God gives us powerful weapons to pull down strongholds in people’s lives. The first weapon we looked at was the power of the gospel. The second weapon we will look at today is the truth of God’s word.
Staying True to the Bible
The Bible is the Inspired Word of God
The Bible is God’s word to us. It is literally inspired (God-breathed) by Him.
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
God has given us His word so we can learn how to live godly in this world. His ways are the true ways. We must learn to allow the word of God to shape what we think and believe.
The word has four things that are profitable for us.
- Teaching (showing us what is right - deals with the truth)
The word of God shows us God and His ways. In it God reveals Himself and His plan for how to live a godly life of fruitfulness.
- Reproof (showing us what is wrong - deals with sin)
The Bible shows us what is right and what is wrong. God is the creator and has determined what is wrong and what is right. He wants us to trust in Him. Adam and Eve wanted the knowledge of good and evil and it caused them and it caused them to sin against God.
The idea of reproof is that the Bible brings us conviction and shows what is wrong in our lives. This is a great gift from God that can show us our need to repent and turn to Him.
- Correction (showing us how to get right - deals with error)
Correction deals with restoring our lives to an upright state. Correction adjusts our thinking and actions to line up with God’s truth.
- Training in righteousness (showing us how to stay right - deals with right living)
The Bible is given to help us learn how to walk God’s way in this world. A simple way of understanding the word righteousness is living life according to God’s truth.
Lawrence O. Richards provides this insight: “When a person is said to be ‘righteous,’ no suggestion of sinlessness is implied. Instead, the statement implies actions in harmony with one’s obligations in his or her relationship with God.”
Richards goes on to say, “The NT shifts emphasis from a righteousness linked to human behavior to a righteousness that God provides.” God imputes righteousness to us as believers through faith and empowers us to live a life that is pleasing to God.
Man Twists the Word of God
We’ve already seen how some people exchange the gospel of Jesus for another gospel. There are also those who seek to change the some of the teachings of the Bible to be more compatible with their view of God.
Paul admonished Timothy to study the word of God in order to teach it accurately, because there are some who will not. He says in 2 Timothy 2:15-18:
15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.
Paul likens the teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus to a spreading gangrene. They have gone astray from the truth and have damaged the faith of some through their false teaching.
This is a sad situation, but the problem still persists in our day. There are those who refuse to believe what the word of God clearly states and exchange their own thoughts for the word of God.
I will give one example of how many evangelicals are now turning away from the idea of hell. I am going to use some quotes from one of many similar articles available on the web. I will not use the author’s name, so you think I am bashing a person.
I want to show how easy it is to put one’s own thoughts and feelings above what scripture says. I will discuss the thoughts in two areas: First, the idea that hell does not fit their idea of a loving God and, second, hell is repugnant to their understanding of justice and fairness.
Hell does not fit their idea of a loving God
One of the main problems people have with hell is that it seems so bad. The idea that God would send people to hell and “eternal, conscious torment” goes against their understanding of God as loving. A loving God would never do such a thing.
They consider the doctrine of hell to be a “prefabricated evangelical filter” on scripture that if abandoned the person will come to an understanding that hell is not what a person thinks it is, despite the fact that “there are some verses that seem to hint or describe eternal torment.”
Here are a few quotes that explain why they believe God would not punish people forever in hell.
- “... torturing people seems to be contradictory to His character.”
- “The idea that the end result of rejecting God’s love will be a slow-roasting eternal torture session with Jesus at the controls, is almost asinine.”
- “This is not the Jesus we find in the New testament.”
- “The Jesus we find in the New Testament is loving and just--but not dementedly cruel.”
- “Jesus would become a hypocrite, demanding that we nonviolently love our enemies while He does the complete opposite.”
- “Torture is not loving.”
The idea of hell goes against their personal sense of justice and fairness
The second reason people desire to change the biblical idea of hell is that it doesn’t seem fair and they would never do that to a person. The idea of hell seems too cruel and too long for them to accept.
Here are some quotes that show they are putting their feelings of right and wrong above what Scripture teaches.
- “Something in our spirit tells us that torturing people is morally wrong.”
