The Canon According to Jesus

It has been a very long time since I last wrote.  I have been very busy with teaching, family, and taking courses myself.  I must also admit that I simply haven’t had anything to say.  However, I have just finished a course on Canon and Criticism and had to do some writing (and still have some to go), and thought that I would share with you what I have written.  I pray that this is insightful and helpful.

Hoky Bible

The canon of Christian Scripture is the foundation of the Christian system.  Therefore, it is the final authority for Christian thought, belief, and action.The question that must follow concerns authority: by what authority has this canon been determined? Men have put forth great effort into determining exactly which books belonged in the canon, but fallen man is not the final authority on such issues. If the books contained in the canon are indeed God-breathed, then He is the Authority to which man must turn to determine the canon of Scripture. This paper will examine the testimony of Jesus Messiah, the second person of the triune godhead, in order to argue that Scripture’s own testimony settles the debate over canonicity. In the end, the reception or rejection of the canon, and thus the testimony of Jesus, will depend on the faith, or lack thereof, of the reader.

Two Expectations

The apostle Paul informed Timothy that all of the “sacred writings” are profitable the end result being that “the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:15-17, NASB) This flows well with his teaching that believers are God’s workmanship “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, NASB) Since Christians are the result of God’s workmanship, and He has prepared works for them to complete, then it is reasonable to believe that the sacred writings that He supernaturally delivered to man, and providentially preserved through the centuries contain what must be known by His people in order to complete their work. To this end, it is also reasonable to believe that He gave and preserved His own testimony concerning what writings constitute the sacred writings. Jesus offered such testimony concerning both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.

Jesus and the Hebrew Canon

That the canon of the Hebrew Scriptures was unquestioned in the early Church is settled fact. As F.F. Bruce wrote, “They accepted the Old Testament scriptures as they had received them: the authority of those scriptures was sufficiently ratified by the teaching and example of the Lord and his apostles.”[1] However, as has already been stated, it is Jesus’ own testimony that gives the final, authoritative stamp upon the Hebrew Scriptures. When Jesus testified concerning Scripture He was offering God’s own perspective and stamp of authority on the words of the Old Testament. As John wrote, “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God” (John 3:34).

There are three traditional divisions of the Hebrew Scripture, the Torah (also known as the Law of Moses, or the Pentateuch) the Nevi’im (the prophets), and the Ketuvim (the writings). These three divisions consist of the same basic books that are in the present day canon the only difference being the divisions in two books that were originally combined, i.e. Samuel (1 & 2) and Ezra-Nehemiah. Although this is not the focus of our investigation, it is necessary to understand in order to properly interpret Jesus’ testimony concerning the Scriptures for this division comprises the Hebrew Scriptures to which Jesus consistently turned during His earthly ministry. Jesus directed His disciples to this division as “the key to the Scriptures…all that which concerns Himself in the Law of Moses, the Psalms and the Prophets.”[2] Luke 24:44 reads “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”[3] In fact, the recorded words of Jesus are filled with references to or quotations from these three sections. Rene Pache states that “One tenth of His words were taken from the Old Testament….180 of 1,800 verses which report His discourses are either quotations of the written revelation or else direct allusions to it.”[4]

Further, when one looks more closely the quotes and allusions may be seen to identify each of the divisions separately. First, in Jesus’ confrontation with Satan three times He quoted from the Torah, in particular from Deuteronomy (8:3; 6:16; 6:13, cf., Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). He also validated the Genesis account on multiple occasions as well as the creation of Adam and Eve (Matt. 19:4-5). In these two accounts alone He addressed the beginning and completion of the Torah. Second, Jesus identified Jonah as a prophet and used Jonah’s time of being swallowed by the great fish as an illustration of His own impending death, burial, and resurrection (Matt. 12:40-41). In doing so Jesus validated the latter prophets. Jesus also did the same for the former prophets when He used the example of Elijah and the widow, Zarephath, in Luke 4:26. Finally, Jesus included the Ketuvim, the writings, as He quoted from the Psalms on numerous occasions, as well as quoting Daniel including His favorite title for Himself, “Son of man.” Each of these quotations, or allusions serves to demonstrate that Jesus viewed the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures as the God-breathed, authoritative canon.

It is easy to accept that Jesus identified the Torah and Nevi’im, but the question of the Ketuvim may need more explanation. In Matthew 21:42 Jesus asked the religious leaders if they had never read a particular passage from “the Scriptures.” He then quoted from Psalm 118:22-23. This illustrates Jesus’ words to the disciples in Luke 24:44 when He referred them to His teaching from the Psalms. The Jews often used the first words of a Hebrew book as its title, which is similar to what Jesus did by using the term Psalms. In fact this form of shorthand was quite common, as Greg Gilbert has described it, “the Jews often used a shorthand to refer to the books of their Old Testament, either “the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings” or, more simply, ‘the Law and the Prophets.’…(the book of Psalms representing the Writings as the largest book in that collection).”[5] And when using this form in His teaching Jesus “was endorsing and ratifying the authority of the entire Old Testament from start to finish.”[6] Dr. Chris Cone concurs with Gilbert, asserting “Psalms is the name of the first book of the section called the writings, and it would be consistent with the practice of using that as the name for the entire grouping of books. In other words, Psalms would be the title for the entire section called the Writings, the Ketuvim.”[7]

It is clear from this short examination of Jesus’ view of the Hebrew canon that one may conclude that the existing canon found in Protestant Bibles is the same as that of Jesus’ day. Gilbert offers a fitting conclusion; “Here’s why all those large books [on topics such as transmission, canonization, etc.] will begin with the belief that the Old Testament is the Word of God: because Jesus, the resurrected Messiah, said it was. And therefore we believe it.”[8]

Jesus and the Greek Scriptures

Jesus told the eleven disciples that He was going to send “the Spirit of truth” who would “guide you into all truth” (Jn. 16:13). He, in turn, sent them out to make disciples using what He had taught, and what the Spirit would teach (Matt. 28:19-20). The disciples were given apostolic authority in the new entity, the Church. New Testament scholar N. B. Stonehouse addressed the topic of apostolic authority:

“[apostolic authority] which speaks forth in the New Testament is never detached from the authority of the Lord. In the Epistles there is consistent recognition that in the church there is only one absolute authority, the authority of the Lord himself. Wherever the apostles speak with authority, they do so as exercising the Lord’s authority. Thus, for example, where Paul defends his authority as an apostle, he bases his claim solely and directly upon his commission by the Lord (Gal. 1 and 2); where he assumes the right to regulate the life of the church, he claims for his word the Lord’s authority, even when no direct word of the Lord has been handed down (1 Cor. 14:37; cf. 1 Cor. 7:10)…”[9]

 Jesus passed His authority to the Apostles, and Paul’s testimony is only a sampling displaying the same authority given to the others. Thus, as Paul’s writings carry the authority of Jesus Christ, so, too, the writings of the others of whom we have the written messages. Therefore, when one reads the Gospels of Matthew and John, or the letters of John and Peter, or the Revelation of Jesus Christ given to the Apostle John he may be sure that he is reading the inspired word of God with all of the authority of the Hebrew Scriptures. This is the “amazing chain of authority”[10] that Jesus described in the aforementioned passage in John’s gospel. When an Apostle wrote under the leading of the Spirit what he wrote was God-breathed and authoritative, and therefore, must be accepted as canonical. how to handle the influx of Gentile believers (Acts 15:13-22). Further, Paul confirmed James’ apostolic authority in his letter to the Galatians (1:19). It should also be noted that both James and Jude were present in Acts when Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come upon them all (1:13-14).

That leaves the question of the Gospels of Mark and Luke, and Acts. Although neither Mark nor Luke were Apostles, both received endorsements from Paul. For instance, Paul said “Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service” (2 Tim. 4:11), thus commending Mark’s ministry and, by implication, his writing. Paul also affirmed Luke in the same passage when he identified Luke as the last man standing with him at the end of his ministry. Paul’s authority was directly from Jesus (Acts 9:4-6, 15-16), and it was in Paul’s warning to Timothy concerning false doctrine that he offered these commendations. At this point, one must reiterate that this is the chain of authority that had been established by Jesus, through Paul, and down to Mark and Luke.

