What is All this Bible Information For?

One of the first things that a new believer is confronted with in their new found relationship with Christ is large amounts of Bible information. Prior to conversion they were either ignorant of this information (to no fault of their own) or they had no true understanding of it.  As believers continue in their Christian journey they are usually introduced to the public ministry of the Word through the preaching of God’s Word in a particular church that they choose to worship with.  Added to the public preaching they sit under each week, they may also immerse themselves in a Bible Class during the education hour at their church, or perhaps a Bible study with friends or co-workers.  In my specific context, believers have the opportunity to attend an Adult Bible Fellowship before the AM service, the morning service, the evening service and midweek service.  On top of this there are men’s and women’s Bible studies that take place throughout the week.  Each of these opportunities typically comes with their own lesson or sermon with accompanying amounts of more Bible information.  For either the new believer or the seasoned believer this is a lot of Bible information!  In addition to just the mere textual information, a good preacher/teacher will give their audience application points to help them take the next step. This ends up looking like this: I am given 5 things to put into action from my Adult Bible Fellowship, 3 more things to act upon from the morning service and 4 other things to implement from the evening service.  I think you get the picture. There is a lot of information for Christians to be living!  But what is a believer to do with all their Bible information?  What is all this Bible information meant for?

Before we get to answering those questions, and before it sounds like I am not in favor of all the means we have to gain more information about our great God let me pause to say thank you to our great God for all this revelation!  Praise God that he has specifically revealed Himself to mankind (Heb 1; 2 Tim 3:16) beyond just general revelation in creation (Rom 1).  Let us not move to quickly from the origin of this information because of the many avenues that we possess to obtain it. Praise be to God for being a communicating God so we may know him through his Son, Jesus Christ.  Thanks be to God for the public ministry of the Word faithfully preached week in and week out in the assembly of believers.  Praise God for not giving us general revelation alone.  Praise God for the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that the Gospel is not just the first step to knowing God but that it is the foundation of every step along our Christian journey.  (See Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent).  God knew what we needed most, information about Himself, embodied in our Savior Jesus Christ and written down in the pages of the Bible.

But that brings us back to the questions posed earlier.  What is a believer to do with all their Bible information?  What is all this Bible information meant for?  Is it meant only for becoming more informed and intellectual believers?  Is it meant to be stockpiled like a little boy collects Matchbox cars, accruing the largest collection of knowledge that one can obtain.  In part yes, because the more knowledge we have of God the more we know Him, His heart and His holiness.  But just because we enlarge our knowledge of God doesn’t mean that we are automatically more like God.  Experientially, we as believers all know the struggle of not doing the righteousness that we want to do in favor of the unrighteousness we don’t want to do (Rom 7:18-20).  If, as discussed in my previous article, the Scriptures call us to grow and mature in our daily Christian walk (Eph. 4:11-16) then we have to regularly perform the task of self-examination and ask ourselves if we are truly growing or only knowing.  In other words, is all this information that we have collected causing us “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29).  Is all the information we have changing us?

What we are talking about in trying to answer these questions is the doctrine of progressive sanctification.  According the Millard Erickson,

“Sanctification is the continuing work of God in the life of the believer, making him or her actually holy. Sanctification is a process by which one’s moral condition is brought into conformity with one’s legal status before God. It is a continuation of what was begun in regeneration, when a newness of life was conferred upon and instilled within the believer. In particular, sanctification is the Holy Spirit’s applying to the life of the believer the work done by Jesus Christ.”[1]

I heard someone along the way summarize progressive sanctification as the act of God whereby He meets you where you are at but has no intention of leaving you there.  I like that.  Not just because it resonates with me but because I find it consistent with the teaching of Scripture.  In the Scriptures we find that growth is a normal and expected part of life.  The above reference to Paul’s words in Romans 8:28-30 are a perfect illustration of God, through Paul, calling his people to spiritual growth.  Other illustrations of God’s desire for believers to grow is found in the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 or in 2 Peter 3:18 where Peter says, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” To the writers of Scripture growth was a normal and expected part of life to be fervently sought after.  Because growing into the reflection of our Savior glorifies God and increases our effectiveness in ministry, growth should be of high priority to the child of God.  Kevin Carson and Paul Tautges affirm this same concept when they say, ‘‘Maturity’ for all is the goal (Eph. 4: 13). Therefore, the ministry of the Word is all about applying the truth of the believer’s union with Christ to a life lived in loving relationship with God and others.” [2]

If you’re still reading this article, at this point I’m hoping that you are asking the question, “But how…how do I take the wealth of Bible information that I have and translate that into growth?”  Or maybe you’re asking the question, “What role do I play in this?  Isn’t growth what the Holy Spirit does in me?”  These are great questions to be asking and each of them could justify their own article.  For now though, suffice it to say, that the growth God desires is a joint effort of the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling you and your effort to work at growing.  This means that you are to be doing something on your side of the equation.  You must work at putting off sin, renewing your mind and putting on righteousness through walking in the Spirit (See Ephesians).  But what might working on your side of the equation look like?  Let’s use Hebrews 1 as an example.  In Hebrews 1 we learn of the primacy of Jesus Christ.  We learn an excellent Christology from the author of Hebrews whereby Christ is presented as being the exact image of God the Father (1:3) and the Priest we needed to absolve us of sin once and for all (1:3).  Beginning in verse 4 the author states that Christ is superior to even the angelic world and through the end of the chapter the author supports the supremacy of Jesus Christ.  What are we supposed to do with that?  If it is the end of the sermon are we to say, “Praise God for this glorious truth!” and be done?  Are we to say, “Thank God for changing my life through the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and then nothing more?  Is this text meant for intellectual and doctrinal consumption alone?  It can’t be if the doctrine of progressive sanctification is something we are supposed to do and not just a category we believe.  What if upon reading the truth in Hebrews 1 that Jesus is better than angels we asked ourselves, “What do I treat as though it is better than Jesus or what am I tempted to treat as though it is better than Jesus?”  What we did in those two little questions is move from information to application.  We moved from (not away from) positional sanctification and immediately stepped into the world of progressive sanctification.  We went from just knowing to growing.  Which leads us then into the much-needed heart examination of where my idols are, what my blind spots are and what I am, with the help of the Holy Spirit, going to do about them.  But if Hebrews 1 is profitable for only doctrinal precision then we fall short of the Bible’s mandate to take “long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.”[3]

My fellow believer as you have your daily meditation in God’s word, as you sit under faithful preachers and teachers of the Scriptures through the many avenues that we have available to us today do not forget to apply.  Don’t forget that doctrinal information is intended by God to be wedded with personal application with the result of your growing in Christ-likeness.  Do not do all the work of leading yourself to the proverbial water hole and then only drink of the doctrine.  My friend dive head first into the practical application of the doctrinal purity and I guarantee that you will grow.  Fill up your sponge in the waters of doctrine and then wring it out over a lifetime of diligent application and you will grow.  But not because I said you will grow but because of the transforming power of the Gospel whereby it is not just what saves us but because it is also what sanctifies us and makes us holy.  So, is the doctrine of progressive sanctification something that you believe or something that you do?

[1] Erickson, M. J. (1998). Christian Theology. (2nd ed., p. 980). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[2] Kellemen, Bob. Biblical Counseling and the Church: God’s Care Through God’s People (Biblical Counseling Coalition) (Kindle Locations 1157-1159). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Article by: Jeremy Stephens

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