Two lessons ago, we began to establish the purpose or will of God for this segment of eternity called "time." Our main purpose in that lesson was to establish the fact that the motive or will determines ultimate actions. That is true of both God and mankind.

The Deep Things of God

The only means of establishing the will or motive of God, is to study the written declarations of God, authored by the Holy Spirit. In this process of establishing, from Scripture, the motive or will of God, the serious student of the Word of God faces a gigantic problem. We find that the revelation of God concerning His plan and purpose spans many thousands of years.

Most of us are in a hurry when it comes to doing just about anything. Therefore, we want to do it in the quickest and easiest manner possible, so we can move on to more important things. This is also true of Bible teachers and theologians. To the Bible teacher, Sundays seem to come every third day, instead of just once a week. Therefore, any study tool that speeds up this process is a pastor's best friend.

Some very beneficial Bible study tools are topical studies and books of topical lists. These are tools of benefit when they aid in accomplishing the purpose. However, when these beneficial tools are used improperly, or are used by someone who does not know how to use them, then they can and often do become tools of destruction. Many improperly used tools can be deadly. This is also true of the very helpful lists of topical subjects and topical studies. The study tool of topical lists is supposed to be a listing of all or many of the passages dealing with the same subject. Let me tell you, to have someone go through the Bible, sort and list all passages that relate to the same subject, is any Bible student's friend! This is a wonderful tool, and must be used as only a tool. You would think that God, being the sovereign God that He is, would have recognized that topical studies of the Bible are the greatest means of understanding spiritual truth, and would have put on the very first pages of the Bible lists of topics, and the verses that deal with those topics.

However, God being sovereign and omniscient had a better plan. God did not give us lists. Instead He gave us a Person. That Person was the Author of every jot and tittle of the written Word of God. This Author of the Bible, also knows everything about God, even the deep things of God. This Author is given by God to each person who accepts Christ as their personal Savior. The Author of the very words of the Bible knows all there is to know about God, and is given to each Believer to eternally indwell them, and to be their Teacher of the deep things of God revealed in the Book He authored. Our Teacher, the Holy Spirit, is the only teacher of the things of God. He teaches these deep things of God in only one way.

1 Corinthians 2:6-14 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The Holy Spirit teaches these deep things of God by comparing spiritual with spiritual. That is the only way the Holy Spirit teaches these aspects of God's Person and His plan mentioned in this passage:

Do I hear, "Pastor, we know that!" Yes, we have that knowledge at MBF, but sometimes we are very slow to make what we know a vital part of our actions and living. It is so easy to make a determination that we will live and die by the instructions of the Word of God. It is easy, that is, until someone presents us with some wisdom of this age or human wisdom, and that person is such a good person, or they are very well educated, or they are so important, or...

If we are allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us in this manner, we will always rejoice when this method is re-confirmed. If we are not allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us in this manner, we will be disturbed each time it is re-confirmed.

We learn so slowly, don't we?

Relying on Human Wisdom

Just a year ago, we were being bombarded by the Y2K disaster with all it religious implications. Some said then, I'll never get caught-up in such human wisdom again! Then comes along the next religious fantasy, and we jump on the bandwagon, or we run along side the wagon wondering if we should jump on, run away or throw ourselves under the wheel.

Is it any wonder that we know so little about God's Person and His plan? Is it any wonder that our confidence in the Word of God is more like a roller-coaster, than a steady growth in grace and knowledge of Christ?

Some time ago I was asked something like: Why am I so easily carried away with non-biblical theories? If the Holy Spirit is my teacher, why doesn't He just say, Your answer is wrong! You need to take another look? Why does the Holy Spirit let me get so wrapped up in these theories, and make such a fool of myself?

Many times, people of this nature float from church to church looking for something that will give them spiritual expression, growth and stability, or they may stay in the same church, but never know spiritual fulfillment. Either way, they will still get caught-up with these many winds of doctrine that come floating by on a regular basis. There can be no change in this pattern of spiritual instability until they carefully and methodically learn and obey the clear teachings of the Word of God.

This illustration, with a change of a small detail here and there, could be the story of many families over the years. One of the many problems with this type of religious living is, if you look at the external life a person of this type, you would think they were the greatest, strongest and most settled saint in at least four counties. Yet, internally, that life is filled with confusion, heartache, despair, bitterness, anger, etc.. In a desperate attempt to relieve some of this internal pressure, good Christians will often reach out to any human wisdom or wind of doctrine that floats by. As in any time of despair and confusion, if the attention can be diverted to something new and exciting, there will be a brief time of relief.

