Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Living By Every Word That Proceeds From the Mouth of God - Part 7


The Derivative Word Of God and Its Implications for Today.

(This is part two in a series that examines the view of Justice Boshoff who advocates that God’s word comes to us personally and directly from the Holy Spirit through prayer for wisdom and that the scriptures are a hindrance to hearing the word of God. You can read a transcript of two of his You-Tube videos: According to the Scriptures, You Won't Make It and Breaking Through the Bible Barrier.)

We should distinguish, on the one hand, between those words that are verbalized (whether oral or written) as a result of the oversight of God’s Spirit, and those words, on the other, in which there is no such oversight, but nevertheless convey accurately God’s thoughts. The former are a supernatural product and are intrinsically God’s words. The latter communicate the thought and meaning of the supernatural product and therefore are derivatively the word of God. The inspired words of the Bible are the very words of God by which he discloses to us his nature and purposes. The kerygmatic words (preaching) of men down through Church history are an exposition of the inscripturated words; insofar as they convey the meaning of those original words, they are in a derivative and secondary way the words of God.

The kerygmatic word of our day is not new revelation, that is, it is not the medium of a new self-disclosing word of God; nor is it the product of a supernatural overseeing of the Holy Spirit. Both the original and derived word have authority, but the difference is this: without the supernatural word there is no derivative word. Without the inspired word of the apostles and prophets, there is no source or basis on which an uninspired statement can be made with any certainty of its truthfulness or authority in its claims.

What implications may we draw for the Christian in his situation today? The apostolic word of God is beneficial not only to the first recipients of the original word, but also to others who can draw implications for their present situation from that original (1 Cor 10:6-11; 2 Tim 3:15-17). The original word addressing the original situation is the basis on which a derivative word may address a future situation.

Contrary to Mr. Boshoff’s position that the scriptures can only lead us to Christ but have no further word for us in our situation, the Bible, as the inspired word of God, serves as the basis for drawing examples, principles, and implications that are derivatively the word of God addressing us in our situation now. It is the charge of the pastor-teachers who are gifts given to the Church, Eph 4:11. The pastor-teacher must be able to teach, 1 Tim 3:2; 2 Tim 2:2, 24, “holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict,” Titus 1:9.

But Mr. Boshoff speaks disparagingly of those who are ordained elders in the church, who exercise their commission to teach sound doctrine:

“Some people say that what God wanted to say He said and it is written in the scriptures. That is a lie my friend, because God is not dead, God is alive. The churches want you to believe that God is dead because they want to tell you that God speaks through them to you. They want to keep you confined. Capture. They want to capture you. They want to tell you that they will interpret for you what God is saying. They have no knowledge of God at all. Nothing! They don't know Jesus.”
There is no such belittling of the pastor-teacher in the New Testament. He is called to teach, exposit the words of scripture and apply them to our situation because of their four-fold profitability. Through the pastor-teacher’s sound explication of scripture, he makes the sinner wise unto salvation and the man of God complete and equipped for every good work, (2 Tim 3:15-17).

With the entrance of the Incarnate Word into the world, God’s speaking in this present evil age reached its climactic expression (Heb 1:1, 2; John 1:14, 18; Jude 3), and the kerygmatic preaching of the apostolic era was its denouement. The scriptures are the permanent record of God’s word and the exposition of it is the means by which that word reaches the ears of God’s people today.

There is a dearth of sound, expository preaching in today’s church. God’s people are suffering for lack of it. To accommodate the sinner for fear of offending him, the sermon has been divested of its power by replacing the exposition of scripture with stories, humor, positive thinking, prosperity theology, and step-by-step self-help guidelines. The truth of God’s absolute holiness, man’s utter sinfulness, and the grace and mercy that comes only through Christ’s atonement and resurrection are nearly absent. The exclusivity of the cross is replaced with a false gospel that ceases to call men to repentance and faith in Christ alone; the power of the gospel to save from our sin and sinfulness is forgotten.

Expository preaching is the derivative word of God; through it, we hear God’s voice today. Without it, the church falls into false doctrine, fails to recognize sin, loses its identity as a chosen people who has been called to holiness and not to uncleanness, leaves the straight path and fails to find it again.

