Thursday, April 09, 2020

1888 Message Study : The Origin and Nature of the Bible



Memory Text: "For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe".
1 Thessalonians 2:13, NKJV

The "antichrist" is called the "man of lawlessness" in 2 Thessalonians 2.  This is a warning of the ever-growing antiauthoritarian attitude that has and will prevail in the world.  I have seen this in action recently, in which I had several people attending evangelistic meetings I either conducted or organized say that they "believed" the Sabbath but would wait for final events to unfold before making a decision.  I realized that the real problem is the authority of Scriptures itself for many, and their relationship to that authority.

Jones and Waggoner rightly perceived that the Roman Catholic "Christ" is the Antichrist, who virtually excuses and indulges sin by presupposing that it is "impossible" for anyone who is in sinful flesh to live without sinning. Catholicism as "the man of sin" "opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God" by insisting that sin must be perpetuated in the universe. It can never be "condemned … in the flesh," and Satan must, therefore, emerge from the "great controversy" triumphant. And if the understanding God's remnant people have of Christ is also beclouded so that He is "afar off" to them, they too must perpetuate sin because they will never be able to overcome it even by the grace of Christ: Such a theology is the result of both a wrong understanding of the character of God and the power of the Gospel, as well as a very poor understanding of the authority of Scripture, as well as the power of the Word of God.

The way we see and understand the origin and nature of Scripture greatly impacts the role that the Bible plays in our lives and in the church at large.  How we interpret the Bible is significantly shaped and influenced by our understanding of the process of revelation and inspiration.  When we want to understand Scripture correctly, we first need to allow the Bible to determine the basic parameters of how it should be treated.  The spiritual truths of the Bible will not be known and understood correctly by atheistic methods that approach the Bible as if God did not exist.  Instead, our interpretation of Scripture needs to take seriously the divine-human dimension of God's Word.  Hence what is needed for a proper interpretation of Scripture is that we approach the Bible in faith rather than with methodological skepticism or doubt.  John 7:17 tells us that if we are willing "to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."  The Bible is encouraging us to approach the Scriptures with a right attitude, that they came from a Heart of Infinite Love, that they are inspired in a way that a secular book is not, and that it is authoritative as it represents the Will of God.

This week we will look at some foundational aspects of the origin and nature of the Bible that should impact our interpretation and understanding of it.

2 Peter 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

2 Peter 1:21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

These texts tell us that the origin of scripture is through the inspiration of God the Father and the Holy Spirit.  They did not come from any "private interpretation", meaning, through any human invention apart from the divine intervention of God.

As the lesson tells us, rather than being "cunningly devised fables" (2 Peter 1:16), the prophetic message of the Bible is of divine origin, and thus it is truthful and trustworthy.  "Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21, NKJV).  God was at work in the process of revelation, where He made known His will to selected human beings.

Direct verbal communication between God and particular human beings is an inescapable fact of the Scriptures.  This is why the Bible has special, divine authority, and we need to take the divine element into consideration in our interpretation of the Scriptures.  Having our Holy God as their ultimate author, the biblical books are aptly called "holy Scriptures" (Romans 1:2; 2 Timothy 3:15).

They were given for practical purposes, too.  They are "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God's people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16, 17, TNIV).

We also need the help of the Holy Spirit to apply to our lives what God has revealed in His Word.  According to the apostle Peter, the interpretation of the divinely revealed Word of God is not a matter of our own opinions.  We need God's Word and the Holy Spirit to rightly understand its meaning.

Scripture also says, "Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7, NKJV).  The biblical words for "revelation" (in its various forms) express the idea that something previously hidden has now been disclosed or unveiled and thus becomes known and made manifest.  As human beings, we need such an uncovering, or revelation, for we are sinful beings, separated from God because of our sin, and therefore dependent upon Him to know His will.

2 Peter 1:20-21 is used by RCC apologists to argue that the problem of Protestantism is that they do not have an "infallible teaching magisterium", but "privately interpret" the Bible themselves, individually.  However, they need to recognize that everyone "privately and personally" encounters and engages printed or spoken material and makes a judgment as to whether or not it is accurate.  That is why the important element is not a supposed source of "infallibility" but a close connection and dependence on the Holy Spirit.  That is why 1 John 2:27 says, "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."  While the teaching gift is helpful, a person does not "need" for any man to teach him, if he learns to truly trust in the Holy Spirit.

