Skip to content

Bible Resistance

This is a public health warning for the attention of all those involved in the cure of souls. A particularly insidious threat to spiritual wellbeing has been identified, and we need your help to eradicate it. The phenomenon has been dubbed ‘Bible resistance’. Those most at risk are Christians who identify themselves as members of ‘good’, ‘faithful’ or ‘Bible-believing’ congregations.

Bible resistance has a number of parallels to the medical phenomenon of antibiotic resistance. In simplified terms, antibiotic resistance can occur when a course of antibiotics is prescribed for the treatment of certain bacterial infections. The patient begins to take the antibiotic course, which eliminates a large proportion of the bacteria with the first few doses. However, as soon as the patient begins to feel better, the medication is ceased. The result is that the bacteria that are left (bacteria which are naturally less susceptible to the antibiotics) multiply to form a population of bacteria that is more resistant to the antibiotics, thus lessening the effectiveness of antibiotics in the future. To mitigate this phenomenon, patients are strongly urged to finish their course of antibiotics, even if they start to feel better before the course is finished.

Bible resistance develops in an analogous manner. Christians are subjected to accurate Bible teaching that helps them in their understanding of God immensely. They are able to comprehend the big picture of God’s work through the proper application of biblical theology; they learn to read the Bible for themselves through careful exegesis and exposition; and they gain an awareness of God’s grace and p

ower through the judicious introduction of important doctrines. However, Bible resistance can develop when the Bible teaching frequently fails to ‘finish the course’ in that it fails to devote sufficient time and energy to helping people see the relevance of the subject matter for their own behaviour. That is, the application of the Bible teaching to the individual (i.e. “How should I respond to this?”) is inadequate; it is abbreviated, absent, irrelevant, impossible, assumed, unconnected to the exegesis of the passage, clichéd, just a hobbyhorse of the teacher, delivered impersonally, hypocritical or unthought-through.

The result is an unchanged life. People become used to hearing ‘good’ Bible teaching without feeling the need to respond. This lessens the effectiveness of any Bible teaching in the future. To mitigate this phenomenon, Bible teachers are strongly urged to devote adequate time and attention to providing incisive and relevant application in their teaching. They must also be in the habit of applying the Bible to themselves frequently before they apply it to others.

The author of this article has been guilty of many of the aforementioned omissions, and urges all Bible teachers to be on their guard.

To help you identify individuals at risk of Bible resistance, the following warning signs may help (the list is not exhaustive):

  • A disposition to respond to Bible teaching predominantly by providing ‘feedback’ on how well the exegesis was performed, or how carefully it maintained certain predefined doctrinal standards
  • A lack of any reference to one’s own personal repentance (in thought, word and deed) in an individual’s conversation
  • A preoccupation with the failings of others
  • (Related to the previous point) a preoccupation with church or denominational politics
  • A lack of observable Christian growth over a period of years.

The seriousness of Bible resistance cannot be underestimated. Bible resistance is known to be a contributing factor to a fatal condition known as “hardness of heart”. See, for example, Psalm 95, Mark 3:1-5, Mark 10:1-9, Romans 2 and Hebrews 3, for the devastating effects of this condition. Please be on your guard, and pay particular attention to your application in your Bible teaching. The following suggestions may help: (Again, the list is not exhaustive.)

  • Devote adequate time in your teaching to applying the Bible passage to the listeners. Get rid of other material if you need to.
  • Ensure that the application flows from the Bible passage itself, rather than from your own predispositions.
  • Choose specific examples rather than just dealing in generalities.
  • Check that the application is relevant and possible for your listeners.
  • Consider applications that relate to the understanding, the will, the affections and the conscience.
  • God-willing, after receiving healthy doses of this, your congregation will be guarded against infection!

 

Published inMinistryThe Briefing

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • The Named Jew and the Name of God: A new reading of Romans 2:17–29

All posts

Recent blog posts

  • Romans Crash CourseRomans Crash Course (video)
    A 75 minute video course in the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans designed for church members and leaders.
  • The Mistranslation "Call Yourself a Jew" in Romans 2:17: A Mythbusting StoryThe mistranslation “call yourself a Jew”: A myth-busting story (Romans 2:17)
    This is a story about a scholarly myth and how I had the chance to bust it. I’m talking here about a small but significant 20th century biblical translation: “call yourself” instead of “are called” in Romans 2:17.
  • Breaking news: Religious Scandal in RomeThe named Jew and the name of God: A new reading of Romans 2:17–29
    I've just had an article published in the journal Novum Testamentum. In it, I provide a detailed defense of my new reading of Romans 2:17–29. This passage is not primarily about Jewish salvation - rather it's primarily about Jewish teaching and God's glory.
  • Photo by Joseph d'Mello on UnsplashPreaching the Pastoral Epistles
    A one-hour audio seminar with principles and ideas for preaching the biblical books 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus ("Pastoral Epistles")
  • A Crash Course in Romans: Livestream
    Here's a <90 minute "Crash Course in Romans" I'm running on Monday evening 1 Feb 2021. It's aimed at leaders and any interested members of my church St Augustine's Neutral Bay and Church by the Bridge Kirribilli. Anyone is welcome to watch the livestream.
  • Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on UnsplashWhat’s wrong with the world? Is there hope? (Ephesians)
    Guilt, weakness, spiritual slavery, prejudice, arrogance, tribalism, conflict, war, victimhood, persecution, pain, suffering, futility, ignorance, lying, deceit, anger, theft, greed, pornography, sexual sin, darkness, fear, drunkenness, substance abuse, domestic abuse, workplace abuse, spiritual powers... In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he says many things about the problems we face in this world. He also gives us wonderful reasons to find life, hope and healing in Jesus Christ. Along the way, he provides practical teachings about how to respond and live together.
  • What does Ephesians say about reconciliation?
    We humans are not very good at living up close with others. This is especially true when we have a history of conflict with those others. Reconciliation isn't easy. No matter how much you might want healing, it’s hardly ever a matter of just everybody getting on and pretending the hurts didn’t happen. In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he says some very important, fundamental things about peace and reconciliation, and gives many other very practical teachings about how to live together in light of these truths.
  • Lift Your Eyes: Reflections on EphesiansLift Your Eyes – How it works
    Lift Your Eyes: Reflections on Ephesians. Here's a video where I explain how the free online resource works.
  • Review: The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman
    I need to understand the people around me, so I can live for the gospel among them and speak the gospel to them. To do that, I need to understand the people around me. That's where Carl Trueman's book is so incredibly valuable.
  • What does Ephesians say about church?
    There are so many ideas about what the church is should be. How do we navigate them all? Here are ten key reflections from Ephesians.

On this site

All content copyright Lionel Windsor