However, there remains one book that has not been established as authoritative, and thus canonical. That is the book of Hebrews. The great difficulty lies in the fact that the author is unknown. What may be stated as fact about the author is he must have been a second-generation believer (Heb. 2:3).  Many arguments have been made in attempts to promote various biblical figures as the author, but without historical confirmation, all of these arguments are merely conjecture.  Beyond this point, the only argument that may legitimately be made is that the Christology and other doctrines addressed in the letter are completely in line with the other authoritative, canonical writings.  Based on that fact alone may it be deemed canonical.

Conclusion

Peter offered an excellent example of the Church’s recognition of canonicity in his remarks concerning Paul’s letters; “and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Peter clearly understood that when Paul spoke he spoke with the authority of Christ Himself. As stated in the opening remarks of this paper, in the end, the reception or rejection of the canon, and thus the testimony of Jesus, will depend on the faith, or lack thereof, of the reader. However, acceptance of the Bible is not founded on blind faith for the Bible attests to its authenticity and authority in many ways, but none more authoritative than that of the Savior Himself. Because of this, we can agree with Gilbert’s summation; “In the end,…the answer a Christian will give to the question, “Why do you trust the Bible?” is, “Because King Jesus the Resurrected endorsed the Old Testament and authorized the New.”[11]

[1] F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1988), 255.

[2] Rene Pache, The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), 215.

[3] All Scripture quotes from New American Standard Version, 1995 Update.

[4] Pache, Inspiration and Authority, 221.

[5] Greg Gilbert, Why Trust the Bible? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 135.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Christopher Cone, “Old Testament Canon, Part II” unpublished lecture notes.

[8] Gilbert, Bible?, 138, italics in original.

[9] Ned B. Stonehouse, “The Authority of the New Testament.” The Infallible Word (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1946), 117-118. Quoted in Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Campus Crusade for Christ, Inc. 1972), 41.

[10] Gilbert, Bible?, 139.

[11] Ibid., 141.

 

 

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A Dispensational View of the Christian Life, Part 6

He That Is Spiritual

As we continue to look at the Dispensational view of the Christian life, we are pleased to be able to begin to look at the more positive side of the issue.  That is not to say that the content of the teaching doesn’t have negative aspects, but the outcome of those is quite positive.  Having examined the Christian’s obstacles to living the Christian life, it is necessary now to look at what are the positive steps toward actually overcoming said obstacles.  We will endeavor to do that here, and in the following post(s).

The Believer’s Progress in the Christian Life

Lewis Sperry Chafer made a bold statement when he said, “The Christian will always be filled (by the Spirit) while he is making the work of the Spirit possible in his life.”[i] Bold statement or not it is biblical and can be substantiated by careful exegesis. We will now consider this truth very briefly.

Scripture gives the believer much in the way of directives and principles by which he is able to progress in the Christian life. We will examine four main imperatives, one dealing with the first intelligent step toward growth, and three dealing with the believer’s relationship to the indwelling Spirit: 1.) Present yourself to God (Rom. 12:1), 2.) Do not grieve the Spirit (Eph. 4:30), 3.) Do not quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19), 4.) Walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16).

Present Yourself to God

After spending the first eight chapters of Romans developing deep doctrinal truths including the foundation of the believer’s position in Christ Paul begins chapter twelve with a command that serves to shape the remainder of the letter: “Therefore I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God (from the first eight chapters) to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1). Paul spent a great amount of the first three chapters developing the truth of man’s lost estate capping off the section with the pronouncement that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” followed immediately by the glorious news that those who are saved are so by “being justified as a gift by His grace through, the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (3:23-24). Again, the focus is on what God has accomplished on behalf of the believer and this truth is the basis upon which Paul pleads with believers to present their bodies to God.

The idea that Paul is attempting to convey is that, based on the glorious mercy of God in our salvation, we should dedicate ourselves completely to Him. The language used here is reminiscent of the animal sacrifices familiar to both Jewish worshippers and pagan ritualists. The Greek word paristemi is translated “present” in this passage. As to the technical usage of the word in this context, Marvin Vincent states, “It is the technical term for presenting the Levitical victims and offerings. . . . In the Levitical sacrifices the offerer placed his offering so as to face the Most Holy Place, thus bringing it before the Lord.”[ii] What we see then is that Paul is presenting, no pun intended, the fact that the believer has an obligation to offer himself as a real sacrifice to God, which is a total dedication in the same fashion that the Old Testament animals were set apart and dedicated for the purpose of giving their lives for the sins of Israel. The obvious differences serve to further expound the magnitude of the decision, which differences are first that unlike the sacrifices of old it is a voluntary decision, and second, it involves continued living in a state of dedication instead of immediate death of the sacrifice.

I labeled this as the first intelligent step toward growth. The reason is simple; it is a step of obedience to the Word of God. This does not necessarily mean that the believer is acting in response to Paul’s words, but it does mean that he is acting in response to God’s work in his life possibly through a series of events that God has used to bring him to the end of his own strength. In conjunction with this positive step it is without question that he will soon thereafter discover that what he has done was in obedience to God’s word.

Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). Chafer correctly expresses the truth of the matter when he described the ChristianL.S.Chafer life as one of supernatural requirements and in constant need of the empowerment of the indwelling Spirit and God’s enabling grace.[iii] With such needs and requirements it is imperative that the believer maintain a fellowship with the Spirit. It is therefore incumbent upon the believer to obey Paul’s message.

To grieve the Spirit is to tolerate known sin in our lives, to live with unconfessed sin. “Grieve” is the translation of the Greek word lupeo in its present active form which likely indicates that Paul was saying “do not go on grieving the Holy Spirit.” Sin is to miss the mark of God’s perfect righteousness or to deviate from His perfect standard. As Chafer states, “where sin is tolerated in the believer’s daily life, the Spirit, who indwells him, must then turn from His blessed ministry through him, to a pleading ministry to him.”[iv] Allowing sin in our hearts to go unchecked places us in an immediate state of carnality regardless of the length of time that we stay in that condition (Ps. 66:18). Yet, God has provided for the remedy for the sins of the believer, which provision also allows an immediate restoration of fellowship between the believer and Himself.

John addresses this subject in First John where he admits that any believer can “walk in darkness” (1:6), and thus he is not practicing the truth but that which is contrary to God’s very nature (1:5). Though still a believer, he is nonetheless living in the flesh (carnal). That walk in darkness proves that the one doing so is not in fellowship with God but out of fellowship. John continues by broadening the subject stating, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1:8). “Sin” here is in reference to the sin nature and not individual sins.[v] If we say that we do not continue to have the very source of sin, the old man, remaining in us we are deceiving ourselves. This is a sure way to live a defeated life and not progress in growth toward maturity. However, John continues: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). Therefore, understanding that we continue to have a sin nature we also understand that we continue to sin and are able to deal correctly with it. In doing so, we can maintain a consistent fellowship with the indwelling, empowering Spirit.

We can conclude that at some point in our lives as Christians we will grieve the Holy Spirit by sinning and not immediately confessing it. We may even remain in that state for some length of time. That state of broken fellowship isolates us from the Spirit’s ministries in us, particularly His work of empowering us to live the Christian life. However, God has offered the means for reestablishing fellowship by simply confessing our sins.

Do Not Quench the Spirit

Another negative command is, “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19). “Quench” is from the Greek meaning to put out (a fire), suppress, or stifle. In the present context Paul was telling the Thessalonians not to resist the out working of the Spirit and of the gifts He gives within the life of the Church (see vv. 12-18 and 20-22). Such resistance would stifle His work in their midst and would be tantamount to refusing to abide by and submit to the Spirit and the spiritual gifts at work. However, the quenching of the Spirit is not limited to the output of the spiritual gifts (vv. 12-18).

