Final Instructions - Bible Study Guide
Final Instructions Book CoverSynopsis

    The author’s introduction:

         I have been concerned for many years about the divisiveness and religious in-fighting of the professing church of Jesus Christ. It should be evident that our contentious separatism from others in the body of Christ is proof that we are not following the Lord’s directions in that regard, and our pitiful witness to the world must grieve Him.

         I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, …(Why?)…so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

         The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity,…(Why?)… so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. John 17:20-23 NASB (emphasis and inserts are the author’s)

           I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
    1 Corinthians 1:10 ESV (emphasis is the author’s)

         Our defensive excuse for dividing ourselves from others in the body is, of course, that “we” are right and “they” are wrong, and, though we maintain somewhat of an ecumenical spirit regarding the primary tenets of our faith, we are truly divided in regard to various conflicting doctrines, practices, and interpretations of scripture.
         It is impossible not to acknowledge our situation, but we cannot compromise what we believe to be “truth”, either.
         But what can we do, and what is the cause of all this division?

         Consider this: the Holy Spirit authored all scripture, and, as the Spirit of Truth, He does not guide us into contradictory truth. Therefore, if any two disagree concerning doctine, practice or the interpretation of scripture, one must be wrong, and, possibly, both are wrong.

         But who is to say which ones are right and which ones are wrong? Who or what is the authority that can unite us? I cannot personally accept the Pope as my authority on matters of doctrine, practice, and the interpretation of scripture, and I cannot accept any other denominational, ministry, or expert authority, either.

         Yet, according to most in the church, prophets, pastors, and teachers, most of whom adhere closely to the doctrines and truths they themselves have been taught to believe in seminary, in their denomination, or elsewhere, are supposedly the disciple’s authority in all theological matters. But what does the Spirit of Truth have to say about that? Who is our teacher? Whom are we to believe? And how can we finally arrive at a knowledge of the truth when there are so many authoritative voices clamoring to be believed?

         “But you are not to be called rabbi …(teacher)…, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.” Matthew 23:8-11 ESV (inserts and emphasis are the author’s)

         In this passage the Lord specifically contradicts authoritarian human control over what Christians are to believe, such as the Pope’s authority over Roman Catholic Christians or the Southern Baptist Convention’s control over what will or will not be taught in Southern Baptist Sunday Schools, in spite of their insistence that they believe in the doctrine of the priesthood of believers.
         What the Lord tells us is that we, individually and corporately, are to receive truth (instruction) and commands from Him through the process that He explained to His disciples in John 13-17, and is now explaining to us.

         Therefore, if the disciple is asked, “What is your authority (source) for believing this doctrine or that doctrine or this interpretation or that interpretation or following this practice or that practice?”, there is only one correct answer.

         It is not “the Pope.” It is not “my pastor.” It is not “the prophet.” It is not “my denomination.” And it is not “the Holy Bible.”

         The only correct answer is, “My authority is the Word of God, Jesus Christ, who is the Spirit of Truth and my Counselor, and who speaks His living word into my heart as I rightly divide the scriptures by thorough inductive study (exegesis) and meditation, waiting on Him to guide me into all truth appropriately as He pleases.”

          All else is hearsay, and, sometimes, heresy.

         The problem for many, who may earnestly desire to know the truth, even if it earns them the left hand of fellowship from the denomination they currently belong to, is that they find the Bible difficult to understand.
        An easy solution for them is to lean on the Bible “experts”, their pastors, or study Bibles (all of whom, along with the author, have at least some erroneous bias and unconfirmed assumptive beliefs).
        This “solution” is in reality a problem,  By encouraging believers to lean on these “teachers” for their understanding we are telling disciples what to believe without teaching them how, not only understand what the written text is actually saying, but also how to receive supernaturally revealed truth from the Spirit of Truth.
       It is important for those in the body of Christ who fill the offices of prophet, pastor, or teacher, and all elders and mature disciples who teach other disciples to obey everything He has commanded us to obey, to not do so in an authoritarian manner, but to do so in a manner that inspires those being taught to receive truth directly from the Teacher.

         To do otherwise inspires the same Phariseeical attitude of religiosity that opposed the Lord in His earthly ministry and divides the church today.      Matthew 23:8-11 does not negate the four-fold ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers, but those whom we call “teacher” and “instructor” are, at best, good facilitators of His gift, and, at worst, teaching divisive, erroneous, assumed doctrines, even, doctrines of demons.

         The purpose of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, according to Ephesians 4:11-14, is to prepare God’s people for works of service, and this not by dictating doctrine, practice, and interpretation of scripture, but by teaching them how to hear the voice of the Lord that they may glorify Him through living works of faith.
        The result, then, would be the body being built up (not in numbers but in stature) until we all reach unity in the faith and in our relationship knowledge of the Son of God and become mature (as opposed to our current immaturity evidenced by “winds of doctrine”) attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

         Therefore, the format and purpose of this Bible study guide is deliberately different from most Bible studies. It is not divided into “bite-sized” daily lessons, which is the format most of us have been trained to expect. I didn’t invent the format used in this Bible study, either. If it was up to me, I would have used the same types of formats used by the popular Bible study guides on the shelves of Christian bookstores today.

         But, because there is no way to determine how long it will take for an individual disciple, engaged with the Teacher, to work through a particular area of study, meditation, and prayer, there is no specific time allotted
    or suggested amount of material to be covered in the disciple’s daily application.

         One of the home groups using the pre-publication draft of this Bible study took seven months to complete material, that, in some other format, could easily have been completed in twelve weekly sessions or less (but with much less impact).

         The purpose of this Bible study is to engage the disciple in receiving and responding to (“hearing” and “obeying”) the voice of the Lord (His truth, promises, and commands), rather than focusing on the outward tasks of discipleship, which is the usual approach. As such, the disciple is encouraged not to watch the clock, or jump ahead in the excitement of discovery, but to relish and savor the process, which is a time of spiritual intimacy with the Lord Himself during which He promises to make Himself “real” to the disciple.

         He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. John 14:21 (KJV) (emphasis is the author’s)

         May each one who uses this Bible study guide be blessed with a spirit of wisdom and revelation, and may you learn to “hear” more clearly with your spiritual ears and “see” more clearly with the eyes of your hearts what the Spirit, who is the Lord, is saying, as you correctly divide the word of truth.

         May you find unity in the faith with others who also “hear” and “see” what the Lord, who is our Teacher, reveals concerning His truth, His promises, and His commands, and may the Lord be glorified by the manifestation of His love and His life through your obedient faith responses just as He intended and prophesied, even for you.

         So be it.

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