Tuesday, February 10, 2015
The Most Valuable Book in the World
2 Timothy 3:14-17; Hebrews 4:12-13
(I gave the message at Pines Baptist Church, Pembroke Pines Florida on February 8, 2015. You may view the PowerPoint slides here, watch the message here and listen to the message here (click the message title at 02-08-15 )
The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message says the following about the Scriptures:
"The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation."
That is the doctrinal statement of this church with regards to the Bible. You can read it on the Pines Baptist Church website. Most evangelical denominations and churches adhere to a similar high view of Scripture.
However, what is disconcerting is the fact that, as Jeremy Weber reported a little over two years ago, "In a fresh study of 'Bible engagement' ...Life Way Research surveyed more than 2,900 Protestant
churchgoers and found that while 90 percent 'desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do,' only 19 percent personally read the Bible every day." According to the survey another 25% read the Bible a few times a week, 14% once a week, 22% once or twice a month and 18% rarely/never. (Study: Bible Engagement in Churchgoers' Hearts, Not Always Practiced by Russ Rankin 09-06-12)
Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention, in an article entitled, "The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It's Our Problem," writes the following:
"While America's evangelical Christians are rightly concerned about the secular worldview's rejection of biblical Christianity, we ought to give some urgent attention to a problem much closer to home--biblical illiteracy in the church. This scandalous problem is our own, and it's up to us to fix it.... Secularized Americans should not be expected to be knowledgeable about the Bible. As the nation's civic conversation is stripped of all biblical references and content, Americans increasingly live in a Scripture-free public space. Confusion and ignorance of the Bible's content should be assumed in post-Christian America."
He continues, "The larger scandal is biblical ignorance among Christians. Choose whichever statistic or survey you like, the general pattern is the same. America's Christians know less and less about the Bible. It shows."
Let me be clear from the outset. I am not trying to lay a guilt trip on any of us. I cite these facts because if these surveys are even remotely accurate we are at risk as individuals, as families and as a church. At worse, at risk of sooner or later being overwhelmed by false doctrine if not apostasy, and at best, a failure to walk in the fullness of our salvation found in Jesus Christ and His Word. As Dr. Mohler warns, "We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs."
I believe, from personal experience and the teaching of Scripture that our personal knowledge and intimacy with God grows in direct proportion to our knowledge and intimacy with His Word.
That is one reason why the Bible is the most valuable book in the world. Why is that the case? To answer that question, I am going to cover three things about the Bible this morning: its origin, its nature and its purpose.
First of all, the origin of the Bible. It is inspired by God - this answers these questions "Where did the Bible come from?" "Who authored it?" or "Who wrote it?"
The Bible makes the unambiguous claim that it is inspired by God. Therefore, we rightly refer to the Bible as "God's Word." The Bible teaches that the Scriptures are inspired by God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) "All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."
When Paul said that Scripture was "breathed out by God" he is referring to its origin. The word translated "breathed" is the same word translated "spirit." So the breathing out of the Scriptures describes the work of the Holy Spirit in the writing of the Bible. The apostle Peter further clarifies this truth. 2 Peter 1:21 (ESV) "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."
There are many examples in the Bible that illustrate this truth. For example, in Hebrews chapter one, the writer in verse five says, "For to which of the angels did God ever say, then he quotes from Psalm two, "'You are my son, today I have begotten you?'" In other words, Psalm two represents what God said. He goes on to quote from Psalm 45 and 104 in the same way attributing them to be words from God. Similarly in chapter 3:7, the writer to the Hebrews attributes Psalm 95 to the work of the Holy Spirit saying, "Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says," then quoting from Psalm 95, "'Today, if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness." In other words, the writer to the Hebrews is acknowledging the Scripture he quotes to be the words of the Holy Spirit.
We see the role of the Holy Spirit in the writing of the New Testament. Jesus said to his disciples, John 14:26, (ESV) "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to you remembrance all that I have said to you."
Dr. Merrill C. Tenney writes, "The continuity of revelation is likewise guaranteed by the Holy Spirit." (John, the Gospel of Belief, pg. 224) Dr. R. V. G. Tasker further explains, "The very existence of this Gospel of John, and indeed of the entire New Testament, would have been impossible apart from this aspect of the Holy Spirit's work." (The Gospel According to St. John, pg. 168)
The Apostle Paul made a similar claim of the gospel he proclaimed. As he wrote the church at Galatia, warning them about deserting the message he had proclaimed to them, he speaks of the origin of his gospel message. Galatians 1:11-12, "For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ."