When the believer says no to the Spirit’s work, regardless of the form that work takes, he quenches or suppresses the Spirit and therefore limits or inhibits His work in the believer’s life. The Spirit does not abandon the believer, as seen earlier in the distinctions between Israel and the Church, but the believer’s resistance makes the Spirit’s filling impossible until the believer changes his mind (repentance) and confesses his sin. Therefore, the believer, according to Paul, must “stop quenching the Spirit” (present active imperative) by refusing to allow Him to work.

The cure to the quenching of the Spirit is to “present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:13). This correlates directly with one’s decision to dedicate himself to God (Rom. 12:1). Christ Himself is the perfect example of this attitude (Phil. 2:5). In Hebrews 10:7 the testimony of our Lord is found: “Then I said, Behold, I have come . . .to do your will, O God.” It is perfect submission and obedience to God’s will.

To sum up, to quench the Spirit is to refuse to obey God’s revealed will. The cure is to have a change of mind (repentance) concerning said refusal and the decision to live in obedience to His will. It is to have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) and to adopt both the knowledge and the attitude associated with it (Phil. 2:5).

Walk by the Spirit

Finally, we find a positive command from Paul. He says, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). This is the believer’s exercising positive volition in deciding live in dependence upon the indwelling Spirit’s power and guidance.

To walk by the Spirit refers to living by means of the indwelling Spirit. In other words it is a moment-by-moment dependence on the Holy Spirit’s guidance in taking every step of life by faith in God based upon the knowledge of His revealed will in Scripture. Ryrie agrees, “Actually walking is, by its very nature, a succession of dependent acts. . . .Walking can only be done successfully by successive acts of faith in the power of one’s feet. Likewise the Christian walk can be done successfully only by a constant dependence on the Holy Spirit’s control over one’s life.”[vi] Remember, the Christian life is one of supernatural requirements such as understanding God’s will and choosing to live in obedience to it. This is made possible only through reliance upon the indwelling Spirit, the one “who is at work in [us], both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). When a believer grieves the Spirit by allowing sin to remain unchecked in his life he allows sin to interrupt the Spirit’s continued guidance. When a believer quenches the Spirit by refusing to live in obedience to what he knows the will of God to be he suppresses the Spirit’s work in his life. However, when the believer responds in obedience to God’s revealed will and chooses to depend upon the Spirit to do so he is walking by means of the Spirit.

Walking in the Spirit is living moment-by-moment under the influence and power of the Holy Spirit. It is to walk step-by-step under His guidance by not allowing personal sins to be left unconfessed and thereby not grieving the Spirit, and by choosing obedience to God’s revealed will thereby not quenching the Spirit. The positive decision to depend on the Spirit results in walking by means of the Spirit, or the Spirit’s filling. We will address the Spirit’s filling in the final section to follow.

It is therefore to the Christian’s benefit to strive to walk by means of the Spirit. Only in doing so will the believer find victory in the Christian life. However, we must not confuse this striving with the self-generated attempt to gain holiness by mere self-effort. Instead it is accomplished in the one who is being motivated by the Holy Spirit through knowledge of God’s revealed will and who is empowered to do so by the indwelling Spirit to choose to obey God.

Each of the previous subsections of the believer’s progress in the Christian life are related to the maturation progress involved in growth as a follower of Jesus Christ. In addition to these truths there must be added at least two others that have direct bearing upon a Christian’s ability to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).

The Christian life is reflective of natural life. Within the believing one is born a new man. That new man is meant to progress forward from the initial stage of birth to the final stage of full maturation. There is a definite process to this growth. The ultimate goal is to progress to the point that Christ is formed in us (Gal. 4:19). The Christian life, when healthy and normal, follows the same process as natural life. That is, just as a newborn baby must go through the stages of growth on his way to maturity, so the newborn Christian is a baby that must progress toward maturity. One of the failures of the Church is that there seems to be a mindset that believes every Christian is automatically on the course toward maturity simply because they believe in Christ for salvation. Merryman offers a clear and helpful explanation, “…[A] new Christian cannot be mature because maturity involves time plus knowledge of truth and application of truth (m = t + kot + aot). The same is true in physical life: at age 1 a person can be an absolutely healthy organism just as at age 20; but at age 1, it is impossible to be as mature as at age 20.”[vii] Sadly, there are many believers who are twenty years old in Christ but are babies in their maturity level.

[i]Chafer, Spiritual, 67.

[ii]Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), Logos Bible Software.

[iii]Chafer, Spiritual, 43.

[iv]Ibid., 70.

[v]Both Chafer and Merryman address this issue. Chafer states, “Sin is what we are by birth, while sins are the evil we do in life” (Chafer, Spiritual, 114). Merryman addresses the issue in the following: “John is not referring in this verse to “sins” (as he does in verse 9), rather to their source, the animating sin that continually resides in us. . . . It is the animating sin nature that he is focusing on.” See Ron Merryman, The Passion War: Spiritual Conflict in Every Believer (Casa Grande, AZ: Merryman Ministries, 2002), 5.

[vi]Ryrie, Christian Life, 114-15.

[vii] Ron Merryman, Spirituality…Maturation…Retrogression… (Casa Grande, AZ: Merryman Ministries, 2004), 6 (emphases in original).

A Dispensational View of the Spiritual Life, or Homage to He That Is Spiritual, part 2

At the outset of this series I made the assertion that there is a Dispensational view of of the spiritual life.  In fact, I determined that the Dispensational view of the spiritHe That Is Spiritualual life is the truly biblical view.  I attempted to lay out my rationale for such a bold statement by detailing two of the sine qua non of Dispensationalism, the consistent usage of a normal hermeneutic, and the resultant distinction between Israel and the Church, in particular with reference to the Spirit’s new work within each individual believer.  I will endeavor to begin to build upon the second particular here.

As we begin our study we must first look at God’s work in the life of the believer. He is the source of life for all creation in general (Gen. 1-2) and the source of eternal, spiritual life for those who are newly born by grace through faith in Christ (John 3:16; Eph. 2:8-10). Since the Christian life begins with Him we should begin by examining His provision for the Christian life.

God’s Provision for the Christian Life

The state of every man prior to the moment of salvation is said to be that of spiritual death. Paul explains that “just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Every man ever born is the seed of “the first man, Adam,” (1 Cor. 15:45) and “in Adam all die” (v.22). Physical death is a product of and therefore follows spiritual death. Yet God was not satisfied to leave man in this state, so He provided for man’s rebirth. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Likewise through Paul we learn that before exercising faith in Christ we were dead, but God made us alive: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked…But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:1-2a, 4-5). In this one passage two different experiences of life are identified. The first is merely natural, human life void of the spiritual whereas the second is an act of God’s mercy displayed in love toward those spiritually dead by making them alive with, or in, Christ. Here we have a description of that which Jesus spoke of in John 3:3 when He explained to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again (born from above) he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Christ further clarifies in His follow-up statement, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6). Thus, Christ makes the distinction between the natural man of the flesh and the spiritual man who is born of the Holy Spirit.

What is also seen in the aforementioned verses is the fact that all three persons of the Godhead are active in making provision for spiritual life for everyone who believes in Christ. Of the many works of God that take place at the moment one believes, those that we will examine here are: regeneration, justification, sanctification, baptism of the Holy Spirit, as well as the indwelling of the Spirit.

Regeneration

Regeneration means to be born again. Although the word regeneration only appears twice in Scripture (Matt. 19:28; Titus 3:4-5), the doctrine is unquestionably presented throughout the New Testament. We most often think of death as the cessation of life. While this is true, a more proper view is that death is separation. Physical death occurs when the human body is separated from human life. Spiritual death occurred when Adam rebelled against God at which point Adam and his descendants were separated from God, the giver and sustainer of man’s spiritual life. Sin created a barrier that separates man and God. Therefore, natural man is in a perpetual state of separation from the source of spiritual life. However, as stated earlier, God was not satisfied leaving man in a state of spiritual death. When one conducts a thorough study of the whole of Scripture he finds that in eternity past God designed a plan to remove the barrier. When the predetermined time in history came, “the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, [and] He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-5). We conclude by returning to Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ.”

