Difficulties in the text?
Not every passage has 'difficulties' to resolve. First a question on difficulties. What are they?
A text difficulty can be:
1. A variant that needs to be addressed. You find these especially in the Old Testament. For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls put Goliath's height at 4 cubits and a span, the Masoretic Text puts him 6 cubits and a span. In the New Testament, there are fewer text variants, but they're noteworthy, like John 8 and the whole story of the woman caught in adultery.
How you deal with these variants depends a lot on where you've learned your Biblical interpretation skills. Some people will use the KJV as their deciding factor, others will jump into whatever the 'latest' scholarship shows. I really think you need to address each issue on a case-by-case basis, with a lot of prayer and study. I consider myself a conservative person, and I take the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, without any errors in the original texts. That being said, I think John 8 is right where it should be, but I think the Dead Sea Scrolls may more accurately reflect the height of Goliath. I think that the centuries of transmission on the Masoretic text may have allowed someone that looked at the previous copy, had a hard time making out the difference between what would be '4 cubits' and '6 cubits' and said 'no way a king of Israel that's a head taller than anyone else is scared of a guy who is only 6 foot 9 inches' and therefore thought '6 cubits' was correct. How do I preach that? Simple: Goliath was still bigger than anyone else, the people expected the king to fight for them, but he's afraid. Why? Because he doesn't trust God. It's not about the size of Goliath. It's about the size of Israel's God.
2. A translation difference: we have this in Rev. 3:1 ESV and Rev. 3:1 and Rev. 3:1 KJV. These types of 'difficulties' are generally easily explainable to a congregation, and only factor if you preach from a translation that the majority doesn't have. I've got a congregation that uses, roughly, 25% NASB, 15% NLT, 30% NIV, and 30% KJV. So, if there's a major difference in how a verse is translated, I take time to explain why.
3. A theological question. This is where a verse might be understood to contradict what your church generally claims to believe. Ecclesiastes 10:19 is a great verse for this. This is also what you've got in Rev. 3:5, a theological question. We understand the Lamb's Book of Life to be the listing of all those who are saved by the grace of God. We also believe that salvation is permanent.
So what's this about 'blotting names' out of the Book of Life? I'll have to address it. Either someone will ask later, or people will leave confused. Well, my conclusion is this: I hold that people are born in sin, and in need of a Savior. But, I also think that God, in His mercy, does not hold responsible those who don't understand sin, such as children from conception until understanding. (I think that understanding comes at various ages) Likewise, there are some born with developmental issues that never reach an understanding. Now, God is the standard of justice for the universe, so how He handles people is just, whether I think so or not, but that's what I see as feasible. We also see in Revelation that those whose names are not in the Book of Life don't go to heaven. So, an unborn baby, if going to heaven, must have her name in the Book of Life. (yes, I used her, not he or she, and certainly NOT it. Why? because most infanticide is committed against little girls. great job to the feminists on that one. you've made the same progress as tobacco companies.) So how will she get in? It can't be that her name will be written when she accepts Christ. Her name has to be there from being formed in the womb (Psalm 139:13-14 ). So, I see this that the Book of Life contains everyone's name. And those who reject Christ are blotted out. Otherwise, it's an idle threat to blot out someone's name. Since God makes no threats, only promises, either to bless obedience or punish sin, it can't be an idle threat.
4. Last difficulty type: apparent knowledge that contradicts the text. Whether it be evolutionary biology or astronomy and Genesis 1:1 or archaeologists and 1 Kings 6:1, there are times when researchers call the Bible's authority and correctness into question. I have yet to encounter a case, though, where research can posit a certain position. Usually the response is one of 'I know the Bible can't be right, so I see this' or 'There is no God, therefore, no creator, big bang is the only way to go.' Then, a little mocking thrown at 'dogma over science' and 'foolish fundamentalism.' Realize that all research can be biased by presuppositions. I presuppose the Bible to be right, therefore when I see that large numbers of extinctions come in massive lumps, a fossil layer that supports a sudden 'explosion' of life around the world at a specific time, I see 8 people and a small number of critters getting off an ark and starting fresh. An atheistic viewpoint can't accept the possibility that there's a God that might have something to do with it, finds a theory to fit the facts into their viewpoint.
To handle these, you have to know what the other side says. Attacking evolution simply based on a 'I didn't come from no monkey' standpoint won't hold up well. You need to realize that there are no facts that blatantly disprove Scripture. There are interpretations of facts that people claim to disprove Scripture. There are assumptions that build into assumed facts that cause problems. You have to take the time to study it. Someone may tell you 'Carbon-dating proves the earth is older that the Bible says.' Can you explain why that's wrong with something other than 'Nuh-uh!'?
Come to all of these issues with the assumption, the foundation, that the Bible is correct, and should be taken literally unless the Bible demands it be symbolic or allegorical. Then, realize that history, science, geology, and even language study actually do provide as much support as they provide difficulty. And that you're not bending facts, but using your head.
This comes back to what is your foundation: the Bible or the world? The Word of God or the word of man?
If you're not sure, deal with that. Soon. Before you preach.
The occasional thoughts of an ordinary man serving an extraordinary God. Come with me as we learn, teach, and laugh along the way.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Sermon Prep Rev 3:1-6 Part III
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I had never thought through that issue of names being blotted out of the Book of Life. Thanks for the fresh explanation.