Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Doctrine of Scripture

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


This week we begin seven lessons on doctrines of the faith. In the next seven weeks we are going to cover some of the important doctrines that the church has believed, upheld, and defended through the years. We are going to highlight what we think are the most important: Scripture, God, Man, Jesus, Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Last Things (eternity).


This week we are going to look at the doctrine of Scripture. We will to discuss the nature of the Holy Bible as has been believed by Christians for thousands of years. More than that, it is important to also show how the Bible is important for humanity today. One could say that we should start a series on doctrine with the doctrine of God since He existed (is existence) before the Bible, but the reason we start with Scripture is that most of our knowledge about God comes from Scripture.

Scripture is Revelation from God

The first aspect of the Bible that we need to note is that it is a revelation from God. God reveals to us things about himself, mankind, and his plans by revelation in scripture. This is exactly what God does for us. His nature (discussed next week) is one that is separate from creation. He is accessible and works within creation, but He is beyond it as well. Because of this He has to come to us to reveal Himself to us. Without Him revealing Himself to us we would not be able to know anything about Him personally. Thus, we know that God reveals Himself to us, and He does that in two ways: General and Special Revelation.


Our topic today is on Special revelation (the Bible) but we must briefly mention General Revelation. This type of revelation is a disclosure of God that is addressed to all people of all times and is therefore available to all people at all times. We find this throughout the Scriptures. God is revealing Himself through nature, by moving His redemption plan through history, and through the very makeup of man. Psalm 19 is the best example of this type of revelation:

The heavens declare the glory of God,

    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Day to day pours out speech,

    and night to night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words,

    whose voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out through all the earth,

    and their words to the end of the world.

In them he has set a tent for the sun,

    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,

    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

Its rising is from the end of the heavens,

    and its circuit to the end of them,

    and there is nothing hidden from its heat. (Psalm 19:1-6)

In this passage we can see that God has revealed Himself through creation, however we must not stop (or even begin) with general revelation. For in it we do not know the more important things of God—salvation, law, God's Person—rather we only know that a god exists.


Because of that we are in need of what we call Special Revelation. Special Revelation is a disclosure of God to certain people at certain times. Overall we could find a few different types of special revelation in history. For instance Moses' conversations with God are considered special revelation. The sacrifice at Mt. Carmel with Elijah is another instance of special revelation. In these instances we see that God revealed Himself to certain people at a specific time (Moses and Elijah and company).


The main idea of special revelation, though, is found in Scripture. By Scripture we mean the Bible in two testaments—Old, with 39 books; New, with 27 books. This is the Christian Bible and the church has believed it to be the sole source of special revelation from God. In it we find the plan for humanity, the Law, Salvation, and most of all, the Person of God. This is why we call it the Word of God. When we read Scripture we are coming into contact with special revelation, and as such we can say that we are coming into contact with God's very own word and words. In short, we hear from God through the Bible. This truth alone should compel us to read the Bible more and more. The remainder of Psalm 19 speaks to this as well as the entirety of Psalm 119. The Law, the writings, the Gospels, etc. are the words of God revealed to us.

Scripture is Authoritative for Man

When we think about authority we think of those who have the power to tell us what to do or not to do. We may think of our boss at work, a teacher at school, a police person, or a parent in the home. In the church we think of Jesus as having authority as Matthew 28 shows that all authority is given to Him and He has given that authority to us to do His will. But there is another side of authority we must comprehend and it relates to truth.


When we read Scripture we must come to believe what Scripture says as being true and beneficial for us. In a sense we can see the authority of Scripture in affirming that there is power and meaning in Scripture. It is powerful because it is God's very Word. It is meaningful because it is applicable to our lives. Our main text today attests to this very nature of Scripture: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We see that all of Scripture is breathed out by God—His power—and all Scripture is profitable.


The Bible is God's Word. This means that if we believe God is speaking to us in Scripture then we must trust the words of Scripture, since they are God's very Words. A great example of this in Scripture are the words of Jesus in John 12:47-50:

If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.

