Saturday, April 2, 2011

Scriptural Surgery

I recently underwent Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery to deal with a herniated and fragmented disc in my back. The acronym the medical industry uses for this procedure is MISS. As I read all the literature provided to me and researched the procedure on the internet, I thought to myself, “What an unfortunate term.” You see, the last thing I wanted to be on anybody’s mind as they inserted surgical tools in the vicinity of my spine was a “miss.” I wanted them to hit their target with the precision of a highly trained sniper. I didn’t want them to miss by even a micro millimeter. My future health depended on the surgical precision of my physician.

Fortunately the surgery has all the marks of success. I am on my second week of recovery and I am already in a vastly reduced amount of pain. My surgeon appears to have accurately cut away parts of one of my discs that had compressed a nerve. The precision involved in the procedure overwhelms me. A simple miss could have had devastating consequences.

It makes me think about something the Apostle Paul said to his protégé and understudy Timothy:

Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth to not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

A unique word occurs in this one verse, the Greek word “orthotomeo” which is translated as “rightly dividing.” It occurs in the New Testament only once, and paints a vivid picture of the responsibility that comes with teaching and preaching God’s Holy Word. It literally means “to make a straight cut” or “to dissect.”

As leaders in God’s church we are therefore called to be scriptural surgeons, operating on God’s word with the precision and care that a neurologist would when performing spinal surgery on a patient. One minor deviation can lead to devastating results. The verse calls us to “study,” not just haphazardly plow into the Bible with no regard for those who have treaded its depths before us. Imagine the development of medicine, and how my surgeon had relied upon the vast library of knowledge about it developed over hundreds of years. Consider his years of education, and the amount of time he poured over texts and case studies. He would never have considered simply dismissing all of that knowledge and trying a heretofore unknown procedure on a patient. Likewise, he would not consider using methods that had been proven as failures and lacking in success rates.

I’ll never forget when my doctor explained the surgery to me. He had confidence in it because he had done it before and seen the results. He knew of many other surgeons with patients who had benefited greatly from the procedure. He was happy and enthusiastic that he could solve my problem. Then he saw the sick look on my face because the last thing I wanted was to turn my spine over to some guy I just met. However, I learned the methods were tried and true, and now I am personally benefiting from them. You see my doctor had studied, a medical board had approved him, he had patients with results he did not need to be ashamed of and above all, he knew how to make a precision cut with his tools.
I believe the manner in which we handle God’s Word is even more critical. My neurologist performs procedures that have temporary results. Eventually my body will grow old and deteriorate. My spine may develop problems again in the future. However, as pastors and church leaders we deal with eternal issues. The fate of people’s eternity is at stake. The immortal soul is exactly that: immortal. The Bible clearly teaches it has two possible fates in eternity: Heaven or Hell. God has called us to the high duty of delivering his message about this most important of all decisions. He has called us to be surgeons of the Holy Scriptures.

Vincent’s Word Studies says this concerning the phrase “rightly dividing the word of truth”:

“The thought is that the minister of the gospel is to present the truth rightly, not abridging it, not handling it as a charlatan, not making it a matter of worldly strife, but treating it honestly and fully, in a straightforward manner.”

Lea and Griffin in the New American Commentary on 2 Timothy state this in regards to this section of the verse:

“This same workman (specifically, Timothy but by application all believers today) was to be accurate in delivering the message of truth. The truth is the gospel. Paul showed concern that Timothy would present the gospel without perverting it or distorting it. He was not to be turned aside by disputes about words or mere empty prattle.”

I have a friend that will be undergoing her sixth back surgery later this year. Early on a physician performed a surgery that created more problems for her than it solved. She is still dealing with the consequences of those issues today hoping that maybe this surgery will be her last. A man calling himself a physician failed to live up to his calling and wounded his patient instead of helping his patient.

God has given us a glorious epic of truth called the Bible. This year is the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. It’s the anniversary of a milestone because it celebrates the Bible being made available to the mass of men in their common vernacular. Celebrate this anniversary by reading God’s glorious word. You don’t have to read only the King James Version, pick up a copy that you can enjoy and understand. Find a church that preaches the truth of that Word. If you are a pastor, follow the tenets of 2 Timothy 2:15 – study it, don’t be ashamed of it, and rightly divide the truths of it.



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