Sunday, March 30, 2008

THE BIBLE UNDER ATTACK


Until two or three hundred years ago, virtually everyone belonging to the church believed that the Scripture is the Word of God. True, the Roman Catholic Church, denying that the Bible could be understood by common people, insisted that it should not be given them in their own language. But even then, it never questioned that Scripture was the Word of God. Only in recent centuries has the Bible come under serious attack.

The first attack began with what is known as Higher Criticism. It arose in Germany around the end of the 17th century as an outgrowth of rationalism and modern philosophy. It insisted that the Bible was a human product, brought about by the church in bygone centuries to express what individualmen had to say about God.

Although Higher Criticism, in its extreme form, is still prevalent in many congregations and institutions of higher learning, this is not my chief concern. My main concern is with those who claim to believe that the Bible is the Word of God but surreptitiously deny it by claiming the Bible is both a divine and a human production. It is a position that is widely taken today in the evangelical world.



Denial of Infallible Inspiration



The most common argument that undermines the Bible goes something like this: Although the Scripture is infallibly inspired by God, it nevertheless reflects the notions and viewpoints of the men whom God used to write it, men whose thinking was influenced by a by gone culture and betrays a lack of scientific knowledge.
This view is typically used by those who have adopted the evolutionary theory of the world's origin. While claiming that the Bible is the Word of God, they insist that Genesis 1 is not a literal account of creation. It may be saga; it may be myth; it may be a doxology intended by the church to praise God the Creator; but whatever it is, Genesis 1 is not to be taken literally.

A similar argument is employed by those who advocate woman elders and preachers. They concede that certain passages in the Bible do forbid women from holding ecclesiastical office. But those injunctions, they say, applied to the culture and customs prevailing at the time when the Bible was written and are no longer relevant in the modern world. Likewise, there are those who agree that some passages in the Bible "can be interpreted" as condemning homosexuality, but that changing social environments require the church to deal with such passages on homosexuality as we have dealt with passageson slavery, usury, war, or the role of women.

Underlying Error - Behind these positions is this common theme:


The Bible, though inspired, contains a human element or factor because it was penned by men that were specifically chosen by God. He chose those men because they lived in particular times in the history, had particular gifts and particular character traits, and held views that were formed in the culture in which they lived. And God allowed their personalities, their unique gifts, and their cultural influences to be incorporated into the Scripture.

The trouble is, such an argument forgets the doctrines of predestination and providence. True, God used men to write the Scripture without overriding their personalities, gifts, writing styles, and cultural conditioning. Nevertheless, when God wanted any given passage recorded, He did not look about in the world below to find someone who was suitable to pen what He had in mind. Rather, He had determined the writers Himself from all eternity. And He fashioned them by His decree of providence.

For example, God eternally ordained in His counsel that there would be a Moses, born at a given time, trained for forty years in the palace of Pharaoh, and schooled in the wilderness of Sinai for another forty years. He was in this way shaped and fitted and endowed with such gifts as were necessary to write the first five books of the Bible. God ordained Moses. God prepared him. All that was required to make him suitable for the work was God's work.

This vital truth is reflected in Jeremiah 1:4-5:

The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.


God worked in this way because God eternally planned the entire Scripture along with each individual which He would use to prepare it.

Human Theologies - The insistence that there is a human element in Scripture leads to yet another error. Increasingly, theologians speak of the theology of Paul, the theology of John, the eschatology of Peter, etc. This is wrong.

The very term "theology of Paul" suggests that Paul's view of truth was of his own invention. When such language is used, the theology of the Holy Spirit in never mentioned. The fact is that because Scripture is of divine origin, it contains only God's theology, and the believer, accepting the Scripture as such, is interested only in what God says is truth.

Yet, scholars preoccupied with the idea of a human element in Scripture are intent on explaining how the Scripture came into being from a humanpoint of view. To understand this human element, they say, a great deal of additional knowledge is required.

We are told, for example, that to understand what the Bible teaches, one must be well informed in archaeology, because we can know the ancient cultures in which the Old Testament was written from bones and pieces of pottery. One must study old Jewish, Greek and Roman writings to learn the kind of thinking that prevailed when the New Testament gospels were written. One ought to be thoroughly acquainted with the Greek language as it was used two thousand years ago to know what any given New Testament versemeans.

Own Dictionary - I am not saying that a study of these things cannot be an aid to Bible studies. But they are not essential to understanding the Scripture. The Bible is its own dictionary and commentary, for Scripture interprets Scripture. God speaks in Scripture. He speaks to those who come to Scripture in faith. It does not require the wisdom of the world to be understood. In fact, God says in 1 Corinthians 1: 26,27:

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.



