The Campbell Morgan Memorial Bible Lectureship, No.
Westminster Chapel, Buckingham Gate, London, S.W.1,
[Reproduced by permission]
"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spabe in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son."
Hebrews 1. 1, 2a
Friends of Westminster Chapel, it is a pleasure to again stand in this pulpit of great evangelical tradition made famous by a long series of Bible expositors such as Dr. G. Campbell Morgan, whom we memorialize this day, and such as the present incumbant, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I bring you greetings from a sister church of like historical, trinitarian, evangelical and Congregational tradition, namely, the Park Street Congregational Church of Boston. Many things unite these two churches in conviction, fellowship and tradition.
Having read the two previous lectures given in this series, I must note at the outset that the type of lecture I am presenting is in a totally different field, namely, that of apologetics and intended for the defence of the Bible which has been unequivocally declared from this pulpit.
The title I am using is the same as the title I used for the keynote address of the Second Calvinistic Congress held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but the content is totally different from that previous address which may be obtained in the book reporting that congress.
The importance in this modern world of the declaration "The Bible is the Word of God" is primary. It is the watershed of modern theological controversy. On the right of this mountain peak are all those who believe that the Bible is the revelation of God and is infallibly inspired. They may differ on many details of interpretation of that revelation, but they agree as to its authority. On the left of this peak are all those who reject the Bible as the primary authority in faith and life, substituting for it any one of several forms of authority ranging from the human mind to the common experience and agreement of the church. Some of these on the left may hold with us as to the truth of every primary doctrine of Scripture, but they themselves do not belong to us because they accept those doctrines on a ground which is insufficient, and if the pressure of the battle becomes too great, they will relinquish those doctrines such as the virgin birth, the unique deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the bodily resurrection, the second coming, etc. Therefore, though we may differ in many details with those who are on the right of this watershed, we belong together and must recognize this modern division in the theological world. Only on the basis of the Bible as the Word of the Lord can we ever have agreement on Christ, on the way of salvation, and on ecclesiastical matters. When we reject the Bible as this authority, it results in the "don't care for doctrine" attitude of the liberal.
The inductive method is the fetish of the modern academician. Inductive procedure is called the scientific method, and it is accepted very widely as the only standard of truth. This method consists in examining the data with the desire to reach a conclusion. Theory, law and truth result from the facts of experience. The ground of truth is empirical rather than revelatory. Experience is the interpretive and authoritative criterion of all judgment. A thorough empiricist or inductive thinker excludes all precommitments which superimpose theory upon the facts of investigation. It should be noted that as Christians this is not our ground of knowledge, but we will accept the method for the sake of argument in the instance of determining what the Bible teaches.
In the first division of this lecture, I wish to apply the inductive or empirical method to the Bible claim to be the Word of God by letting the Bible speak for itself. We shall study the statements concerning revelation and inspiration in the various parts of the Bible so as to conclude what the Bible, in its various writings, claims for itself. Systematizing these facts will then bring us to a Biblical doctrine of the Word of God. Has God spoken in the Bible or is the Bible merely a record of man's search for God limited by the experience of the Hebrew people? The facts must answer this question.
Acquiescence in or antipathy to the results of such an empirical approach to the question of the Word of God depends upon our philosophic presuppositions. If a man is biased by a naturalistic philosophy, he will not accept the results even if they prove that God has spoken, although he must admit that he is unscientific in such an attitude. If a man is a theist, proof that God has spoken will be accepted with alacrity whereas facts disproving such a theory would shake his philosophy of life, that is if he were really scientific. If a man has no philosophical bias at all, and such men are scarce as hen's teeth, he could be truly scientific upon this subject. Not many are able to disassociate themselves from philosophic and emotional presuppositions, but I want us to at least attempt to do so by letting the Bible speak for itself.