God’s plan included the payment for sin, which Christ the Son supplied through sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:26). Christ is also said to give new life to those dead in sin. The Lord Himself describes this fact when He said, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes” (John 5:21). In fact, Jesus Himself is “the way and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). It may be said that Christ, by His death, removed the barrier of sin and made regeneration possible for those who believe.

The Spirit’s work in the new birth is that of actually applying it to the believing one. Jesus explained to Nicodemus in John 3:3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again (born from above) he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Christ further clarifies in His follow-up statement, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6). Thus, Christ makes the distinction between two different men. The natural man is that one born of the flesh. The spiritual man is the believer who has been born of or by the Holy Spirit. The new birth is the product of the Spirit’s work in us. The believer does not experience this work of the Spirit. That is it is not something that registers with the emotions or the senses. Yet it is a definite work nonetheless.

Justification

At the moment one believes in Jesus Christ unto salvation he not only partakes in the new birth he is also justified and sanctified. Justification is a one-time act of God whereby He declares the believer to be righteous. It is a legal judgment. Like salvation itself, justification is non-meritorious and unearned. It is a gift (Rom. 3:24). As Robert Lightner describes it:

Because of our position in Christ (Eph. 2:13), whereby Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us (Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21), God declares us righteous because we are clothed with his righteousness (Rom. 5:1). . . . Justification is more than simply God viewing the sinner as though he had never sinned. Instead, it is God looking upon the sinner to whom the righteousness of Christ earned at the cross has been added.[i]

Thus we can conclude that justification is God declaring the believing one to be righteous.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans the doctrine of justification is presented in great detail. Romans 3:21-26 outlines the role of the Son in justification. God’s righteousness demands the judgment and punishment of sin as attested to by the Law and the Prophets (v.21). Righteousness is provided to the Christian at the moment he places his faith in Jesus Christ (v.22). The problem is that all men sin and fall short of God’s glory, but based on the redemption provided by the death of Christ God justifies the believer as a gift once again, received through faith (vv.23-25). Because sin was judged and paid for by Christ in His death on the cross God is able to maintain His perfect righteousness and yet proclaim the believing sinner justified (v.26). Because of this work of God in Christ, Paul tells the church in Corinth, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:20).

God pronounces man justified, Christ provided the sacrifice needed for man’s justification, and the Holy Spirit applies the righteousness of Christ to the believer so that he may be proclaim just by God. It is the Holy Spirit who brings new life to the believer by placing Him into Christ and His righteousness. Thus, Paul writes, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Rom. 8:1-2).

Baptism and Sanctification

We’ll begin with sanctification first. The word sanctification comes from the Greek word hagiazo meaning to set aside, consecrate, or dedicate. In our specific setting it refers to being set aside by God and for His purpose. While justification and sanctification are simultaneous works accomplished by the Spirit, they are not synonymous. They are intimately tied together and inseparable. Lightner correctly sums up this connectedness: “To be justified is to be declared righteous before God, and to be sanctified is to be set apart; the one presupposes the other.”[ii]

Sanctification differs from both regeneration and justification in that it is a work accomplished in the believer and is meant to be experienced in the Christian life. Regeneration is a one-time work of God never to be repeated. Looking again to the inseparable relationship between sanctification and justification it should be noted that on the one hand justification is a single act of God declaring man righteous and places him in a right relationship with God. On the other hand sanctification is an “initial”[iii] work of God that sets the believer apart for God’s purpose, but it also has ongoing, or progressive and final, or ultimate aspects. Sanctification sets the believer apart as a holy being for God’s purpose and use, and his holy position is to be reflected in the believer’s daily walk. In its experiential (progressive) sense it is in fact the crux of the Christian life.

Scripture gives ample description of the work that each member of the Godhead accomplishes in producing the believer’s sanctification. For example, Paul desired that God the Father would sanctify the believers in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 5:23) and Christ Himself prayed that the Father would sanctify His disciples through His word (John 17:17). Likewise we find that Christ sanctifies those who believe in Him (John 17:19; Heb. 2:11). Christ’s sacrifice sanctifies those who have faith in Him (Heb. 9:13; 10:10). It is said of the Church that Christ loves her “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26). Paul exclaims that Christ is the source of life in him that allows him to live in obedience to God.

However, to be true to the teaching of Scripture the work of the Spirit is featured foremost in the sanctification of the believer. As Ryrie explains, “…to be faithful to the emphasis of Scripture we must observe that the work of the Holy Spirit is given prominence in the process of sanctification….it is the Spirit who changes us “into the same image from glory to glory (II Cor. 3:18).”[iv] He is correct in his appraisal. Elsewhere, Paul identifies the Spirit’s power in the believer enabling the believer to “[put] to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13). In other words, the Spirit that indwells the believer also empowers the believer to choose obedience to God over enslavement to the flesh. The Spirit floods the heart of the believer with assurance and stability (Rom. 5:5). The Scriptural presentation demonstrates that sanctification in its initial phase is the work of God the Father and the Son, in its progressive sense it is a work shared by God the Son and God the Spirit, but in both the progressive and ultimate senses the bulk of the work belongs to the ministry of the indwelling Spirit.

The baptizing work of the Holy Spirit is that ministry in which He unites us with Christ in His death and places us into a position that opens the door to the possibility for the Christian to walk in a new way of life. It occurs once at the moment of saving faith. As Ron Merryman explains, “The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the ministry whereby He takes the believer at the moment of saving faith retroactively through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and places him/her into living union with the Lord Jesus Christ.”[v] Colossians 2:12-13 describes in with vivid language the truth that by faith we are buried with Him through this baptism, raised in new life with him (cf. Rom. 6:4) and made us “alive together with Him” having forgiven us all transgressions. In this union we are co-crucified (Rom. 6:5), co-buried and co-resurrected with Christ (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12).

Paul provides a more full treatment of the baptizing work and its intended results to the Roman believers:

How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Rom. 6:2b-7)

As Paul specifically states it is the Spirit’s work to unite us with Christ by baptizing us into His death. As Kenneth Wuest explains[vi], the word “baptized” is actually a transliteration of the Greek word baptisma meaning “dipping” or “baptism.” In determining its meaning in the current context, Wuest explains, “The usage of the word…resolves itself into the following definition of the word baptizo…‘the introduction or placing of a person or thing into a new environment or into union with something else so as to alter its condition or its relationship to its previous environment or condition.”[vii] It can be concluded from Paul’s word usage that the Spirit unites us with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. He goes on to explain that the purpose is “so that…we too might walk in newness of life” (v. 4). Therefore, we are placed into a new environment or in union with Christ in His death thereby dying to sin (v.7) resulting in the possibility of consistently living in that new, divine life imparted to us. This union with Christ is of utmost importance for the believer. It is this union produced by Spirit’s baptizing ministry that places us into a position to live the Christian life.

At the risk of being redundant allow me to further underscore the truth of the believer’s baptism into Christ for it cannot be overemphasized. Time and time again Paul references the result of the Spirit’s baptizing work upon the believer with the phrase “in Christ” (en Christo) and various parallel phrases in order to emphasize this most important relationship. The Spirit baptizes every believer into Christ, and it is this position of privilege, power and possession from which the believer receives the ability to live the Christian life.

Indwelling

In John 14:20 Jesus taught His disciples that after His departure, “you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me and I in You.” It is the Spirit’s obligation to bring this to pass today as He takes up residence in every believer in Christ. That this is true is expressed by Jesus earlier in the chapter when He said, “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (vv.16-17).

Paul further illustrates this marvelous work of the Spirit when he describes the believers in the church in Rome as “not in the flesh but in the Spirit” because of the Spirit’s indwelling (Rom. 8:9).[viii] In fact, Paul explains that if the Spirit is not indwelling a person that one “does not belong to Christ” (v.9). In accord with this discussion Paul equates this indwelling of the Spirit with “Christ…in you” (v.10). It is on the basis of the Spirit’s indwelling that we have the hope of the resurrection (v.11), and it is the indwelling that enables the us to “[put] to death the deeds of the body” (v.13).

