**It is my pleasure to introduce this three part series of guest posts written by my father, Allen Simmons. He has a Bachelor degree from Baptist Bible College and a Master of Religious Education degree from Tennessee Temple University. Allen has decades of experience studying, preaching, and teaching the Bible at several institutions including the Akron Baptist Temple, Copley Baptist Temple, and Calvary Baptist Church.**
PART 2: PRECEPTS AND LINES
Isaiah 28:9-10, “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. 10. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little and there a little:”
In the context, this is used as a negative principle to bring the Jews into judgment. I believe it can be used as a general framework for understanding Biblical matters. For this study, we will use it to explore how we can understand the Bible.
A precept is a rule or an order. The 10 commandants are good examples. The Bible is full of precepts.
Job 28:28 says: “And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” You depart from evil by following the precepts and by rejecting every false way. (See Psalm 119:100 and 104). Job himself was a man the Lord called “perfect” because he “feared God and eschewed evil” (Job 1:1, 8). This is a learn by doing (or by not doing) situation.
In time, as you follow God, you come to understand why certain things are commanded. When you were a child doubtless you were told by your parent not to touch something that was hot. You can learn that lesson in one of two ways: you either touch it or you don’t. If you touch it, you are burned and you learn the hard way to your detriment. If you obey, you will someday realize what they were telling you without the harm.
Most people learn the harmful way. When it comes to the things of God, it is better to learn things the other way. He will sometimes teach you harmful things, but with Him it is under controlled conditions with your benefit in mind (Romans 8:28). If you find out by rebelling against Him, you may take harm to yourself you could have avoided if you had simply obeyed Him.
If you want to understand the Bible, then precept must be upon precept. Hearken and obey. By obedience you learn understanding. By following, you will eventually see where you are going in a clearer fashion. The right attitude toward God and His book will open your spiritual eyes. There have been times when I have not understood something I had to endure until years later and God finally showed me the reason I had to go through it.
Experiences like this have made me a better Christian, a better man, and a better minister. If I hadn’t obeyed the precepts, I wouldn’t have gotten the understanding. Precept must be upon precept: Whether you feel like it or not – whether you can’t see the sense of it or not – whether you think there is a better way or not. This is one of the reasons patience is a virtue cultivated by God. When obeying the precepts seems tedious, obedience still eventually pays off. It has taken me a lifetime to understand this as thoroughly as I do. Be patient. Seeing the light is not enough, you must follow it.
The Lord isn’t afraid of anyone. His Book is able to take on all comers. Men and their worldly wisdom don’t mean much to him (I Corinthians 1:17-31; 2:4-8; James 3:13-18). No matter how smart or educated some of them are professed or reported to be, they are fools where God is concerned and their understanding is warped and nullified. You need to realize, if you put precept upon precept, you need not fear the ungodly or those who follow false gods. You will be able to see where their beliefs take them, and see where they are going wrong before they get there. More and more the things not of God will seem foolish and silly, and repetitive.
For the first few years after I decided to believe the Book, I proved it by putting it up against everything from philosophy to science. One of the first things I noticed was the things of man constantly change as the men who come up with those things are proven wrong by the men who come after them (sometimes with old things that have been previously invented and forgotten). The cycle constantly repeats over and over again. What men attack the Bible with today will be discarded by other men tomorrow. They never learn that the Bible was right to start with. Their sin nature will not let them rest in their attempt to overthrow it (Isaiah 57:19-21). And on it goes.
Unsaved people professing to be Bible scholars or leaders fare no better. Neither do the saved people who abandon the precepts to follow them. That is a large part of the problem with the churches today. The leadership has abandoned the light and started following methodology rooted in the darkness of this world. By doing so they abandon God’s understanding for the Devil’s version. Then, they enter the same loop the ungodly are stuck in as generation after generation abandon worldliness for other worldliness and stubbornly refuse to repent. Eventually the churches that do this are full of the unsaved who are by nature unable to understand the Bible.
Do you want to understand the Bible? Precept must be upon precept. Follow God no matter who tells you otherwise.
A word on the Bible babel. Beware of the Devil’s trick of flooding the market with a variety of Bibles that screw up the precepts under the guise of making things easier to read or to bring things up to date for “today’s Christians.” The men who translate these Bibles are not necessarily saved (see the first section). The people who own these Bibles may be more interested in making money off you than are interested in your spiritual welfare. Stick with the King James (I Timothy 6:10; II Timothy 3:5).