Through the exposition of scripture, the Spirit of God opens the eyes of our understanding so that we, as God’s people, know what is the hope of our calling, the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and the exceeding greatness of God’s power toward us which he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead (Eph 1:17-20).

Through the meticulous explanation of scripture and its application to our present situation, the believer is renewed in the spirit of his mind so that he puts on the new man and puts off the old (Eph 4:20-24). He walks less and less as unwise, and more and more with wisdom, understanding what the will of the Lord is (Eph 5:15-17).

The people of God in every age must hear the word of God. In the time between the advents, from the apostolic era until Christ returns, that word comes to us derivatively through preaching that is a faithful, exposition of scripture (2 Tim 4:2; Tit 1:3).

Are the pews empty? Exposit the scriptures from the pulpit; let the word of God be heard. God’s people will come because they love the law of the Lord; it will refresh them, bringing continuous revival. It will convict them, bringing repentance and purity to the church. It will instruct them making them wiser than all ungodly counselors. Above all, it will glorify the One whose word is preached.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Living By Every Word That Proceeds From the Mouth of God - Part 6


The Adequacy of Human Speech as a Medium for Divine Speech.

(This is part six in a series that examines the view of Justice Boshoff who advocates that God’s word comes to us personally and directly from the Holy Spirit through prayer for wisdom and that the scriptures are a hindrance to hearing the word of God. You can read a transcript of two of his You-Tube videos: According to the Scriptures, You Won't Make It and Breaking Through the Bible Barrier.)

Can human language properly serve as a medium through which God’s speech may be heard? That is a fair question. Another way to state the question is to contend that God’s speech necessarily means divine words expressing divine thoughts, and divine thoughts are so far above human thoughts it is absurd to think human language has the capacity to suitably express those divine thoughts. May we not draw that conclusion from scripture itself?

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8, 9

It may seem a remarkable claim that human language is able to express the breathed-out language of God. But in fact, it is very suited for that purpose; the text just cited illustrates the point in two ways.

First, though the human language of Is 55:8, 9 (Hebrew) communicates the truth that God’s thoughts are incomprehensible, that does not mean that nothing can be known of God’s thoughts. Rather, incomprehensibility means that God’s thoughts cannot be fully known to us as they are to God himself. Cornelius Van Til, former professor of Westminster Theological Seminary, was fond of saying that we think God’s thoughts after him. Our thoughts are not identical to his (otherwise, we would be God) but they are analogous, similar, akin to his thoughts so that we do know something of what God thinks.

Second, we may observe that the truth itself regarding a profound difference between God’s thinking and man’s thinking is actually revealed to us from God through human speech, through the words of the text. We understand that there is a difference. How did we gain that understanding? Because God spoke through the human language of Isaiah.

All speech, in its most fundamental character, is the communication of information. By definition, it is meaningful and understandable; otherwise, there is no communication. The observation that language is meaningful may seem superfluous - everybody knows that, it’s a given. But why is it meaningful? Why are humans able to communicate verbally with one another? Why are they not like the brute beast who has no such capacity?

The short answer is that we are made in God’s image and share some of his attributes. From eternity, the intra-Trinitarian fellowship was enhanced by divine speech; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, needing nothing outside of their being, completely satisfied and happy in their inter-personal communion, existed in a fellowship marked by verbal communication.

John 12:28-30 sheds light on intra-Trinitarian dialogue. Jesus is about to publicly reveal his coming death with the preamble that he is very troubled over it, though it is the very purpose he has come into the world. True to his desire to always honor his Father, even in the face of the cross, Jesus calls out to the Father:

“Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” Therefore, the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake."
The Son speaks to the Father and the Father answers the Son. When Jesus said the ‘voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake,’ he did not mean that God was speaking to the people instead of him. He meant that the voice came audibly, for their sakes, so that they could hear with their own ears God speaking to the Son. What Jesus heard every day of his life, the voice of his Father, was made audible to the people. What they heard on that special occasion, Jesus heard daily (cf John 8:26-28). It is preposterous to think that such dialogue between the Father and the Son began only after the incarnation. John 1:1, 2 reveals that “the Word was with God” from the beginning. The Greek word for ‘with’ is better translated ‘toward’ signifying a face-to-face relationship. Such a relationship implies fellowship, which implies communication.

