Saturday, November 19, 2016
The Scripture’s View of Scripture
There are a lot of very good books available that address the Christian Doctrine of Scripture. It is a subject that, by all indications, will continue to occupy a place of prominence in the Christian community. Indeed, there is hardly another subject that should occupy a higher place. Nevertheless, one could argue that the subject of God or Christ or the work of Christ all deserve a higher place. It is not too difficult to understand why some think this way. In fact, it is usually unwise to place one Christian doctrine over against others in an attempt to prioritize the one over the other. My goal is to take you on a simple and short expedition of what the Scripture says about itself. As a result, it is my hope that you have gained some useful information regarding that topic, but even more so, that you would be stirred in your spirit to do some more heavy exploration of your won and as a result, that you would never look at Scripture quite the same. Moreover, I pray that Scripture has the transforming effect on your life that God intends. And I am confident that that prayer will not go unanswered!
The Bible is under attack everywhere we turn. The Christian Scripture has never been more challenged and less respected in Western Culture and even in churches than it is today. Christians in the West are truly experiencing what others outside of Western Culture have experienced for centuries. How should we respond? Well, first and foremost, if you have never bothered to study the Doctrine of Scripture, it is time to fix that mistake immediately. I hope this post provides a spark to that end. In other words, start by studying what the Bible says about itself and believe it with all your heart.
In order to defend the Bible, we need to understand what the Bible teaches about itself and why Christianity affirms the things that it affirms about the Bible. All of man’s miseries are brought about because he has adopted a wrong attitude and assessment of the Bible. How do we know this? Because it’s what the Bible itself tells us! Every human being in the world has a solemn obligation to believe the Bible at face value, without question and without hesitation. The Bible is not just God speaking to Christians. It is God speaking to all humanity. Anytime anyone reads the Bible, God is speaking to that person. And that person has a moral obligation, an obligation that cannot be surpassed by any other obligation, to believe and obey God speaking to him or her. That is the only appropriate response anyone can and should have to the Bible.
Affirmation: Scripture asserts that anything less than unconditional and complete trust and obedience to Scripture is to despise Scripture.
Therefore, thus says the Holy One of Israel, “Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant.” (Isa. 30:12-13) Here God is promising wrath and judgment on Israel precisely because the nation has trusted in something other than God’s word. Anything less than absolutely trust and submission to God’s word is described repeatedly in Scripture as “rejection” of and “contempt” for God’s word. Modern nations are no different. Seminary professors are no different. University professors are no different. A man either trusts and submits to God’s word or he despises it. And what you do to God’s word, as we will see later, you do to God.
Affirmation: Scripture affirms that those who follow their own heart despise Scripture.
These are very strong words indeed. In fact, even many conservative scholars are too timid to allow the Scripture’s own description of itself to stand without some sort of qualification. Remember, those who reject God’s word are not just to be debated and refuted, in the end, when all is said and done, they are to be sharply rebuked. Jeremiah made this observation in his own day, “They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” (Jer. 23:17) When we deal with unbelievers, we are not dealing with good people who just need better information. We are dealing with unbelievers who despise God’s word, who stubbornly follow their own heart, and who hate God deeply. All too often we think we are good people who found Christ. We are not that. And that comparison, used all too often, rather than helping us see our own sinful condition clearly, causes us to see goodness in others that is simply not there because it was not present in us. We were self-deceived. The Scripture’s view of Scripture is not something we can just agree to disagree about. The Scripture’s view of Scripture is something that everyone must come to terms with sooner or later. And there is hardly an issue more critical than this one.
Affirmation: The Bible sees itself as God’s word, and therefore, when it is mocked, God is mocked.
“But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy.” (2 Chr. 36:16) Is this not the experience of many Christians in American culture now? Is not the Christian message mocked as a message of bigotry and hate? And do we not look for ways to try and help the God-haters to not see us this way? Are we not allowing ourselves at some points to be manipulated by those who hate God’s message? Are we not attempting to change our method and even our message in order to build bridges? Is this the right course of action?
Affirmation: The Bible written is both the work and writing of God.
Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. When opponents of Christianity challenge God’s words, they are challenging God’s work and God’s writing. The Scripture claims for itself, the status of being God’s work and God’s Scripture, or writing. The Scripture is in essence, the Scripture of God.
Affirmation: The Bible claims to be God speaking
The phrase “Thus says the Lord” appears 417 times in the Old Testament alone. The phrase “The word of the Lord” appears 261 times in the Old Testament. The phrase “my commandments appears 112 times in the OT. My Statutes occurs another 184 times. That is nearly 1,000 times that these expressions of divine authority are used in just the Old Testament alone. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3 16-17) All Scripture is God speaking. Anyone seeking to weaken the authority or diminish the nature of Scripture is in turn seeking to weaken and diminish God speaking.
“The sum of our opinion is, that the scripture is αυτοπιστος [autopistos], that is, hath all its authority and credit from itself; it is to be acknowledged, is to be received, not only because the church hath so determined and commanded, but because it comes from God; and that we certainly know that it comes from God, not by the church, but by the Holy Ghost.” [William Whitaker, Disputations on Holy Scripture, pg. 280]
“They firmly maintained the position that the Bible must be believed for its own sake. It is the inspired Word of God and therefore addresses man with divine authority. The Church and should acknowledge the Bible for what it is, but can in no sense of the word, make it what it is. The Protestant principle is, says Thornwell, that the truths of the Bible authenticate themselves as divine by their own light.” [Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pg. 164]