Little Things and Sound Doctrine
by T. J. Butler
Have you heard of that old American cliché’, “little things mean a lot”? Little things like saying, “please” and “thank you”; perhaps initiating a small gesture to show a loved one that you care or that you’re thinking of him or her. Those small gestures are guaranteed to brighten their day. Well, little things mentioned in the Holy Scriptures can also mean a lot. There are so many golden nuggets and treasures, as I like to call them, strategically placed in the Scriptures. When we discover them, we find that our depth of understanding has been flooded with light – making the path of our feet very bright.
Almost everyone has seen a tiny jot or a tittle. A jot (Heb. yod) or iota is the letter i, the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet. A tittle is a small distinguishing mark, such as a diacritic or the dot on a lowercase i (Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper). According to Webster's New International Dictionary, an iota is a point; a tittle; the smallest particle (Wikipedia). Often, we use the phrase, 'not one iota', to mean, 'not the slightest difference', in reference to a phrase used by Jesus in Matthew 5:18: “For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. When Jesus used this expression, it meant the smallest, little thing. With this added perspective, I am persuaded that all things – big and small – should command our attention as we read and study the Bible.
Many times in Scripture, there is just a mention of someone’s name or maybe a small detail about them. These small things may be significant. Little things peak my curiosity and cause me to dig deeper to discover what hidden “treasures” may be further explored. In my recent bible reading in Exodus, I noticed that Miriam, the sister of Aaron and Moses, was a prophetess. “Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing.” (Exodus 15:20) I know that I have read Exodus several times, it’s one of my favorite books! This time, however, the significance of Miriam’s role as a prophetess was more pronounced than her leading the women in the customary dance. I never took notice of this little detail before about Miriam – which says a lot about her capabilities. She was a prominent figure, chosen by God, who led alongside Moses and Aaron. Exodus 15:20 is the first occurrence of the word ‘prophetess’, followed by Judges 4:4 with Deborah judging Israel. These are just two of the eight occurrences of the female prophets mentioned in Scriptures (2Kings 34:22, 2Chron. 34:22, Isaiah 8:3, Nehemiah 6:14, Luke 2:36, Rev 2:20).
Now, if you will indulge me, I would like to share a few other scriptures that mean a lot to me. First, 2Timothy 3:16-17:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works. (AKJV)
I examined these verses from various bible versions - AKJV, ESV, KJV, NASB, NIV, NLT, and WBT to see if there was anything new to be learned from versions other than the Bible I read regularly.
In verse 16, each of seven respective bible versions start with the word ‘All’. ‘All’ is a very small word, an adjective that has a big meaning. In this particular case, it radically means “ALL” without exception. The other bible versions start with the word ‘Every’ – so obviously there is no contradiction among the various translations. So, clearly “all” of God’s word is significantly important, without exception.
I know that everyone generally knows the meaning of the words in 2Timothy 3:16-17. Nevertheless, I looked up a few definitions in Vines Expository dictionary and on Dictionary.com as noted in my paraphrase of verse 16 below:
All scriptures contained in the Holy Bible is profitable for . . .
- Doctrine – which is a body of teachings presented for acceptance or belief (ex. the teachings of Jesus)
- Reprove - to criticize or correct, especially gently: (ex. Young children & new babes in the Lord)
- Correct - to set or make true, accurate, or right; (ex. Paul corrected his ways after his conversion)
- Righteous - characterized by uprightness or morality: (ex. Noah and Job were righteous).
Verse 17 plainly spells out the purpose . . . So that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Jesus was “THE” man of God and was thoroughly equipped for every good work that he performed.
We need knowledge of all the scriptures which is the basis for our doctrine, sound doctrine, that is. There are many exhortations from Paul for us not to be ignorant. If we are ignorant, we can be easily deceived. How can we teach, train, exhort or reprove if we are not rooted and grounded in sound doctrine? Wait! - Don’t answer that . . . a lot of people do it every Sunday morning.
Jesus is our prime and perfect example of what it means to be learned in the scriptures and ready! Ready for what? Ready to do what God anointed him to do in his earthly ministry. He studied the scriptures, taught the scriptures, rebuked, exhorted and was fully prepared for every good work according to the will of our Heavenly Father.
Next, I would like to take a look at how Jesus handled the scriptures that he studied from a doctrine, reproof and correction point of view.
1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2And after he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he then became hungry. 3And the tempter came and said to him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4But he answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’” 5Then the devil took him into the holy city and had him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6and said to him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU’; and ‘ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’” 7Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’” 8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9and he said to him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” 10Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’” 11Then the devil left him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to him.