Monday, August 7, 2017

God Gave...His Word (Part 4)

I have spoken to some degree about the importance of a proper understanding of the authority of scripture as God's divine word.  However, just as it is important to have some understanding of the nature and character of God as we establish a foundation for this journey through God's word; we must also have a proper understanding of the nature and character of God's word.

Now, let me just say from the beginning that there is so much more that can be said than I will say here.  Each of the characteristics that I will reference could have their own blog post or sermon if not multiples.  That is how deep and significant they are.  So if it seems mildly academic or heavy on terminology, please bear with me.  These are not things that many churches ever teach but they are important truths to understand about the only written source of truth that will ever matter, the word of God.

The reformers and early Christians of the Church thought that scripture was easy enough to be understood by the "common man" that many of them died in order to make sure that it was translated from Latin to English, German, and many other languages.  If they thought it was easily understood and worthy of dying for, then perhaps it is worth a little effort to think about the very characteristics of God's word.

Red Letter Truth!

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In John 17:17, Jesus in praying to the Father during what is known as the high priestly prayer prays, "Sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth"

It is at this moment that I would like to say to all of those "red letter" folks out there that want to contrast all other aspects of scripture with the words in red i.e. Jesus' words.  This is a false dichotomy and Jesus would have taught us so, in fact he did.

It is clear that Jesus, of all people, considered all of scripture to be God's word.  He established all that He is according to the Old Testament scriptures.  So many times he states that something is being done to fulfill what was written in the prophets thus qualifying those very words.  

For example, in Luke 24:25-27 Jesus said to the disciples with whom he was walking along the road to Emmaus, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself."

You might say, "Ok. but what about all the words written after Jesus died?  How do we know that those are legit?"  To establish that, we must understand that Christ taught that He would build His church from beginning to end. 

In Matthew 16:18, while speaking to Peter about his gospel declaration that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus tells Peter, "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it."

Hebrews 3:3-4 tells us, "For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, as much glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.  For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God."

Psalm 127:1 states, "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain."  Now that can be applied to any number of scenarios but it has often been understood as properly applied to the building of the church in general based on Matthew 16:18, Hebrews 3-4.

So much more could be said, but I pray that this very basic provision of texts and thoughts will be enough to provide a basis for the understanding that, God is in charge of His word from beginning to end because through His Son, THE WORD, He is building the Church.

Every bit of development of doctrine and application in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is authorized and inspired by the Living God. We know this because the Spirit of God testifies to our hearts, through the very word of God that this is true.

Now, if you will allow me, I will wax academic just a bit, but not with the intent of sounding intelligent or speaking over anyone's head.  No, I believe that anyone and everyone can and should understand everything I am about to say.  Please indulge me for a moment.

God's Word Of Truth Is Authoritative, Inspired, Infallible, Inerrant, Clear, and Sufficient
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"And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in  a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation.  For no prophecy was every produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."(2 Peter 1:19-21)

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." 
(2 Timothy 3:16-17)


Authority and Inspiration
  • These two passages of scripture were written by two of the great Apostles of Christ in Scripture, Peter and Paul.  These scriptures are the summation of the truths in the larger heading of this section which is underlined above.  The authority and inspiration of the scriptures are enacted, empowered, affirmed and supported by the very Spirit of God in the hearts of every believer. 
  • If this does not register as truth, a professing believer should question the possession of true faith in their hearts, because that very faith is not real if it is not supported by these self-affirming Scriptures.

Infallibility and Inerrancy
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  • Infallibility regarding scripture simply means that the Bible cannot err.  In the whole of scripture it is incapable of doing so.
Inerrancy regarding scripture means that the Bible is without error.  In the whole and in it's parts, it is altogether free of it.
  • It could be said that scripture is inerrant or free from error without requiring infallibility.  We could not say however that scripture is infallible or incapable of error if it is not in fact inerrant.

  • So to make it clear as mud, a proper understanding of scripture is that it is not only free from error, but that it is free from error because it is incapable of erring to begin with.  This is because it is not just any old literary work, rather it is the very word of an infallible and inerrant God.


  • So you see, if we do not believe that God's word is infallible and inerrant, then we cannot believe the same about God in which case our beliefs about our salvation, being based in the perfect love and sacrifice of a perfect God, are null and void.


Perspicuity

  • What is that?  It is a fancy theological word that means "clarity".  A proper understanding of scripture will include an understanding that God's word is easily understood and clear in all matters that pertain to what God intends to be clear.  In other words, the things that He has revealed in Scripture are there to be understood when studied and meditated upon faithfully and with a proper understanding of interpretation.

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  • A number of ideas in God's word require that they be understood in light of other parts of scripture.  In other words, scripture interprets scripture.  Often times, we need to think through the surrounding text, the intent of the author based on the who they are writing to, and the genre i.e. history, poetry, letters, etc.  When all things work together, there are no contradictions, half-truths or lies.  When understood in full. God's word makes itself clear.  Is it work?  Yes, sometimes.  At no point does God call us to laziness.  He intends for us to "study to show ourselves approved, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."(2 Timothy 2:15)


  • Understanding the depths of salvation and all the ways that scripture speaks to it requires study and a broad understanding of the whole of scripture.  As it pertains to the basics of salvation, very little is required.  You can read through the book of John and get a very solid understanding of who Jesus was and is and what He came to do for us.  If you read Paul's letter to the Romans, there will certainly be aspects that would be clearer with a broader understanding of the story of redemption however, a straight reading will paint a very clear picture of our sinful nature and it's origins, our guilt and condemnation because of it, and the good news of what God did through His son, Jesus.  It will paint a picture of desperate need and glorious hope as well as an understanding of the God's sovereign work through it all.


  • This is the most basic meaning of the statement that God's word is clear.  That is why the Reformers wanted people to be able to read the scriptures for themselves rather than having a Catholic priest give them a corrupt, manipulated version that served their purposes and kept the people enslaved. The Catholic church teaches that IT is the final authority on what the Bible teaches.  Scripture teaches and the Reformers believed that God's word alone was the final authority and that we had to work together to hold each other accountable to that word.
Simply put:  YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THE SCRIPTURES!!  
It is God's gift to you, that you may know Him and glorify Him.


Sufficiency

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  • Finally, God's word is sufficient.  Granted, scripture will not tell you what pants to put on, what career to choose, or even who to marry.  Many pastors rightly go to the Psalms for references regarding the sufficiency of scripture.  Now I cannot flesh this out here but I do want to include the references and pray that you will look them up and that the Holy Spirit will make clear many ways in which scripture is sufficient; in short : it is perfect, reviving the soul; sure, making wise the simple; right, rejoicing the heart; pure, enlightening the eyes; clean, enduring forever; true and righteous(Psalm 19:7-9)  Another example would be Psalm 119:105, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path."  Last but not least, Psalm 119:11, "I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."


  • A couple of other good references would be again 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which is written out above regarding power and inspiration.  In 2 Timothy 3:15, Paul tells Timothy that "the "Sacred Writings" are able to make him wise for salvation through Christ Jesus."  This speaks to both the sufficiency and the clarity of scripture.   Also, Jude 1:3 which refers to scriptures as "the faith once for all delivered to the saints"



Conclusion

As I said at the beginning, This barely scratches the surface of the depths of understanding and knowledge that can and should be pursued and understood regarding the scriptures.  I just pray that perhaps I have provided brief insight into some new ideas and understandings for someone.  If I peak even one person's interest enough for them to delve deeper and take God's word more seriously, it will have been more than worth it. 

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