In John Calvin's approach to the authority of Scripture stated in Book I, Chapters 7 and 8 of the Institutes, we have the emphasis upon the testimony of the Holy Ghost to the soul of man as necessary to the accreditment of the Word of God. After developing his argument in support of the Scriptures as the revelation of God through the double test of the external witness of the church and the internal contents of the book, Calvin affirms that this special revelation of God cannot be understood save by the inner testimony of the Spirit. The knowledge of God comes not from external special revelation but from internal insight which is the gift of grace, the true faith of a saved soul. This inner testimony of the Spirit works in connection with
the revelation of God which is the instrument of illumination. We must confess that we share Calvin's convictions and though for the sake of approach to our subject we adopt the inductive method, we are sure that all arguments, whether from archaeology, history, science, ethnology, historical criticism or otherwise, will be unable to convince us that the Bible is the Word of God or to enable us to understand it as that revelation of God.
Let me suggest three topics around which to gather our thoughts. First, God Has Spoken or The Word of Revelation; second, God's Word Is Inscripturated or The Inspired Bible; third, God's Word Is Our Guide or The Authoritative Revelation.
GOD HAS SPOKEN
THE WORD OF REVELATION
What do the various parts of the Bible teach concerning the Word of Revelation? We draw your attention to the Pentateuch, to the Prophets, to the Gospels and to the Epistles.
A. - THE PENTATEUCH
The Lord Jesus used the words of the Pentateuch as the word of God when He was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. In this conflict, the Lord Jesus relied on the Bible as the word of God. Three times He repulsed the devil with His statement, "It is written," all taken from the Book of Deuteronomy which provided Him with the sword of the Spirit. He quoted these texts from the Bible which He knew by heart. In the conflict, there was no seeking of a common ground with the devil, but there was a quoting of texts. Even when the devil attempted to quote texts as authoritative by way of temptation, Jesus did not abandon the method; He merely made a more correct exegesis of those texts for the devil. Was Jesus justified in so using the Bible and are we justified in appealing to the Pentateuch as the Word of God?
Revelation means that God made known truth to men. This disclosure of truth by God is different from the interpretation of revelation as a gradual becoming-awareness of religious or spiritual implications by the observation of phenomena, which is the liberal view of revelation.
The Bible makes it clear that God communicated truth to man. We read: "And God said..." (Genesis 1. 28; 3. 14; 3. 15; 4. 5; 6. 13; 12. 1). The Hebrew forms used in these instances express spoken communications between two persons. In additlon, the phrase "the Word of Jehovah" (Genesis 15. 1; 15. 4; Exodus 9. 20
Numbers 15. 31), indicates a body of communicated information on which man acted. The entire implication is the act of divine communication of truth to man.
God so revealed truth to individuals. This was true of Abraham. In Genesis 18. 17 we read: "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" In Genesis 15. 4: "The Word of the Lord came unto him." This is the formula by which the many revelations received by Abraham are introduced.
A second individual singled out in the Pentateuch is Balaam whose experience is described in Numbers the twenty-second and twenty-third chapters. Said Balaam: "Have I now any power at all to say any thing? The word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak" (Numbers 22. 38). Balaam was conscious of the divine activity in him and spoke not as the result of his own will but even contrary to his own will in accordance with that word which God gave unto him.
The same divine communication of knowledge was given to Moses. The Lord commanded him to appoint seventy elders and said, "I will take of the Spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee." Against this Miriam complained saying, "Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses?" The remainder of the chapter describes the anger of the Lord at this revolt of Miriam and Aaron and records the speech of Jehovah as saying, "With him (Moses) will I speak mouth to mouth." Here we note that the presence of God's Spirit was essential for prophetic activity. And even though revelation was given by dreams and visions, an extraordinary quality of personal communication was present with Moses. Thus in the instances of the plagues, he talked first with Pharaoh and then went apart and talked with God. This description could never be consistent with an increasing awareness of religious phenomena of a people.
God gave truth to man which man could not learn in any other way. This applies to the story of the creation (Genesis 1. 1-25). The events occurred prior to the existence of man and could not have been known by man. Either the story has been concocted out of imagination or it is the result of divine revelation. The universal myths and the literature of peoples testify to the truth of this original revelation but to its corruption through tradition. The story in Genesis is infinitely higher than any myth in ethnological tradition and it is true to geology. We, therefore, adopt the position that it must have been a revelation made to Adam which has corrupted in general tradition and was purified in the Sinaitic revelation made unto Moses.
