Theopneustos: How Scriptural Understanding Influences Application

Why is it that individuals who begin on the right path in ministry fall from their theological foundation? From my studies in ecclesiastical history, I have found a common thread. A person’s stability, or lack thereof, is found in the person’s adherence to the Bible’s authority as the inspired Word of God. When people hold fast to the authority of God’s word, those people will remain centered on the will and ways of God. However, when individuals equate the Bible with common, ordinary teachings from human beings, then biblical authority begins to erode and so does one’s faith.

My temporary exit from the ministry began when I questioned the authority of the Bible. When I did not have a base for my beliefs, I began wandering in the vast ocean of philosophical and theological ideas, many of which were floating on the surface of the philosophical waters, holding no sure foundation. My re-entrance into the ministry began when I understood the trustworthiness of the Bible and the truths that it purports. But, how should one understand the Word of God? How one understands the Word of God greatly influences how one applies the Word of God.

The Identity of the Word of God Matters to Application

The most important distinction that can be made pertaining to the Word of God is that the Scriptures are “theopneustos.” This term in Greek is comprised of two words, “theos” meaning “God,” and “pneustos” meaning “spirit” or “breath.” Put together, the term “theopneustos” means “God breathed.” This term is used by Paul to describe the inspiration of the Bible. Paul writes that “All Scripture is breathed out by God [theopneustos] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, bracket mine).[1] If one understands the Bible to be theopneustos, then one will become faithful to its teachings, especially if one is a person of faith. Faithfulness of a person stems from one’s faithfulness to God and the realization that “the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness” (Psalm 33:4). While one’s faithful application stems from a right understanding of Scripture, so does rebellion.

 The Resistance to the Word of God Matters to Application

 An electrical switch turns on an appliance when the electrical circuit is allowed to pass onto the appliance. If the switch is turned to the OFF position, then the current is broken and resisted, extinguishing the power flowing to the appliance. When a person dismisses the theopneustos nature of the Scriptures, then rebellion soon follows. Ezekiel writes that “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people’” (Ezekiel 12:1-2, NIV).[2] A person would think that individuals would learn to do better after awhile. However, when one does not have a theological base such is found in the Scriptures, and then one will be doomed to repeat the same mistakes time and time again. Over time, such a one will become so rebellious to the point of turning against those who hold to the authority of Scripture. Jesus said, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:17). The apostle John wrote,

We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.  Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:9-12, NIV).

The Work of the Word of God Matters to Application

If one desires to do the work of God, then one will need to use the Word of God for the glory of God. Paul writes to the young pastor Timothy that he should “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). To teach and preach from the Word of God requires first that one becomes a student of the Word of God. One professor from Liberty University stated that a person should read the entire book from which they are teaching 50 times before attempting to teach from that particular book. While most will not attempt such a task, such demonstrates the need to be properly prepared. Also, it is important to remember that God promises that his Word “shall not return to me empty, but shall accomplish that which I purpose and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

For one’s ministry to become effective, it is important that one holds a strong basis of biblical authority. Norman Geisler supports the idea of inerrancy, as does this writer. Geisler argues that,

“The argument for an errorless (inerrant) Bible can be put in this logical form:

God cannot err.

The Bible is the Word of God.

Therefore, the Bible cannot err.”[3]

While the precise definition of inerrancy has come under fire in recent years, most would agree that the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture are three tenets that must be maintained in order to safekeep biblical authority at the center of one’s theological foundation…third only to the existence of God and the person of Christ.

Conclusion:

Spurgeon’s identification of liberal theology in the Baptist Union took note that ministers began to accept doctrines that opposed the traditional understanding of Christendom from Christianity’s inception in AD 33. However, liberal theologies began to creep into the theological base of these ministries when the authority of the Bible was dismissed. Time after time, the church has witnesses the erosion of faith which seemingly stems from the dismissal of God’s Word. Can the Bible be trusted? I would argue that it can due to independent evidence outside of the Bible which affirms the biblical message. However, internally, one finds evidence to the truthfulness of Scripture as it applies to life and to God. If the Bible is the Word of God, then it should be grasped with the firmest grip that one can afford. Why? Because the Bible is theopneustos.

Source Cited:

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.

© July 13, 2015. Brian Chilton

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture for this article comes from  the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[2] Scripture marked NIV comes from The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).

[3] Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 74.

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