We may draw the same conclusion for dialogue between the Son and the Holy Spirit (John 16:13 in context of John 15:26).

God’s speech is the pattern on which all human speech is designed. The first recorded words of God are “Let there be light,” or simply, “Light be!” Genesis 1:3. It is divine speech, translated into human language, having a meaning that we humans can understand. God’s speech is translatable into and understandable in terms of human language.

Since it was God who spoke first and human language came afterwards, we may understand that human language is analogous of divine language. Human speech is patterned after God’s speech. God’s speech is the paradigm that human language follows. Grammatical rules, syntactical relationships, and meaningful vocabulary are intrinsic to human language because they are intrinsic to God’s language. That is why human language is suited as a medium for expressing God’s speech. When human language is enlisted to express God thoughts as they are in the words, “Let there be light,” those human words are God’s words using the grammar, syntax, and verbal meanings of a human language that is analogous to God’s speech.

We may take another example of human speech as the vehicle through which divine speech is expressed. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians.

For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe, 1 Thess 2:13.

The human language of Paul was directly and immediately the word of God. We understand this only to be possible in terms of the superintending work of the Holy Spirit. But unless human language in and of itself is capable of articulating divine speech, it would be unable, even through the oversight of the Holy Spirit, to express the words of God.

We insist then that the scriptures are written in a language that is analogous of divine language, and as such are particularly suited to express God’s words. Human language is not merely suitable, but by way of inspiration it becomes divine-human language, the out-breathed words of God expressed in human speech. Whenever we read a New Testament letter of Paul to a church in Ephesus, or Corinth, or Rome, or Thessalonica, or to an individual as Timothy, Titus, or Philemon, Paul’s speech is God’s speech, and his words are God’s words. As such, it is God speaking to the Church or the human recipient; it is meaningful and communicates God’s will and purpose addressing the situation.

The question then, is God’s speech that addresses a situation in a previous era pertinent to our situation today? Is there any meaning for us now in what he said to his people long ago? Succinctly, does God speak to us today through the scriptures? Part five of this series (The Relevancy of God’s Word in Every Age) would argue affirmatively emphasizing Paul’s use of Old Testament scripture and his observation that scripture has a four-fold profitability (2 Tim 3:16) for more than just the original hearers. The next article in the series will consider how the expository sermon is derivatively the word of God.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Living By Every Word That Proceeds From the Mouth of God - Part 5


The Relevancy of God’s Written Word in Every Age.

(This is part five in a series that examines the view of Justice Boshoff who advocates that God’s word comes to us personally and directly from the Holy Spirit through prayer for wisdom and that the scriptures are a hindrance to hearing the word of God. You can read a transcript of two of his You-Tube videos: According to the Scriptures, You Won't Make It and Breaking Through the Bible Barrier.)

Paul would disagree with Mr. Boshoff’s position that the inscripturated word of the past is irrelevant to those of a later generation. Paul makes special reference to the written record of the wilderness experience of Israel and reveals that they were written for the benefit of his own generation:

Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.
Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play." We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 
Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 1 Cor 10:6-11 (ESV)
Paul did not refrain from applying the Old Testament Scriptures to the Church in Corinth. He did not think the wilderness situation of Israel was so unrelated to the situation of a body of believers in a thriving city several hundred years later, that it was useless to draw any application from it. Through the ordinary use of language, logic, and reason, he understood the written words of the Old Testament account of Israel’s experience in the wilderness. From that understanding he drew the conclusion that Israel’s behavior served as an example of how God’s people are not to act, and that to behave that way had severe consequences under the displeasure of God.

Paul explains to Timothy that there is a fourfold profitability in scripture: all scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 2 Tim 3:16. That profitability is not only for those to whom the scriptures were written, but also for those who were to read them in later generations. Paul saw that the profitability of the Holy scriptures not only made Timothy wise unto salvation, 2 Tim 3:15, but also made the man of God (in his day) complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work, 2 Tim 3:17 [1].