Likewise also the prophetic revelations could never have been invented by man, such as the details contained in Genesis 49 about
Jacob's sons, the foretelling events in Moses' song in Deuteronomy 32, or the blessings and curses upon Israel foretold by Moses. Historical criticism prevents the theory that these were written after the event, and the prophetic element involves divine revelation.
Moreover, the monotheistic character of deity as revealed in the books of the Pentateuch is quite in contradistinction to the polytheistic viewpoints of nations on all sides of Israel and bespeaks a divine self-disclosure or revelation. Had such a monotheistic view of deity occurred by evolution, it would never have occurred at that time in the development of a people, for Abraham himself came from polytheism.
B. - THE PROPHETS
There is no question but that the prophetic writings claim divine revelation and inspiration. Let us confine our investigation to Isaiah and Jeremiah alone. The divine self-disclosure may be illustrated by the communication of a call to the prophets. Isaiah's call in the sixth chapter describes a vision, which is objective though it may have been internal, a divine voice and a vocation. This call constituted a setting apart for the prophetic ministry of the Word. Thus he introduces his book with the words: "The vision of Isaiah" and by it covers all subsequent revelation. The divine call was: "Go" and "Speak." Thus Isaiah could say, "The word of our God shall stand forever."
Jeremiah's call (1. 4, 7) consisted of the words "Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." When Jeremiah responded, "I am a child," the Lord said, "Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak." Later, when Jeremiah was faced with persecution and suffering, he said: "I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name." But he finds this impossible, and he describes his experience by saying: "But his Word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forebearing, and I could not stay."
The previous prophets were accepted also as the organs of divine revelation in the allusion made to their message and the validity of it by Jeremiah who said: "The Lord hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear" (Jeremiah 25. 4). The words of the prophets and the words of Moses were considered to be the words of God.
All this was contrasted with the false prophets. Jeremiah said: "I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbour.... I am against them that prophesy lying
dreams" (Jeremiah 23. 30-32). Jeremiah could hardly have voiced such condemnation of false prophets if he and they together spoke out of their own imaginations, insights and opinions. The warnings against these false prophets are numerous. It was declared a terrible sin to speak in the name of Jehovah if He did not send them. The criterion of a true prophet was that his words would come to pass. Thus Isaiah and Jeremiah never draw on their own opinions or those of their contemporaries but always on a "thus saith the Lord" or "the Word of the Lord."
The content of the true prophetic message was always authenticated by prediction. There is so much of this prediction in Isaiah that the liberal scholars have been forced to predicate several Isaiahs at a later time in order to account for prophecy after the event. Such is true of the predicted defeat of the king of Assyria (Isaiah 37. 33, 34). "He shall not come into this city: by the way that he came, the same shall he return." The same is true of the prophesied release of the Jewish captives under Cyrus (Isaiah 44. 28 and 45. 1). This is true of Jeremiah's accurate prediction of the exact length of the Israelite captivity in Babylon of seventy years (Jeremiah 25. 13ff). Such predictions could not have come about except by divine impartation of knowledge.
Moreover, the prophets describe a control by God of the prophetic medium himself. The Lord told Jeremiah, "Take a book and write therein all the words I have spoken" (Jeremiah 36. 2). Then comes a description of Jeremiah's dictation to Baruch of his prophetic word. The scroll was taken to Jehoiakim who, as it was read, cut it with his penknife and cast it into the fire. Then writes Jeremiah: "The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, after that the king had burned the roll and the words which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah, saying, take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll." Here is implied a supernatural superintendence of the written record so that the words of Jeremiah were the words of God. God put His words into Jeremiah's mouth. God cleansed Isaiah's lips so that he could be the medium of divine communication. Refusal to hearken unto the words of these prophets brought doom upon those who so refused because of their calloused and hardened hearts (Jeremiah 29. 19-20; Isaiah 6. 10).
C. - THE GOSPELS
The divine revelation is evidenced in the Gospels, first by the impartation of information to men either by angelic agencies or by dreams. Thus Gabriel appeared to Zachariah (Luke 1. 11), to Mary (Luke 1. 26), to Joseph (Matthew 1. 20, 21) and imparted knowledge
which they otherwise would not have had. The angels also appeared to the shepherds in the fields. The wise men were guided by a star (Matthew 2. 2, 9) and by a dream (Matthew 2. 12). Joseph was guided by an angel in a dream to go into Egypt and also to return from Egypt (Matthew 2. 13, 19, 20). The Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon and Anna that they should go into the temple to see the Lord Christ (Luke 2. 26).
