The issue that we all face daily is “By what standard do I live my life?” I have always, since I was a little child growing up in a Christian home, believed that the Bible is my standard for how I live and what I believe, and I still do. The Bible is the transcribed record of what God’s prophets, apostles, a few of their close associates, as well as Jesus Himself, believed and taught.
Nevertheless, even with the almost unanimous agreement among sincere Christians as to the Bible being the final, written basis of our faith, we have an almost innumerable number of different opinions as to what the Bible means by what it teaches.
Pentecostals, Charismatics, Cessationists, Calvinists, Arminians, Liturgical Anglicans, Brethren, Dispensationalists, Universalists, Quakers, Pacifists, Amish, Mennonites, etc., all have disparate views of what the Bible teaches, but they all say their faith is based on it. How can that be true? How do we handle that?
I believe there are two foundational reasons that are crucial to our understanding before we can keep from driving ourselves crazy trying to make any sense of this conundrum. We will discuss the first foundational reason today and next week the second.
The first reason is understanding that we “know” truth in two ways; by 1.) external, intellectual observation or study. This type of “knowing” in the Bible is expressed by the Greek word “eido.” The other way to “know” truth is by 2.) an individual, personal experience, expressed in the Bible by the Greek word “ginosko.”
Christianity, at its heart, is a ginosko experience with the living God. An eido belief in Jesus does not make one a “born-again” Christian. One may be an earnest, seminary-educated, Bible teaching “believer,” but it is a personal, super-natural experience with the living God that results in the new birth.
Paul himself is a classic example of this powerful idea. He was an accomplished, religious leader—a Pharisee, who, according to the law, was considered “blameless” (Philippians 3:5, 6). He had mastered the Scripture, but his knowledge of God was entirely eido, based on his interpretation of the Bible in his day, primarily the Old Testament..
On the road to Damascus, and during the next few days immediately following in the upper room, he met the living God for the first time in a ginosko experience, and was born again! He now “knew” God in a brand new way, and He spent the rest of his life, now with new eyes, learning what had happened to him!
So, as we recognize the two distinctly different kinds of “knowing,” we can begin to see how there can be such a range of Bible interpretation among true, genuine, sincere, eido “believers.” All are invested in studying, learning, exegeting and propagating their particular perspective, which they consider to be the “right” one. Arms length, intellectual, Eido knowledge lends itself perfectly to that type of approach.
However, when one’s relationship with the Lord is an experiential one (ginpsko), when He speaks to us in our hearts, we “know” in a way that makes us a prisoner of that biblical truth, We are believing what a Person, God Himself, tells us, not what we believe from reading in a book!
On two separate occasions, I spent several years diligently reading, researching, and studying controversial and unpopular biblical positions on issues that are considered by many Bible scholars “heresy.” In both instances I finally came to a conclusion that I desperately did not want to reach: Yes, I finally had to admit, I DO believe this! The biblical, spiritual truth that I once rejected, I found I could no longer do so, because I could not deny what I felt God was telling me in my heart.
Is what I think God is telling me also God’s authoritative word to you? Of course not. I’m not even sure its God’s word to me!. I live in a wickedly sinful body, always prone to sin (Romans 3:10-12), but I believe in my Heavenly Daddy Who loves me and can open my eyes to the Truth at any time, if He wants me to see it right then. It is ginoso that changes my faith from trusting in external ideas to trusting solely in a Person Who lives in my heart!
So, I believe the first foundational reason for the disagreements and even animosity between Christians concerning the meaning of biblical teaching, is a failure of Christians to know spiritual truth experientially rather than intellectually. Next week we will look at the second reason for these disagreements—the continuing, unconscious, residual effects of the Fall on all creation..