UNDERSTANDING: THE NEVER-ENDING QUEST
It is fascinating and terrifying to live in the middle of the knowledge explosion.
Because we are intimidated by all that we do not know, we often do not realize how
much we have learned. This morning I can ask questions about common knowledge
that I could not ask thirty-five years ago. Thirty-five years ago, no one could have
understood the questions.
Want two examples? Question one: "What happened when the shuttle mission
visited the Hubble telescope?" You understand I am asking about the space shuttle and
its trip into space to work on the Hubble telescope that provides information about the stars.
Had I asked that question thirty-five years ago, no one, including me, could have
understood the question.
Question two: "Did a member of your family have a quadruple bypass?" You
understand that question. First, I am asking if someone in your family had heart
surgery. Second, I am asking if four exterior repairs were made on the heart to remove
blockage. Thirty-five years ago that question did not make sense.
All of us understand that with each new decade, there is more to know and more
to understand. To refuse to learn the new knowledge and gain better understandings
creates severe handicaps.
Just as refusing to learn and understand new knowledge produces handicaps in
everyday life, so will refusing to learn and understand new knowledge produce
handicaps in our spiritual lives.
- New knowledge and new understanding have always presented spiritual
challenges to each age.
- I thank God that I was not a devout, godly Israelite living in Palestine when Jesus
lived and taught!
- The Old Testament message of the Israelite prophets had been taught for
generations in the Jewish synagogue.
- Those prophecies had been examined, analyzed, and interpreted.
- The meaning of those prophesies had been determined for a long time,
and the majority of religious Israel accepted those explanations as being
- Then Jesus came.
- He came declaring that those prophecies were about him.
- He came bringing new knowledge, new understandings, new applications.
- He came teaching things that no one ever taught before.
- He came challenging those well-studied conclusions that devout Jews
- The greatest single barrier that prevented most of Israel from accepting
Jesus was his new knowledge and understandings.
- In Matthew 13, Jesus taught lessons about the kingdom of heaven by using
seven parables and explaining two of those parables.
- After teaching his disciples privately about the kingdom, Jesus made this
Therefore, every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of
heaven is like the head of a household, who brings forth out of his
treasure things new and old (Matthew 13:52).
- The scribe Jesus refers to is a person who made handwritten copies of
- He became an expert in what was common religious knowledge.
- If he responded to Jesus' presentation of the kingdom of heaven, he also
acquired new knowledge and a new understanding.
- He could use the old and the new knowledge and understanding to open
God's treasures to others.
- Grasping Jesus' new knowledge and understandings while he lived was
- Not even his twelve special disciples really grasped his new knowledge
- I find this statement significant in the Gospel of Luke--it is made on an
occasion after Jesus' resurrection when he appeared to the eleven:
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. . . (Luke 24:45)
- They knew the Scriptures.
- They just did not understand the references in Scripture to the Christ.
- Shortly after his resurrection, Jesus was walking with two disciples.
- They did not realize that this man walking with them was Jesus.
- Jesus' death confused them because they hoped that he would be the
person that God promised would deliver Israel. What they expected and
what God intended were totally different.
- Earlier in the day they heard the report that Jesus was alive again, and
that increased their confusion.
- This is what Jesus said to the two men:
O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have
Beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, he explained to them
the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:25, 27)
- They had a lot to learn, a lot to understand that was new to them.
- It is clear that the first time Peter understood the full meaning of the prophet
Joel's statement in Joel 2:28-32 was when he explained it in Acts 2.
- It is also clear that not even the apostles received a complete understanding
of God's will at one single time.
- Peter had his mind opened to understand the Scriptures concerning Christ
in Luke 24:45.
- Peter understood the full meaning of Joel 2:28-32 on the first day the
gospel was preached in Acts 2.
- But some time after that, perhaps a year or more, the Lord sent a
confused Peter to preach Jesus to some Gentiles.
- Only when Peter began to speak to them in Acts 10 did he finally
understand a truth that was as old as God's plans.
I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show
partiality, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what
is right, is welcome to Him. (Acts 10:34, 35)
- That is the very first time Peter understood that truth.
- Late in life Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:14-16 that Paul wrote in the wisdom
that God had given him, and that some of the things that Paul said were
hard to understand and easy to distort. From that statement, I take it
Peter was still growing in understanding.
- As I said, I give thanks to God that I was not a devout Jew in the first
century--it would have been extremely difficult for me to accept the fact that I
needed new knowledge and new understanding.
- Knowing yourself, do you think you would have quickly accepted the new
knowledge and understanding?
- Or knowing yourself, do you think you would have fought the new
knowledge and understanding?
- I believe with all my being that the Bible is God's inspired word, that it exists
through God's inspiration, and that it is the true authority of God and Christ.
- Because I believe that it is God's inspired word, that it is God's authority for us,
that faith leads me to accept these understandings.
- I must never be afraid to learn and understand anything the Bible teaches.
- Since I will never possess perfect knowledge, I will always be learning.
- Since I will always be learning, I will always need to adjust my
- I must never use my reasoning to discard or ignore teachings that challenge
my past conclusions.