In this text (2 Tim 3:16, 17) Paul provides examples of applying scripture in two ways: (1) specifically, drawing certain conclusions about a situation that occurred centuries before and deducing from them rules to be applied to a situation in his own day, (2) generally, stipulating that all of scripture was profitable for the believer in his day providing doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction. Taking the apostle's lead, we may draw the principle that the scriptures are useful for believers of all ages and that we may apply them to our situation in our day. [2]

This underscores the value of the written word. The usefulness of the written word for the preservation and transmission of the New Testament apostolic and prophetic word is evident in the many references to writing as a medium for the communication of that word (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1, 2; 1 Cor 4:14, 14:37; 2 Cor 9:1; 13:2; Gal 1:20; Phil 3:1; 1 Thess 4:9, 5:1; 1 Tim 3:14, 15; 2 Pet 3:1; 1 John 1:4; 2:1, 7, 8, 12, 13; 2 John 1:12; 3 John 1:13; Jude 1:3; Rev 1:11; 3;1). This usefulness is clearly seen in Paul’s order for the exchange of letters between the churches in Colosse and Laodicea, Col 4:16. Such high regard for the New Testament written word indicates the intention to provide a corpus of documents which would serve in the same capacity for the New Testament era as did the Law, the Psalms, and Prophets for the Old Testament era (cf Luke 24:44).
[1] Paul may be referring not only to the writings of the Old Testament, but also to that collection of apostolic writings that were in circulation in his present day. Paul’s own writings had reached such high recognition in Peter’s estimation, 2 Pet 3:15, 16.

[2] One cannot object that the liberty to apply scripture from an Old Testament situation to a New Testament situation was exclusively Paul’s because of his apostleship. Paul’s apostleship did make the recipients of his letters take special heed to his words. But when Paul in his apostolic word pronounces all of scripture profitable, we should take special heed as well. There is nothing in Paul’s pronouncement that would lead us to conclude that that profitability is restricted to a single situation at a specific point in time. Because Paul saw all of scripture profitable for all saints of all ages, he was able to apply them specifically to the various situations of the churches under his care.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Living By Every Word That Proceeds From the Mouth of God – Part 4


The Anti-theological, Anti-hermeneutical, Anti-logical, Anti-practical Perspective on Scripture

(This is part four in a series that examines the view of Justice Boshoff who advocates that God’s word comes to us personally and directly from the Holy Spirit through prayer for wisdom and that the scriptures are a hindrance to hearing the word of God. You can read a transcript of two of his You-Tube videos: According to the Scriptures, You Won't Make It and Breaking Through the Bible Barrier.)

The inspiration and authority of scripture is misunderstood, ignored, or outright rejected by many today, including those who would claim to be Christians. If the inspiration of the scriptures is understood in terms of the classic exposition of B. B. Warfield (The Inspiration and Authority of the Scriptures ), that the words of scripture, though not devoid of the style, vocabulary, and intellectual prowess of the human author that penned them, are nonetheless the out-breathed words of God (I Tim 3:16) written under the superintending work of the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1:19-21) and therefore the inerrant, authoritative word of God – these words are worthy of our full attention and every effort on our part to understand their meaning through the use of sound principles of interpretation.

I suspect that Mr. Boshoff does not hold such a view of the Bible; even if he should claim otherwise, his attitude toward scripture strongly suggests he does not.

If scripture is allowed to speak for itself, there is no other conclusion that we may come to but that the inspired writings of the prophets and apostles are the words of God, and as such are inerrant and authoritative in all of faith and life. The human authorship of the words of scripture does not detract from this one iota. Neither the human limitation in understanding nor the sinful disposition of the human heart prohibited the words they wrote to be the very words of God. They were borne along by the Spirit of God whose oversight of the ideas and concepts of the mind and the translation of those thoughts into words on parchment resulted in the inscripturation of divine speech.

If the origin and nature of scripture is not understood as God-breathed and therefore absolutely authoritative and inerrant, it is of little more benefit to us than the writings of the deepest or loftiest thinkers in the history of man. The Meditations (167 AD) of Marcus Aurelius, polytheist and pagan emperor of Rome, would have as much authoritative weight as any word expressed in the Bible. But if the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are taken as the written, inspired word of God, they demand that we heed them; they are the expression of God’s will for us concerning all of faith and life. And though they were written to a generation long ago, they are still binding on us today for they have never ceased to be the word of God.

There is an anti-theological bias in today’s church. Mr. Boshoff has undoubtedly been affected by it and is nurturing it when he disparages the need to apply the scriptures to our situation today.

