The Doctrine of Scripture: How does God Speak to Us?

General Revelation 

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities…have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

When Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law… their consciences also bearing witness, (Romans 2:14-15)

Special Revelation

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:1, 4)

We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place (2 Peter 1:19)

1.       God's decrees (eg. creation)

2.       God's words of personal address (eg. 10 commandments)

3.       God's word as speech through human lips (eg. Jeremiah 1:9 - God's word through the prophetic voice)

4.       God's Word in written form (eg. Deuteronomy 31:24-26)

 1.    The Bible is God’s Word

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)

For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21)

He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? (Matt 22:43)

Verbal Plenary Inspiration - All the words of the Bible were ultimately authored by God as he used the agency of 40 individual authors of the Bible. It could be illustrated like musician using a variety of instruments - each instrument makes a different sound but it is ultimately God who is ensuring the truth of his word.

·       Old Testament

Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you. (Deuteronomy 4:2)

Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. (Luke 11:50-51)

Jesus and the authors of the New Testament quote from the Old Testament 290 times as authoritative. Jesus often referred to the Law and the Prophets as written, not ultimately by human authors, but by his Father in heaven. 

o    What about the Apocrypha?

 In Luke 11:50-51, Jesus referred to Abel (the first murder in the Hebrew Bible) and Zechariah (the final murder in the Hebrew Bible) - Jesus treated the 39 books of the Old Testament as Scripture - something he did not do with the Apocrypha (7 intertestamental books and 3 sections of other books). The Apocrypha is considered as Deuterocanonical by the Roman Catholic Church (which was confirmed by the Council of Trent in 1546) but the Protestant tradition has never seen the books of the Apocrypha as authoritative.

·       The Gospels

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1-2)

Hebrews 1:1-2 – The contrast between the former speaking “of old” by the prophets and the recent speaking “in these last days” suggest that God’s speech to us by his Son is the culmination of his speaking to mankind and is his greatest and final revelation to mankind in the period of redemptive history.

o    What about other Gospels?

Craig Blomberg: In no meaningful sense did these writers, church leaders, or councils “suppress” Gnostic or apocryphal material, since there is no evidence of any canon that ever included them, nor that anyone put them forward. Indeed, they would have failed all three of the major criteria use by the early church in selecting which books they were, at times very literally, willing to die for – the criteria of apostolicity (that a book was written by an apostle or a close associate of an apostle), coherence (not contradicting previously accepted Scripture), and catholicity (widespread acceptance as particularly relevant and normative within all major segments of the early Christian community).

·       The Letters

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26)

Paul writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15-16)

John 14:26 indicates a special superintending work of the Holy Spirit whereby the disciples would be able to remember and record without error all that Jesus had said. Similar indications are also found in 2 Peter 3:2; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; and Revelation 22:18-19.

The apostles, then, have authority to write words that are God’s own words, equal in truth status and authority to the words of the OT Scriptures. They do this to record, interpret and apply to the lives of believers the great truths about the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

The canon

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City. (Revelation 22:18-19)

In the fourth century the church moved to settle the issues of the New Testament canon. In the East it was done in the 39th Paschal Letter of Athanasius in AD 367. In the West the canon was fixed at the Council of Carthage in AD 397.

JI Packer: The Church no more gave us the New Testament canon than Sir Isaac Newton gave us the force of gravity. God gave us gravity, by His work of creation, and similarly he gave us the New Testament canon, by inspiring the individual books that make it up.

 FF Bruce: One thing must be emphatically stated. The NT books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired.

How should we respond to the fact the Bible is God’s Word?

Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. (Psalm 1:2)

“These are the ones I look on with favour: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word. (Isaiah 66:2)

Westminster Confession: our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts (1:5)

BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. Thomas Cranmer

 

2.    The Bible is exactly what we need (SPAIN)

 a.    Sufficiency

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:29-31)

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The Bible is entirely sufficient for its purpose. In the Bible God has given us all we need in order to know, trust and obey him. The Bible does not directly answer every question that people can ask. That’s not its purpose. Its primary purpose is to reveal the God of the gospel so that we can know and honour him.

b.    Perspicuity (Clarity)

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7)

The clarity of Scripture means that the Bible is written in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all who will read it seeking God’s help and being willing to follow it.

c.     Authority

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” … Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ … Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10)

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)

Authority: The last word always goes to the word of God. We must never allow the teachings of science, of human experience, or of church councils to take precedence over Scripture.

WCOF 1:10 – The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits are to be examined and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.

d.    Inerrancy

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. (Numbers 23:19)

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matthew 24:35)

 The affirmation of the truthfulness of the Bible is inextricably tied to the character of God himself. God is a truthful God who does not lie. The Bible claims to be wholly true and therefore inerrant. We find such explicit statements in passages such as 2 Samuel 7:28, “O Lord GOD, you are God and your words are true”; Psalm 19:7-10, which uses words such as perfect, sure, right, pure, true and righteous.

1.     Inerrancy means the Bible is true in everything it refers to.

2.     Inerrancy does not mean that the writers of the Bible were always seeking for precision - they were searching for truthfulness. 

 3.    Inerrancy means that the original manuscripts are inerrant (not the translations - although we have over 99% certainty with our translations and the original manuscripts).   

 e.    Necessary

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:14)

The necessity of Scripture means that the Bible is necessary for knowing the gospel, for maintaining spiritual life, and for knowing God’s will, but is not necessary for knowing that God exists or for knowing something about God’s character and moral laws.

The secret things belong to the Lord our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

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How should these views about the Bible impact:

·       Our worship services?

·       Our evangelism?

·       Our decision making?

“If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy who drives a plough to know more of the scriptures than you do.” William Tyndale

I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything. Martin Luther

 

3.    The Bible is not an end in itself

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39-40)

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)

I want to know one thing,—the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. For this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! John Wesley

 

 “Unbreakable: What the Son of God says about the Word of God”, Andrew Wilson (10ofThose)

“Taking God at His Word”, Kevin DeYoung (Free eBook can be downloaded here: (http://stpetersplace.org/2015/07/09/free-e-book-taking-god-at-his-word-by-kevin-deyoung/)