The inspiration of the Old Testament is acknowledged in the New Testament where the prophecy of Isaiah is recognized as a commandment of God (Mark 7. 8), where David spoke by inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 22. 43), where God's will on marriage and divorce is drawn from the Old Testament (Matthew 19. 4, 5), where the Scriptures are declared to be the source of the knowledge of the resurrection (Mark 12. 24), and where the Mosaic Law is called the law of God (Luke 2. 22).
Individual prophecies of the Old Testament are recognized as fulfilled in the New such as the mission of John the Baptist, the virgin birth of Christ, the birth of the Messiah at Jerusalem, the sojourn in Egypt, the slaughter of the innocents, the residence at Nazareth, the ministry of the Messiah (Isaiah 61. 1. and 2), the healing by the Messiah (Matthew 8. 16, 17), the spiritual dullness of the people (Isaiah 6. 10), the triumphal entry of the Christ, the necessary sufferings of the Christ, etc.
The New Testament presents individual persons as under the inspiration of the Spirit and thus the vehicles of revelation. John the Baptist is described as a man sent from God and Jesus' evaluation of him (Matthews 14. 1-10) recognizes that his message was an authoritative pronounciation from God. Even the people so recognized him as a prophet (Matthew 21. 26).
Jesus used the word revelation on several occasions to describe such divine disclosure. In Matthew 11. 25, He said: "I thank Thee, O Father... because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." There is a body of information not received by wisdom or searching but by revelation. In Matthew 16. 15, He said concerning Peter's pronunciation of His deity: "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." God gave this information to Peter by the elevation of his own perception. There can be no doubt from the Gospels that they contain a claim to be God's revelation.
D. - THE EPISTLES
It is impossible to take sufficient time to fully analyze Paul's epistles, but the same claim is there. St. Paul had a supernatural conversion which interrupted the whole course of his life (Acts 9 and
26). Later he declares: "It pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me." This conversion was not worked up by some psychological process, but it was initiated by God.
Similarly, when Paul was defending his apostleship, he said: "Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are ye not my work in the Lord?" (1 Cor. 9. 1). Here he bases his whole apostleship upon a revelation from God.
Paul's gospel according to his argument in Galatians was not received from a man nor by a man but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. He makes it very plain that he did not receive it from Peter, nor from the apostles, but by an independent revelation from God Himself.
Moreover, he describes for us an experience by which he was caught up into the third heaven and saw things which it was not lawful to utter (2 Cor. 12. 2-4). Paul's entire authority as an apostle rests upon his claim that God revealed Himself to him, that God spoke to him, that God imparted His gospel to him and that God called him to this service.
It is evident that the Bible claims to be God's revelation. We may accept or reject that claim as we please, but we cannot doubt that the Bible claims to be the Word of the Lord. An inductive investigation of the facts in the Bible brings us to the conclusion that it is God's Word.
GOD'S WORD IS INSCRIPTURATED
THE INFALLIBLE BIBLE
Summarizing these facts concerning revelation, we find that an objective series of events stands behind the record called God's revelation. Revelation itself is one in this series of divine acts. God called Abraham, Moses, Samuel and others; God delivered the Israelites from Egypt and brought them into Canaan with a mighty hand; God did something on Mt. Sinai in reference to giving of the law; but these events had to be interpreted. The interpretation of those events was given by God to men through His Holy Spirit. It originated with God and was made known to receptive men. Either this is true or men such as Moses, Samuel, David and Ezra exploited their imaginations in passing off myths and fables as revealed of God. The moral tone of the Bible forbids that as it commends itself to our own consciences.
The form of revelation by which this supernatural knowledge of God was communicated to men took place by means of conversation
as between Moses and God, by divine theophanies or appearances to individuals like Joshua, Abraham, Lot and Gideon, by visions such as that of Jacob's ladder, of Elisha's chariots, of the handwriting on the wall, by dreams such as those communicated to Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel and Joseph and by direct mental suggestion.