- I must not ignore any "in context" Bible teaching.
- I must not decide that the principles it teaches are unimportant.
- I must constantly grow in my knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ.
- Peter wrote that God had granted to us everything pertaining to life and
godliness through the true knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:3).
- My understanding of Jesus Christ must be the foundation of all my spiritual
knowledge and understanding.
- Someone asks, "Well, doesn't that frighten you?"
- "If you learn something from the Bible that you never knew or understood
before, doesn't that frighten you?"
- "If you learn something from the Bible that brings you to a more correct
understanding, doesn't that frighten you?"
- "If you learn from the Bible that you need to accept and believe some things
that you rejected in the past, doesn't that frighten you?"
- No, it does not frighten me anymore.
- Sometimes it makes me nervous.
- Sometimes it begins a struggle between my conscience and my
- Sometimes it is hard.
- But it does not frighten me anymore.
- "Why? Why doesn't it frighten you anymore?"
- Because my commitment as a Christian is to get as close to God and
Christ as I can get--in my mind, my heart, my conscience, and my
- Everything I learn and understand just brings me that much closer to God,
that much closer to Jesus.
- A correct understanding of Scripture will never lead me further away from
God, Christ, the Spirit, or truth.
- My grandfather on my mother's side of the family was Granville Martin.
- He married a young lady a couple of years younger than himself when he was in
- The first year Joyce and I were married they celebrated their sixty-fifth
- They lived to celebrate their seventy-second wedding anniversary.
- They had ten children, and my mother was next to the youngest.
- Before I reached my teens, there were five living generations in that
family--we stopped having family reunions when we outgrew the park that we
used in Nashville, Tennessee.
- All his work life he did hard, manual labor--he worked as a blacksmith then as
a laborer in a brick yard for many years of his life.
- If I remember correctly, he had about a sixth grade education.
- He was a very generous, kind man.
- My childhood home was 120 miles from his home.
- That was long before interstate highways in Tennessee.
- There was a two lane road coming out of the mountains that passed through
every town and all the traffic lights.
- Since my Dad commuted 100 miles to work and back five days a week in the
other direction, our visits to my grandparents were limited to a couple of times
- In my earliest memories of him, he had snow white hair, and a lot of it.
- Granville Martin was a very devout, godly man.
- He was a diligent student of the Bible--I sincerely doubt that there were many
days when he did not read and meditate.
- He studied from the King James translation.
- I seriously doubt that he would have studied from the Revised Standard
translation which was published long before he died.
- He was a prayerful man.
- The day ended in his home with a family devotional, and if you were there
you were a part of it.
- On the few occasions that I was there, he led the prayer.
- I can still see him getting down on his knees and leaning over his chair.
- For years he preached and taught on Sundays.
- He was a loved, respected elder in the Park Avenue congregation in
Nashville, Tennessee for many, many years.
- When I was a sophomore at David Lipscomb College, the Park Avenue
congregation asked me to teach their adult auditorium Bible class on Sundays for
a semester--that was the class my grandfather attended.
- The class was studying 1 Corinthians.
- I remember well the Sunday I discussed 1 Corinthians 1:21--that in the
wisdom of God it pleased God to choose the "foolishness of preaching" to
save those who believe.
- The common explanation of this verse is that preaching was a foolish
- I pointed out, as I had just learned, that proclamation was the common
way to present and spread any message.
- The correct emphasis of this passage is that God chose the "foolishness
of the thing preached," the message about the crucifixion and resurrection,
to save those who place their faith in the crucifixion and resurrection.
- I still remember my elderly, well-studied grandfather telling me after class that
morning, "You may be right."
- There are things that I understand from Scripture that my grandfather never had
opportunity to know.
- Some of those things did not even exist to be known in his lifetime; we can
know and understand more about the Bible today than was possible then.
- He never had the educational opportunities that I have had.
- He never had the learning environment that I have lived in all my life.
- Does that mean that my knowledge and understanding condemns him? No, it
- Does my knowledge and understanding diminish his faith and godliness? No,
it does not.
- Does the fact that I know and understand things he did not make me a better
man than he was? Absolutely not!
- With his faith, education, and opportunity, he learned as much as he could,
understood to the best of his ability, and became a devout man of excellent
- If I am as committed to God as he was, I can do no less.
- Within my faith, education, and opportunity, I must learn as much as I can,
understand to the best of my ability, and become a devout man of excellent
- And if I do that, some day a son of mine will say the same thing about me:
"Within David Chadwell's faith and knowledge, he was true to his faith and
- That will happen because each generation of Christians is growing in its
understanding of the mind of God.
- That will happen because I already have a son who knows and
understands things about Scripture that I will never know--because he has
better knowledge, better education, and better opportunity to understand.
As Christians, we desperately need to learn to stop opposing Bible knowledge by
creating a battle ground which we divide between right and wrong. We need to
understand that much of the time we are making choices and decisions between good
and better, not good and evil.
Don't worship your religious heritage. Worship Jesus Christ. Don't go to war
over your conclusions. Lift up the crucified Jesus. Rightly divide the word of truth.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 2 March 1997
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