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Lesson 4: The Bible - the Authoritative Source of Our Theology *

Introduction: All of our studies are centered on the Bible. Every question starts with reading a text. Not every church or every study group has this kind of focus. I recall visiting a Sabbath School class where everyone sat in a circle. They all had a Bible, that was closed, and they all had their study guides opened. The class members answered from their memory of what they thought had been written, and often it was not a statement from the Bible. When I read a Bible text and suggested it applied to the discussion, the teacher seemed pained to have to open his Bible and find the text! Let's jump into our study today to learn more about the Bible as our authoritative source of what we believe!

  1. Tradition and Culture


    1. Read Mark 7:1-4. Who thinks the disciples are following the best practice? (I'm with the Jewish leaders on this issue. Notice that "some" of the disciples failed to wash their hands.)


    2. Read Mark 7:5. How would you have answered this question? (Without a complete understanding of the context, I would say to the disciples, "Hey guys, you should wash your hands.")


      1. Do you think that ceremonial washing is the same as regular hand washing?


      2. Do you think that the Jewish leaders primary concern was hygiene? (My understanding from reviewing some commentaries is that the Jewish leaders were looking to find fault with Jesus, and they were speaking of something other than general hand-washing.)


    3. Read Mark 7:6-8. What does Jesus' response suggest about whether the discussion is about normal hygiene? (Jesus is speaking about moral issues. That suggests to me that the Jewish leaders were not speaking about normal sanitation issues.)


    4. Let's examine the text Jesus quotes. Read Isaiah 29:13. How would you describe God's complaint about His people? (They say things they do not really mean. They make up their own rules.)


      1. What does that teach us about the real motive behind the criticism of the Jewish leaders? (This was not a commonsense issue about sanitary practices. The "hearts" of these leaders were far from a true concern about God. Instead, they were concerned about human tradition.)


      2. What "human traditions" do you see in your local worship? What traditions have you worked through in your life? (I was in law school during the days of a very strong counter-cultural movement. Despite that, and the fact that I was poor, I wore a necktie every day. When I became a lawyer, I wore a suit to the office long after the other lawyers had stopped wearing one. I wore a suit to church because I thought that if I had to honor a judge by wearing a suit to court, I should honor God by wearing a suit to church. One day someone suggested to me that this practice might discourage others, who did not own a suit, from attending church. My working culture was different than that of others.)


        1. Is wearing a necktie or a suit to church a "human tradition?" (Nothing in the Bible requires it. I'm rather certain Jesus never wore a suit or tie. Instead, I recall that some early Christians in the United States thought that wearing a tie was an improper display.)


        2. In my current church, leaders wear shorts up front. What do you say about that? (I doubt I'll ever wear shorts to church, but I believe my attitude is a matter of human tradition.)


    5. Read Mark 7:9-13. Let's look at "Corban" for a minute. What does the text suggest that this is? (The text suggests, and a commentary confirms, that an individual could declare an asset "Corban" and that would ban it from other use. Thus, you could ban your parents from benefitting from this asset.)


      1. Jesus tells us that this conflicts with the Bible. In our previous discussion about tradition and what we wear to church, does tradition conflict with the Bible?


      2. Does this tend to support traditions that do not conflict with the Bible?


  2. Common Sense


    1. Read Luke 16:1-3. If you were advising this manager, what would you suggest for his future? What would you do if you were this manager?


    2. Read Luke 16:4-7. Is that what you would have suggested?


      1. If not, why not? (It is dishonest. It is a betrayal of the master. This manager helps himself at the direct expense of his master.)


    3. Read Luke 16:8. Is this a misprint? How can this be?


    4. Read Luke 16:9-10. Can you explain how this conclusion about the importance of being trustworthy is consistent with the master's commendation?


      1. On what specific point did the master commend the manager? (He "acted shrewdly.")


        1. What does that mean? (He used common sense.)


      2. What do you think is meant by "worldly wealth?" (What the world values: money, influence, beauty, and power.)


      3. What are we told to do with our worldly wealth? (To use it to "gain friends.")


        1. Are we asked to be popular? (I think it means gain friends for the Kingdom of God. That is consistent with the reward of being "welcomed into eternal dwellings.")


      4. Do you think this parable teaches us to be dishonest? (Given the statements in verses 10-12 that cannot be the case.)


        1. What, then, is this teaching us about being trusted servants of God? (To be shrewd! To use common sense just like a "person of the world" ( Luke 16:8) would use practical, common sense.)


        2. Consider a more pointed question: Are we being dishonest as servants of God if we do not use common sense?


        3. Are we trusted servants if we use common sense?


      5. How does this help us understand how we should interpret the Bible? (I don't think we should follow popular culture or what is "politically correct," but we should use common sense in how we interpret the Bible and practice what it says.)


      6. A slightly different understanding of this parable is that we should use our money (assets) with a view to our future in heaven.


  3. The Holy Spirit


    1. Read Acts 15:1-2. Is circumcision a "custom" or "tradition?"


    2. Read Genesis 17:9-10, Leviticus 12:1-3, and John 7:22-23. What do these texts suggest about whether this is only a tradition?


    3. Let's continue with our story. Read Acts 15:5-6. How would you characterize the decision to be made by the early church? Were they attempting to interpret the Scriptures?


      1. Are the leaders of the early church a good guide for us today on the issue of Scriptural interpretation?


    4. Read Acts 15:7-8. What role does Peter argue that the Holy Spirit plays in understanding Scripture?


    5. Read Acts 15:12-13 and Acts 5:19-20. How did the church leaders treat the working of the Holy Spirit in interpreting what seemed to be a very plain contrary statement in the Old Testament? (This is a very sensitive area. We do not want to accept prophets who contradict the Bible based on a claim of the leading of the Spirit. On the other hand, if the Holy Spirit is acting on many fronts to promote a different understanding of the Bible, we need to pay attention.)


    6. Friend, will you learn to distinguish between custom, tradition and culture, and the teaching of the Bible? Will you use common sense in applying the teachings of the Bible to your life? Will you seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in understanding God's will for your life? Why not commit to these things right now?


  4. Next week: By Scripture Alone - Sola Scriptura.
* Copr. 2020, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2020 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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