Fundamental Truths

The two classical passages for the proof of the infallible inspiration of the
Scripture demonstrate this.
We read in 2 Timothy 3:16:
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God."

That is, all Scripture is God-breathed. The text does not say that all Scripture is God-breathed, but by human means. It simply says, all Scripture is God-breathed, and it is only because of this that all Scripture is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."

If you would qualify or modify the God-breathed character of Scripture in any way you could not add the rest of what is said concerning Scripture. It would lose its power to save, for man's word cannot save anyone from sin.

The statement in 2 Peter 1:20,21 is even stronger: It begins, "No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation."

This means that there is no word in the Bible that is the private opinion of the humanthat wrote it.

Why is it so?

The text itself explains: "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man."

It was not the will of man that brought about the Bible.

Holy Men - Had the will of man played a role in the writing of the Scriptures, then some personaland private opinions would be expected to be in the Scriptures. But that is not the way Scripture came.

How then did the Scriptures come into being?

The Bible's own answer:
"but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."

Peter and Paul and Daniel and all the other men that were used by God to write parts of the Bible were all sinners like you and me. But when they wrote the Scripture, they were holy men of God; that is, they were preserved from error by the Holy Spirit. In their writing of the Scriptures, they were incapable of erring.

Moreover, when they spoke, they were moved by the Holy Ghost. That word "moved" is the same word that is used in Acts 27 to describe how the ship taking Paul to Rome was driven by the force of the wind. It was out of the control of the men on board. So, the holy men writing the Bible were carried along by the Holy Spirit in such a way that in the writing their own wills did not play a role whatsoever.

A Miracle - The Bible, we must keep in mind, is a miracle. The writing of the Scripture by the Holy Spirit through holy men is the same kind of miracle as the fall of the walls of Jericho, as the water that came out of the rock in Rephidim, and as the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, if one denies the exclusively divine origin of the Scripture, sooner or later one is going to deny the other miracles which Scripture records. The two belong together. The miracle of the Scripture is a part of all the miraculous works of God.

One can maintain the truth concerning the Holy Scripture being the Word of God only if one maintains the fundamental truth that salvation is by grace alone. Sadly, the doctrine of sovereign grace has also been substantially denied of late. The church has fallen into the error of the doctrine of free will i.e., there is a human element in the work of salvation; that man himself must contribute something to his salvation. When the work of man is introduced into the work of salvation, the human element is also introduced into the inspiration of Scripture. The two stand or fall together. The miracle of Scripture is part of the miracle of salvation.

Faith Alone - In the final analysis, we must realize that the Scripture is a book which, believing it, gives us Christ Himself. This means that the Scripture can only be received by faith. Proof that the Bible is the Word of God does not lie in rational and empirical proof. The unbeliever denies Scripture, not because he is ignorant, but because he is wicked. Only saving faith can change man's hatred of God. Faith receives the Scriptures because faith gives one living fellowship with God in Christ.

Supposing I am abroad and my wife writes me a letter from home. As I eagerly read that letter, someone says to me, "How do you know your wife wrote this letter? Maybe someone typed it and forged her signature." I'll say to him, "Well, I know this is her letter because I know her. This is the way she talks. This is the way she writes. These are the things she would talk about."

Personal - That's how it is with the Bible. When someone comes to me and says "Prove to me that the Bible is written by God," then I say, "I believe it is because I know the Author. This is the way He would write. His signature is on every page! This is my heavenly Father talking to me. This is my Bridegroom writing to me, His Bride." And if he says, "I don't see it," then I say, "I'm sorry. There is nothing I can say to convince you. I just pray that God will open your eyes."

That is what faith is, is it not?

Faith is not a leap in the dark. Faith is not the acceptance of something which no one can prove, a kind of blind acceptance of the unprovable. Faith is the bond that puts one in fellowship with Christ. Faith causes us to know Him as our Christ.

And then when His letter comes to us, we say, "This is what He would say. This is what I want and need to hear. I know that He wrote it. I'm married to Him. He is my Bridegroom. And if you don't believe that, I'm sorry. The letter is not for you anyway. Please leave me alone. I want to read my letter."


By H. Hanko

Monday, March 24, 2008

GOD'S GLORY - THE STANDARD OF ALL JUDGMENT


We who believe the Gospel must judge all things by the standard of God’s glory, and we must seek to be motivated in all our desires by that same glory. It is our love and compassion, therefore, for lost sinners and our desire to see them saved that keeps us from compromising the truth concerning God’s glory and Christ’s Person and work. This is what motivates us to preach the Gospel to the lost and tell them the truth about their lost condition and the wickedness of their best efforts aimed at the ground of salvation. We see an example of this in the Apostle Paul who refused to compromise the Gospel. He loved His countrymen so much, but he refused to dishonor God or deny Christ to win their approval and friendship by counting them saved.

