J. Oliver Jones
SMC Director of Christian Education
Most people seem to miss the “Big Picture.” Why do I say that? Because they live their lives in disregard, or even contempt, toward God and His plan for mankind. God is cursed, Jesus is mocked, and hell is ignored. Then there are some who seem to have a little more regard for spiritual things. They attend church on Easter and/or Christmas, they desire for God to “bless” their marriage by having it performed by a Christian minister, and they might even occasionally wonder what lies beyond this life; but then, not enough to seriously seek the only source that actually has answers to such questions – the Bible. And there are a few who have actually experienced a glimpse of what life is all about, at least to the point that they acknowledge God, give consideration to Jesus, have a Bible on the shelf, and likely at some time in their life have even joined a church.
But what about those of us who have honestly been “born-again” by the Spirit of God, have been baptized into the Body of Christ, are committed to following Jesus, read our Bibles faithfully, pray daily, attend church regularly, and give our tithes and offerings gladly? Surely we understand the “big picture” of what life is all about – the marvelous creation of man in the very image of God, the terrible rebellion and fall of man when he sinned against God, the amazing love of God in providing a Redeemer and Savior through a perfect sacrifice, the unquestioned victory of Jesus over sin and Satan through the cross and the resurrection, the unmerited grace of God administered by the Spirit as He draws all men to Christ, the absolute freedom of man to accept or reject God’s gift of salvation through and only through Jesus, and the unfathomable, eternal blessings that await those who have finished their course and persevered in faith. Yet, still I have to sometimes wonder!
Thirty seven years ago this month (Aug 2014) I first entered Bible College (upon finally accepting the call to ministry after eight years of running). I have often told people that, since my father was a preacher and I had been in church most every Sunday since I was two weeks old, I figured I knew about 25% of the Bible going in. And certainly after spending four years in Bible College majoring in Bible, I anticipated coming out with very little left unknown. Of course, after the first year was completed I realized I had overestimated my knowledge initially, and so perhaps I only knew some 15% going in, and after a year I might be up to 20%. After year two I acknowledged that perhaps 10% was more realistic at the beginning, and perhaps after two years I might have reached the 20% mark. Then came years three and four. I graduated in 1981with the realization I had begun knowing almost nothing, and after four years I had only scratched the surface.
Now, some thirty-three years later and after thousands of additional hours of studying God’s Word I know more than I used to, but now I have some understanding of the depth of the revelation of God which the Bible contains, and the things I have yet to learn may in fact take an eternity. The Bible is the only book that can be read, studied, memorized, and exegeted, but still never fully comprehended. And the reason for this should be evident – it is the heart and mind of God! As the Apostle Paul states in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God.” The word inspired is the Greek word theopneustos, which means God breathed. I like to put it this way, “The Bible is the breath of God!” But while the Bible may not ever be fully comprehended, each time the Spirit reveals a new truth to us from the Word we grow to a greater understanding of God and His plan. We know a little more of the mind of God!
Now, back to the “Big Picture!” All of the things I listed above about God’s creation, man’s fall, God’s love, Jesus’ victorious sacrifice, the Spirit’s drawing, God’s unmerited grace, man’s freewill, and the offer of eternal salvation are true. They are all a part of God’s plan. But it seems as if the writer of Hebrews might place these things in the category of “elementary principles” of the faith, and encourages believers to go on to higher revelations – “let us go on to perfection.” Read the following from Hebrews 5:12 – 6:3. . .
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits.
The big picture is that as believers we are to be going on to perfection! So let us take a brief look at that word to see exactly what it means.
The transliteration of the Greek word is teleiotes. The KJV translates this as perfection; the NASB as maturity, and the AMP as completeness and perfection. Strong’s Concordance defines it as “(the state) completeness (mentally or morally) – perfection (-ness).” Clement of Rome stated this was “moral and spiritual perfection.” HELPS Word studies states, “completion (consummation), in its cumulative sense, i.e. built on what has to precedeand also supports the stage that must come next.” Adam Clark in his commentary stated, “Let us never rest till we are adult Christians – till we are saved from all sin, and are filled with the spirit and power of Christ.” Finally, the Cambridge Bible Commentary states, “The ‘perfection’ intended is the ‘full growth’ of those who are mature in Christian knowledge.”
So the God-breathed revelation we call the Bible encourages us as believers to press on to perfection, maturity, and completeness both mentally and morally, building on the foundation which has been previously laid, growing in knowledge of the Word, saved from all sin, and filled with the Spirit and power of Christ. This is why Jesus became flesh, died on the cross, and was resurrected on the third day. Not just to provide us with a fire insurance policy against hell, but that in us God might restore His image lost by Adam, conform us to the very likeness of His Son, and perfect us so that we, the crown of His creation, can glorify Him through our good works. This is the “Big Picture.” This is what being a Christian is about. And this is why as believers it is our responsibility to “study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). This is the ultimate purpose of Christian Education. This is why we support our Bible College. This is why we offer the Wesley Institute of Bible and Ministry Training. And this is why as believers we need to take these opportunities seriously.