However, when the new wears off, all the old internal problems surface again. Along with the old problems, are new problems caused by participating in this new and different human wisdom called "winds of doctrine." Yet, most of these Christians keep moving on with their best Sunday morning smile pasted on their faces, and many people still see and think of them as giants of spiritual strength. That external view is what most people see, unless they are the pastor or counselor who listened while this spiritual giant open their heart's deepest cesspool of despair. You know, if counselors and pastors made public the real essence of some spiritual giants, it would change the religious landscape considerably.

Before I go back and show how I answered those questions, let me make another application. Have you ever noticed that it's OK for some lay person to say this-or-that, even if it is not true? However, if the pastor were to say, what that person said is wrong, the pastor would be a very bad person, because he had hurt the person with "facts." On the other hand, it's only right for the lay person to hurt others and the church, "'cause they didn't really mean anything by it."

Here is a pastor's dilemma: When I see people following these phonies who are nice looking on the outside, do I cry out? Don't follow that person! They're not real! They'll lead you down the path of hypocrisy, that God hates.

Maybe we should have a session in which we "just let it all hang out," as they say. It would probably solve our building program dilemma. However, those who were left would be real in their walk and talk!

Don't worry! My calling is to preach the Word, not to spill the beans. Most churches have enough bean spillers, without the pastor joining their ranks. In all the lists of spiritual gifts, I have never found that often used gift of spilling the beans. Yet, most churches have people who are expert in that field. There will be a time in the near future, when just such a tell-it-all session will happen, and it will be totally Biblical.

Romans 2:16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts; and then each one's praise will come from God.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil.

Pardon me! I've digressed from the appointed lesson plan. However, when we come to some of these things, we need more than just academic knowledge of the facts. We need the application of the facts. Oh, how we need the application of those facts. When we take a look at our own lives and glance around at others in relationship to these facts, is it any wonder that Christ spoke these words while on earth?

Luke 18:8 I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?

If the Lord were to come back to the earth today, and your life was the standard of faith, how much faith would He find?

Please, take a little time away from the lesson and spend it in quiet fellowship with Christ. Let Him search your heart. Then forsake the faithless things and strengthen the things of faith.

The Dangers of Improper Bible Study

Back to my answer of the questions mentioned earlier. I could have pointed out that even in the questions, there was the evidence of self-centeredness, and God was being blamed for the spiritual dilemma. Look again at what was asked: "Why am I so easily carried away with non-biblical theories? If the Holy Spirit is my teacher, why doesn't He just say, Your answer is wrong! You need to take another look? Why does the Holy Spirit let me get so wrapped up in these theories, and make such a fool of myself?"

Among several other things, I pointed out that the Holy Spirit was not the proverbial Jiminy Cricket sitting on our wooden shoulder, pulling on our wooden leg and in general trying to keep us from going astray. Instead, the Holy Spirit is our Teacher giving us instructions in and from the Word of God, so we can be partakers of His Divine Nature, escape the corruption of this world, and have all we need for life and godliness.

2 Peter 1:3-4 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

The Holy Spirit will apply the Word of God to our lives through His teaching ministry of comparing all of Scripture with all of Scripture. The Holy Spirit is equally omnipotent with the rest of the Trinity. However, the Holy Spirit will not supernaturally deposit the facts of the Word of God in our minds, so He will have some Scripture to compare. That is our job! This matter of filling our lives with the Word of God is where such tools as topical lists of Biblical subjects can be of real help. However, we must be very careful not to formulate our doctrines or beliefs from such tools without a careful comparison with all other Scripture in harmony.

Many theological doctrines have been formulated by studying a list of verses on some topic, then superimposing human logic and motive on God's actions found in those verses without correlating or harmonizing God's actions and their human logic with the rest of Scripture. I want us to work our way through a partial topical list of verses, and see some of its benefit, and alert ourselves to its danger. Then from this simplistic study, I want us to move on to establish God's declared purpose or will for this segment of eternity called time. We will need to compare what we learn of God's will, and harmonize that based on our knowledge of His sovereignty.

Let's use the topic of saved, as stated in the Bible. For the most part we are fairly well established in the doctrine of Salvation. Therefore, our attention can be on the benefits and dangers of a topical study in order to establish a doctrine. To start our study, we look over our list of verses on saved, and we see the grand 'ol verse.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

We decide this will be our key verse for this doctrine of saved, and we will use the other verses to add detail or body to our doctrine. As we look over our list, we see another passage that has some very interesting facts. So we put it in the mix.

