written by SEA member, Roy Ingle
After reading a commentary on the book of Romans and especially studying Romans 9 for a series of posts I was doing on the subject of prevenient grace, I was struck with how people read the Bible looking for their own doctrines. For instance, Dr. Vic Reasoner quoted Martyn Lloyd-Jones who states on Romans 9, “For anyone to exalt predestination as the main theme in this section in this selection is almost to be guilty of blasphemy. It is God Himself in the glory of His person and character. Predestination is merely one of the ways in which God works out His great purpose” (A Fundamental Wesleyan Commentary on Romans, p. 385).
It seems that many go to Romans 9 or other places looking for their doctrines. F. Leroy Forlines points out in his commentary on Romans that nearly 80% of all commentaries he had read saw Romans 9-11 as teaching unconditional election as the main subject. Calvinists such as John Piper have written books on the subject of Romans 9 and conclude that God elects individuals unto salvation by His own sovereign decree and will.
I am convinced that when we read the Bible, we often read it looking for something. I remember reading a man’s testimony of his “conversion” to Calvinism in which he said that after “God opened my eyes to the doctrines of grace, I begin to see them on every page. The Bible was dripping with the sovereignty of God and His electing purposes.” Really? I don’t doubt that the Bible does speak of God’s sovereignty nor that election or predestination are subjects the Bible does deal with but to say that the Scriptures are dripping with their teachings are hard to fathom.
Unless you are looking for them. If you are looking for a certain doctrine, it is there. I am convinced that we can convince ourselves that any doctrine is there. Whether it is right or wrong is another question. I have watched Jehovah’s Witnesses find their pet doctrines in the pages of their New World Translation. I have watched Mormon elders find doctrines such as baptism for the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:29. I have watched antinomians build a case against living a holy life from the pages of Scripture. Again, the issue is not whether they are right or wrong but they find their doctrines in their reading of the Bible.
This is why exegesis is so vital. I know godly Calvinists would certainly agree. Too often I myself am guilty of looking for Arminianism in the pages of Scripture. I should be reading looking for Christ but instead I find myself looking for Arminius. Instead of looking for Christ, for example, in the book of Revelation, we look for our end time views. Instead of looking for the glory of Christ in John 6, we look for our proof texts on the drawing power of God. Instead of looking for the glory of Christ in the book of Acts, we look for the work of the Holy Spirit, the style of the early Church, or evangelism. Christ should be our focus. All of Scripture points to Jesus (see Luke 24:26-27; John 20:31). Christ is the glory of God. Christ is the focus of the Bible. Christ is faithfully revealed in the Bible. I don’t doubt that all that the Bible says about history, science, geography, etc. is absolutely true but the purpose of the Bible is not to prove creationism or to disprove atheism or to prove Arminianism but the purpose of Scripture is this: to reveal the glory of God as He has revealed His glory in His Son (Colossians 1:15-20). All of Scripture drips with the glory of the Lord Jesus from Genesis to Revelation.
So when you read the Bible, what are you reading for? Are you looking for Christ or are you trying to prove your doctrines? Are you looking for the glory of Christ in the pages of Scripture or are you looking for Calvinism or Arminianism? Let us be careful to look for Christ and find that He is the One that is worthy of all worship and praise. Jesus is not a doctrine. He is our Risen Savior who lives forevermore!
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