Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo Perspective on Church and Missions.

Hello and welcome to episode 35 of Missions on Point. We're in a series on keys to effectiveness as a missionary. This week we're going to talk about the authority of scripture over man. In this series of 13 keys, there's actually 3 that deal with the Bible in specific ways. The first one has to do with just Bible knowledge, having an understanding of the main themes of the Bible and being able to get around the Bible to find answers. This one has to do with application in practical terms in the culture. The third one coming up has to do with ability and commitment to Bible teaching, and we'll see how all that fits together, but it demonstrates that among the 13 keys, everything having to do with the Bible is a big deal. So in the context of biblical ministry on the mission field, the missionary points and models to converts the authority and sufficiency of scripture. This is very important to have that understanding that the missionary is going to demonstrate in his life, in his teaching, that the Bible is that final authority over faith and practice.

The converts or the new believers or the burgeoning church that grows up out of the ministry needs to understand that also that the Bible is actually over the missionary. The missionary isn't the final say, it's the Bible that's the final say. This applies to so many questions on the field. There are cultural practices that seem to kind of fall in between an understanding of what is right and wrong, what is biblical, what is non-biblical, what is anti-biblical and traditions that are handed down from the culture, from history, from other religious traditions influencing the people so that you have to have the Bible as the guide to see whether or not things ought to be that way, or how do we conform ourselves to biblical understanding of truth and the practice of truth specifically in a Christian's life and in the church. There are all kinds of embedded assumptions in practices of new believers when they come in. They may not have had modeled for them good marriage and family practice.

In fact, it may be quite the opposite. They may not have had experience in seeing what does a Christian life, a Christian marriage, a Christian parent look like, and how do they act in the home and in the church and in the community. So having the authority of scripture over man over man's traditions, man's assumptions is a very important principle to live out and to teach. Sometimes missionaries even create extra biblical rules based on their home culture, which need to be weeded out. So you have to teach the local Christians to be Bereans in the biblical illusion. That is, people who read the scriptures to see whether or not those things are true, whether or not it makes sense to them from the scriptures. It means that the Bible has precedence over programs, for instance, programming in the church. Why do we have Sunday school classes? Why do we have graded Sunday school classes? Is it biblical? Is it practical? Is it just an importation of Western ideas?

We need to sort those things out and let it arise out of the indigenous culture like we've talked about before. What about church structure? How does that work? What is the structure and hierarchy, if you will, of leadership in the church? That needs to come from the Bible and even the terms used for church leaders should be biblical terms if at all possible, not imported ones or implied ones from other traditions. What are the social norms with regard to marriage and family and gender identity, which are hot topics in today's world? What are the biblical norms, not the social norms? What are the principles that apply to us as Christians, not taking it from the culture or society or whatever is popular at the time?

What about counseling? How do we counsel people with issues, with problems, with sin issues? We see that the Bible is sufficient for all things having to do with life and godliness. It doesn't mean that the Bible is the end all of all information everywhere universally, but it does mean that with respect to our relationship to God and our spirituality and how that applies in our daily life, the practical principles of God's word are the very things that are sufficient for believers to overcome the problems in their life. It certainly is our source of information with regard to salvation. It's also our source of information with regard to sanctification in very practical ways. So we don't follow popular trends and fads and personalities, whatever's being promoted out there in the Christian world and impose them onto the local culture. We go back to the Bible. In our experience, we had a couple of situations that had very significant cultural tradition connected with it with regard to chewing betel nut, was one of those things.

Some of the Christians found biblical principles to support their position that they ought not to chew betel nut because it wasn't a healthy practice. Others said, it's simply tradition. It's amoral. It's not sinful in and of itself, and we can choose to chew betel nut. And so not only did they make different choices based on their understanding and the application of scripture, which was great, but the missionary didn't impose a rule from the outside and they had to biblically respect each other's position and still have unity among the body of Christ. It was amazing to see that develop over time so that each side on that issue understood biblically what their response should be and have good reason for it. So the authority of scripture over man has very practical implications in the life and work of the missionary in how they hold high the scripture as the source of authority, of the source of decision making with regard to ministry, as the source of defining the gospel, defining the church, defining what we believe in terms of doctrine.

This principle certainly applies with respect to traditions of the culture, which may be a little bit harder to distinguish. In our experience we had traditions having to do with rice wine that were very interesting in how the local people looked to the scripture to define how they related to this cultural tradition in their tribe. Even in say, a Muslim context, how does a new believer understand Ramadan? That's a big long tradition of 30 days every year in which a lot of other family activities and traditions are wrapped up around it. How does a new believer look at that and what authority of scripture can be applied to it? Do they reject it out of hand or do they, according to scripture, show respect to their parents somehow and participate in, if not the exact practice, in the social gatherings related to it? It's a challenging thing to take the authority of scripture over man and apply it in very practical, real ways, and sometimes that means that the individual Christian may suffer somewhat because of their stance on things.

They may feel isolated because they're applying scripture in a proper way. So you can see that it's important for the missionary to teach the local believers how to apply scripture, not to take it out of context, not to create extra biblical rules because of a spurious interpretation or to impose it on others that are not ready for it yet. Exercising Christian conscience and understanding of the principles of scripture while maintaining unity is also a principle of scripture. This also implies that the missionary is going to be humble enough to seek wise counsel from godly Christians either inside that target culture or inside a culture that is very near to them, like the prevailing majority culture or the trade language culture, but finding Christians who understand the Bible and understand the traditions and practices that may not be biblical and how have they solved them, how do they see it?

What biblical principles would they apply in order for the missionary to understand better how they might apply in the target culture that they're ministering in? Do we look in the mirror and do the same thing in our own church, in our own culture, even in our own personal lives? That's an important consideration. Do we have a proper understanding of the authority and sufficiency of scripture over man and over man's traditions and even man's understanding to a certain extent so that we are examining the programs and traditions and structures and norms of our life and ministry, our families, our church, in such a way as to assure that they are following after a pattern from scripture and not something that we have imagined or inherited from other places? We need to do that in our own church. It's okay to reexamine our ministry programs and say, are we doing things as biblically as we ought?

Are the things that we are doing have biblical support? Can we actually take scripture and show why we're doing what we're doing is the best choice among those choices that are available to us? Or could we be doing things better? Could we have a more solid foundation and understanding of the ministries we're involved in, in order to actually just be more biblical? By saying these things, I don't mean that we need to beat ourselves up over not doing enough. Often when we read scripture and we read the descriptions that go along with leading a godly life or examples from scripture that put us to shame, we kind of beat ourselves up over it and think we ought to be doing more somehow. That's not the point of this key to effectiveness. The point is that the scripture is the standard. It's better used as an evaluation tool than as a baseball bat to beat yourself up with.

It's not intended to cause you to have great grief and a fractured conscience because of not doing enough, but when questions arise as to whether or not to institute some practice or norm or standard or structure or program, it should be evaluated in light of the authority of scripture and in our own lives when we have opportunity to make changes. Maybe there's been a transition time in our life or a change in the pattern of our schedule. It's a good time to reevaluate and see are we doing the right things for the right reasons, and to make adjustments as possible and necessary to get it a little bit more in line with scripture. Rejoice in the grace of God that we're able to do so, that we have the scripture available to us and that we can use it as our authority.

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo Perspective on church and missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, Please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, forever and ever. Amen.

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