Wednesday, January 5, 2022

IBS-24 What does "Timeless Truth" mean?

The Big Idea: What does Biblical timeless truth mean and why does it matter?

Today we return to the series A Practical Starter Guide to Inductive Bible Study which we paused from for Advent.

 The Big Idea

When interpreting a Bible passage look for the timeless truth, sometimes called the universal truth.  What does that mean? I propose it is the most basic big idea at the core as a simple statement stripped of culture or historical period. It should be as relevant for the Biblical Abraham as for Abraham Lincoln. Simply state it in a short sentence.

“God is always with us.”

“Lies are destructive to relationships.”

“When one prays to God He listens.” 

Our own cultural era is known for relativism, which touts that truth is relative to each individual’s own perception and experiences. Experience based, it tends to be subjective. We know that even our culture must admit there are some absolutes. In science, the law of gravity for instance. Regarding moral truth, we know that there is a collective conscience among human beings that deplores a brutally heinous crime.


Standard of Truth

The Bible sets itself as a standard of truth. Look at Psalm 19:7 about the Word of God, the Bible.

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7 ESV

Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “The Spirit of truth” in John 16:13. He calls Himself the Way, the Truth and the Life in John 14:6.

Distilling a Bible story or passage down to the timeless truth is important because it leads us to appropriate application to our own everyday life. It bridges the journey from the cultural of the Middle Eastern ancient Bible times to our modern world.


The Picture, the Window and the Mirror

A pastor heard a well known pastor, Warren Wiersbe, illustrate finding timeless truths for writing sermons. He described it using the components of a picture, a window and a mirror A good explanation of this analogy for timeless truth would be like this.

The picture is the story or narrative in the Bible, beautifully written in its cultural context. We can look at it and admire it like a Rembrandt painting. But is it not our world.

Consider the window as the process from the Biblical world to our own. Someone referred to it like a time portal. Do it in prayer, study, and reflection on the key thought and driving principles that shed insight like a window opened, to cross over to our time. In writing magazine articles and Bible messages on world missions I found time spent thinking and praying on the big idea of the passage was time well spent.

The mirror represents reflection and introspection. We look at the passage for it to illuminate our current life. Could one apply the point of the passage on our life like putting on a shirt or a hat? Could we use the passage to examine our life similar to looking at a mirror before heading out the door?

God’s Word was written and is presented to us in multiple ancient Middle Eastern contexts. To best apply it to our lives it is useful to distill the big idea, that is, the timeless truth separated from culture, to move to relevancy of Scripture to our own world. Many of us do this without realizing it. 

Next week we will explore how ten steps can help us find the timeless truth of a passage.