Dr. John R.W. Stott writes, "His gospel...was neither an invention (as if his own brain had fabricated it), not a tradition (as if the church had handed it down to him), but a revelation (for God had made it known to him). (Only One Way, pg. 30)
Notice that Peter makes it clear that God used men as the instruments in writing the Scripture. He writes, "but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." The term "carried along" is a maritime term used of the sailing ships of that day as they were carried along by the wind. (Acts 27:15,17) To use the metaphor here, the prophets "raised their sails," as it were, and were carried along by the Holy Spirit writing under His inspiration and direction.
You see God used men to write the Bible, men of varied backgrounds and different experiences. Men with different personalities who wrote in various literary styles. But they were all men who wrote the words and the message under the sovereign control of the Holy Spirit, without by passing their unique individuality in the process. Dr. Kenneth Kantzer, one of my theology professors in seminary, has written of this human element that is so apparent in the writing of the Scriptures.
"...the full complete humanity of the Bible shouts at us from every page. The biblical writers used their own language. They wrote from the context of their own culture. Their style was their own. Their themes were those dear to their hearts. Moses differs from Isaiah, John from Matthew, Paul from James. No literary genre that is appropriate for good human literature is necessarily inappropriate for the biblical authors. From first to last, the entire Bible is a human book and can only be understood and righty interpreted as a thoroughly human book."
He is saying that the imprint of men is undeniable in the Scriptures even though each of them wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Donald Campbell writes, "...God superintended the human authors so that, using their own individual personalities, they composed and recorded, without error, His [God's] revelation to man." (Kindred Spirits)
So, first of all the origin of the Bible, it is inspired by God. Notice, secondly the nature of the Bible. First of all I want us to see that the Bible is inerrant. Again, the doctrinal statement of this church, the Bible, "...has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy."
We refer to this as the "inerrancy" of Scripture. The word "inerrant" means to be without error. If God is the author of Scripture as we have seen, what does the Bible say about the veracity or truthfulness of God? Two examples: Titus 1:2 - "God, who never lies." Hebrews 6:18 - "it is impossible for God to lie." The Bible is without error because of the impossibility of its author to lie. Dr. Norman Geisler, "We dare not agree, therefore, with those who would make inerrancy a minor or even trivial matter. Whether or not the Bible has errors in it is as important as whether or not God can err." (Evangelical Beacon, pg. 5, 01-16-79) In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus said,
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished."
Jesus taught the infallibility of the Scriptures. They would be fulfilled. In other words, they are incapable of error.
Do you know what an "iota" is? The KJV translates it 'jot." It is thought to be the "yod," the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet. So the New International Version translates it "the smallest letter." It's about the size of an apostrophe in the English language. See on this Hebrew alphabet chart [PowerPoint] it is on the second row, the last letter on the far right. It is the first and smallest letter, the "Yah," in the Hebrew word for Lord - Yahweh. Remember Hebrew, unlike English, is read from right to left.
Do you know what a "dot" is? KJV "tittle." It is the extension or swirl that often differentiates one Hebrew letter from another. For example, the difference between a Resh" and a "Dalet." Do you see [PowerPoint] the slight extension at the top right corner of the Dalet? In other words, Jesus is teaching that even the smallest part of the Law will not pass away. It will be fulfilled. It is incapable of being wrong or mistaken. This is a very strong statement regarding the infallibility of the Scriptures.
As D.A Carson writes, "...Jesus here upholds the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures right down to the 'least stroke of a pen.' His is the highest possible view of the OT." (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, pg. 145) Jesus said, John 10:35, "the Scripture cannot be broken."
The Bible also teaches the "plenary" inspiration of the Scriptures. That is, Scripture in its entirety is inerrant. You cannot limit the inerrancy of the Bible as some attempt to do. For example, some claim that the Bible is not trustworthy or infallible when it comes to some scientific or historical statements. In Matthew 19:6 Jesus answered an ethical question about divorce, by making a historical and scientific statement regarding human sexuality. On another occasion Jesus affirmed the historicity of Noah and the flood, Matthew 24, (37-39) and the prophet Jonah, Matthew 12. (40ff).