To sum up we find that by regeneration the Spirit births a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). In justification the new believer is made righteous based on his new connection to Christ’s righteousness. The Spirit’s work in the believer in the ministries of sanctification, baptism, and indwelling are central to the believer’s ability to live the Christian life. Sanctification sets the believer apart by God for His purpose. In baptism the believer is placed in vital union with Christ, and through the Spirit’s indwelling the believer has access to the divine enablement provided by Him.

NOTES:

[i]Robert P. Lightner, Handbook of Evangelical Theology: A Historical, Biblical, and Contemporary Survey and Review (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1995), 203.

[ii]Ibid., 205.

[iii]Ibid.

[iv]Charles C. Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), 63.

[v]Ron Merryman, Divine Operating Assets for the Believer in Time, vol. II of God’s Grace Provision for Man’s Success: An Analysis of All Phases of Salvation by Grace (Casa Grande, AZ: Merryman Ministries, 2012), 27.

[vi]Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), Logos Bible Software.

[vii]Ibid.

[viii]eiper may be translated as “If as is the case” (see A.T. Robinson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933), Logos Bible Software)

The Sufficiency of Scripture: Is God’s Word Enough, Part 6

For all who have read these recent posts I will remind that the documentation of quotes has been lost. Therefore, many of the quotes are not properly attributed to those who made them.

Hoky BibleI recently began a series of articles dealing with the sufficiency of Scripture. I began by giving a definition and description of sufficiency. By way of introduction and reminder, the following is our definition: Sufficiency means that something is enough to meet the needs of a situation or a proposed end. It refers to something being what is necessary or desirable for a specified need. Simply put, if something is sufficient it is just what the doctor ordered.

Scripture’s Testimony Concerning Sufficiency: Is the Bible Enough? –

As we have spent much time discovering, the modern-day Church has rejected Scripture’s authority and its sufficiency to speak to every area of life. They have rejected Scripture’s sufficiency and have added man’s wisdom in the form of mere reason. They have rejected Scripture’s sufficiency and added mystical experiences. They have rejected Scripture’s sufficiency and added occult and pagan practices. These things, when placed alongside the teaching of Scripture serve to give witness to the sufficiency of Scripture.

Paul told Timothy this day would come: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). This fulfilled prophecy in itself expresses the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, for that is exactly what has occurred. The time has come when very few will endure sound doctrine, and their ears can definitely find someone to tickle them in every city.

Our last discussion focused on modern-day attacks against the sufficiency of Scripture. In this final section we will attempt to discover some of what Scripture has to say as to whether it is sufficient for all things pertaining to faith and conduct. However, before we go any further it is my belief that an attack against the authority and sufficiency of Scripture is an attack against the very character and attributes of God. Since the approach of these articles has been to assume that the word of God is the inspired, infallible, authoritative word spoken by God to man we will speak freely along these lines without attempting to prove these presuppositions.

Scripture clearly teaches that God has foreordained the content and course of all things, people and events, in history. In the Greek language the word foreordained speaks of the fact that God planned all things before the foundation of the world, and this plan extends to all aspects of His creation. Once God established the plan for the ages he then decreed that it be done just as He planned it. Therefore, all He planned was certain to be done just as planned. Moreover, God prepared select men and nations to actively participate in carrying out His plan; some in a positive manner – those known as the elect – and others in a negative manner – such as Babylon. Since God chose certain men and nations to carry out His plan these must be instructed in how to do so. God chose to do so by speaking to those elect and, in turn, having that message recorded in written form in order that those who would follow after would have a record of direction to enable them to effectively carry out His plan. Therefore, to say that the message and direction is not sufficient to direct the chosen in how to live is to say that God’s plan is insufficient and thus to say that God Himself is insufficient, not authoritative, and not sovereign. The attack upon the authority and sufficiency of Scripture is an attack upon the nature and attributes of God Himself.

Let us examine one of the most definitive verses in all of Scripture in addressing this subject of the sufficiency of Scripture, 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed (author’s preferred interpretation) and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (NASB).

To begin with Paul states that “All Scripture is God-breathed”. Without going in-depth to examine this we will simply allow Warfield’s explanation suffice:

“The ‘breath of God’ is in Scripture just the symbol of His almighty power, the bearer of His creative word…And it is particularly where the operations of God are energetic that this term…is employed to designate them – God’s breath is the irresistible outflow of His power. When Paul declares, then, that ‘all scripture’ is the product of the Divine breath, ‘is God-breathed,’ he asserts with as much energy as he could employ that Scripture is the product of a specifically Divine operation.”

Scripture, being the very out-breathing of God, is sufficient for all of life. It is profitable; all of it. The Greek word is ophelimos and means “profitable, useful, or beneficial.”It is preceded by the word kai which is most commonly translated as “and”, but in this passage it has the force of “also”. Therefore, it could be translated “God-breathed, also profitable” with the idea that not only are they God-breathed, but because they are they are profitable as well.

The fact that they are God-breathed seems to force the conclusion that they are both authoritative and sufficient for all of life. Yet that is not the whole of these verses. Paul goes further in explaining what profit they hold. They are profitable for teaching those things which man cannot know by reason alone and are not accepted by the unregenerate mind. It reproves all of our wrong-doings and wayward thoughts. It gives man what is needed to correct the same, and simultaneously trains a once lost, sinful man in the ways of righteousness. That is the definition of sufficiency.

Paul goes on to explain that the purpose for doing all of these is that the man of God would be adequately equipped for every good work. What are those good works for which a man of God must be equipped? Ephesians 2:10 gives some insight; “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” God has created the elect to carry out certain good works that He has prepared for each one who believes on Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that the word He left for us, with which to instruct us for those works, is capable of completing the task for which the Almighty God has created it. God’s word is sufficient for God’s people.

The majority of those who, in practice, deny the sufficiency of God’s word would never admit to believing that Scripture is insufficient. Neither would most of these men deny the sufficiency of Christ. In his excellent book, Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology, Ed Bulkley addresses this problem. He states; “When you say the Scriptures are not enough, you are in fact saying that Christ is not enough, for the Bible is about Christ from cover to cover.” Elsewhere he states, “To claim the belief that Christ is sufficient while saying that the Bible is deficient simply will not work, for the two are inseparable foundations: It is through the written Word of God that we come to understand the living Word of God.” He then turns our attention to 2 Peter 1:2-4, thus we will next examine this passage.

Peter states:

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord: seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”

Peter establishes that the grace and peace that all men need and long for are revealed through “the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (v. 2). Though not specifically stated here this knowledge is found in the written word of God alone and not by some private revelation or mystical experience, for Peter states elsewhere that “no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation” (1:21). Any private revelation or mystical experience should fall under the category of “prophecy” and therefore “is (not) a matter of one’s own interpretation.” It must also be seen that “no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (v.21). Therefore, any revelation that is apart from Scripture would not conflict with any other portion of Scripture either by content or delivery. Neither of these may be trusted as true of today’s private revelations if they are tested by the clear teachings of Scripture as has been commanded (1 Jn. 4:1).

Furthermore, Peter states that this grace and peace have at least the potential to be multiplied in those who placed their faith in Christ. Peter states that this is possible due to the fact that “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” “Everything” is all-inclusive. Nothing that is an essential need to the Christian’s ability to walk worthy of our calling has been left neglected or unattended by God. And He provided for our every need “through the knowledge of Him” (v.3) and that knowledge is only obtained by the written word of God.  “God has provided answers in His Scriptures for every possible spiritual/mental/emotional problem that man has ever and could ever experience.”

In the book of Acts Paul offers another profound proclamation of the sufficiency of God’s Holy Word. He states;

“I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable…for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God…And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:20, 27, 32).

This is an even more direct and comprehensive statement concerning the sufficiency of Scripture than that of Peter’s in the previous verses. As MacArthur states, “Paul did not view any portion of God’s revelation as unimportant or insufficient to spiritual growth. Nor did he view any of it as incapable of dealing with life’s problems.”

