Christianity 201

August 11, 2021

Do Bible Principles Need to be Stated Twice to Matter?

It began with a conversation I had four years ago at the local Christian bookstore concerning Bible features. As the guy was looking at one in particular, he said, “Oh good, it’s got the precepts.”

The first time, it didn’t really register. Then he looked at another and said something like, “Does it have the precepts?”


It turned out he was talking about what most of us would call cross references; the notations of other passages either in a center column, the bottom of the page, or at the end of the verse itself where something related may be found.

The idea of ‘line upon line, precept upon precept’ is taken from Isaiah 28:, 9-10 in the KJV. The NASB expresses it as:

To whom would He teach knowledge, And to whom would He interpret the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just taken from the breast?  “For He says, ‘Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there.’”

The NLT is really contradictory to this idea on its rendering of this:

He tells us everything over and over–one line at a time, one line at a time, a little here, and a little there!”

implying that the learning or teaching or knowledge is linear, but not necessarily cumulative. In other words, one line at a time, doesn’t mean that line B is necessarily building on line A, but to say upon is to imply that it is or does.

(In case you’re wondering if there’s any irony to be found, you’re wrong; the verse itself is reiterated in scripture, albeit 3 verses later in verse 13.)

As we discussed this the idea of “Out of the mouth of two [or three] witnesses was brought into the conversation. This is found in the Old Testament twice.

The one condemned to die is to be executed on the testimony of two or three witnesses. No one is to be executed on the testimony of a single witness. (Deuteronomy 17:6, HCSB)

A solitary witness against someone in any crime, wrongdoing, or in any sort of misdeed that might be done is not sufficient. The decision must stand by two or three witnesses. (Deuteronomy 19:15, CEB)

Those OT passages are cited in the NT by Jesus and by Paul.

But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Matthew 18:16, NIV)

This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  (2 Corinthians 13:1, ESV)

In the Corinthian example, you have to go back to the previous chapter to get the context. Paul is speaking about sorting out matters concerning people who have been found in sinful practices.

Capital crime. Wrongdoing. Sin. Denial of Sin. Nowhere do these passages suggest something related to “the establishing of doctrine.” But don’t get me wrong:

I believe the Bible always corroborates itself on matters of important doctrine.

In other words, it’s internally consistent. I’m just not sure that we need to force it [scripture] into a situation where everything has to be said twice or three times in order to establish a doctrinal pattern, or make it conform to an overarching systematic theology. Or, to come at it differently, it may reinforce something but in an entirely different way than our Western way of thinking can process too simply.

I think to do so is to doubt the value of what we read the first time. It’s saying to God, ‘Now, if you’ll just show me one more time where you say this, then I’ll obey.’ I think that undermines the text somehow. That doesn’t mean to imply that at a crossroads of life we don’t ask God for confirmation of what we are to do. There is the example of Gideon, who put out a second fleece.

So what are precepts? says

precept pre·cept. … The definition of a precept is a guiding principle or rule that is used to control, influence or regulate conduct. An example of a precept is a commandment found in the Ten Commandments.

At that we would need to get into the differences between a rule and a principle. Principles are timeless, never location-specific, widely applicable. Rules apply to one group of people in one particular situation at one unique point in time. The rest of that we need to save for another day.

A cross-reference is simply:

•noun: cross reference; plural noun: cross references
–a reference to another text or part of a text, typically given in order to elaborate on a point.

Anyone who has been reading the Bible for any length of time knows that sometimes the Bible editors have chosen to take us to a reference to a rather obscure part of the verse, not something which indicates its overall meaning. There are times when I have been completely mystified as to the inclusion of a particular reference. Many of you know the danger of over-spiritualizing things, and I don’t want to be guilty of under-spiritualizing something, but… They’re. Just. Cross-references.

And at risk of stating the obvious, there’s 2 Timothy 3:16, which reminds us that all scripture is inspired. (Italics added; four expressions of this verse may be found at this link.)

Here’s my concluding statements on this:

We read scripture not so much because we’re trying to learn precepts as we are recognizing the importance of understanding the ways of God.