You cannot deny the inerrancy or infallibility of the Bible when it speaks of history or
science without impugning the testimony of Jesus Christ regarding the trustworthiness of Scripture. As Dr. John R. Walvoord has written, "Those who attack the written Word of God also attack the incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ. If the Bible is in error, then Christ is in error, too. The two stand of fall together."
Dr. Norman Geisler, "...inerrancy is not a matter of scholarship; it is a matter of Lordship. If Jesus is Lord, then Scripture is inerrant, and the Lordship of Christ is not an insignificant matter." (The Evangelical Beacon, 01-16-79)
The Word of God is also permanent. Peter quoting Isaiah 40:6,8, "...all flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but word of the Lord remains forever." 1 Peter 1:24-25 (ESV) And the Psalmist David wrote, "Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens." (119:89 ESV)
The authority of the Bible is timeless. It speaks to men in every age and time. To those in the 21st century, as it did in the first century, as it will in the centuries to come if the Lord tarries.
So, as to the nature of the Bible, first, it is inerrant. Secondly, the Bible is dynamic. In other words, it is a living Word, alive with the power of God. Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." John 6:63 (ESV)
Hebrews 4:12-13 (ESV) "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two- edged sword piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account."
Friends, if you are a believer this morning; if you have been born again by the Spirit of God, it is because the Word of God living and active like a two edged sword pierced your heart, exposing your sin, causing you to cry out in repentance, and receive by faith the forgiveness only Jesus Christ can offer. And the living and active word birthed new spiritual life into your soul as you received the gift of eternal life through faith in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Peter described it this way, "since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God." (1 Peter 1:23 ESV)
F. B. Meyer writes, "...when the Word of God enters the heart, it is not as a piece of furniture or lumber. It asserts itself and strives for mastery, and compels men to give up sin; to make up long-standing feuds; to restore ill-gotten gains; to strive to enter into the strait gate. (The Way Into the Holiest, pg. 90)
If on the other hand, you are not a believer this morning. If your sin has never been forgiven, covered by the shed blood of Christ, this morning receive the Word of God. It is what God uses to discern the thoughts and intentions of your heart. Before His Word, Hebrews says we "are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account."
Again, F. B. Meyer, "We must expect to have our most secret thoughts, relations, and purposes questioned, criticized, and measured by the Word of God. No court of inquiry was ever presided over by a more exact inquisitor than this. The corpses of the dead past are exhumed; the old lumber-rooms with their padlocked boxes are explored; the accounts of bygone years are audited and taxed. God is critic of all the secrets of the heart. As each thought or intention passes to and fro, he searches it. He is constantly weighing in the balance our thoughts and aims, though they be light as air." (The Way Into the Holiest, pg. 91-92)
You see the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and reveals our sin to us. We see ourselves as God sees us. That is the place from which we can call out to Him for forgiveness and salvation. If you have never done so, today can be your day of salvation. Call out to God in repentance and faith and He will save you!
We have seen the origin of the Bible. It is inspired by God. We have seen the nature of the Bible, it is inerrant and dynamic. Notice lastly, the purpose of the Bible. Back to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) "All
Sripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."
The Scriptures are profitable says Paul, with regard to what we believe and how we live, or to put it another way, our creed and our conduct. And of course, you probably recognize that the two always go together. What you believe will always shape how you live.
In dealing with what we believe and how we live, Paul gives us both a positive and a negative. Paul begins with what we believe, our creed. Scripture "is profitable for teaching,' verse sixteen. In other words the Bible tells us what to believe. It defines our doctrine. But it is also profitable for "reproof." In other words, the Scriptures will help us to refute error. It will help us to realize when we have embraced false teaching, when we are being led astray. The New English Bible says Scripture is profitable "for teaching the truth and refuting error."
Again as the Pines Baptist doctrinal statement reads, the Bible is "...the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried."
Just a few verses later, Paul warned Timothy of the danger of false teachers. In chapter 4:2-4, Paul wrote, "...preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." (ESV)
In his first letter to Timothy he wrote a similar warning. 1Timothy 4:1 (ESV), "Now the
Holy Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teaching of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared."
These are sobering warnings. It matters what you believe. Doctrine does matter! I have never seen a time in my lifetime when our doctrine, what we believe, what we embrace as truth, is more important than it is today. Our greatest safeguard against false doctrine and teaching is to personally know the Scriptures. To be familiar with what the Bible teaches. I don't want to minimize the public preaching or teaching of the Bible as we are doing right now. That is my calling. But there is no substitute for each of us giving ourselves to the personal reading and study of the Scriptures. Remember Paul's commendation of the Jews in Berea? Upon their arrival in that city Paul and Silas entered the synagogue to preach the gospel. In Acts 17:11 (ESV) Luke writes, "Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." These Jews to whom Paul and Silas preached the gospel got their Bibles out and checked out Paul's message! We would do well to follow their example today.
