and came out as Matthew, Mark and Luke, and a whole bunch of other surface unimportant information that just tickles the intellect. That information is not necessarily bad. It can be helpful, but often tends not to lead to faith, but just good old-fashioned unbelief. I have no problem with scholarship. But scholarship that leads to unbelief I would throw out the window.
Has anyone ever had a discussion with a non-believer, trying to get them to see the Bible as “God’s word?” If so, were you successful? Did they take your word? I haven’t “argued” about the inspiration of the Bible with anyone in decades, because I learned early on it did not do any good. One must see and understand for oneself.
Now, I am not a person who believes “the Bible” is part of the Trinity. I might have been a “thumper” years ago, but those days are long past. I am one of those who for the past four plus decades have been saying the scriptures are pointers to the Real, but not the Real themselves. I have also said that “scripture reading” is not something we do to gain favor or think if we have done so much scripture reading God will give us spiritual brownie points.
We don’t do it for points or warm fuzzies from God. It must take a living root in us. Now, if I have given anyone the impression I disregard or have no use for scripture (I don’t see how I could, seeing every piece of writing is littered with it), I apologize. There is no “law” which says one must read one’s Bible on a daily basis. However, never one time have I even hinted we should toss it out altogether, or chop out parts of it we do not like or agree with. Without even thinking about it, it just being what has occurred with me and the Book over the years, I have seen the truth of Paul’s word to Timothy, in my own life:
“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 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, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim 3:14-17).
I take this one seriously, too. God gave us the scriptures in order to communicate to us through words. In the Fall, in a sense we fell out of the “unified WORD,” and into the chaos of “words” – Babel! And anyone whose business is with “words,” knows what a miasma that can be. When we first come to scripture as beginners, it’s all just a bunch of words, that we may read over and over and over, with little understanding or seeing how it all fits together. We get little bits to start out usually. But as we go, the little bits join with other little bits, and we begin to see certain “understandings” take form and we begin to see patterns in scripture that play out in life. Without directly realizing it, the Spirit is using the words of scripture to build Christ’s building in us.
Taken in the “natural,” it is confusing and preposterous to the modern technologically-oriented man, still appreciated as “world literature,” but placed in the category with all the world’s other “religious myths.” Even the more humanistic “Christians” think of it like that. Or that the scriptures are “man’s increasing understanding of who God is.” Which means, of course from their viewpoint, the scriptures are not “inspired” by God. Instead, what is implicit in this is that humanity gets to nominate and describe God, and to say who and what God is. One would then think God-choosers or God-describers must also be God.
But when the Spirit communicates Christ to us either directly or through words of scripture, it surpasses every aspect of the wisdom of men and their ideas. There is no ability to appreciate or understand the scriptures without the Spirit. But in the Spirit, there is no reason to fear the scriptures, because they testify of our sonship in Christ! And the scriptures communicate these specific things of God to us that can come in no other way, except words, because for now, until everything is finally restored, by God’s purposes, we are still in the “weak and beggarly elements” of this world and still have to live, give and receive in the way of this world – using words.
It is wonderful to find God in nature, in sunsets at the Pacific Ocean, big sky at night in the Rocky Mountains, since all those things testify to the glory of God. As the Psalmist said, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” (Ps 19:1). And I do not deny one could meet God in that way. I have many times. But God has not chosen to plainly display the specifics of the need of our salvation, and the outworking of His overall desire to manifest the Son through the Sons, fully through nature alone.
Trees and valleys are beautiful and truly do speak of God in every sight and breeze, but they do not give the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, of Saul and David, Solomon, of Elijah or Elisha, nor even John the Baptist or Jesus Christ. People may think those are just children’s stories, or morality plays, but in these simple stories are the full realization of Christ in us, the Fall and its ramifications, the extent to which Christ goes for us, and even the realization that He is our inner life. In the Spirit, they are mystical stories each portraying some aspects of Truth. We learn all those things from the stories and writings we call scripture, and there is no other source where we can find them.
These are the things that put the HUMANITY in our understanding. God didn’t just send down a correct theology for us all to acknowledge, and that be that. God came in Jesus Christ and WAS the TRUTH He came to give us. He came in a human body like ours, and felt everything we feel, thought everything we think, and was tempted to sin just like everyone else. God had to communicate all that, and much much more, using men’s words. And the scripture is the one and only perfect communicator of that.
Still, there is no law one “must” read and/or teach the scriptures. I would just give one caveat to that. If one decides he has a “new revelation” that, in order to be proven or seen as true, the scriptures as they have come down to us from the forefathers must be negated, discredited, or thrown out, then I think that one probably might find himself in the category of Paul’s word to Timothy:
“These things [sound doctrine] teach and exhort. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.” (1 Tim 6: 2c-5)
Or worse, this one:
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 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.” (2 Tim 4: 2-4).
A while back I came to a internet site where there was a “how much of the Bible is inspired and how much is not” discussion. It is simply reflective of things I see on a daily basis. I suppose it was interesting chatter, but to me it was just a bunch of intellectual mind-tickling completely devoid of faith, and I took the advice in Proverbs 14:7 – “Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.”
I had nothing to discuss with those men. It struck me how they held in their hands the most precious “physical” thing in the world. Over the centuries men and women died for the sake of getting it into the hands of common people in their own language. In parts of the world TODAY the greatest gift one can give is a Bible, because it is forbidden and suppressed, even unlawful to possess it, in some places. Why would anyone denigrate it so?
Yes, the Bible is not God, but I will testify that to me it has been God’s perfect purposed communication to us through the fog of the deception that binds us hard and fast in the prison of our own self-godhood. It is not the Treasure itself, but for certain it is the only right and perfect and True pointer to the Real Treasure that can be put into words in a form men can understand. But those folks seemed to regard the scriptures as a cow would regard a piece of gold if you threw him a piece. What’s gold to a cow?
Do I seem harsh? Let me tell you, this is throwing out the money-changers times! We come with a refiner’s fire. Take these things hence! Make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise! As it is written, ‘The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up!’