Is More Than the Bible Needed for Bible College and Seminary?

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book-glasses2 Timothy 4:13 (NKJV)

"[13] Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments."

This past week, I had an interesting conversation with a young man that was investigating the possibilities of completing his undergraduate degree through Biblical Life. As we discussed the programs, he asked if we used more than the Bible in our studies. When I replied "of course," he began to chastise me as if I had committed some sin for using materials beside the Word of God in our degree programs.

The attitude of this young man surprised me. When I first surrendered to ministry as a young Baptist boy, my training (even before attending Bible College) was that a minister’s library was essential and, over the years, would become a trusted resource in ministering to the people of God. Great ministers of the past were known for two things: their prayer lives and their diligence in study. All of them had substantial personal libraries. I still remember standing in awe of one great pastor’s office in St. Louis. All four walls of his spacious office were shelves filled with books from floor to ceiling. When he opened his mouth behind the pulpit, the wealth of his knowledge of the Word would fill the hearts and minds of his listeners.

What Made the Apostle Paul so Qualified to Minister to the Gentiles?

The Apostle Paul was a graduate of the School of Hillel. In fact, the wise Gameliel (found in the Book of Acts and highly respected by the Sanhedrin) was Paul’s teacher. Under Gameliel’s instruction, Rabbi Saul (Paul’s Hebrew name) was thoroughly trained in the Torah, the writings, and the prophets. With a solid foundation in the Torah, he was then trained in understanding Greek/Roman mythology and philosophy. He was well versed in showing the superiority of God’s Word over the pagan concepts of these gentile cultures. Without the extensive training he received under Gameliel’s watchful eye, he would have been ill equipped to be the Apostle to the Gentiles.

We should note in 2 Timothy that Paul asked young Timothy to bring his books to him. Most commentators believe that the parchments refer to his scrolls of the Torah, writings, and prophets. As far as the other books, we can only speculate as to what they were. We do know that by his differentiating the books from the parchments, they were not Scriptures.

It was also at the feet of Gameliel that Paul learned the art of writing epistles. It was the leadership style of Gameliel, as a leading member of the Sanhedrin, that Paul used as he was presented with problems throughout the Jewish community and, subsequently, addressed them with biblically based solutions through the writing of epistles. This may be the reason that we have so many writings by the Apostle Paul. His school years trained him to address issues in the communities of faith through the written response.

Foundations for the Hermeneutical Process:

Hermeneutics is the science of biblical interpretation. There are many levels to examine in the proper application of this science.

1. The first step is to look at the context of the sentence, then examine it within the chapter, and then the entire book. Finally look at the concept throughout the Scriptures. It is like dropping a pebble in a pond – all the ripples must be examined. Scripture always interprets Scripture.

2. The next step is to look at the historical and cultural settings of the Scriptures that you are examining. The New Testament has an abundance of Hebraic colloquialisms that are full of meaning. Many ministers completely misinterpret things that Jesus and the Apostles said because they do not understand what was culturally behind what was being said. Such understanding comes from additional books outside of the Word of God.

3. Understanding the basics of Hebrew and Greek is essential for any serious minister. Even if this understanding only comes from knowing your way around Strong’s Concordance, a good Bible dictionary, and lexicons such as Thayer’s for Greek and Brown, Drivers, Biggs for the Hebrew. Digging a little deeper into the original meanings will cause the Word to explode with deeper understanding that can be life-changing. All of these are books beyond just using the Bible.

4. What has God shared with the saints before us? It is right here that some will chide in "See, I do not want manmade doctrines." First, not everything written is manmade doctrines. Many of the saints of old had devotional lives that would put most of today’s ministers to shame. Second, many of their books were what they preached. Like Spurgeon, all those volumes are their sermons written down to inspire those that followed. God even instructed the Prophet Habakkuk to write down what was given to him.

Habakkuk 2:2 (NKJV)
2 Then the LORD answered me and said: "Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it.

If you do not want to expose yourself to the sermons of these men, then what makes you think others should be exposed to yours? They just need to read the Bible, right?

Finally, after the conversation, I looked up his previous school. Their claim to fame was using only the Word of God. Following this model, they were hard pressed to come up with the curriculum to fulfill the proper requirements for degree programs. They were offering Associate Degrees by completing only 36 semester credit hours and the Bachelor Degree for completing 64! In fact, their Associate, Bachelor, and Master programs combined fall a good number of credits short of a true Bachelor Degree (120). Taking such a strong stance on studying the Word only, and then utilizing such poor standards academically, can bring reproach to the name of Christ. As believers, a commitment to excellence should exist in biblical interpretation, academic standards, and lifestyle.

Let us all have excellence of life, ministry, and education through due diligence in our examination of the greatest book on earth – the Written Word of God!

2 Timothy 2:15 (AMP)

[15] Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.

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© Copyright 2010 by Michael K. Lake, Th.D., D.R.E. All Rights Reserved.

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Michael K. Lake, Th.D., D.R.E.

Chancellor and Founder

Dr. Lake is the chancellor and founder of Biblical Life College & Seminary and serves as an educational consultant for various Christian organizations around the world. He also serves as the Pastor of Biblical Life Assembly in Marshfield, MO. In 2009, Dr. Lake also established Biblical Life Publishing to make the same materials that thousands have enjoyed at BLCS available to everyone. Dr. Lake is listed in the US Registry’s "Who’s Who Among Outstanding Americans," Sterling’s "Who’s Who Executive Edition," and the "Who’s Who Among American Teachers" for his accomplishments in ministry.

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