Theology in its broad sense is the study of all things that pertain to God – his nature and being, his purposes, commands, behavior, and everything that comes under his sphere of influence – which according to the scriptures is everything there is. Nothing can be understood apart from its relation to God. If there is no relation to God there is no existence, for all things live and move and have their being in (by means of) God (Acts17:28).

How do we know this?

The particular pieces of theological knowledge are not known innately by man. Granted, through the creation he sees that God exists, and he has some sense of his power and sovereignty (Romans 1:20). But the creation does not give the details. The details come only by a self-disclosure of God. God must willfully reveal himself to us.

Redemptive history is that history that traces God’s redemptive acts (the Exodus is an example) which go hand-in-hand with revelatory acts – acts by which he has disclosed something about his nature and purposes. The acts themselves are revelatory; they tell us something about God. But God has spoken more directly, through human speech. God, in various ways and at various times has spoken to us in the past through the prophets. In these last days, he has spoken to us through his Son (Heb 1:1, 2). Of that which has been spoken, God in his providence has preserved what he deemed necessary through writing.

The self-disclosure of God, necessary for any understanding of God, is preserved for us today in the writings of the Old and New Testaments. Without them, everything we might proffer about God would be hearsay, conjecture, or tradition, none of it having any guarantee of its veracity or intelligibility. The prophetic word, the scriptures, being God-breathed and written under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:19-21) has guaranteed that God’s revelation is both true and understandable. Without the scriptures, there is no sure understanding of God, there is no sound theology.

Hence, our only source of knowledge of God (his nature, will, purposes, etc) is the scriptures. And because the scriptures are written in human language, it is understood through the use of known principles of interpretation (hermeneutics). Language, whether divine or human, is meaningful because it communicates information in accordance with grammatical rules and logical relationships. As human language communicating God’s self-revelation, the scriptures cohere logically – they make sense. The message of the revelation does not violate the rules of logic (rules that were discovered by man, not created by him).

The discernment of the message in human language requires a knowledge of the language and its interpretation according to sound rules of hermeneutics, the science of interpretation. God speaks intelligibly, not illogically or in jibberish such that his speech is unintelligible to human understanding. Because of inspiration, the scriptures are guaranteed to cohere logically – they are the only writings of human history that have such a guarantee.

Because of the source of the words of scripture (God-breathed), and because they are meaningful, the scriptures are the only source from which we may gain wisdom for our day-to-day lives; the scriptures must be applied to our situation for any guarantee that what we do in our situation is not sin. The scriptures, therefore, are invaluably necessary for our practical needs – how we must live and behave.

Mr. Boshoff's theology leads us away from the only sound source of wisdom and replaces it by a subjective internal insight. Yes, he claims that it is the Holy Spirit who speaks inwardly, but he bases that on a misunderstanding of certain passages of scripture. Mr. Boshoff ironically has applied the scriptures incorrectly and advances a method of Christian living that is wrong. We will examine Mr. Boshoff’s erring hermeneutics in a coming article.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Living By Every Word That Proceeds From the Mouth of God - Part 3

God’s Word is Non-Contradictory: Implications for God’s Word in Any Age.

(This is part three in a series that examines the view of Justice Boshoff who advocates that God’s word comes to us personally and directly from the Holy Spirit through prayer for wisdom and that the scriptures are a hindrance to hearing the word of God. You can read a transcript of two of his You-Tube videos: According to the Scriptures, You Won't Make It and Breaking Through the Bible Barrier.)

Given any two events in which God has spoken, we are confident there is no contradiction between what he said in one event as opposed to what he said in the other. If there was a contradiction, either one or both statements would not be true, and we believe that God is true and in him is no lie (John 3:33; 7:28; 8:26; Rom 3:4; Rev 6:10; 15:3).

If we assume that Mr. Boshoff’s view is true, that God speaks inwardly through the Holy Spirit, then we must also assume that what God speaks today does not contradict what he has spoken in the past. This is to say that what God has spoken to Mr. Boshoff inwardly cannot contradict what God has spoken through the scriptures. If one avers that he has received the word of God today, but that word contradicts what God said long ago in the scriptures, then what was thought to be the word of God today is, in fact, not the word of God at all. It may be the result of wishful thinking, or an acceptance of an idea or principle that is very desirable, pleasant, and seemingly logical. But it is not God’s word. God does not contradict himself, for there is no contradiction in God. If there were, he would not be God. If contradiction rose within him, he would cease to be God.

