The Scriptures of Truth (Part 1)
E W Rogers, Oxford
IT is to be feared that in these ever busy days the study of the Scriptures is being neglected by young believers. Yet we are enjoined to " search the scriptures " (John 5. 39), to " Give attention to (the public) reading (of the scriptures) " (1 Tim. 4. 13), "to give the more earnest heed to " them (Heb. 2. 1). We have " Moses and the prophets " and we should listen to them (Luke 16. 29).
It may, however, be asked " Is the Bible reliable ?", to which question an undoubted affirmative may be given. " For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven " (Ps. 119. 89). " Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away " (Luke 21. 33). " The scrip¬ture cannot be broken " (John 10. 35). A vessel which has been broken into sundry pieces is no longer useful for its original purpose. But this cannot happen to the Scrip¬tures of Truth : they are a homogeneous whole and are indestructibly held together.
A lawyer, in studying and acting upon a legal docu¬ment, has to be concerned not with what he supposed the original writer intended but with what he has actually written. It is0ut words that concern him. He must abide by what is written and act accordingly. So, too, in the case of the Bible. It is of the utmost importance that we should observe what it says, not what we think it should say or what we imagine (he original writer may have intended. What is written is a rock foundation : all speculations concerning it are dangerous quicksands.
But in reading the Scriptures it is necessary that the mind should be properly adjusted. ' The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.' Not that we must be inspired in order to understand it, as some have asserted. The inspiration of the writers was unique to themselves, but in order to apprehend the truth of God (as distinct from conviction being brought to the. mind by the Scripture) we need the indwelling of His Spirit. They are foolishness to the unregenerate man, but to those who are Spirit-taught they become the unequalled exposition of the mind and purpose of God throughout the ages.
The implication of this becomes obvious : to receive the Bible as the authoritative and unerring Word of God is to become possessed of all those promises so richly strewn here and there throughout the volume. Not those promises which relate to other parties and other times; we must be careful to discriminate and not to purloin. But there is a vast number of promises made to believers of our present day which, if the Scriptures are accepted unreservedly as God's own written utterances, may be enjoyed by faith and realization. Similar remarks may be made, mutatis mutandis, concerning their warnings. In a word, the Scripture means what it says and says what it means ; its promises arc open for the enjoyment of the believer and its warnings stand there as a caution to all.
The Inspiration of Scripture is plainly affirmed therein, but its process will ever remain a mystery. Seeing that the Bible is a living thing, like all other living things, the mystery of the origin of its being must remain un¬solved. The inspiration of Scripture is far different from that of a great poet or painter. Nor is it mere mechanical dictation. That would destroy the ' human element ' which we discern throughout it. Like the Living Word, the Lord Jesus (who indeed is the very heart of the Scrip¬ture), the Bible is at once divine and human. Divine, in that it came from God. Human, in that it was given through fallible men who, for the time being, became the penmen of the Holy Ghost to write infallible words. The circumstances of the times in which the various writers lived, and their particular relations to individuals or com¬munities, furnished special opportunity for their writings, be they essays, treatises, or letters. Therein may be seen evidences of the feelings of the human penmen : their indignation, sorrows, misgivings, tears, perplexity and so on. It is utterly impossible to disentangle the divine from the human. It would entail the destruction of the book.
The Scriptures affirm their own inspiration. Time and again we read the phrase " Thus saith the Lord " or similar phrases. Daniel claims again and again (see Daniel 2) that God reveals His mind to men. The ration¬alist cannot away with the doctrine of revelation. He will not concede that the God who has created man does at times reveal Himself to man. Rut this is a cardinal item in the doctrine of inspiration. It presumes revelation. Else one may ask, how did Moses (or his informants) learn of the original creation seeing that no-one of the human race was existent in the beginning of things. Many other things, also, are disclosed in Scripture which are altogether unascertainable by human investigation. It would take far too long to enumerate, all these things : almost every page of the Bible at some point or other touches upon those things which man, by all his searching, could never discover.
God is the source of Scripture : the writers were Ike channels. This is significantly stated by Matthew when he constantly used the phrase " spoken by the Lord through the prophet." God is the Speaker: the prophets were the medium. It is so both with the Old and New cove¬nants. In the Upper Room discourse the Lord Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit, whom He would send from the Father, would do three things :—[a) He would bring all things to their remembrance, thus enabling them to record the deeds, discourses and sufferings of the Lord Jesus without error, or distortion, (b) He would take of the things of Christ and show them to them, thus enabling them to disclose to the early Christians those massive spiritual truths to be found in the epistles, (c) He would show them things to come, thus enabling them to disclose the future, as is done in the Apocalypse.
This is dealt with by Paul in 1 Cor. 2. His remarks there may be summarized under the three words ' revela¬tion,' ' communication ' and ' explanation.' What Paul wrote was not that which he had seen with his natural eye: nor was it hearsay : nor was it the product of his uncontrolled imagination, but God had revealed it by His Spirit.
Paul further claims that the very words he used were a spiritual means of communicating these spiritual truths. Such would appear to be the sense of 1 Cor. 2. 13. The Scriptures are not the sophisticated writings of clever men : they are the teachings of the Spirit and these teachings, " spiritual things," are communicated by " spiritual means."
Thus Paul elsewhere calls it " the word of the Lord " (1 Thess. 4. 15). The Thessalonians received his message ' not as the word of men but as the word of God ' as, indeed, it actually was (1 Thess. 2. 13). Paul is so sure of his ground that he ranks his epistles on a level in authority with the Old Testament scriptures which were read in the synagogue. He enjoins that this and other epistles of his should be read " in the churches " (1 Thess. 5.27 ; Col. 4.16).
The plural should be noted in John 17. 8 and 1 Cor. 2. 13. It is " words," not " word " in these passages. Nothing could be plainer in its affirmation of verbal in¬spiration. It is not sufficient to suggest that the thoughts were inspired and that the writers were left to clothe those thoughts in words which they deemed to be most suitable. Everyone knows that that is a dangerous pro¬cess. No business-man would leave his typist to express in her own words the thoughts which he has in his mind unless it be of the simplest and most inconsequential character. And is it to be supposed that God would entrust fallible man to express His thoughts, which are of the highest importance and eternal in their issues?
" All Scripture is God-breathed " : what applies to one part applies to the whole. It is sufficient to say that the word " scripture," whether in the singular or plural, is always used in the Bible of the sacred writings and of nothing else. The Revised Version, therefore, " every scripture," would seem to be faulty. We have in our Bible a complete compendium of all the writings of God and in every part it is God's voice to man. It follows, therefore, that it must be " profitable." The reader should consult 2 Tim. 3. 16ff in this connection.