When we read the words of the Bible we are reading a book that has been well preserved through time so that we can hear the authoritative words of God. When we do not heed these words we are judged because of it, but when we submit to their authority we find eternal life.


If we are to grow in our faith we must submit to the authority of the Word and do what it says, for we have no other authority.

Scripture is Inspired by the Holy Spirit

It is important to understand that the Word of God is also powerful, as mentioned above. If the Bible is not powerful then it cannot really help us no matter how meaningful it may be. But if it is powerful it will bring great help to us to be able to save us and complete us as Christians. That power comes to us in the nature of Scripture as inspired by God. That word inspired literally means to exhale. The words of Scripture have been breathed out by God and are thus full of His power.


Another important Bible text on Scripture is found in 2 Peter:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:16-21,)

Although Peter was able to receive a certain special revelation at the transfiguration of Christ he points to Scripture as being more sure (as other translations have it) than him seeing Jesus glorified. When we read Scripture we need to realize that the words written therein are not man's words, as many in our world would like to believe. These are the very words of God given to man to write down.


In both 2 Timothy and 1 Peter we have the concept of inspiration. Peter speaks of Scripture not being written by man but being carried along by the Holy Spirit. Paul writes to Timothy to show that Scripture is theo-pneustos (God-theo; breathed-pneustos). Another word for Spirit in the Greek language is wind (pneuma). Both of these texts show us that God has been active in the writing of Scripture through His Holy Spirit. This means that when we read the words in Scripture we are coming to read the words that God intended to be written and the words that God has preserved through the centuries to be read. We are reading divine, authoritative, words of God.


When we read Scripture we must submit to what it says because it is the Word of God, but we also must know that it has the ability to empower us because it is the Word of God. There is no other writing in history that will affect you like Scripture. You can read the best prose, the most enticing philosophy, or the greatest literature from Homer to Shakespeare and not find anything comparable to Scripture. The nature of Scripture is that it is the divine revelation of God in authority in word form for us—it is God's power. If we want God's power in our life we must follow Scripture.

Scripture is Inerrant in Itself

Finally, we must state that Scripture is what is called inerrant. For most of church history the authority and inspiration of the Bible was not questioned, but in our Modern times we do nothing but question to the point we are not sure of anything. The Bible came under great attack and those who believe it to be true and trustworthy have had to respond back by declaring it to be inerrant.


Inerrancy means that there are no errors in Scripture. This is a term not found in the Bible itself, but has been used to clarify what is meant in the trustworthiness of Scripture. It can be defined a variety of ways, but we will define it as: without the possibility of erring. This means the Bible is not wrong, it is truth. For many of us who have accepted the authority of Scripture this is an easy acceptance. We trust the Word of God, so why do we need to claim it to be inerrant. We assert this for our friends and family who lose their trust in parts of Scripture.


One reason we spent so much time teaching through the days of creation last year showing how the science actually confirms what the scripture is saying is that some have failed to address the challenges of evolution and theoretical physics; and many stopped presuming the Bible is right about creation. A problem arises though, if the Bible is wrong here, then it could be wrong elsewhere and the slippery slope goes from denying the Bible in relation to how we got here, to denying the Gospel. That is a simplified overstatement, but it is the trajectory for those who disbelieve parts of the Bible. A statement on the truthfulness of Scripture needs to be affirmed and that is found in stating that the Bible is without error or inerrant.


This line of thought goes well beyond fact checking science and comes into play in the moral arenas in our churches where Christians are choosing to believe some Scriptures and not others. For instance, Jesus is accepted as savior, but is denied in His teaching on marriage, divorce, and sexuality. Some have called this limited inerrancy, but the problem is that there is no consensus on what limits are drawn up. Either Scripture is without error and therefore trustworthy or it has errors and we don't know what to trust.


In conclusion, we have a great gift of God in Scripture that is able to make us complete not only because it has wise sayings, but because it is the authoritative, inerrant, inspired, revelation of God given to us and preserved for us. We must see its permanence and importance most of all since it is something that will not pass away.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (Matthew 24:Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33)

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