If God has spoken in the past, and we can discern the meaning and implications of that word, then it is important that what is proffered as a word from God today should be examined in the light of that past word. Is this not what the Bereans did when Paul preached to them the death and resurrection of Christ?
Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Acts 17:10, 11
They searched the scriptures because Paul used the scriptures to reason with them (Acts 17:2). Paul defended the gospel from the Old Testament scriptures and the Bereans examined those scriptures to see if Paul was telling the truth. Paul did not demand an implicit faith on the part of his listeners but appealed to the scriptures to verify his proclamation.

Jesus likewise pointed to the Old Testament scriptures as witness to himself and his work centuries after they were written:
You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. John 5:39, 40.
Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you --- Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?" John 5:45-47.
The written word had a prominent place in the ministry of Paul and Christ. Undoubtedly, Mr. Boshoff would grant that, but he would say that the scriptures were used to lead to Christ and no more. In support of that, he could point to the post-resurrection incident on the road to Emmaus where two disciples were contemplating the recent crucifixion of Christ. They were downtrodden and full of doubt. When Jesus asked them what was wrong, they were astonished and wondered if it were possible that even a single person could not have known what had happened.

The two men must have been close to the company of disciples because they seemed to be familiar with some who had gone to see the empty tomb for themselves. The report of angels saying he was alive was apparently unconvincing for they were confused about the whereabouts of Christ’s body. They were in a quandary. How did Christ respond?
Then He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?" And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Luke 24:25-27
 Mr. Boshoff could also point to the Acts of the Apostles where time and again. Paul reasoned from the Old Testament scriptures pointing to Christ or defending the gospel (Acts 17:2, 17; 18:4, 19; 19:8, 9).

Mr. Boshoff can point to all of these as evidence that the value of scripture is only to lead to Christ but nothing more. But these arguments do not clench Mr. Boshoff’s view; rather, they point the other direction. If we see that for Paul and Peter the scriptures were so vitally important to lead us to Christ, how is it that they would not also find in them what is necessary to grow in the ‘grace and knowledge of Christ,’ as Peter writes:
As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 1 Peter 2:2.
We understand that the ‘milk of the word’ includes the apostolic word of Peter as well as the other apostles. But given Peter’s high esteem of scripture (2 Peter 1:19-21) it is difficult to exclude, if not give the priority to, the Old Testament scriptures as what is meant by ‘the word.’ This point is not without evidence as Peter uses an application of the scriptures to exhort to tenderheartedness, courtesy, and returning good for evil (1 Peter 3:8-12). We may say that through an insight of the scriptures Peter finds wisdom for growth.

The example of the use of scripture by Christ, Peter, and Paul underscores the truth that the scriptures are never contrary from age to age. They may be relied upon to reason and exhort because they are forever consistent.

Consistency and non-contradiction are inherent to the word of God, regardless of the form it comes in (vision, dream, oracle, law, psalm, parable, epistle, apocalyptic, etc.). A claim to have a word today from God, arising internally from the Spirit must be examined for its consistency with what has preceded.

The question then, Is Mr. Boshoff’s position in keeping with scripture, or contrary to it? Ironically, we must apply the scriptures to Mr. Boshoff in order to confirm or falsify the legitimacy of applying scripture to discern God’s will. That fact in itself exposes Mr. Boshoff’s position as irrational and contradictory.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Living By Every Word That Proceeds From the Mouth of God - Part 2

The Appeal to Scripture to Reject Scripture

(This is part two in a series that examines the view of Justice Boshoff who advocates that God’s word comes to us personally and directly from the Holy Spirit through prayer for wisdom and that the scriptures are a hindrance to hearing the word of God. You can read a transcript of two of his You-Tube videos: According to the Scriptures, You Won't Make It and Breaking Through the Bible Barrier.)