1 Corinthians 15:1-2 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you--unless you believed in vain.

Here we see that we are saved if we do something. At least that is what it looks like on surface reading. We say to ourselves, That's good! I wonder if there's more on this subject of what we are to do in being saved?

Of course, we really know that this phrase, "if you hold fast" refers back to "in which we stand" and is not modifying the phrase "by which also you are saved." But so we can see some of the dangers of this type of study when used without a total comparison with all Scripture, we are going to pretend, for a while, that we don't know that fact.

When we start looking for human involvement in being saved, we find there are lots of references to what seems to be just such action.

Mark 13:13 And you will be hated by all men for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

We are delighted to find this passage. Now we can add "enduring to the end" to our list of human involvement. Of course, we didn't take time to compare the phrase with the rest of this passage, or the other Gospel accounts of this declaration.

If we had even taken the time to look a little, we would have seen that this phrase is talking about being saved out of (or through) the Great Tribulation, and being saved into the earthly kingdom. However, in our make-believe study, we are not making a comparative study, we are only making a topical study.

Proverbs 28:18 Whoever walks blamelessly will be saved, but he who is perverse in his ways will fall at once.
Luke 7:50 Then He said to the woman, Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.
Psalms 116:6 The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me.
1 Timothy 2:15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

Please keep in mind that this little exercise is phony bologna, but I want us to see the dangers that can be associated with a topical study when used without carefully and consistently comparing and harmonizing.

In this make believe study, we started off very well by observing that being saved is by faith alone, without self-involvement and without benefit or merit from human works. This fact was found in our key passage.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

However, we did not hold tenaciously to the principle of comparison and harmony. Therefore, we quickly added some extras:

I've tried to make this a little ridiculous, so the dangers will be more evident. Very tragically, all but the last one in this list are held by some theological circles. Some of those who hold to these erroneous doctrines are even called evangelical. The process by which they arrived at their doctrines was not a great deal different than the ridiculous process we just completed. Yes, we must be very careful when we start following a topic through the Word of God, or we too will draw equally false conclusions.

Harmonizing Scripture

I want to close with some passages we will be using in the next lessons. I will make very few comments as we move through these. I ask that you give attention to the reading of the Word, and give honor to the Word read as the very Word of God.

I trust you will take these passages home, and as you study them and others try to establish, from Scripture, what God's will and purpose are. Remember, His will and purpose determine His actions. By discovering God's will, we'll have a better understanding of His holiness, and love. We will also have a far better understanding of how we are to live in holiness, and defeat Satan and our own fleshly desires.

1 Timothy 2:3-6 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

God's desire and His will are the same. Do not compare God's actions with the fickle actions of mankind.

Ezekiel 18:23 Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? says the Lord God, and not that he should turn from his ways and live?
Ezekiel 33:11 Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord God, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?'

We must keep in mind that God's pleasure will be in perfect harmony with His will.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
John 3:14-20 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.
John 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.
John 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.

Don't miss a spiritual truth taught here. There are many Biblical themes touched and expanded on in these passages. Look carefully at John 6:44. It does not have a direct application to our subject at hand, but it indirectly has to do with almost all Biblical doctrines.

John 6:44 tells us the same thing we've learned elsewhere in Scripture. Mankind is helpless to come to God. Therefore, no one can come to God except they are drawn by the God the Father. Without the drawing power of God, all humans are powerless to move even one step closer to God.

At a surface reading, and without comparing and harmonizing this with all other Scripture, it would seem that some are drawn by the Father, and others are not.

Not so! To come to such a non-biblical conclusion shows the lack of Biblical study on the part of the one making such an erroneous judgment. There are other passages, but John 12:31 is enough to bring Biblical harmony.

Christ is again speaking and says that if He be lifted up (on the cross) from the earth, He (Christ being one with the Father) would draw all peoples to Himself. Christ was lifted up! Therefore, He has drawn all peoples to Himself. Don't miss the great truths of the Word of God through failure to compare and harmonize. This truth is further expanded in some of the following passages, along with establishing the will of God.

John 16:7-8 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.
John 8:28-29 Then Jesus said to them, When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. 29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.
Romans 5:16-18 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.
1 John 2:2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
Hebrews 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
John 1:6-13 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man who comes into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

If you see nothing else from these passages, please see God's great concern and love for you. It is His desire that all people (that includes you) be saved. God has provided all that is needed for you to be saved. Now you must decide whether you will continue to reject, or turn from your way and accept what God has provided. Gods' provision for your sin is the death of His Son on the Cross. If you reject that provision, there is no other!