Thursday, May 28, 2009
The Reliability and Suffiency of Scripture
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
~2 Timothy 3:16-17
Last summer I was blessed to have a conversation with a faculty member of my alma mater, Bridgewater College, concerning our views on the Old Testament's place in Scripture. While I have great appreciation and respect for this man, his position, and all that he has done for the students and the college, his view on the Old Testament left me uneasy and greatly concerned. I fear that many others possibly hold similar viewpoints. He told me that he was taught and still currently holds to the understanding that the Old Testament is just the history of the Jewish people and has no bearing on Christians today because we are a New Testament Church. He also does not believe that many events (such as the Flood and the crossing of the Red Sea or Reed Sea) actually occurred. The major problem with such a view is that it places one at odds with the witness of the New Testament itself which unanimously affirms the inspiration and authority of the Old Testament. Holding such a view basically casts doubts on the reliability of the New Testament and the authority it should have in our lives.
The authors of the New Testament clearly held to the view that the Old Testament was more than just a history book. They saw it as God's very Word. Peter recognizes the origin of the writing of the Old Testament as being the Holy Spirit Himself. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2 Peter 1:20-21). The author of Hebrews in quoting Psalm 95 does not even credit David as writing the poem but the Holy Spirit. In introducing a quote from the psalm, he states: Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says (Hebrews 3:7). He recognized that though David penned the words, the origin of them came from the Holy Spirit of God. Even Jesus identified the Old Testament as God's Word. He stated that David "in the Spirit" wrote about Him in Psalm 110 (Matthew 22:43-44). Also, keep in mind that the Scriptures Jesus studied, quoted, and lived by were the Old Testament (The Law (Torah), Writings, and the Prophets). He did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17-18). He did not throw it away but was the culmination of it since the entire Old Testament pointed to His coming and the redemption God had planned through Him before the foundation of the world. Surely Jesus and the writers of the New Testament can't be wrong on this issue. If they are, then how are we to fully trust them with their other testimonies? If they were wrong about one issue, then there is a great possibility they were wrong about others.
One of the strongest portraits of the reliability and sufficiency of Scripture is found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. The all Scripture Paul refers to is the compilation of both the Old and New Testaments. The sacred writings (vs. 15) that Timothy knew from childhood was the Old Testament. In fact, the Greek word, graphe, typically refers to written words, further indicating the Old Testament at this time. Timothy would have understood Paul to be referring to the Torah. However, the New Testament authors themselves include each others' writings as the category of Scripture as well. For instance, Paul quotes a statement of Jesus' recorded by the author Luke and calls it Scripture in I Timothy 5:18. The quote is alongside one from Deuteronomy. Luke's writing is deemed authoritative by Paul in teaching that elders should be paid for their service. Also, Peter explicitly labels Paul's letters as Scripture. He states that the untaught and unstable distort his writings as they do the rest of the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16). So, according to Peter, Paul's letters are a part of Scripture. Furthermore, these letters were intended to be read aloud to the congregations and admonish them (Colossians 4:16).
Paul acknowledges that these Scriptures are God's very words. The literal translation is God-breathed. God chose to use fallible men to write the infallible Word of God. This gives Scripture a greater weight and authority as what is written (in the original manuscripts) is what God Himself intended to be written. The Old Testament may contain historical records of events but the Holy Spirit inspired how the authors should record the events.
Paul does not view any part of Scripture as useless but profitable. Again, all Scripture fits under this description. Not just certain books, passages, or verses. Not just what fits with our presuppositions or our theology. Paul does not give us the luxury to choose what part or parts of God's Word are profitable and which are not. They all are. What is Scripture profitable for? Paul gives us a list:
Scripture teaches us about who God is and His character. It teaches about salvation as Paul points out in the preceding verse that Scripture is able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. God's Word is the means He uses to bring people to faith (Romans 1:16). We can learn a lot from the lives and decisions of the patriarchs, judges, kings, and prophets. In fact, the author of Hebrews points out how the examples of the Old Testament saints teach us "persevering faith" in Hebrews 11. In God's Word we find instruction for how to live a life which is pleasing to God and what glorifies Him.
Scripture reveals our sin to us, showing us where we are wrong or in error. In reading about God's holiness, it is hard to not see the areas in our lives where we are in sin and falling short of that holiness. It was upon the reading of the book of the law that King Josiah recognized the sinful rebellion and disobedience of his ancestors (2 Kings 22:11-13) and which led the Jews to weep over their sins upon the return from exile (Nehemiah 8:9).
Not only does Scripture point out where we are wrong, but it also shows us how to correct our errors and walk aright.
4) Training in Righteousness
The Bible is our manual or "playbook" on how to live the righteous life which the Lord has called and enabled us to live. The Greek word used, paideian, connotes the training of a child. God's Word is food for the growth of the Christian. man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD (Deuteronomy 8:3). We need to daily read our training manual on how we must live life to glorify God. Like a little kid needs training and instruction on how to live, the Christian needs training as well and Scripture is where we can find that training.
The end result of what Scripture does is to fully equip the minister (as man of God normally refers to in Scripture) in everything that he needs to do. This is great encouragement for young Timothy as Paul reminds him that he has all that he needs to perform what he is called to do with the very Scriptures he has internalized since his childhood. Likewise, these Scriptures provide us with all that we need to live a life of godliness. We do not need the latest self-help book which attempts to tell us how to "live our best life now" or the latest fad. The Lord has already provided for us in His Word. May you use this provision in whatever you may be facing or with whatever the Lord has brought you to.
Soli Deo Gloria