In Deuteronomy 6:4-9 God gives a basic summary of doctrine for His people Israel. His written word found in the Law was sufficient for all issues of life and godliness for His people. The commands given in this passage express the fact that the Law of God was to occupy the center of life, thought and conduct for His people.

In Psalm 119:9 the question is asked, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” The answer to follow is, “By keeping it according to Your word.” Therefore, if known and obeyed, God’s word is sufficient to keep one from living an impure life.

Again in verse 105 the Psalmist states, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” The clear imagery given here is that God’s word gives sufficient light to walk the path of life in a dark world so that the follower of God should not stumble off the path of righteousness.

Returning to Psalm 119 we find that this Psalm is rife with descriptions of the sufficiency of God’s word for faith and conduct. Beginning in verse 1 and continuing through verse 8 we see descriptions of those whose lives are identified as “blessed”. The Psalmist states; “How blessed are those whose way is blameless, Who walk in the law of the Lord” (v.1). Those who live in obedience to God’s written word, in this case the Law, his way, way of living, is said to be blameless and in turn abundantly blessed. And so he continues through the next 7 verses.

In Joshua 1:8 God gives a direct command to Joshua;

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”

We see in this verse that Israel had only one way by which she as a nation would be prosperous and successful; she was to hold strong to God’s law – the written word. According to His command they were to constantly be teaching the law – “shall not depart from your mouth” – and continually “mulling it over” in their minds – “meditate on it day and night.” By doing these things God’s word would cause them to receive the promised blessings and have abundant success and prosperity. All of this was based on God’s sufficient word.

Perhaps the definitive Old Testament passage concerning the sufficiency of God’s word is found in Psalm 19. For the sake of brevity we will look only at verses 7-11. David writes:

“The law of the Lord is perfect restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward.”

David here describes the absolute sufficiency of Scripture for the believer. He says that “the law of the Lord is perfect” meaning “faultless”. Unger states that it is “completely reliable as a moral and spiritual guide for God’s people, and ‘complete’ in the sense of being all we need to save us and lead us on in fellowship with God.” It is “restoring to the soul”, meaning it draws us back, “from the incessant downward pull of sin.”

God’s law is “sure”, literally “firm, faithful”, with the result that it makes “wise the simple”. In other words the foolish one who is ever susceptible falling into sin is given the wisdom to avoid such susceptibility.

The word is right, “in line with God’s will”. “It brings ‘rejoicing to the heart’… (literally) ‘making the heart glad’.” He states that it is pure expressing that God’s word has absolutely no “taint” which would direct one toward sin.

As MacArthur states, “Scripture’s purity and clarity produces the benefit of ‘enlightening the eyes’.” In other words the teaching of Scripture clearly directs us to live properly in the midst of moral and spiritual darkness by its pure, untainted illumination.

Verse 9 states that “the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.” Scripture provokes the fear of God. In doing so men are caused to turn to God in reverential praise and worship of Almighty God. It is clean, without blemish, defect or impurity and lasts forever. God’s word is “living and active”; it endures forever and it is sufficient, even to this day, to direct and protect God’s children.

God’s judgments are true and righteous. There is no error, His word hits dead on the mark every time. God’s word is “inerrant and absolutely trustworthy.”

Verses 10 and 11 declare the immeasurable value of God’s word. The value of gold is the standard of value in this world. No matter the state of the economy, one who is heavily invested in gold is secure as far as this world’s monetary system goes. Scripture’s value far exceeds all of the gold in any bank or combination of banks. It’s sweetness to the soul is infinitely greater than the delicacies of honey.

Finally, verse 11 describes the protection and rewards afforded to the one who lives by the word of the Lord. Scripture is the greatest source of spiritual protection for the follower of Christ. Scripture serves to warn the servant of God of the effects and dangers of sin and disobedience to God. Scripture serves to protect God’s servants in the face of temptation to sin and ignorance of the true way of living. Scripture also brings rewards, eternal rewards, to the one who is faithful to live according to them.

Conclusion

There is an abundance of other Scripture passages that express the sufficiency of Scripture; Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 2:15, Proverbs 30:5-6, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, and Matthew 4:4 just to name a very few. To exhaust the passages that express this fact would take a vast amount of time and energy, and still then one would not be able to do justice to the subject.

Satan has attempted to destroy any trust in the authority and sufficiency of Scripture since his opening lines in Genesis, “Indeed has God said…?” His assault against Scripture has raged continually since, and has found many an ally in humanity over the millennia. Yet, his attacks have done nothing to diminish the fact that Scripture is sufficient in all areas of faith and conduct. God’s word speaks to the heart of man and is the instrument that the Holy Spirit uses to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (Jn. 16:8). That is why men so easily join Satan in his attempted destruction of it. Scripture gives us the whole disgusting description of who we are and holds up God’s righteousness before our eyes, thus acting as a mirror showing us who we really are in the eyes of a holy God. It is the only sufficient guide for life. It acts as the guidebook for Christian living. Its sufficiency is based upon God’s nature and attributes, therefore it is trustworthy, authoritative, and worthy of honor.

Scripture alone is adequate to teach us the way of righteousness, for, as it informs us, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds” (Jer. 17:9-10). It points us to the One true way of salvation, and is adequate to teach how to enter into that salvation.

Though man has repeatedly attempted to denigrate, castigate, and eliminate God’s word it has proven indestructible. In truth, what else should we expect from those who could not understand the truths written in the pages of the Holy word without the illuminating work of God’s Holy Spirit? Men try to destroy what they fear most, and they most fear a righteous God who has revealed to them their sin and future judgment.

Is God’s word sufficient? Has the question been answered in these articles? That may be debatable. However, one thing is not; Scripture proves itself to be both authoritative and sufficient. God’s word is the final authority on all things “pertaining to life and godliness.” It is and always will be the all-sufficient guide by which Christians are led into holiness, spiritual maturity, and right relationship with the God who created, loves and chose them for His own. May God bless His word, and all of us who attempt to understand and live by it.

To God be the glory forever, and ever, Amen.

 

The Sufficiency of Scripture: Is God’s Word Enough, Part 4

To all who have read these recent posts I will remind that the documentation of quotes has been lost.  Therefore, many of the quotes are not properly attributed to those who made them.

I recently began a series of articles dealing with the sufficiency of Scripture.  I began by giving a definition and description of sufficiency.  By way of introduction and reminder, the following is our definition: Sufficiency means that something is enough to meet the needs of a situation or a proposed end.  It refers to something being what is necessary or desirable for a specified need.  Simply put, if something is sufficient it is just what the doctor ordered.

In the last post we examined the move toward a proper hermeneutic that was directly attributable to the great Reformers including Luther and Calvin.  We also briefly discussed the fact that even they did not consistently utilize the proper procedures in their interpretation and exegesis.

As a result of the Renaissance and the Reformation, both Churchmen and philosophers discovered a renewed interest in the world around them and how to interpret man’s existence in light of their surroundings.  That is not to say that such things were not being pondered before these two events, but in the wake of them their was a noticeable expansion of such explorations.  The consequences were not always positive.

From Revelation to Reason –

Shortly after the Reformation, there was a move toward what is termed Rationalism. In other words the authority and sufficiency of the human mind, reason, and the religion of humanism replaced the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.

Although not the first to push the idea of rationalism, Rene’ Descartes (1596-1650) is seen by some to have begun the era of rationalism and many see him as the father of modern philosophy. In his system of philosophy, “human wisdom replaced divine revelation in trying to understand God…his philosophic thinking impressed many others to do the same.”

8-blaise-pascalFollowing Descartes was Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) respected French scientist, and Christian apologist. Despite his belief in fulfilled prophecy, miracles, the witness of Christianity throughout history, and Scripture’s testimony concerning itself, “he opened the door to move away from the Bible by his belief that the evidence in the heart is the strongest proof about God.” Once again, Scripture is place in a subservient position to the interpreter instead of Scripture being in authority over the interpreter. The interpreter’s reason is sufficient to guide him, not Scripture.