This is a caveat to the precepts. All of the precepts in the Bible don’t apply to you.
II Timothy 3:16 is a good place to start: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
“Line Upon Line”
A line is a boundary that shows where one thing ends and another begins. It shows separation. When you deal with Biblical matters, some are obvious and some are not. The easiest to figure out is the very obvious separation: Old Testament and New Testament. That is so clear even unsaved people can figure it out without a lot of problems. Well. Not really. The dividing line between the books written in BC and the books written in AD that we have come to call Old Testament and New Testament is clear, but when did the New Testament really begin?
According to Hebrews 9:16-17, the proper dividing line would be the “death of the testator” who was Jesus Christ. His resurrection completed the boundary by proving God was satisfied with His sacrifice on the cross (Isaiah 53:11; Romans 4:25). In other words, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is the line. If you don’t get that, you potentially mess up a good deal of Bible doctrine. You can potentially mess up (this is off the top of my head and is not exhaustive): where men go when they die, what you have to do to be saved, Law vs grace, the church, the resurrection, what precepts are in force for us, the role of Jesus Christ, faith vs works, the spirit world, worldly government, marriage and divorce and others.
Do you sacrifice bulls, goats, sheep, or doves? Why not? Because line must be upon line. You need to be conscious of to whom and to when a precept is given. Some are given to individuals. Some are given to groups exclusive of other groups. (It ain’t my job to kill all the Amalekites, If any were still around someone would try to get missionaries to them and get them saved).
The Jews were told to go to war at times and to kill their and God’s enemies. We are told: “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal” in II Corinthians 10:4. If you can’t figure out where the line is, you end up like the Catholics did during the days of the so called “Holy” Roman Empire when they tortured and slaughtered enemies – real and imagined. Line must be upon line.
A lot of denominational differences are because people can’t rightly divide the word of truth. By practicing this, you can avoid problems associated with Sabbath observances, Baptism Salvation, who and what God is, what a church is and what it’s role is, and many more.
Notice the verse said “rightly divide”. That means you can wrongly divide it as well. You can put too many divisions in it or too few. If you put too many in it, the Bible becomes incomprehensible and subject to endless debate on every minute thing. If you put in too few, you find yourself trying to live like Old Testament Jews or some such.
If you can’t tell the difference between Jesus and your own self, you might find yourself attempting to walk on water or some such foolishness. (I put that down because from time to time someone actually attempts this).
You want to understand the Scripture? Line must be upon line, line upon line. Get online and get yourself a copy of Dispensational Truth by Clarence Larkin. It’s old and he sometimes uses the RV, but overall it is the best and easiest to understand book on the subject I have ever seen. It can open your eyes to a lot of things.
“Here a little and there a little”
This is the part of the formula where people come in. People have differing experiences, levels of intelligence, levels of formal education, and levels of common sense. (This just begins the numbers of factors that make us unique from one another). When you read something a person writes or listen to something someone says, “here a little and there a little” comes into play.
More than one person can expound on the Scriptures and be correct but use different ways to communicate it. In the Bible itself, you have different writers that describe the same event or make the same basic prophesy but express it in different ways. The Lord allows for the differences. The differences in the Bible authors are still inspired and are still correct.
At the same time, if you have some age on you and have listened to many preachers, it may have struck you that different men may have different sermons on the same verses. Some preacher might have a different emphasis put on the passage than the other guy. That is not necessarily bad. As long as it is legit, it is good.
Some folks try to bend Scripture to their own prejudice or world view. These are false preachers and teachers and are to be condemned. There have always been people like this. There will always be such people until the Lord takes everything in hand in the Millennium. Until then, it falls on us to figure out the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. How? Learn the Bible yourself so you can tell the phonies from the real thing. The Holy Spirit will help you out if you follow the precepts designed for this sort of thing (Precept must be upon precept).
Here are some of the verses for this and related problems: I John 4:1-6; I Corinthians 11:12-15; II Peter 2; Jude 16-19; II Timothy 3. Watch out for people who exhibit these characteristics, and watch out for these characteristics if you display them yourself. If you do, it is time to get right with God. Always monitor yourself and make needed corrections in tandem with the Lord so you will be in condition for the Lord to work through you. Don’t become one of the bad guys.
**Please continue reading the final section of this series on Understanding the Bible, Measures and Metes.