Scripture and You

Are You Flying Over the Bible at 35,000 Feet?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Much of what is called preaching or Bible study today is like trying to appreciate the wonders of the Grand Canyon from 35,000 feet flying at 600 miles an hour.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

 Much of what is called preaching or Bible study today is like trying to appreciate the wonders of the Grand Canyon from 35,000 feet flying at 600 miles an hour.

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2:8-10)

A Little Ditch, Or a Vast Wonder?

Over the years I have had many opportunities to fly in an airplane over the southwestern United States. If you are making the flight in daylight, the weather is clear, and you happen to pass over Arizona, often the pilot will come on the intercom and say to the passengers, "If you look out the left side of the aircraft, you can see the Grand Canyon down below us." And so you look down, and from your flying altitude all you see, for a minute or two, is what looks like a little ditch in the vast landscape - uninteresting and insignificant. You cannot begin to appreciate the grandeur and wonder of the Grand Canyon from 35,000 feet flying at 600 miles an hour.

But if you get down to 1,000 feet or 500 feet, or especially if you take a helicopter ride through the Grand Canyon, then you really begin to appreciate it - even more so if you go through any part of it on foot. You begin to understand why it is called the Grand Canyon. You begin to appreciate the immense scale of it. You begin to understand the wonder of it. You begin to appreciate the various geological formations, and the varied colors in the landscape. You begin to understand that there are various layers in the rock formations. You begin to notice and understand the plant and animal life that are present. You begin to comprehend how all these things relate to one another within this vast geological formation, and how the Grand Canyon relates to the geography around it.

The State of Contemporary Preaching

The way many of today's preachers approach presenting the Bible to their congregations amounts to nothing more than flying over the Scriptures at high altitude and top speed. These preachers are, by their own example, leading their people to treat the Word the same way in their personal reading of it - if they read it at all.

Far too many preachers are not doing book studies today - not even of a short book such as Paul's letters to the Thessalonians. Today most pastors leap around from topic to topic in the Bible. Often they do that because they have a particular agenda in mind. But when contemporary preachers do try to present what they may call a systematic study of a whole book of the Bible, often they take the congregation over the landscape at such a high altitude and such great rate of speed that the congregation cannot really see, much less  appreciate, what God the Holy Spirit has written.

Congregations are not given the opportunity to absorb and appreciate any of the details. They are not given the opportunity to understand how things within a book of the Bible relate to one another, or relate to the rest of the Word of God. They are not given the opportunity to understand the deep Scriptural riches that are ours if we are truly believers in Christ. That kind of preaching really cheats people out of a full understanding and a proper appreciation of what is theirs in Christ. It is like flying over the Grand Canyon at 35,000 feet and 600 miles an hour.

Why Many Contemporary Pastors Fail As Expositors

I believe one of the main reasons is that today's generation of preachers have mostly been trained to run a church as a business enterprise/social organization, and colleges and seminaries have neglected to train them as true expositors of the Word. They have been trained in "the basic principles of the world" which the Holy Spirit through Paul warned against in Colossians 2:8-10. Another reason is that much of what is taught in homiletics classes in Christian academia encourages preachers to zoom over the Scriptures like fighter pilots, lest they "bore" their people.

Even among those who have been trained as expositors, many are letting the "business" of running the "church enterprise" take first place in their lives. They are sacrificing, on the altar of worldly philosophy, the time that must be taken to prayerfully dig into the Word themselves to prepare careful, faithful expositions of the Scriptures to preach to their people. What a man brings to the pulpit will be the spiritual overflow of his own life in the Word. Sadly, for many men today, that "overflow" is little more than a trickle - or it is the overflow not of the things of the Spirit, but the thinking of the unregenerated world.

Resolving to Follow A Better Course

At TeachingTheWord we endeavor to strongly resist the temptation to "fly" over the landscape of the Scriptures at high altitude and top speed. Thus far on The Scripture-Driven Church radio broadcast we have produced 189 half-hour programs on the book of Colossians alone - and we are only down to chapter 3, verse 6. We endeavor, in reliance on the Holy Spirit, to treat all other parts of the Word with similar care.

When we began producing messages on Colossians we resolved that we did not want to take our listeners through Colossians at such a height and speed that they cannot really see anything. We want each listener to appreciate the riches of the book, the riches of Jesus Christ. We want people to understand how things relate to one another. We do not want any Christian to be cheated out of a deep understanding and appreciation of what is his, in and through the Lord Jesus. That is why we are doing verse-by-verse, and often word-by-word, exposition of the book and pointing out its integral connections with all of the rest of Scripture from beginning to end. We pray that the Lord will bless and use this approach in each mind and heart, according to His great plan for all things, and according to each listener's need.

We also encourage our readers and listeners to do the same in your personal study of the Scriptures. Yes, through our Bible Reading Kit program we encourage everyone to read through the entire Word of God each year. But we also encourage you to you ask these questions as you read it, and pray for the Holy Spirit's leading and power in discovering and implementing the answers:

1. What doctrine is God teaching here? What is the path of sound doctrine? What is the truth? How is Scripture showing me the right way to think, and the right way to live?

2. Does this passage reprove me? Does it tell me that there is an area of my living or thinking where I have gotten off the path of sound doctrine, or perhaps didn't understand it before? How did it happen? How is this adversely affecting my walk with God and my life before others?

3. How does this passage tell me I need to be corrected? In light of what I have read, what needs to change in my thinking and living so that I will return to the right path? Am I willing, by God's grace, to conform my life to His truth? Will I now resolve to do so?

4. How does this part of God's Word instruct me in righteousness - how to remain on the path of sound doctrine, and not stray again? What must I do to remain in conformity to His Word?

God's Word, more precious than gold, will do all of this for you and more - if you read and study it faithfully and systematically, in prayerful reliance upon the Holy Spirit.

For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner [or critic] of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)



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