From Rationalism to Idealism –

As influential as these two men were Francis Schaeffer believed that there were four other men who were more crucial in directing the mindset of philosophical thinking, which in turn filtered over into the overall view of the sufficiency of Scripture. They were Jean-Jaques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, George Wilhelm Hegel, and SÆ ren Kierkegaard. For the purpose of this study the focus will be upon Kant, Hegel and Kierkegaard, with the edition of Friedrich Schleiermacher, the father of liberalism.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). By the time Kant came on the seen in the 18th century the train of philosophical thought was undergoing a shift in attitude. As Schaeffer explains:

Immanuel Kant

“the older philosophic views were optimistic, for they assumed that people would be able through reason alone to establish a unified and true knowledge of what reality is and that when this happened they would have satisfying explanations for everything encountered in the universe and for all that people are and think.”

The shift that was taking place that Kant helped to perpetuate was a move from that former optimistic view to a pessimistic view of life. In their minds, and in truth, the humanistic ideal had failed. Philosophers gave up hope of a unifying answer to all of life’s questions. Therefore life itself was divided into two “stories”. The upper story, which was above and beyond mere human reason, and the lower story, the realm of human thought, understanding, and the physical world. As others before him, Kant could not find the key to unifying these two stories – In truth, a feat only possible in the pages of Scripture for only it is sufficient to answer life’s question and provide that unifying principle – and the philosophers were coming to the horrifying truth; “There was no way beginning from man alone to bring the (two stories) together.”

Yet Kant refused to return to the Christian view of reality. He reacted against both “mystical and pietistic Christianity, thinking it was too superstitious and spiritual…(and) the scholasticism that dominated Lutheranism…(arguing that) such rational proofs of God violated the limits of reason and had little to do with faith.”

Kant’s conclusions served to move the Christian Church farther from the sufficiency of Scripture and towards mysticism and liberalism.

George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). Hegel was one of Kant’s followers and went a step further in chipping away at the sufficiency of Scripture. In Hegel is found the foundation for all relativistic thought and the perfect example of Paul’s statement, “Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:22), for in Hegel’s system opposing propositions can both be true and must be synthesized into one new truth. This was his dialectical system. The result of Hegel’ s conclusions was a move further away from the traditional understanding that the propositional truth claims of Scripture were sufficient to answer all of life’s fundamental questions and guide mankind in every area of life, and a move further into the realm of mystical, even occult thought. For Hegel man was the consciousness of the universe, and all is ever evolving in this dialectical system.

Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834). As previously mentioned, Schleiermacher is often seen as the father of liberalism. In Schleiermacher it seems that many of the elements of liberalism merge into one; German rationalism, higher criticism, enlightenment thought, etc., all merge at Schleiermacher. He rejected most of the orthodox Christian beliefs and did not trust any form of authority. Yet, he seemed to understand the damage that his beliefs would cause mankind, therefore, “he did not want to reject Christianity, recognizing that mankind needs religion.” To Schleiermacher, Christianity was a necessary evil. He rejected Scripture’s inspiration, therefore also rejecting its inerrancy and authority, which necessarily meant that Scripture is not sufficient to answer life’s question. Yet, he somehow believed that keeping the shell of Christianity in public life would be necessary – this is nonsense since the very root of Christian life resides in the sufficient, authoritative pages of Scripture.

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). In this author’s estimation, Kierkegaard was the bridge between the damaging shift in philosophical thought and soren-kierkegaardthe shift away from the sufficiency of Scripture in the realm of theology. Kierkegaard was both a philosopher and theologian. Kierkegaard’s view of the two stories of reality can be seen in the following:

NONREASON = FAITH/OPTIMISM

REASON = PESSIMISM

Thus in Kierkegaard’s system the Bible is not only insufficient in governing faith and life because it is not trustworthy.  Human reason must be relied upon to answer all questions in the realm of everyday life, and spirituality is brought to the point of a mere leap of faith into something that can never be known.

In this one man we can see both sides of today’s low view of the sufficiency of Scripture. On the one hand the Scripture is insufficient and human reason must be the answer. On the other hand Scripture is insufficient and some existential or ecstatic experience must be the basis for men’s faith.

Around the same time that Kierkegaard was building a bridge between the fields of pessimistic philosophy and theology, Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) began the direct assault on Scripture. Wellhausen rejected the inspiration of Scripture – in itself a repudiation of the sufficiency of Scripture – and began the application of the Hegelian dialectical principles to the study of the Bible. This led to the damaging practice of Biblical “higher criticism”.

karl-barth_with-pipeThe destruction brought by the higher critics resulted in an equally damaging response by those who are now labeled as Neo-Orthodox. The first influential theologian of this school of thought was Karl Barth (1886-1968). This movement is also known as “crisis theology” (due to its focus on God’s judgment), or “Barthianism” (after Barth himself). Barth sought to rescue the Bible from the liberal theologians, yet Kierkegaard’s influence can be seen in Barth’s theological product. Enns explains: “Karl Barth followed Kierkegaard in acknowledging a transcendent God and emphasizing a religion of experience. Barth taught that God could not be known objectively because He is transcendent; He must be known subjectively through experience.” In Barth’s conclusion we once again see the effects of Hegel’s dialectical system, in that Barth “denied the possibility of stating propositional truths.” Since God could not be known objectively through the propositional truth claims of the Bible then the words of Scripture must become the word of God in some subjective way. Once again, the sufficiency of Scripture was rejected and replaced by personal experiences throwing wide open the door to the mystical, occult experiences that have entered the Church today.

Whether meant as attacks or sincere attempts at interpreting and teaching Scripture, the cumulative effect of all of these movements can be seen in the resulting destruction of the view that Scripture alone is sufficient for every aspect of faith and conduct. On one side stands dinosaur-like view of the humanist that man’s reason is all that there ever was, is now, or ever will be needed to answer all of life’s questions and guide man through life, yet ultimately leads to despair. On the other side stands the new kid on the block; those who hold that reason must be set aside and the mystical subjective experience must be embraced, this view also leading to despair.

To be continued…

The Sufficiency of Scripture: Is God’s Word Enough? Part 3

sola scripturaI recently began a series of articles dealing with the sufficiency of Scripture.  I began by giving a definition and description of sufficiency.  By way of introduction and reminder, the following is our definition: Sufficiency means that something is enough to meet the needs of a situation or a proposed end.  It refers to something being what is necessary or desirable for a specified need.  Simply put, if something is sufficient it is just what the doctor ordered.

Our last discussion ended with the historical development of the Roman Catholic standard form of hermeneutic, an allegorical method of interpreting Scripture.  A major concern with this approach is that Scripture becomes putty in the hands of the interpreter who is free to mold its “meaning” into anything that suits his/her fancy.  Added to this method is the practice of the Pope making proclamations ex cathedra regardless of whether the proclamation is in harmony with previous proclamations or not, or whether it harmonizes with the real teachings of Scripture or not.  At least one of the results prior to the Reformation was rampant superstition, which is a glaring display of the abandonment of the sufficiency of Scripture.

Reformation Hermeneutics –

By the time the Reformation came about the damage was so ingrained that even the Reformers never quite returned completely to sound biblical interpretation. Granted the hermeneutical principles established by the two most influential Reformers, Luther (1483-1546) and Calvin (1509-1564), were sound and good; in practice they did not always follow their own rules.

Luther rejected the allegorical method completely. As he said, “When I was a monk, I was an expert in allegories. I allegorized everything. But after lecturing on the Epistles of the Romans I came to have knowledge of Christ. For therein I saw that Christ is no allegory and I learned to know what Christ is.” Because of his turn from allegorical method Luther developed a form of literal, grammatical hermeneutics. Briefly, his principles were as follows:

  1. The psychological principle. Luther believed that the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit was of absolute necessity.
  2. The authority principle. Scripture is the final and supreme authority above all church authority.
  3. The literal principle. Literal (normal) interpretation is key.
  4. The sufficiency principle. Luther held to the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture and therefore believed that any devout Christian is capable of understanding them apart from the church’s authority.
  5. The Christological principle. Luther believed that the function of all of interpretation is to find Christ.
  6. The Law-Gospel principle. Luther believed that there must be a careful distinction held between Law and Gospel.