The purpose of the Bible. It tells us what to believe, our doctrine. Secondly, the Bible tells us how to live. Scripture is profitable, Paul writes, "for correction, and for training in righteousness," verse sixteen. Again a negative and a positive. This time Paul gives the negative first, "correction." This refers to the Scriptures correcting our conduct. The Bible is given to us to help us live right. And when we get out of line it will correct our behavior if we read it, meditate on it, apply it and obey it.
Just this week, as many times before, in my personal Bible reading the Scriptures spoke clearly to me about an area of my life that needed attention. Not doctrine, but a heart issue. The word was clear and timely, something I needed to hear that very day. I don't know about you, but I am the kind of person that most every day needs to give the Lord the opportunity to take that two-edged sword and divide my soul and spirit, discerning the thoughts and intentions of my heart. I desperately need that more regularly than I want to admit, so that I can know what is in my heart, treat people right, make right decisions, walk in the Spirit and be conformed into the image of Christ.
So, the Bible will correct our behavior. Then the positive, "and for training in righteousness." "Training" refers to "upbringing" or "child training." The Word of God trains us how to live and act. Again the New English Bible, the Scriptures are profitable "for reformation of manners, and discipline in right living."
The purpose of the Bible, first it tells us what to believe, our doctrine. Second it tells us how to live. Thirdly notice, the Bible equips us for a life of ministry, verse seventeen. The Bible tells us what to believe and how to live in order, "that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."
As with many of you, there have been many times in my Bible reading that the Lord has spoken so clearly through His Word, not just words of correction but a word of encouragement, a faith building promise, confirmation or direction regarding a course of action, discernment regarding an issue, speaking to me right when I needed it. This is so we may be prepared and equipped for every good work. Bible reading trains us for living a life of good works.
There is a great message for parents and grandparents here, the greatest ministry we can have is to our children and grandchildren. In chapter one of 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul writes this about Timothy's grandmother and mother. "I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure dwells in you as well."
Then in 2 Timothy 3:14,15 (ESV) the Apostle Paul writes of the role Scripture played in Timothy's upbringing, "...continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."
That was Timothy's heritage. From childhood the Scriptures had been poured into his life. It is never too early to begin reading the Bible to your children. It is never too early to make your children familiar with God's Word. Timothy became acquainted with the Scriptures in his childhood, the text says. My guess is, this led him to faith in Jesus at an early age.
Remember the Baptist statement read, "The Holy bible...has God for its author, salvation for its end" Then the last sentence reads, "All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation." The greatest purpose of the Bible is to reveal God's love for our world in sending His Son to die for our sins. In that sense, it's God's love letter to us.
I close with this illustration. This past week a Facebook friend posted these words. I will not use their real names. A mother writes of her seven year old son Tom.
"I had the privilege of watching Tom's presentation to his class. Every week they have to get in front of their class and present something, show and tell or a small speech, to work on their public speaking skills.... Tom had chosen something to speak about and put it in his backpack that morning. He wouldn’t tell me what it was. It was a 'surprise' he said. When it was his turn he pulled his beloved Bible out of his backpack. My sweet boy who finds whatever quiet moment he can to read his Bible, who is always using my goBible to listen to chapters while he falls asleep or does his chores and who loves the time we spend reading it together, has such a love for the scriptures at only seven.
On Wednesday he sat down in front of his class and read several verses in Matthew and then proceeded to give a little 'sermon' or explanation about what the verses meant. He wanted to read more but he ran out of time. He has told us often that he feels the Lord is calling him to preach and has many times shared the gospel with strangers when we are out and about. He began preaching to us at two years old from his high chair. His boldness in faith is such an example to us and such an incredible gift. It is such a privilege to be his mommy. I often say that he is God’s grace to me. I wish I could have gotten a video but my phone ran out of room. Still, I will treasure this memory always."
A Mom's tribute to her seven-year old son who evidently believes the Bible is "The Most Valuable Book In the World." How valuable is it to you?
© James P McGarvey All Rights Reserved