In his short videos, Mr. Boshoff, who is arguing against the application of scripture to discern God’s will, alludes to or cites at least sixteen biblical references in making his case:

John 10:1ff Jesus is the Shepherd of his sheep.
John 10:4 Christ’s sheep hear his voice.
Matt 4:4; Deut 8:3 Man shall live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Eph 6:17 The sword of the Spirit is the word of God
Heb 4:12 The word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword.
John 1:1; Rev 19:3 Christ is the Word of God.
Rom 7:6 We serve in the newness of the Spirit, not in the oldness of the letter.
Prov 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all our hearts and don’t lean to our own understanding.
James 1:5 If any lacks wisdom, let him ask of God.
John 15:13 When the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide into all truth.
Rev 20:11 Judgment before the great white throne.
Roman 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10 We will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
Matt 7:23 Jesus will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

Precisely what Mr. Boshoff has in mind in the term ‘will of God’ is not clear, but he seems to be talking about God’s will regarding what an individual is to do in a certain circumstance. I would say he has in mind such things as whether one should take this employment opportunity as opposed to another, or whether a certain amount of money should be given to this individual or that individual, or whether I should marry this person, or whether I should have more than one child, or whether God wants me to shop today or stay home and work on my painting. Perhaps he is referring to those things in which the right decision is not obvious and that no choice is particularly good (beneficial), or for that matter, particularly bad (detrimental). The problem is that whatever one chooses there are consequences both desirable and undesirable, and one had better be sure that the choice is what God wants. In Mr. Boshoff’s view, the only way to be sure is for God to reveal his will through the inner speaking of the Holy Spirit. Only in this way can there be obedience to the words of Jesus and assurance of not falling outside of God’s will.

Mr. Boshoff does not deny that God has spoken to others through the scriptures. The problem, as he sees it, is that what was said to them cannot be applied to our situation. God has spoken to them, but for us that speech is just “words on paper.” We must hear what God himself has to say to us, and that word comes from the Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth. To know the will of God we must hear from The Word (Jesus Christ) who speaks to us through the Holy Spirit in response to our prayer for wisdom.

If we reflect on this for a moment, we will see that there is a more fundamental question that Mr. Boshoff, wittingly or not, is addressing. That is the question, What is God’s instruction, or method, or means as to how I discern God’s will? or succinctly stated, What is God’s will as to how I discern God’s will? I would like to know how Mr. Boshoff came into this knowledge; how did he come to know God’s will regarding the means by which he is to know God’s will? It cannot be the scriptures because that would be contrary to his premise that to do so would be to lean on his own insight. If he says it came by way of an inner revelation from the Holy Spirit, how can I be sure he is not mistaken as to what he heard, or worse, that he is lying? What rule can I even use to judge the validity of his claim to receive new revelation from the Spirit, and if new revelation were being given today, how can I be sure his expression of such a revelation is not simply contrivance or wishful thinking on his part?

On his own premises, therefore, Mr. Boshoff must say that his instruction on how to know God’s will came to him as an inward word from God through the Holy Spirit; if he came to that conclusion any other way, he would be guilty of using his own insight.

Yet, Mr. Boshoff has no qualm about appealing to the scriptures to make his case. I find this very peculiar. On the one hand, Mr. Boshoff vehemently objects to the application of scripture to discern God’s will, and yet it is through an appeal to the scriptures that he argues his position. Through scripture, he has gained the insight that God speaks to us not through scripture, but directly, in prayer through the Holy Spirit. Is that not contradictory and self-refuting? Be that as it may, because he does appeal to scripture to make his case, he should not object if I were to assess his teaching in light of the scriptures, to see if they are in accord with what God has spoken through them.
Obviously, Mr. Boshoff does not reject scripture outright saying it is of no value at all; otherwise, he never would have listened to the gospel. But to him, that is all the scriptures are valuable for, only to lead us to Christ. That is one application of scripture to our situation that he would not object to.

Mr. Boshoff and I would both agree that scriptures must be applied to our situation to lead us to Christ. Our situation is one of death in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1) and the only remedy to our situation is the atonement of Christ. It was through a careful examination of scripture that Martin Luther and subsequent reformers regained the insight of justification by grace through faith without the accompaniment of meritorious works.

But is that all the usefulness we may find in the scriptures? Is that all that God ever intended? To think that God's intention for the scriptures centuries after they were written was to lead to Christ for salvation only and not for sanctification as well is contrary not only to what one would expect, but also to what the scriptures attest (2 Tim 3:16).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Living By Every Word That Proceeds From the Mouth of God - Part 1

Introduction: The Fundamental Question - How Does God Speak to His People Today?

