Friday, September 12, 2008

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Biblical Mathematics

Mathematics was something that we all had to learn in school.  We were taught as they say, "the three r's:  reading, riting, and rithmatic."  And, I'm sure that you discovered that there are math people and other people.  Some are very good at it and others only struggle to wrap their brain around the abstractness of it.  I confess that I am a math person, and not one of those who would fall into the category of a  t-shirt quip I saw recently which suggested that, "Studies show that 5 out of 4 people have trouble with fractions."

When we learn math in school, we begin with addition and then subtraction.  The simple stuff.  1 + 1 = 2 and so on it goes.  Then we learn to subtract.  1 - 1 = 0 and so on.  Biblical mathematics does not include these functions.  They are not something that we want to learn at all even though they are very easy things to do.  Right at the very conclusion of the whole book, we read,

"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book.  If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away subtracts from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book" (Revelation 22:18-19).

This warning is not specific to the book of Revelation only but applies to all of Scripture.  "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16).  Jesus dealt with both of these groups while he was on earth.  The adders and the subtracters.  And he had only rebuke for either tactic.  We simply have to look at the Pharisees who added to the word of God their own laws and guidelines hundreds and even thousands of "additions" to make sure that they followed what was written in the Bible.  There are many people and even churches that continue this tradition and the end result is the same.  Matthew 23, is filled with criticism for their behavior, and in Mark 7, he gets to the real problems with this addition approach:  "You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men. . . . Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down" (Mark 7:8, 13).  Beware of anyone who would add anything to the word of God and certainly don't be one of those yourself. 

The Sadducees, on the other hand, were subtracters.  And the big thing that they had subtracted from the word of God was belief in resurrection.  One day they came to Jesus to test him with a question relating to the resurrection which they didn't even believe in!  Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God" (Matthew 22:29)  And then, he showed them with one single word which we translate "I AM" that their whole belief system was flawed.  People and even some churches still try to believe but subtract from the Bible the parts that they don't like.  This is always religion not faith and can be described as "having a form of godliness but denying its power" (2 Timothy 3:5).  What is the gospel without resurrection? (see 1 Corinthians 15:12-17).  Jesus tells his disciples to beware of adders or subtracters (Matthew 16:5-12).

So, say no to adding and subtracting.  But say yes to division.  Scripture says, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).  It would be true to say that there is a way to wrongly divide truth, to handle it incorrectly.  But, unlike addition which brings in something foreign to the word of God, and subtraction which lessens what God has said, division of the word simply breaks it down into bite sized pieces.  And to divide the word, to make it so that I can take it in, is to accomplish one of its intrinsic functions.  Hebrews says,

"For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

We say yes to division of the word of God.  Dig in and break it down and study each little piece of it.  Work to understand every little thing written in it.  And allow it to do its work of division in you and me.  Getting in to the very core of our being and showing us how our attitudes and thoughts measure up to the thoughts and attitudes of the One who breathed those words.  We says yes to dividing the word because it changes us to be more like the One who wrote them.

And we say yes to multiplication too!  Jesus told the parable of the sower, of a man who went out and sowed seed on four different kinds of soil.  Three of them produced no crop to speak of or certainly nothing that lasted long enough to be of any use.  The fourth soil, the good soil, was different, for here there was multiplication, "a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown" (Matthew 13:8).  Luke lets us know plainly that "The seed is the word of God" (Luke 8:11).  In other words, we are to plant the word in our lives and the lives of others who prove themselves to be good and fertile soil, so that the word can multiply and become immeasurably more.  It is through the multiplication of the word that faith comes.  "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ/God" (Romans 10:17).  The word of the Lord rightly divided and then multiplied will never come back as a zero, but will always accomplish all that God intended it to do when he spoke it in the first place (see Isaiah 55:11).

Do not add or subtract.  Learn to divide and multiply.  And, "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly" (Colossians 3:16), doing its work and accomplishing all that God desires.

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