Romans 10:1-4
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
For Christ the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.


It was this refusal to compromise God’s glory that brought great persecution and reproach upon Christ, as well as the prophets of old, the apostles, and all who truly believe the Gospel. This persecution comes mainly from the religious world, even our loved ones and neighbors. We are accused of not showing a gracious spirit, of being too narrow and dogmatic, of being uncharitable and offensive, of being heresy-hunters, all of which are not true. We desire to be liked, respected, and well thought of, but not at the expense of God’s glory and Christ’s preeminence.

The Apostle Paul spoke of “the offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11). The offense of the cross is the fact that God can only be glorified in salvation conditioned upon the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. The offense comes when we tell sinners that all who are either ignorant of or not submitted to Christ’s righteousness are lost and their deeds are evil (John 3:18-20; 7:7). Their deeds are evil, not because of immorality which is evil, but because their deeds are opposed to God’s glory. When a person believes that he can do something to earn, merit, or qualify himself for salvation, he is denying the redemptive glory of God in salvation conditioned on Christ alone. This is an abomination to God (Luke 16:15). This is why their deeds are evil, and this is offensive to self-righteous, religiously proud sinners. The only way to escape the offense of the cross is to compromise God’s glory by speaking peace to such sinners when there is no peace.

God is jealous of His character, His glory (Exodus 34:13-14). He never encourages His people to compromise His glory in order to win friends, influence people, or gain and keep an audience. When we are tempted, as we many times are, to avoid controversy and to avoid the offense of the cross, in the name of love or to get someone to listen to us, we should always remember God’s honor and God’s love. God’s love subjected His Son to the greatest depths of humiliation, suffering, and even death in order to maintain the honor of God’s character in salvation. Christ on the cross proves that God could not and would not compromise His glory to save even one sinner.

We who believe the Gospel cannot avoid controversy and persecution in this world because all of the foundational truths of genuine Christianity are controversial and offensive to the natural, religious world. Christ promised suffering and persecution to all his disciples because of this (Matthew 5:10-11; John 15:18-22; 16:1-3). The Apostle Paul wrote in Hebrews 12 that any who are not chastised are “bastards” and not sons, children of God (Hebrews 12:6-8).


Chastisement in Hebrews 12 has to do with those who suffer for the Gospel. The point is that any who seek to avoid the persecution of the cross in order to gain the approval of the world are not children of God. Sinners by nature hate the Gospel because they are led by another spirit to believe in a counterfeit christ and worship and serve a false god. As long as this is the case, and as long as we seek their salvation, we will encounter controversy and persecution.

The issue is not a mere point of non-vital doctrine, as some would say. It is not simply that sinners are saved without this knowledge and only need teaching. The issue has to do with eternal life or eternal death, true worship or idolatry. Their can be no eternal life apart from a revealed knowledge of the true and living God, a just God and a Savior. The first saving view of God a sinner has is of the God who justifies the ungodly based solely upon the merits of Christ’s blood and righteousness. There can be no true worship apart from attributing unto God those qualities of character that belong to Him as a just God and a Savior. God delights in that which most glorifies Him. That which most glorifies Him, which reveals all the perfections of His character, is the full, free, eternal salvation of sinners by Jesus Christ. Sinners are fully warranted and commanded to trust in that which glorifies God.


By Bill Parker

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

THEN CONFIDENCE I HAVE IN HIM

THE CONFIDENCE I HAVE IN HIM

T

his is the confidence which I have in Him-the very faith which He has given me, that it was His own blessed will from the foundation of the world to do it for me. He chose me, He called me, He redeemed me, He has all power in heaven and earth.

I have had such a blessed experience this morning, how that my name was engraved on His heart when He suffered on the cross. Yes, He knew my name then, and oh! He knew my sins. Oh! How my sins pierced Him. I have been thinking what a sight it must have been; what a woeful sight to see them—those wretches, those monsters, and myself among them, the very worst, the very chief among them; I cannot, I dare not call them by one name worse than I can call myself. I was there! I did it! My sins crucified Him, pierced Him, and agonized Him! But oh! To see them laying hold on that dear spotless Lamb of God—hauling Him, beating Him, mocking Him, buffeting Him, nailing Him to the cross. Oh, what a sight, a woeful sight!

