We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Friday, December 11, 2015

Don’t Settle for Sound-Bite Theology

Christian people, are we still taking Christian truth in a tabloid form, or are we facing it and tackling it on a deeper level?  We’re living in an age, of course, that wants everything in tabloid form.  It’s the age of digests.  Even in biographies they no longer write a full biography.  It’s a sort of study, a kind of picture.  This is the tragedy, I feel, of the hour.  People want everything short, snappy, simple, in a digest, in tabloid form.  They start like that, and they go on like that throughout the whole of their lives.  As we read the lives of our spiritual fathers, we find that they struggled with the Word.  They read massive commentaries, and they struggled with them.  They read books on doctrine and on theology, and thus they deepened and developed a deeper understanding, and they were bigger men and women as a result.  And they began to know something about the higher reaches of the spiritual life, the possibilities in the life of grace.  You don’t enter in and then just maintain that the rest of your life.  You must go on, launch out into the deep.  You press forward after the mark, the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

My friends, is there evidence of growth and of development and of enlargement in your life?  Do you resent the effort, or are you making an effort?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Experiencing the New Birth: Studies in John 3,” pg.81-82


Anonymous said...

I agree we should keep pressing toward the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ. Absolutely. However, my husband and I work this out by sticking to the Word alone. 1 John 2:27. It is a rare day when we read a theological book or commentary. The Bereans were commended for searching the Scriptures, at a time when man's teachings and traditions had supplanted the Word of God.

Can commentaries and books be helpful? Only as helpful as the accuracy of the doctrine of the theologian who wrote them. Where do errors in the church (like gap theory, amillennialism, etc) originate? Not from Scripture rightly divided, that is for sure.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

The Bereans had full understanding of the language in use, but we do not. They also had full knowledge of the culture at the time, which we don't. I like to use commentaries to understand a lot of these topics from the historical and language viewpoint. But I use them only as supplemental, and to get historical perspectives as well as clarifications about the language. Commentaries can be very helpful as long as we bear in mind that they come from fallible men.

Anonymous said...

I understand, but all genuine believers have the same Holy Spirit as the Bereans did. :)

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

But, few genuine believers understand the language and cultural context without learning from someone else (i.e., commentaries). There is lot in the Bible that understanding these contexts brings much more to light.

Tim Maguire said...

If Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones (one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century) used commentaries and suggests we should too, I think we should take on board his advice. 2 Tim 2:15 comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

2 Tim 2:15 refers to the written word of God, not to other people's commentaries.

I know "lay" believers who know more Scripture and apply it more accurately than any pastor or "great preacher" I've ever heard. The ordinary plow boy will know more of the holy writ than all the priests, no?


Glenn E. Chatfield said...


Again, 2 Tim 2:15 is written to the culture who KNEW and FULLY UNDERSTOOD the language, and the cultural context. The reason so many "lay" believers know more about Scripture and apply it more accurately is often because these lay people (such as me) take advantage of good scholars who teach them to understand the language and culture for better understanding of the meaning of the text!

Please don't be so down on commentaries; they are very good tools is used with discernment. There are so many nuances of the Hebrew and Greek languages that English cannot properly convey in one-to-one word translations. Is there anything doctrinally that we can't understand without help? No. But the vast deeper understandings of the entire text when understanding the language and cultural context opens the Word to much more amazing and wondrous discoveries. Commentaries are nothing more than teachings from learned men, so whether you listen to them from the pulpit or from a book or an article, there is nothing at all wrong with leaning more about the Scripture.

Anonymous said...


What I'm "down on" is this tendency of man to want to have reliance on man. The "lay" believers I know, one in particular especially who doesn't even use anything written by scholars at all, anyhow, they read Scripture alone and rely on the Holy Spirit to give them understanding.

I just see piles of books in most pastors' offices, and then hear all sorts of things come of the pulpit that clearly aren't in Scripture. Where did they get those ideas from? Man's books. I guess that's all I'm trying to say.

No worries, brother, I know that you know how to use a commentary and greatly respect your conscientiousness with Scripture. Like I said we "rarely" reference other materials, not "never".

Grace and peace to you in Christ,

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

The Holy Spirit doesn't give understanding of the nuances of the Hebrew and Greek languages, nor of the cultural context. These must be learned from those who do know them.

Is this extra information necessary for understanding all that is needed for life and doctrine? NO. But the more one understands these things, the more "alive" the Scripture becomes.

Discerning Christians don't rely on these commentaries for anything except understanding of these things.