The last article about Profitable Things asserted that the Word of God the Holy Bible, was profitable to make wise unto salvation and profitable to reveal doctrine; we now are to learn that it is profitable:
(3) To administer reproof.
The Bible not only furnishes us with the foundation doctrines of the faith, but it also acts as a plumbline, or a decisive test, by which any deviation from correct doctrine may be detected and judged. The Bible puts it thus: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20). Thus it is affirmed that all the teachings of men must be judged in the light of the complete revelation of God’s Word concerning the particular thing that was taught. If it does not meet the test of the general teaching of the Word of God, then it must be rejected, however greatly gifted and highly respected the person may be who taught it.
Note the words: “the general teaching of the Word of God.” Most wrong teaching can find apparent support from some isolated texts of Scripture, as the false teaching of some present day cults will demonstrate. But when this teaching is examined in the light of all the Bible has to say on this particular subject, its falsity becomes apparent to the intelligent believer. It goes to prove the truth of the old adage: “Text, without context, is a pretext.”
The best way to effectually demonstrate the crookedness of a wall is to place a straight-edge on it. A plumbline, when placed on a wall, will quickly reveal whether or not it is perfectly perpendicular. A spirit level, when placed on the foundation of a house, will speedily convince an architect as to whether it is level or not. Likewise, all that a person teaches must be subjected to the test of all the Word of God, and only if it successfully passes this test should it be accepted. Much error, now current in Christendom, would have been killed at its birth if this test had been applied faithfully and impartially. Therefore the need of constant vigilance on the part of all Christians. “Prove all things, and hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). The Lord Himself advised His disciples “Take heed what ye hear” (Mark 4:24).
It will be recalled that after Paul had warned the elders of Ephesus of the false teachers that should arise among them, he commended them to “God, and the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up” (Acts 20:38-32). With the Word of God in his hands and the Spirit of God in his heart, each Christian is divinely fitted to test all he hears by the infallible Book of books, which is “profitable for reproof.”
(4) To provide correction.
The Greek word translated “correction,” is “epanorthosis,” which means a restoration from a fallen position to an upright one, or from a fallen condition to an upright one.
Thus the Word of God not only reveals and pulls down that which is wrong but, this time on a good foundation, now restores and builds up. Thus the same Scriptures which reprove also provide the means by which the error may be corrected. In other words, what the straightedge, the plumb-line and the spirit level revealed in the way of doctrinal or moral crookedness, the hammer of the Bible may now be applied to straighten and correct, or restore. In fact, God likens His Word to a hammer which breaks and straightens (Jer. 23:29). Thus the same word that exposes the error now expounds the truth, so that by the acceptance of the truth the error may be corrected.
In his letter to Timothy, Paul speaks of this very thing: “The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:24-25). Error should ever be recognized by a knowledge and love of the truth, and not truth by a knowledge of error. It is possible for a person to become so occupied with combating wrong doctrines that he neglects to teach and emphasize sound doctrine. Negative reproof must always be followed by positive correction, and this must be done kindly but faithfully, so that the person who holds the false teaching may not only be convinced of his error, but genuinely converted to the truth.
(5) To instruct in righteousness.
The Scriptures, which have made a person wise unto salvation, revealed to him the cardinal truths of the Christian faith, administered reproof to any error and provided the means of correction, must now instruct him as to the kind of life he must live before God, his fellow believers and the world.
The Christian life is an eminently practical thing. It has been well defined as “the outliving of the in-living Christ.” The world cannot see the inward and invisible work of regeneration that the Spirit produces in the believer; but it can and certainly should see the outward and visible manifestation of it in the moral, honest, industrious and righteous life which he lives before them.
Peter, by divine inspiration, puts it thus: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul; having your conversation (or manner of life) honest among the Gentiles: that whereas they speak against you as evil doers they may, by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:11-12). Thus the lip and the life must agree. Believing must ever be balanced by behaving. The goodly talk must be backed up by a Godly walk, or the world may be pardoned for doubting the reality of our profession. Emerson once remarked: “What you are speaks so loud the world cannot hear what you say!” Carlyle put it in another way: “The life laughs through and spits at the creed!”
The Lord, in His wonderful sermon on the mount, emphasized the necessity for a righteous life on the part of all who named His name. He declared: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.” (Matt. 5:16). He also enunciated what has been aptly termed: “The golden rule,” which reads as follows: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12).
No Christian, who reads his Bible, should be in any doubt as to what kind of life he should live before the world, for the Word of God is full of practical exhortations regarding this matter. The epistles constantly exhort the believer to live a godly and consistent life before the world. In Titus 2:12-14 we read: “For the grace of God, that bringeth salvation to all men, hath appeared, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar (or purchased) people, zealous of good works”.
From the very few Scriptures we have mentioned, it will surely be clear that the Word of God is full of needed instruction in practical righteousness. May it be ours to heed its exhortations, so that “the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 1:12).
(6) To develop Christian maturity.
The word translated “perfect” is “artios.” This carries the thought of being fitted or complete, and this suggests maturity. It does not imply sinless perfection, a thing to which no Christian can attain in this life. One of the tragedies in Christendom is the large number of professing Christians who have failed to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of their Lord and Saviour” (2 Pet. 3:18). They have remained spiritual infants and failed to grow into spiritual adulthood. They have remained in God’s kindergarten when they should be graduating from God’s college. They are still on the milk bottle when they should be feeding on the strong meat of the Word (Heb. 5:13-14). They are “bearded babies,” and seemingly quite content to remain such.
Babyhood is a charming thing, but not when this condition is unduly prolonged: it then becomes a stark tragedy. The Bible speaks of three causes for this protracted spiritual baby-hood. Paul, writing to the believers in Corinth, had to say: “I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ” (1 Cor. 3:1). This carnality was evidenced by their “envying, strife and divisions,” and this had stunted their spiritual growth. Writing to some of the Galatian believers, Paul said: “My little children, (or babies) of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you … I stand in doubt of you” (Gal. 4:19-20). The cause of their failure was legalism, a turning back from the liberty which was theirs in Christ Jesus to the merit of the works of the law. The third reference is in Hebrews 5:12, where we read: “When for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God.” The cause, in this case, was spiritual laziness, due to an avoidance of the effort involved in the reading and study of the Word of God.
Whatever may be the cause of failure to develop into Christian maturity, the result is always tragic. The key phrase of the Epistle to the Hebrews is: “Let us go on unto perfection!” (or maturity, Heb. 6:1). Peter likewise urged his readers to be diligent in adding to their faith such virtues as courage, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. He then added: “If these things be in you and abound, ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:3-8).
The normal Christian life should therefore be characterized by a steady development in spiritual stature, which has its outcome in spiritual maturity. This is the “perfection” which the study of and obedience to the Word of God will produce.
Adapted for Food few the Flock, J.B.N.