John Calvin also established sound hermeneutical practices. “Calvin stressed the Christological nature of Scripture, the grammatical, historical method, exegesis rather than eisegesis…the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit, and a balanced approach to typology.” (Quote attribution lost)

The problem that existed with both of these great scholars, and men of God, was that they each continued to hold to allegorical/spiritual interpretation when it concerned the Church, Israel, and end times prophecy propagating the Catholic Church’s teaching of amillennialism and that the Church is the Kingdom of God. Therefore, despite the great success and blessing from God that the Reformation was, its success was incomplete leaving the door open for building good doctrine on top of bad.

Regardless of the progress towards sound hermeneutic principles of the Reformers the issue remained; through all the years prior to and following the Reformation the sufficiency of Scripture was (and is) challenged.  This challenge has often been by interpreters seeking to help make Scripture plain, or by the Roman Catholic Church seeking to centralize the power of Christendom.  It may be safe to say that the situation has worsened with the addition of numerous sects and cults, and the failure of conservative churches to teach the sufficiency of Scripture.  The result can be seen in the current drift back to superstition, which includes the current tide of continually seeking new direct revelation from God for everyday guidance instead of simply living in obedience to His revealed word.

To be continued…

The Sufficiency of Scripture: Is God’s Word Enough? Part 2

Hoky BibleYesterday I began a series of articles dealing with the sufficiency of Scripture.  I began by giving a definition and description of sufficiency.  By way of introduction I will briefly review.

Sufficiency means that something is enough to meet the needs of a situation or a proposed end.  It refers to something being what is necessary or desirable for a specified need.  Simply put, if something is sufficient it is just what the doctor ordered.  When it comes to Scripture, God’s Holy Word, it means that the Bible is totally adequate, and competent to meet the needs of every individual Christian in every circumstance of life (see 2 Peter 1:2-3).  Nothing else is needed to guide us in our everyday living.

Most of us would agree that the greater portion of the Church has abandoned this long-held belief in the sufficiency of Scripture.  What some of us may not know is the history of how we have arrived at this place in the life of the Church.  What follows is my attempt to trace the history of biblical interpretation and misinterpretation of Scripture that enabled and emboldened the Church to conclude that God’s word alone is not a sufficient guide for an individual Christian’s life.  I would add to the previous statement that I am by no means alone in my understanding of the history that follows.

Historical Perspective: The Battle for Authority and Sufficiency

Origen and Allegorical Interpretation –

As Philip Schaff has stated, “The question of the source and rule of Christian knowledge lies at the foundation of all theology.” Without a solid foundation all theology must rest on shifting “sand…and great (shall be) its fall” (Matt. 7:26-27). Not withstanding the original attack upon the authority and sufficiency of Scripture in the Garden, the shift from the authority and sufficiency within the Christian Church can be seen with the first formal theory of interpretation, that of Origen (A.D.185-254). His hermeneutic system was fashioned after that of Philo, a Jewish Platonist who adopted the allegorical method in approaching the Hebrew Scriptures. Likewise, Origin applied the allegorical method in his exegesis of Scripture.  Although born out of the best of intentions the problem with Origen’s s hermeneutic method is that it abandoned a normal interpretation for a fanciful, imaginative interpretation that placed the interpreter in the place of authority instead of Scripture itself being the authority. Instead of Scripture having a static meaning (although alive and active as Hebrews 4:12 states) and simply having a basic, intended meaning that anyone could understand, “(he) considered the Bible a living organism (not as Hebrews states), consisting of three elements which answer to the body, soul, and spirit of man, after Platonic psychology.” The outcome was that Origen, like Plato, would allegorize, or spiritualize vast portions of Scripture completely undermining, or destroying the plain, historical sense in which it was intended. In so doing the authority of the word of God was made to be subservient to the interpreter, thereby making it insufficient in itself to direct men into proper living.

Augustine and Dualism –

Following Origen’s lead, Augustine (A.D. 354-430), once again desiring to do good, duplicated the allegorical method, but with a twist. His system is known as dualism, and the modification that he introduced was seen in his practice of limiting allegorical interpretations to prophetic passages, while taking other passages in their normal, literal sense. This dualistic method of allegorical interpretation once again pushed the subtle shift from the sufficiency of Scripture as it tore at the foundation of the authority of Scripture. Paul Tan described the overwhelming acceptance of Augustine’s practice; “Unfortunately for the church, Augustinian dualism was accepted without much debate into the Roman Catholic church, and later also by the Protestant reformers.”  It is that last fact concerning the Protestant reformers that has led to many of the problems in the modern Church.

Arguably, one of the negative outcomes of Augustine’s dualism is the birth of Amillennialism. This view of the millennium was absorbed whole by the Roman Catholic Church and their theology. This had a devastating impact upon the Roman Catholic hermeneutic method, and, therefore, to the authority and, in turn, the sufficiency of Scripture.

Catholic Allegorism –

Directly effected by Augustine’s form of allegorical interpretation is the Catholic system of hermeneutics. The Catholic system is very closely related to Augustine’s dualism, and completely swallowed up the Amillennialist idea of prophetic Scriptures.

Bernard Ramm asserts that “[i]t would be over-simplification to assert that the only method of exegesis during the Middle Ages was the allegorical method. It would not be, however, be an exaggeration to assert that the preponderance of exegetical work was allegorical.” The Romanists divided Scripture into two categories; 1.) Literal and 2.) Spiritual, or mystical. Yet, as damaging as this aspect of their system was, it was merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

The real greater damage is found in another of Ramm’s observations;

The Catholic interpreter obediently accepts whatever the Catholic Church has specifically said about matters of Biblical Introduction, and authorship of the books of the Bible…The Catholic interpreter accepts all verse which the Church has officially interpreted in the sense in which they have been interpreted.”

Here we have the logical outcome of the destruction of the authority, and therefore the sufficiency of Scripture by the introduction of the allegorical method of interpretation. When the normal sense of Scripture is not the true or deepest meaning of Scripture, then interpretation must be left up to those who have been granted the divine right of interpretation, i.e., the Church. In turn, that transition of the divine right of interpretation from the individual Christian to the Church placed the individual Christian under the authority of the Church, and since the method of interpretation placed the interpreting body in control of what Scripture means the Church became the authority, Scripture lost both its authority and sufficiency, and direction for all areas of life fell under the authority of the church; the Roman Catholic Church held the sufficiency. The Bible was taken out of the hands of the average man on the street and given only to the church to dictate to the individual what was held within its pages.

The Catholic Church’s denial of sola Scriptura was solidified at the Council of Trent in 1545. Although affirming the Bible as inspired revelation from God, as has already been established, the Church became the only competent interpreter of Scripture.

Two major errors occurred. Upon the church’s establishment of itself as the only sound interpreter of Scripture, membership in the Catholic Church became necessary for salvation. Therefore, the church and not Scripture, is sufficient for salvation.

Secondly, they established that the guidance of the Roman Catholic Church is absolutely necessary for correct understanding of the Bible. Popes and bishops are the only competent interpreters of the Scriptures; therefore, the individual cannot grow, serve or obey without the guidance of the Catholic Church. Scripture alone is not sufficient for salvation or daily living.

With the Bible taken from those who were not in authority in the church the natural progression was to drift into deep superstition and mysticism. Although mysticism came along with the allegorical interpretation, its filtering into public life in the form of superstitions and pagan practices was caused by the individual’s inability to read, let alone understand the words of Scripture, as well as by example of their “spiritual” leaders.  The results were horrific in the life of the Church in general, and devastating to individuals overall.  None had assurance of salvation.  Many lived in fear of evil spirits, or even in fear of their own religious leaders.  The Roman Church became oppressive and overbearing, and millions suffered greatly.

Praise God that the history of the Church and biblical interpretation did not end there.

To be continued.