The follow is a three-part devotional by Pastor Tony Severine, originally posted on The Farmington Bible Church Facebook page and slightly edited for use here.
Part One-The Imperative to Think Biblically
I want to share my pre-salvation experience in relation to critical thinking. Critical thinking has been defined as the objective evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment (Online Dictionary). In relation to critical thinking, before I was saved, I had none. My opinions and thoughts about the world around me were based on my own opinions of what I thought was wrong or right. I had no higher standard outside of myself. I also tended to believe what the "experts" said was truth. Truth be told, this is how most people think or form opinions, especially when it comes to Biblical issues.
Having become a Christian, I have now adopted God's Word (the Bible) as my standard of truth. This has allowed me to think from a biblical point of view as I meditate on what I read or hear, whether in God's Word or from other sources, comparing those other sources to His Word. To think biblically is to put what we hear or read from any particular source--be it another's opinions, the media, or wherever--through the grid of God's Word. It means that we listen carefully and then allow ourselves to apply what we hear to the words of Scripture. The Scriptures must be our guide and standard in applying what we hear and read. This takes judgment and discernment.
The words judgment and judge have received negative press from those who believe everything should be accepted, especially in this 'politically correct' environment. These people are the same who state, "You shouldn't judge anyone." They often use Jesus' words from Matthew 7:1, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." What they don't realize is that Jesus was rebuking those who hypocritically judged others of doing what they themselves were doing.
The word judge used in a positive sense is closely tied to the word discernment. According to Webster's Dictionary, the word discern means "to recognize or identify as separate or distinct; to see or understand the difference." Synonyms would be perception, insight, discriminate (used here positively). The Greek word for discern is 'diakrino' and means "to separate in order to make a distinction; to judge through; to see through something or someone." To discern has to do with separating out for examination and judging in order to determine what is genuine and what is spurious (false). It means to investigate, examine, scrutinize, or question. It is the ability to sift through information for the purpose of getting to the truth and exposing the false. This is what we as Christians are to do! Notice also Matthew 7:15 where Jesus tells us to, "Watch out for false prophets." How are you going to know which prophet is false or true if you don't use discernment or proper judgment?
In the media we hear many voices telling us what they think is right and also telling us that we should accept their viewpoint. As Christians we are to distinguish between what is true and what is false by using the Scriptures as our guide. We are called to think biblically in a world that accepts everything handed down to them. We have the biblical example of the Bereans to challenge us in this. Acts 17:11 says this of the Bereans: "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." This is what we are called to do as Bible-believing Christians. We are not to accept anything as true just because we read or hear it. A little discernment goes a long way.
Part Two-The Ability to Think Biblically
In this segment I want to focus on the fact that all Christians have the ability to think biblically. This concept has been referred to as "The Priesthood of All Believers." This teaching is found in Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:23-28; 10:19-25; 1 Peter 2:9. in his book entitled Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Wayne Grudem writes, "The doctrine of the clarity of the Scriptures and the doctrine of The Priesthood of All Believers affirms that all Christians have access to God's throne in prayer and all share as members in a 'royal priesthood'. It indicates that all Christians have the ability to interpret Scripture and the responsibility to seek God's wisdom in applying it to situations. All have access directly to God in order to seek to know His will. The New Testament allows for no special class of Christians who have greater access to God than others."
Carolyn D. Blevins writes, "About 500 years ago, Martin Luther, a devout Roman Catholic monk, became convinced that the New Testament taught that all believers were priests. According to Luther, 'Christ has made it possible for us . . . to be . . . His fellow priests.' Therefore, Luther insisted that all individuals should be able to read the Bible on their own. Everyone should be able to go to God directly. No person could stand between a person and God. This faithful German monk rediscovered the biblical emphasis that all Christians had equal access to God. Moreover, Luther said, all Christians had responsibility for their own relationship with God. No one could relate to God for another. Following Luther, the priesthood of all believers began to be reemphasized among some Christians."
