Bruce Collins, Evangelist

The personal website of Bruce Collins

Students verses Spoon-fed Sponges

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-14, NKJV)

Are We Allowing the Holy Spirit to do His Teaching?

Recently,  I listened to a press conference having to do with the mass shootings in Lewiston, Maine.  When the conference was over, the news commentators came on and told me what the people at the conference had said.  I got the impression that their interpretation and synopsis of what was said was more important than what I had heard.  It came across as, “What they really meant to say was. . .”  I notice the same thing is true after a football game or a basketball game.  The commentators seem to think that their viewers didn’t really see what happened and that they need to be told.  I can understand comments that add context and statistics, but it is demeaning to tell me what happened when I just saw it with my own eyes.  I have begun to wonder if that is how we are teaching the Bible as well, particularly when we are teaching the epistles.

The Backbone of Bible Interpretation

I am a firm believer in the fact that the epistles are the backbone of Bible interpretation.  I believe that we need to have an understanding of the content of all of the Bible, but we need to let the New Testament writers be the commentators on the Old Testament and on the teaching of the Lord in the Gospels.  I believe that as teachers of the Bible, we should be giving our listeners the background and tools to read and understand the Bible for itself.  We need to make sure that they understand that nothing will make sense if they are not truly “born of the Spirit.”  That is because what we think naturally is usually wrong spiritually.

Then they need to understand what tools are available to help them understand the background and the customs and the language of the New Testament writers.  What we don’t need to do is to tell them, “What the writer really meant to say was. . .”  Most of the people I talk to have asked me if I have read their favorite authors.  I can’t remember when someone asked me when I had read the book of Romans (or other New Testament epistles) and what it meant to me.  I like to listen to teaching where it is obvious the Holy Spirit has spoken to the teacher and that teacher is sharing that with me.  

Difficult Subjects

I realize that there are some subjects such as prophecy where we need a lot of help putting the prophetic plan together.  But interestingly, there are books and books written on the subject and many take different approaches.  Many of them make predictions that have proven to be wrong.  The Bible is not wrong, but the interpretations were wrong.  But because prophecy is so engaging, books that are not doctrinally sound are very popular.  One comment I hear all the time is that the Bible is being played out before our very eyes.  And yet, most who have studied prophecy believe that the prophetic plan and calendar is Jewish and that the things that supposedly are being played out before our very eyes won’t happen until the tribulation period begins.  So when the Lord doesn’t come as predicted and when the middle east battles don’t progress as planned, the unsaved dismiss the prophecies of the Bible.  Of course, things LIKE the things that are going to happen prophetically are happening; but, apart from Paul’s prediction that in the later times things will get worse and worse, and the Lord’s prediction that the temple was to be destroyed, Biblical prophecy is probably not being fulfilled literally today.  We need to remember that WHAT is predicted will happen.  WHEN the prediction will come true is not always evident.

As Bible Teachers we Need to Develop Critical Thinkers

It is time for us to teach people HOW to think rather than telling them WHAT to think.  Paul tells Timothy, “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” (1 Timothy 4:13, NKJV)  The idea seems to be the public reading.  The same is true of the reading of the epistles of the Colossians and the one from Laodicea which we don’t have in our possession unless it was one of the other epistles that Paul wrote.  Paul says, “Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.” (Colossians 4:16, NKJV)  The book of the Revelation was to be read and that probably means publicly. “Blessed is he who reads (aloud) and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep (or guard) those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3, NKJV)

Yes we need help with language and customs and context, but I suspect that those who read aloud the epistles and the book of Revelation did not have to interpret the meaning of the passages to their hearers.  I know some are going to say that in the revival under Nehemiah, that the people not only had the Old Testament read to them, but it was explained as well. We read, “So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.” (Nehemiah 8:8, NKJV)  When it comes to the Old Testament, I believe we all need help but that help is given to us today in the epistles, particularly in Galatians and Hebrews.  I am not sure that I need to have someone tell me what the Holy Spirit is trying to teach me in those books.  Strange doctrines have been promoted by those that teach from these New Testament books.  I would like to believe that we as the people of God can be taught by the Holy Spirit just as the New Testament believers were taught.  If we would let the plain sense make sense, we wouldn’t need to have someone tell us what to think because we have the tools to know how to think.

I feel demeaned when new commentators tell me what the people at the press conference really said.  I feel demeaned when commentators tell me what really happened at the game I just saw.  I feel just as demeaned  when a teacher tells me what the Bible really means when I can read it for myself.  I would hope our teachers would respect those of us who are listening to them enough to tell us HOW to think rather than WHAT to think.  

My Personal Response to this Meditation

As I have been meditating on this, I am convinced that I need to approach my own teaching differently.  I am going to try to make “students” out of my listeners who can think critically about what they read and hear.  I would like them to be students and not spoon-fed sponges.

Bruce Collins

Meditation for the week of October 29, 2023

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