The final form of revelation, however, was in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here the eternal word became flesh, was seen, handled and heard (1 John 1. 1-3; John 1. 18). The words, deeds and life of Jesus were the words, deeds and life of God. The teachings of Christ fulfilled and completed the older parts of revelation and yet the teachings of Christ themselves are not the final form of revelation, for He had to live and die before the ultimate interpretation of those events might be given. The forty-day resurrection ministry of our Lord was for the purpose of instructing His disciples as to the meaning of His life, His death and His resurrection to enable them to communicate this ultimate and final revelation of God. That there is a total agreement between the apostles on this subject is evidence that it was given to them by Christ.
That divine revelation was inscripturated in the Bible by means of inspiration. By inspiration, we do not mean the revelation itself, although revelation was an activity of God's Spirit and the receiver of revelation had to be inspired, but we mean the recording or inscripturation of revelation. This is the influence of the Holy Spirit upon the minds of the writers of the Bible so that they correctly recorded the mind and will of God. This does not assume that everything in the Bible was received by revelation, but that everything taught in the Bible is true. The historical writers as Luke and Ezra may have had no revelation, but they were rendered the infallible teachers of God by inspiration. Moses may have received much of his information from tradition, and yet the activity of the Holy Ghost enabled him to select and teach the truth. Inspiration means that these holy men, selected providentially and prepared for the divine purpose, are set apart as inspired and qualitatively distinct from all others who may be illuminated by His Spirit. The Holy Spirit has diversities of gifts, but inspiration means that men became the organs of God so that what they taught, God taught.
Inspiration does not imply the method of "mechanical dictation." Most objections to inspiration arise from the misconception that God dictated to men who passively received this as emanuencies. Emil Brunner continually attacks this viewpoint of inspiration as a viewpoint of those who hold to a plenary inspired Scripture. Nothing is farther from the truth, for men used their own vocabularies, gifts, methods of thought to express the truth. Plenary inspiration must not be confused with dictation. Had God dictated all that is in the Bible, there would be one vocabulary, style and logical structure in
the Bible. Men were the intelligent, voluntary, co-operative agents of God so affected by the Holy Ghost that they in thinking, willing and living became for this purpose the organs of God. Their human faculties were not suspended but heightened and elevated. Hence the various parts of the Bible are extremely different. Yet these very writers themselves claim that their teaching did not originate in their own minds. They were "moved upon" by the Holy Ghost. This describes the elevation, suggestion and superintendence exercised upon and over them so that their writings were preserved from error and they infallibly taught what God intended. This we hold to be the teaching of the Bible in texts like John 14. 26; 1 Thessalonians 2. 13; 1 John 4. 6; 2 Corinthians 2. 7-13; 2 Timothy 3. 16; 2 Peter 1. 21; John 10. 35.
The result of such inspiration is a Bible variously called "the scripture," "scriptures," "the Word of God," and which is plenarily inspired. Thus Christ said that David by the Spirit called the Messiah Lord (Matthew 22. 43). Thus the writer of the Hebrews said that David's words in Psalm 95, "harden not your heart," are the words of the Holy Ghost (Hebrews 3. 10). Thus the apostles attributed David's words in the second Psalm to God, "who by the mouth of thy servant David has said" (Acts 4. 25). Thus Paul claimed that Isaiah's words (6. 10) were the words of the Holy Ghost, "Well spake the Holy Ghost by Isaiah" (Acts 28. 25).
The inspiration extends not only to certain revealed truths but to all parts of the Bible as statements of fact. There is no need to set the human mind in an endless search for what is true or false, what is myth or history, what is accommodation to error of the day and permanent truth. Such a search leaves one without any certainty concerning God's guidance, will, purpose and teaching for us.
The very words as originally written were chosen under inspiration. They were the writers' words but were selected of God. In this sense, we can have no objection to verbal or plenary inspiration. The view that is advanced that since we do not have the autograph, such verbal inerrancy is useless is not valid. Certainly our opponents do not have the original autographs either and cannot prove that such inspiration is not possible. Historical criticism is a science devoted to the reconstruction of those autographs and a remarkable work has been done through Christian scholarship. There is no question of text which would change a single doctrine of the church. Questions of text involve very minor matters. Christ Himself so accepted the Scriptures, saying, "If he call them gods unto whom the Word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken..." (John 10. 35). As did Jesus, so do we.