At this point we need to look at what this teaching does not mean. First of all, it does not mean that we don't need teachers or pastors since the book of Ephesians tells us that these are gifted men given to the church for its edification (Ephesians 4:11-12). Secondly, it doesn't mean you stop going to church and sequester yourself. God is working through the local church and all believers are obligated to fellowship in a good Bible-teaching church (Hebrews 10:25, among many other Scriptures). Thirdly, the priesthood of all believers does not mean you cannot ask a pastor, church leader, or any other believer to pray with you or for you. When doing this, you are simply asking another person to agree with you in prayer for a particular need. Hopefully you realize that you don't need this person to make God more accessible to you.
Positively, it means that we as believers can go directly to our Father in heaven with our praises and prayers. It means that we can go to our room, close the door, and pray to our Father Who is unseen (Matthew 6:7, NIV). It also means that having the Holy Spirit, we as true believers are able to read the Scriptures on our own and come to an understanding of them and use them to guide our lives. We'll make this clearer next week, but for now, take advantage of the fact that, if you're a true believer, you are a priest and have direct access to God your Father.
Part Three-The Enablement to Think Biblically
Last week we looked at the teaching of the Priesthood of All Believers which means that all Christians have the ability to read the Scriptures for ourselves. While we embrace this teaching, it does not answer the question as to how we are enabled to do this. This is where the doctrine of illumination comes in. The Moody Handbook of Theology defines illumination as, "The ministry of the Holy Spirit in enlightening the believer, enabling the believer to understand the Word of God." Illumination makes clear the truth of the Scriptures to the believer (1 Cor. 2:11-13; 1 John 2:20). It is also important to understand that the Holy Spirit's ministry of illumination is for believers only.
1 Corinthians 2:14 says, "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (NIV). In vs. 14, Paul is comparing the natural man (unbeliever) to the spiritual man (believer) in regard to how each one is able to receive spiritual truth or how the Spirit's ministry of illumination affects each one. So what is the difference between the natural man and the spiritual man? The natural man belongs to the world; the spiritual man belongs to God. The natural man is an unbeliever; the spiritual man is a believer. The natural man lacks the Spirit of God, the spiritual man has the Spirit of God in him. The natural man follows his natural instincts; the spiritual man follows the Lord. As a result of these comparisons, the natural man, or the man without the Spirit (the unbeliever) cannot accept the things that come from the Spirit. Paul then tells us the reasons why:
They are foolishness to him: The word foolish is the Greek 'moria' where we get our word moronic from. To the unbeliever, spiritual things seem meaningless, irrelevant, and foolish.
He cannot understand them: The unbeliever is unable to comprehend spiritual truth because he doesn't have the Holy Spirit. He may read the Bible, attend church, and even teach Sunday School, yet because he doesn't have the indwelling Holy Spirit, he lacks the ability to truly understand spiritual matters.
He lacks spiritual judgment: Paul says that the unbeliever cannot understand spiritual truths because they are spiritually discerned. The word discern means "the ability to examine, judge, or determine." The unbeliever does not have the spiritual discernment it takes to evaluate spiritual truths because he doesn't have the Spirit of God. In contrast to the natural man, the spiritual man--because he has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him--is able to discern or understand all things relating to the truths of God as revealed in the Scriptures. 1 John 2:27 states, "As for you (the Christian), the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and that anointing is real, not counterfeit."
To summarize, true Christians--those indwelt by the Holy Spirit--have the ability to read the Scriptures and understand what they mean. They have the ability to discern that truth as given in the Scriptures. But let me give this word of caution. Illumination does not mean Christians will know everything they need to know about God. There are some biblical passages which are harder to understand than others. What it does mean is that the Holy Spirit can guide each believer in such a way that they can navigate their way in this world so that as Paul says in Ephesians 4:14, ". . . we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming."
I pray all finds you well. As you've heard the governor has extended the stay-at-home rule another month. I will be giving more Biblical truths until we meet again physically. Until then I plead with you to get into the Scriptures for yourselves each day.