Then again I thought on that wonderful word which He uttered just before He died—and did you ever consider what a wonderful word it was—what it expresses? Ay, what it expresses! ‘It is finished.’ O, what a work His heavenly Father gave Him to do; He undertook it, He carried it through and brought it to an end; and then do you think He can let any poor soul be lost whose name He had written on His heart then? No, He cannot.

From the testimony of SUKEY HARLEY, 1837

Sunday, March 02, 2008

THE WRONG EMPHASIS!


Once a man makes the conversion of sinners his prime design and all-consuming end and NOT THE GLORY OF GOD, he is exceedingly apt to adopt a wrong course.

Instead of striving to preach the Truth in all its purity, he will tone it down so as to make it more palatable to the unregenerate. Impelled by a single force, moving in one fixed direction, his object is to make conversion easy; and therefore, favorite passages (like John 3:16) are dwelt upon incessantly, while others are ignored or pared away.

It inevitably reacts upon his own theology; and various verses in the Word are shunned, if not repudiated.

What place will he give in his thoughts to such declarations as, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?" (Jeremiah 13:23);

"No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw Him" (John 6:44);

"Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you" (John 15:14)?


He will be sorely tempted to modify the truth of God's sovereign election, of Christ's particular redemption, of the imperative necessity for the super-natural operations of the Holy Spirit.


By A.W. Pink

"CHOSEN TO SALVATION"


"But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth"
(2 Thessalonians 2:13)

There are three things here which deserve special attention.

First, the fact that we are expressly told that God's elect are "chosen to salvation": Language could not be more explicit. How summarily do these words dispose of the sophistries and equivocations of all who would make election refer to nothing but external privileges or rank in service!
It is to "salvation" itself that God has chosen us.

Second, we are warned here that election unto salvation does not disregard the use of appropriate means: salvation is reached through "sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth"

It is not true that because God has chosen a certain one to salvation that he will be saved willy-nilly, whether he believes or not: nowhere do the Scriptures so represent it.

The same God who "chose unto salvation", decreed that His purpose should be realized through the work of the spirit and belief of the truth.

Third, that God has chosen us unto salvation is a profound cause for fervent praise. Note how strongly the apostle express this - "we are bound to give thanks always to God for you. brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation",etc.

Instead of shrinking back in horror from the doctrine of predestination, the believer, when he sees this blessed truth as it is unfolded in the Word, discovers a ground for gratitude and thanksgiving such as nothing else affords, save the unspeakable gift of the Redeemer Himself.

By A.W. Pink


KNOWING GOD


God can only be known by means of a supernatural revelation of Himself Apart from the Scriptures, even a theoretical acquaintance with Him is impossible. It still holds true that 'the world by wisdom knew not God' (1 Corinthians 1:21).

Where the Scriptures are ignored, God is "the unknown God" (Acts 17:23).

But something more than the Scriptures is required before the soul can know God, know Him in a real, personal, vital way. This seems to be recognized by few today. The prevailing practice assumes that a knowledge of God can be obtained through studying the Word, in the same way as a knowledge of chemistry may be secured by mastering its textbooks. An intellectual knowledge of God maybe; not so a spiritual one.

A supernatural God can only be known supernatural (i.e. known in a manner above that which mere nature can acquire), by a supernatural revelation of Himself to the heart. 'God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ' (2 Corinthians 4:6).

The one who has been favored with this supernatural experience has learned that only 'in thy light shall we see light' (Psalm 36:9).

By A.W. Pink


THE FEAR OF THE LORD IS THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM


"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom"
(Proverbs 1:7).

Happy the soul that has been awed by a view of god's majesty, that has had a vision of God's awful greatness, His ineffable holiness, His perfect righteousness, His irresistible power, His sovereign grace.

Does someone save,"But it is only the unsaved, those outside of Christ, who need to fear God"?

Then the sufficient answer is that the saved, those who are in Christ, are admonished to work out their own salvation with "fear and trembling." Time was when it was the general custom to speak of a believer as a "God-fearing man."

That such an appellation has become nearly extinct only serves to show whither we have drifted. Nevertheless, it still stands written, "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him" (Psalm 103:13).

When we speak of godly fear, of course we do not mean a servile fear, such as prevails among the heathen in connection with their gods. No, we mean that spirit which Jehovah is pledged to bless, that spirit to which the prophet referred when he said, "To this man will I (the Lord) look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word" (Isaiah 66:2).


It was this the apostle had in view when he wrote, "Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king" (1 Peter 2:17). And nothing will foster this godly fear like a recognition of the Sovereign Majesty of God.

By A. W. Pink