This revelation is a growing revelation from Genesis to Revelation. Little did David think when he wrote "all things" in Psalms 8 that all
things meant the whole universe would be put under men as Hebrews 2. 8 declares. Little. did the writers of the Bible know the full meaning of their writings, so that they searched diligently to see what the Spirit did signify by them when they wrote (1 Peter 1. 10). Little were men able to comprehend the full meaning of Scripture in their day, but as time went on, things which were read into the Scripture were cast aside as new light dawned on them or broke from the Scriptures.
The Bible is an accurate and infallible record which whenever tested has been proved dependable. Emil Brunner may declare "at the present time only an ignorant or an insincere person can produce a complete 'harmony of the Gospels' or an account which reconciles all contradictions in the reports of the Lukan and Pauline explanations and discussions" (P. 129 in Revelation and Reason), and he may refer to Bible when accepted in this sense as "a paper pope" and as "bibliolatry," but we face such accusations with intrepidity and honesty. If the phenomena of the writings of Scripture are such as to negate their distinct claim to inspiration, much more than verbal inspiration will have to be given up (Warfield, Revelation and Inspiration, P. 423). If they cannot be trusted concerning their own claim, they cannot be trusted in other matters as well. Happily, however, no historical reference has been found to be wrong. Once men told us there was no writing in the time of Moses. Now they know that there was writing fifteen hundred years before the time of Moses. Once men said there was no Queen of Sheba, but only last year the expedition to Hadramaut is searching the land of the Queen of Sheba. Once they said there was no Lashish which was besieged by Sennacherib, but now its remains have been uncovered. Once they questioned the governorship of Quirinius at the time of Jesus' birth, but now we know that there were two periods when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
Men have made much of contradictions in the Bible. We affirm that doctrinal contradictions do not exist, and in statements of fact, two historians will not be considered contradictory in narrating the same events if a solution which affords a method of harmonizing is possible. Such methods of solution in the so-called contradictions in the birth narratives, in the resurrection narratives, in the one or two men at Jericho, in the Olivet discourse, in the Sermon on the Mount can be found, and the rule of history ought to be applied unto the Bible.
Scientific inaccuracy beyond the bounds of idioms which are a necessary part of human speech does not exist. Had the Holy Spirit used truly scientific language in describing the scientific phenomena of the day, the people of that day would have cast aside the Bible as error until new discoveries were made which proved it to
be true. Hence, human speech about the sun setting and the sun rising is definitely used. But when the Bible says, "The sun stood still," we believe that a miracle took place which scientists can not disprove.
Archaeology has been the greatest evidence of the support of historical accuracy of the Bible. Geology cannot be shown contrary to the creative days of the Bible, although men have held views contrary to good geology. Anthropology is still a very open question, but a Christian holds that God must have initiated the process of human life and differentiated man from all other existing creatures when He breathed into him the breath of life.
This Bible commends itself to the conscience of man as no other book does. The revelation within the human heart corresponds to the revelation without.
GOD'S WORD IS OUR GUIDE
THE AUTHORITATIVE REVELATION
We declare the Bible to be the infallible rule of faith and practice. Intellectually this may be accepted as a dogma without it meaning much in the individual life. But when one has an experience of encounter with God's revelation in the Bible, of committal to that revelation and the resulting Christian experience, the Bible in a practical sense becomes the infallible rule. The alternatives face us in reference to the Word. One may be attracted or repulsed by it, finding it instructive or uninstructive, thrilling or indifferent, revealing or confusing, helpful or powerless, comforting or irritating. One may be quickened or mortified by the Bible, finding it a means of justification or condemnation, of life or of judgment, of transformation or of atrophy. One may take the attitude of submission or revolt with resultant humility or arrogance, with teachability or pride, with dependance or self-sufficiency. Everyone bears some relationship to the Word. We come at it with interest, indifference, carelessness, sympathy or antipathy.
But when we accept it as the infallible rule of faith and practice, we conform our lives unto it by a sincere attempt to live by the Bible precepts, principles, promises, patterns and practices. The Bible as the Word of the Lord may be applied to our thought and life so that when dealing with profanity, adultery, dishonesty and intemperance, those who live by the Bible may be easily recognized from those who do not. A Biblical Christian is one who saturates his mind with the Bible by daily study so that it can be his infallible rule.