- “We simply cannot get past the idea that we are more gracious and merciful than Jesus Himself.”
- “This is a key area I cannot reconcile with eternal punishment.”
- “I could never make the call to sentence one to torture or ‘pull the switch’ to commence torture, because seeing people suffer is something that disrupts my spirit.”
- “There’s just no possible way I could ever sentence people to eternal torture.”
The Bible and Eternal Judgment
The Bible does speak of eternal judgement in many verses. Here are some of them:
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;” (Matthew 25:41)
These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)
6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10)
Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:1-2)
Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 5-7)
And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. (Revelation 19:20)
And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation 20:10)
14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14-15)
Jesus spoke of eternal judgement
Jesus never went along with the crowd or portrayed something that was not true as true. He constantly confronted the wrong views of man and communicated the truth of God’s word, even when people did not want to hear it.
In Matthew 25:46, Jesus speaks of both eternal punishment and eternal life. We understand eternal life as being forever, so why should we take eternal punishment to mean anything less than eternal?
If we believe that God is good and just then we have to understand that there is a reason behind this judgment and that it is just. Instead of making Jesus into something He is not, why not believe that there is eternal judgment because he said so?
Jesus is a Righteous Judge
One of the problems with saying that Jesus is a hypocrite and unloving if He sends people to hell is that He is the righteous judge of creation. He must bring justice and be loving at the same time.
Look at all of the destruction that our world faces daily because of the rebellion of man against God. Murders, thefts, oppression, infanticide, sex traffic, and the list could go on and on. God must bring justice for the things that were done and He will.
Matthew 25:41, 46; Revelation 19:20; and 20:13-15 are set in the courtroom of God. He is judging people according to their deeds. If anyone’s name is not written in the book of life they are cast into the lake of fire, which Revelation 20:10 says there will be torment day and night forever and ever.
Maybe the author of the quotes above could not “throw the switch,” Jesus does. In the role of the judge He can love man, continually extend His love toward them, and even desire that they come to salvation; but rule them guilty of their rebellion against God and for their unjust actions.
In order to be good, Jesus must be just. His justice does not have to line up with our idea of right and wrong. He has the whole picture, we have just what He has revealed. If we knew what God knows, we would understand why His ways are just.
Jesus is not a hypocrite when He brings judgment
One of the main arguments against hell is that it is offensive to a person’s sense of right and wrong. Jesus would never do or allow anything like this to happen because He went to the cross and paid it all and is loving.
If we limit Jesus to just loving His enemies, we forget that He is a judge who must bring justice. Even after His death and resurrection, God pours out His righteous judgments on people. I will list a few to show that He is indeed not a hypocrite, but bringing justice through His understanding of a situation.
- Ananias struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:5)
- Sapphira struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:10)
- God brings judgment on King Herod - “And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.” (Acts 12:23)
- Jesus warns Jezebel and her followers that He will “kill her children with pestilence” if they do not repent. (Revelation 2:22-23)
- The majority of the book of Revelation describes the wrath of God being poured out upon the world because of its rebellion against God.
Scripture Over My Feelings
Can I be honest? Some of these things trouble me too. I don’t like to see people coming under the wrath of God and being punished for their disobedience. It makes my head swim. But that does not mean that I can change God or what He says is about to happen to make myself more comfortable.
Nor can I just choose some scriptures over others. I cannot just look for the Scriptures that line up with what I want. If I am going to be true to scripture, I must take all the verses and understand them all together.
If we overemphasize one aspect of God over another, we get a distorted view of God. If we overfocus on love we get a God who does not punish people. If we overfocus on judgment we get an angry God who has no love for people. If we focus on the whole of scripture we get a God who loves people and is not willing for any to perish but who must judge rebellious mankind according to their deeds.
It is a dangerous precedent to take Scripture and align it with our sensibilities. Remember that Paul said the gospel is foolishness and weakness to those who do not believe, but the power of God and the wisdom of God to those who believe.
This is just one example we could use to show how Scripture is changed from what is revealed to what a person desires it to say. The point is that we allow must God’s word to portray what is true and not our own personal feelings.
Next week we will look at the powerful weapon of prayer.