The process of Inspiration reveals to us that God works through the mind of fallible human writers, inspiring them to write according to His will.  As 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, all or every scripture is given by inspiration, and is profitable for teaching, Christian growth, and correction.  They are able to make us "wise unto salvation" and perfect, thoroughly equipped unto every good work.  Thus, there is no need for an "oral tradition" in addition to Scriptures.  Each scripture is profitable, and the sum total of all Scriptures is to thoroughly perfect and equip us.  Thus, the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation, Sola Scriptura is totally valid.  As the Scriptures were more and more thoroughly developed, one was then accountable for more and more light.  The argument against Sola Scriptura is twofold.  1) The Early Church did not have all the Scriptures yet.  That is true.  God expected them to live up to the light they had, while the NT Canon unfolded.  2) If Sola Scriptura was effective, how do you explain 25,000 protestant denominations?  Sola Scriptura is not a method of interpreting scripture, but a statement as to the source of truth.  The confusion in varying beliefs is not due to Sola Scriptura, but in not allowing the Bible to interpret itself, and not allowing the Holy Spirit to "lead" into ALL truth, but to stay rigid in traditions, without the full surrender needed.

"The Bible points to God as its author; yet it was written by human hands; and in the varied style of its different books it presents the characteristics of the several writers.  The truths revealed are all 'given by inspiration of God' (2 Timothy 3:16); yet they are expressed in the words of men."
—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 7.

What is the importance of "written" words?  We need to remember that Jesus, in the wilderness, met the temptations of Satan with "it is written."  The term "scriptures" is repeatedly utilized, and it comes from the Greek word "scripto" which refers to written material.  2 Thessalonians 2:15 is often used to argue for both an oral and a written tradition, but if one reads 2 Thessalonians 2:5, they will notice that Paul said that while He was with them, He "told" them the things he subsequently wrote down.  That is how the NT Canon was developed.  As it was being written, the apostles preached and taught, and ultimately, the Holy Spirit led in the development of the NT Canon with the writing of Revelation, and the Canon was closed.  No preaching, no tradition, is needed beyond the truths of God's word, for all the reasons given in 2 Timothy 3:15-17.  Jesus condemned traditions such as "Corban" and some argue that He only condemned "human traditions", not "church traditions", but the traditions Jesus condemned were those of the religious leaders, who had added to scripture.  Thus, Jesus said in Mark 7:7-8 "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Mark 7:8 "For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men."

The lesson tells us "Why did God command that His revelation and inspired messages be written down?  The obvious answer is so that we will not forget them so easily. The written words of the Bible are a constant reference point that directs us to God and His will.  A written document usually can be preserved better and be much more reliable than oral messages, which must be told again and again.  The Written Word, which can be copied again and again, also can be made accessible to many more people than if it were spoken only.  Last, we can speak to a limited number of people at one time in one place, but what is committed to writing can be read by countless readers in many different locations and continents, and even be a blessing numerous generations later.  In fact, if people can't themselves read, others can read a written document aloud to them.

Jesus is the Word become flesh.  Ultimately He is the Word of God, and the source of all the Bible's truths.  He is the outworking of the Word, in life and character.  Of course, every comparison has its limits. Jesus Christ and the Holy Scripture are not identical.  The Bible is not an incarnation of God.  God is no book.  God in Jesus Christ became human.  We love the Bible because we worship the Savior proclaimed in its pages.

The Bible is a unique and inseparable divine-human union.  Ellen G. White saw this clearly when she wrote: "The Bible, with its God-given truths expressed in the language of men, presents a union of the divine and the human.  Such a union existed in the nature of Christ, Who was the Son of God and the Son of man.  Thus it is true of the Bible, as it was of Christ, that 'the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.' John 1:14."
—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 8.

We are to approach the Bible from a faith perspective, and yet, the Bible also says that faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  Thus, our study and living the Word of God deepens our faith.  Something miraculous takes place in the human mind to begin to look to God for truth.  I was converted at the age of 35.  I had had some religious exposure in the Lutheran Church as a child, but I had no interest or respect for the Word of God.  Life experiences led me to turn to God as my Savior.  Seventh-day Adventists clearly have expressed this insight into the supernatural origin of Scripture in the first fundamental belief of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which states: "The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration.  The inspired authors spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.  In this Word, God has committed to humanity the knowledge necessary for salvation.  The Holy Scriptures are the supreme, authoritative, and the infallible revelation of His will.  They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the definitive revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God's acts in history. (Psalms 119:105; Proverbs 30:5, 6; Isaiah 8:20; John 17:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:20, 21.)"

As essential as the Bible is to our faith, it alone would be of no real spiritual value to us were it not for the influence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds as we read and study it.

"In His word, God has committed to men the knowledge necessary for salvation.  The Holy Scriptures are to be accepted as an authoritative, infallible revelation of His will.  They are the standard of character, the revealer of doctrines, and the test of experience. . . .  Yet the fact that God has revealed His will to men through His word, has not rendered needless the continued presence and guiding of the Holy Spirit.  On the contrary, the Spirit was promised by our Saviour, to open the word to His servants, to illuminate and apply its teachings.  And since it was the Spirit of God that inspired the Bible, it is impossible that the teaching of the Spirit should ever be contrary to that of the word."
—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 9.

You will seek God, and find Him, when you seek for Him with all your heart.  Approach the Bible as though it is a life and death situation, for it truly is.  God bless!

~Pastor Tom Cusack