He recognizes his duty to exegete it properly so as to ascertain its proper meaning for application in his life. He seeks to discover the principles which may be lifted out of different situations and applied to his need without doing violence to the Biblical use of the Word. It becomes for him the Word of life.
From it he gains his knowledge of salvation, for the Bible is primarily a book of salvation. Where else can you go to find the explanation of the world, of man, of sin, of immortality and of righteousness except to the Bible? No other explanation is as rational, plausible and satisfying as that given in the Bible. When a man learns the revealed doctrine of federal representation in Adam with the imputation of both guilt and righteousness, he has hope born in his soul. Then he sees that salvation or righteousness before God is possible. What Adam and the law and the flesh could not do, God in Christ did. This knowledge is productive of ethical and noble living. By it, we understand that God's seed, the Holy Spirit, is planted in us and that we cannot continue to sin or to be unrighteous as we formerly were.
For this reason, the Bible places its emphasis upon the new birth as a means of entrance into the kingdom of God. Those who experience such a total renewal of mind and heart and will find that the Word of God is exhibited in them, that they are born of the Word, born of the Spirit, born of God, that the eternal Word is incarnate in them and begins to bear fruit.
Through this they have their assurance of salvation, their trust for salvation is on the authority of God's Word, they take God at His word as the ground of their confidence, they believe God and what God said about Christ, which then is counted to them for righteousness. The divine witness, namely, the Holy Spirit, accompanies the Word and imparts life to the believer. Thus the Spirit witnesses to his salvation. What a comfort not to depend upon our feeling but upon God's inspired revelation concerning our forgiveness, righteousness and sonship with God and eternal life.
From the Bible the Christian receives his infallible guidance for living. Complexities of life are too much for a large percentage of our people. All of us at some time long for guidance, for the privilege of hearing that voice behind us saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it." Problems of education, of marriage, of vocation, of childtraining, of avocation, of investments, of decisions demand the guidance of God and Me has said that He will guide us with His eye.
The means of that guidance is the Bible. It is the light unto our feet and the lamp unto our way. We must ascertain the truth or the principle which operated in certain situations and which can legitimately be lifted up and applied to other situations to-day. We must hearken unto the commands taken in their dispensational
setting such as the observance of the Sabbath, or the missionary vision, and obey them. We must look for the promises which are applicable unto us, not confusing Israel with the church in particulars which deal with the land. The curses of Deuteronomy 28 cannot be applied unto Israel and the promises unto the church. We must be consistent in reference to the interpretation of God's Word. We will take the pattern of the example of Jesus and of Paul, and we will be certain about our means of action within similar situations.
The result of such guidance is that we will know God's plan for the age, for the church and for us as individuals. We will experience a happiness of the right relationship to God and a sense of being in His will. We will find an effectiveness in serving by means of direction, of drive, of power and of unction.
This authoritative revelation of God provides comfort for us in tribulation. Sickness, bereavement and death are awaiting us all. The truth about prayer, about healing, about the redemption of our bodies must be gained from the Scripture. Hence, triumph over such troubles comes from revelational knowledge about death and life after death.
Discouragement, loneliness and heartache are the lot of most human beings. The Bible has much to say about the "discouraged," the "cast down," the "feeble knees," and the antidote to this in being of good courage (Joshua 1. 6; Deut. 31. 6; Isaiah 40. 31). We all have the compensation of God's presence when He says, "I am with thee... be not afraid." The Old Testament saints became heroes of the faith because of this presence, and it is the New Testament experience for every believer through the Holy Spirit. God's comfort (2 Cor. 1. 4-10) can make us courageous and more than conquerors in every detail.
Temptation, trial and trouble constitute the great triumvirate facing men daily. Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. Trouble besets him because of sin, of the world and of the devil. It is declared that by great tribulation we are to enter into the kingdom of God, but by our knowledge of the Word of God we may win out in all of these difficulties of life.
Light is yet to break from the Word of God. The Bible is the Word of the Lord, the revelation of God. It speaks to-day. Through it, God speaks.