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.

  1. New knowledge and new understanding have always presented spiritual challenges to each age.
    1. I thank God that I was not a devout, godly Israelite living in Palestine when Jesus lived and taught!
      1. The Old Testament message of the Israelite prophets had been taught for generations in the Jewish synagogue.
        1. Those prophecies had been examined, analyzed, and interpreted.
        2. The meaning of those prophesies had been determined for a long time, and the majority of religious Israel accepted those explanations as being unquestionable truth.
      2. Then Jesus came.
        1. He came declaring that those prophecies were about him.
        2. He came bringing new knowledge, new understandings, new applications.
        3. He came teaching things that no one ever taught before.
        4. He came challenging those well-studied conclusions that devout Jews held.
        5. The greatest single barrier that prevented most of Israel from accepting Jesus was his new knowledge and understandings.
    2. In Matthew 13, Jesus taught lessons about the kingdom of heaven by using seven parables and explaining two of those parables.
      1. After teaching his disciples privately about the kingdom, Jesus made this statement:
        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).
        1. The scribe Jesus refers to is a person who made handwritten copies of Scripture.
        2. He became an expert in what was common religious knowledge.
        3. If he responded to Jesus' presentation of the kingdom of heaven, he also acquired new knowledge and a new understanding.
        4. He could use the old and the new knowledge and understanding to open God's treasures to others.
      2. Grasping Jesus' new knowledge and understandings while he lived was extremely difficult.
        1. Not even his twelve special disciples really grasped his new knowledge and understanding.
        2. 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)
          1. They knew the Scriptures.
          2. They just did not understand the references in Scripture to the Christ.
      3. Shortly after his resurrection, Jesus was walking with two disciples.
        1. They did not realize that this man walking with them was Jesus.
        2. 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.
        3. Earlier in the day they heard the report that Jesus was alive again, and that increased their confusion.
      4. This is what Jesus said to the two men:
        O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
        Beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, he explained to them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures.
        (Luke 24:25, 27)
        1. They had a lot to learn, a lot to understand that was new to them.
      5. 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.
      6. It is also clear that not even the apostles received a complete understanding of God's will at one single time.
        1. Peter had his mind opened to understand the Scriptures concerning Christ in Luke 24:45.
        2. Peter understood the full meaning of Joel 2:28-32 on the first day the gospel was preached in Acts 2.
        3. But some time after that, perhaps a year or more, the Lord sent a confused Peter to preach Jesus to some Gentiles.
        4. 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)
          1. That is the very first time Peter understood that truth.
        5. 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.
      7. 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.
        1. Knowing yourself, do you think you would have quickly accepted the new knowledge and understanding?
        2. Or knowing yourself, do you think you would have fought the new knowledge and understanding?

  2. 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.
    1. 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.
      1. I must never be afraid to learn and understand anything the Bible teaches.
        1. Since I will never possess perfect knowledge, I will always be learning.
        2. Since I will always be learning, I will always need to adjust my understanding.
      2. I must never use my reasoning to discard or ignore teachings that challenge my past conclusions.
        1. I must not ignore any "in context" Bible teaching.
        2. I must not decide that the principles it teaches are unimportant.
      3. I must constantly grow in my knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ.
        1. 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).
        2. My understanding of Jesus Christ must be the foundation of all my spiritual knowledge and understanding.
    2. Someone asks, "Well, doesn't that frighten you?"
      1. "If you learn something from the Bible that you never knew or understood before, doesn't that frighten you?"
      2. "If you learn something from the Bible that brings you to a more correct understanding, doesn't that frighten you?"
      3. "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?"
      4. No, it does not frighten me anymore.
        1. Sometimes it makes me nervous.
        2. Sometimes it begins a struggle between my conscience and my understanding.
        3. Sometimes it is hard.
        4. But it does not frighten me anymore.
      5. "Why? Why doesn't it frighten you anymore?"
        1. 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 understanding.
        2. Everything I learn and understand just brings me that much closer to God, that much closer to Jesus.
        3. A correct understanding of Scripture will never lead me further away from God, Christ, the Spirit, or truth.

  3. My grandfather on my mother's side of the family was Granville Martin.
    1. He married a young lady a couple of years younger than himself when he was in his mid-teens.
      1. The first year Joyce and I were married they celebrated their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary.
      2. They lived to celebrate their seventy-second wedding anniversary.
      3. They had ten children, and my mother was next to the youngest.
      4. 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.
      5. 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.
      6. If I remember correctly, he had about a sixth grade education.
      7. He was a very generous, kind man.
    2. My childhood home was 120 miles from his home.
      1. That was long before interstate highways in Tennessee.
      2. There was a two lane road coming out of the mountains that passed through every town and all the traffic lights.
      3. 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 a year.
      4. In my earliest memories of him, he had snow white hair, and a lot of it.
    3. Granville Martin was a very devout, godly man.
      1. He was a diligent student of the Bible--I sincerely doubt that there were many days when he did not read and meditate.
        1. He studied from the King James translation.
        2. I seriously doubt that he would have studied from the Revised Standard translation which was published long before he died.
      2. He was a prayerful man.
        1. The day ended in his home with a family devotional, and if you were there you were a part of it.
        2. On the few occasions that I was there, he led the prayer.
        3. I can still see him getting down on his knees and leaning over his chair.
        4. For years he preached and taught on Sundays.
        5. He was a loved, respected elder in the Park Avenue congregation in Nashville, Tennessee for many, many years.
    4. 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.
      1. The class was studying 1 Corinthians.
      2. 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.
        1. The common explanation of this verse is that preaching was a foolish activity.
        2. I pointed out, as I had just learned, that proclamation was the common way to present and spread any message.
        3. 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.
      3. I still remember my elderly, well-studied grandfather telling me after class that morning, "You may be right."
    5. There are things that I understand from Scripture that my grandfather never had opportunity to know.
      1. 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.
      2. He never had the educational opportunities that I have had.
      3. He never had the learning environment that I have lived in all my life.
      4. Does that mean that my knowledge and understanding condemns him? No, it does not.
      5. Does my knowledge and understanding diminish his faith and godliness? No, it does not.
      6. Does the fact that I know and understand things he did not make me a better man than he was? Absolutely not!
    6. 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 Christian character.
      1. If I am as committed to God as he was, I can do no less.
      2. 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 Christian character.
      3. 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 understanding."
        1. That will happen because each generation of Christians is growing in its understanding of the mind of God.
        2. 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.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 2 March 1997

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