If God is saying something to us with unmistakable clarity through a scripture passage, we don’t need to start hunting around looking for a second verse.

May 24, 2013

The Importance of Spiritual Training

Yesterday at our local Christian bookstore, I was briefly introduced to Rick Reed, president of Heritage Bible College & Seminary in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. Along with his wife Linda he has a blog where recently he did a two-part series on the importance of being grounded and trained in the faith, regardless of what you end up doing vocationally. I encourage you to read the full posts at source; this is a mash-up of the two parts. Maybe you’re at a crossroads regarding Christian higher education, or know someone who is. I hope this is helpful to you, or them; and to all of us.

From Part One

Dr. Rick ReedThe best people to send on a rescue mission are those who blend trust with training.

There’s a fascinating story tucked away in Genesis 14 about the time Abram’s nephew Lot got caught in the middle of a tribal war.  He (and his entire family) was taken captive as a POW by the conquering kings.  When Abram got the bad news, he “called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit” (Genesis 14:14).  Dividing his men into two groups, Abram’s small army attacked at night, routed the enemy and recovered Lot.

On the way back home, Abram is met by a king named Melchizedek who blesses Abram for his daring rescue and praises God “who delivered your enemies into your hand” (14:20).

So let me ask you a question, “Why was Abram successful in his rescue mission?”  Was it because of his 318 trained men or because of God’s timely intervention?  The Bible’s answer is “both.”  The passage emphasizes the fact that Abram had men who were trained for battle.  They knew how to handle weapons.  They could be deployed strategically.  But above and beyond that, the Bible credits God with winning the day.  As Proverbs 21:31 says, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.”

The church is engaged in a massive rescue mission.  People all around us are spiritual POWs, held captive and unable to deliver themselves.  As we mobilize to help liberate them through bringing the good news of the gospel, we will need to deploy men and women who trust the Lord and who are trained for service.

From Part Two

We are commanded to love God with all our minds.

Shortly before He was arrested, Jesus faced a series of challenging questions from Jewish religious leaders (Matthew 22).  The Pharisees asked whether it was kosher to pay taxes to Caesar (22:17).  The Sadducees laid out a convoluted case study about a lady who’d been married seven times.  “Now then,” they asked, “at the resurrection, whose wife will she be?” (22:28).

Finally, an expert in Jewish law inquired, “What is the greatest commandment in the Law?”   Jesus replied with these well-known words:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

We know we are to love God with all our hearts, but what does it mean to love Him with all our minds?  If you study Jesus’ responses to the questions He faced that day in the Temple, you’ll get an answer.  Loving God with your mind involves:

  • using discernment to see through hypocritical questions
    “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?” (22:18)
  • using reason to expose erroneous conclusions
    “you are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (22:29)
  • using logic to lead people to new insights
    “If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” (22:45)

And most of all…

  • using Scripture as the final authority in life and death
    “But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (22:32-33)

A Bible school education can help a Christian dig deeper into Scriptures to grow in the knowledge of God.  It can assist a  student in developing a Christian mind and a biblical worldview.   It can shape and sharpen the skills needed to engage in serious theological reflection and answer hostile theological objections.

April 9, 2010

All Scripture Has Its Point of Origin In God’s Mind

Today we’re looking at 2 Timothy 3:16
Today’s New International Version (TNIV)

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for

  • teaching
  • rebuking
  • correcting…
  • training in righteousness

The Message

Every part of scripture is God-breathed and is useful one way or another —

  • showing us truth
  • exposing our rebellion
  • correcting our mistakes
  • training us to live God’s way

New Living Translation (NLT)

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to

  • teach us what is true…
  • make us realize what is wrong in our lives…
  • correct us when we are wrong…
  • teach us to do what is right

My very loose paraphrase

All scripture has its point of origin in God’s mind, and

  • shows us the path God would have us walk
  • highlights when and where we’ve gotten off the path
  • points the way back to the path
  • gives us the advice we need to keep from wandering off the path in future