There is a popular theology which advocates that God’s word comes to us personally, he speaks to us directly and reveals his will in a new revelation. The individual prays to God for wisdom or direction, and God gives him the answer. We must not apply the scriptures to our situation in an effort to hear God’s word and gain wisdom, for we cannot hear God in the scriptures. To apply the scriptures to our situation is to lean on our own insight. Rather than hearing directly from God, we apply our own human skill and intellect in an attempt to make the scriptures speak to us. One such advocate of this view is Justice Boshoff whose many YouTube videos teach this. Two have been selected as exemplary of his position. These are titled, According to the Bible - You Won’t Make It and Breaking Through the Bible Barrier. I have transcribed these for reference. A perusal of Mr. Boshoff’s Facebook page reveals that many find his opinions a guide for their own Christian practice.

Mr. Boshoff is not the only advocate of God’s speaking directly to his people today. Mark Virkler has taught this for over twenty-five years in speaking engagements and seminars. His view is that prayer is a two-way communication between you and God, and that “God’s voice in our hearts sounds like a flow of spontaneous thoughts,” [DWG, p 29]. Dr. Virkler’s teaching has influenced thousands. He cites other notables who claim experience of the hearing of God’s voice: Oral Roberts, Douglas Wead (Hear His Voice, All the President’s Children), Larry Tomczak, John Patrick Grace (Hearing His Voice), Francis MacNutt, Ben Kinchlow (Christian Broadcasting Network), Glen Clark (The Soul’s Sincerest Desire), [DWG, pp 119-122].

Dr. Virkler has developed a method designed to facilitate the hearing of God’s voice within. His views are systematically formulated, whereas Mr. Boshoff speaks off the cuff. There is an important difference between Boshoff and Virkler: Boshoff allows little room for the scriptures to have any influence on the believer in hearing God’s voice whereas Virkler accepts that at times it is through the words of scripture that the Spirit speaks, and that it is necessary to test the ‘word’ in the light of scripture. I think also that Virkler fundamentally confuses the illumination and enlightenment of the Spirit with that peculiar revelatory phenomenon of a direct personal word from God that only a few in redemptive history have experienced, such as the Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles.

Out of the Reformation came the principle of sola scriptura, that the scriptures alone are the only infallible rule of faith and practice, opposing the Roman Catholic inclusion of ecclesiastical tradition as part of that rule. The Reformation was a rediscovery of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, fostered by a study of the scriptures in their original languages. It is through the scriptures alone that one comes to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and it is through the scriptures that the saint is sanctified. This is the legacy of the Protestant Reformation, and if Mr. Boshoff’s teaching were taken to its logical conclusion, the scriptures would be viewed as having nothing to do with our sanctification for it has no application to us in our situation today.

Whether Mr. Boshoff would acknowledge it or not, we may identify three presuppositions that underlie his assertion that it is wrong to apply the scriptures to our own situation:

(1) The scriptures were applicable only for those to whom it was written.
(2) To apply scripture to our situation is to rely on our own insight, and not on God’s word.
(3) The scriptures are not completely sufficient for our situation making new revelation necessary.

The fundamental question is Does God speak to his people today, and, if so, in what manner? Does God speak directly to the heart in a recognizable voice, bringing new revelation? Or, does he speak in a more external way, through a word that came to his people in ages past, recorded in human language, preserved over the centuries by his providential care?

I am writing a series of articles entitled, Living By Every Word That Proceeds From the Mouth of God, that will examine Boshoff’s position in terms of its own logical coherency as well as its biblical validity. Though I do not expect to convince Mr. Boshoff of the error of his position, or those who follow his teaching with implicit faith, I do hope that the discussions I present will not only help the reader to see the fallacy of Mr. Boshoff’s position (and others like it) but also become more deeply committed to the scriptures as the final written word of God to his people in this age. It is through the scriptures that we hear God’s voice today; it is a clear word that comes to us in language that we can understand and is meaningful for us now in our situation.

DWG: Dialogue With God by Mark Virkler. Published by Bridge-Logos, Orlando, Florida, 1986.