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Archive for September, 2011

We Believe in the Bible

September 30th, 2011

Chapter Two

We Believe that the Bible Is Inspired of God

We believe that the Bible is inspired by God and is the standard against which all Christian belief and behavior are measured.

The International Baptist Convention’s Summary of Basic Beliefs, 2008

Through the prophet Isaiah God said to His people, “Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn” (Isaiah 51:1). Baptists around the world would give testimony to the influence of the Bible in our origins – not only is this so in the history of our formation as a worldwide movement but it remains so in the local histories of national Baptist associations and fellowships. We are a people of the Book of Books, a people who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God.

Even the briefest glance at early Baptist writings confirms that they sought to draw their teachings directly from Scripture. Other movements may have provided a framework for their understanding, but Baptists never consciously sought to pattern their teachings from these sources. Instead, they consciously and conscientiously sought to draw every teaching and practice from Scripture. Perhaps [John] Shakespeare is too partisan, but he made his point when he wrote that one could wipe out all the religious groups of the seventeenth century, leave an open Bible, and “there would be Baptists tomorrow.”[1]

One of the earliest statements of beliefs by Baptists was the London Confession of Faith of 1644 that states,

The rule of this knowledge, faith, and obedience, concerning the worship and service of God, and all other Christian duties, is not man’s inventions, opinions, devices, laws, constitutions or traditions unwritten whatsoever, but only the Word of God contained in the canonical Scriptures. In this written Word God hath plainly revealed whatsoever He hath thought needful for us to know, believe, and acknowledge, touching the nature and office of Christ, in whom all the promises are Yea and Amen to the praise of God.

In the London Confession of 1677 it was stated: “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving Knowledge, Faith and Obedience.” But if we look today to typical Baptist statements of faith, we will see common language used that sees the Bible as the inspired Word of God and the only authoritative rule for faith and practice. For examples,

American Baptists believe that the Bible, composed of the Old and New Testaments, is the divinely inspired Word of God, the final written authority and trustworthy for faith and practice. American Baptist Convention, USA

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Southern Baptist Convention, USA

We believe the Bible to be the complete Word of God; that the sixty-six books, as originally written, comprising the Old and New Testaments were verbally inspired by the Spirit of God and were entirely free from error; that the Bible is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice and the true basis of Christian union. The Fellowship of Canadian Baptists

The Bible is described as the ‘Word of God’ because Baptists believe that its writers were inspired by God’s Spirit. As such, it has authority to guide both what we believe and how we live our lives. The Baptist Union of Great Britain

According to the Scripture, faith is dependent on hearing the Word of God, as we read in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” In Galatians 3:1-5 Paul used a phrase three times, “the hearing of faith,” to emphasize the simple fact that only as we read the Word of God or hear its proclamation can we believe in the promises of God, and thereby believe in God Himself. The historic Baptist emphasis on the Bible, however, extends not just to our need for salvation but was carved out of history itself, witnessing centuries of Christian effort to practice the faith and organize churches around teachings other than what are found in the Bible. The Bible informs us not just what to believe about God, but also how to practice the Christian faith.

Though Baptists have been largely in theological agreement with the earliest church creeds, Baptists are a biblical people, not necessarily a creedal people. We would ordinarily say that our only creed is the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation.

What is the Bible?

The Scripture itself tells is that “no Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). Sometimes we used the word “inspired” to describe the writings of gifted people. We might say, for example, that Shakespeare was an inspired writer. Or we may say that someone might be an “inspiring” author, meaning that his writings touch us and motivate us. But we mean something very different when we refer to the Bible as inspired of God. “The word ‘inspiration’ is from the Greek word theopneustos, which literally means ‘God-breathed’ (2 Tim. 3:16). This is highly significant, for this intimates that the Scriptures are the result of God’s activity and nature.”[2] Charles Hodge, the Princeton theologian, defined inspiration as, “the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit on selected individuals which rendered them the instruments of God for the infallible communication of his mind and will.”[3] The inspiration of Scripture is not limited to the original human authors but also applies to the writings today, that God breathes upon our hearts in this age as we read His Word and hear His truth proclaimed.

The Bible is the collection, then, or the “Canon” of the writings that are understood to be inspired of God. We recognize the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testament Canons as those God-breathed. The Old Testament Canon in Hebrew was assembled in three major sections: The Law, The Prophets, and The Writings. Christ Himself upheld the inspiration of these three sections in Luke 24:44, when He said, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” The Book of Psalms was the first book in the third section called “The Writings” and often the entire section was called by the name of the first book. Elsewhere Christ quoted from other books included in this section,[4] so the Christian tradition has been to include The Writings among the inspired books from the Old Testament.

The process of recognizing the inspired books was achieved by the believing community itself and recognition came from formal bodies much later than the books were written. The first test of inspiration was its use among the believing communities. Remember the various books of the Bible were contained in separate scrolls and not in a single bound book such as we have today. In the latter part of the first Century A.D., the Council of Jamnia met to consider several religious matters of the Jews. Among the decisions made by the council was the recognition of the Old Testament Canon.

The books which they decided to acknowledge as canonical were already generally accepted…those which they refused to admit had never been included. They did not expel from the canon any book which had previously been admitted.[5]

There is an historical vagueness about all of the details of the acceptance of the Old Testament Canon. Yet it is clear from statements in the New Testament such as 2 Timothy 3:16, that the New Testament believers had a specific idea about what was the Old Testament canon, and “that first century Judaism and Christianity did not differ over the Hebrew canon.”[6] Through much prayer, scholarship, and devotion, the thirty-nine books of our Old Testament have been handed down as the inspired Word of God. “Christians can be confident of the Old Testament’s inspiration and its value for faith and practice.”[7]

The New Testament Canon also went through a similar journey, but with more formality involved in the process. The various gospels and epistles were written individually and circulated among the believing community. There were other books and letters that were written at the same time which the early Christians had rejected as deserving a place in the canon of Scripture. The Holy Spirit moving among the people brought to their collective conscience which writings He had inspired. Recognized church leaders of the early church began to formulate lists of books they considered to be inspired. The first list, however, came as a reaction to the heretic Marcion who rejected several books of the New Testament and removed sections out of other books. In response to this threat came the identification of the individual books and letters that comprise our New Testament today.

F.F. Bruce identified the basic criterion that the early church used to identify which books belonged in the canon and which did not. Apostolic authorship was a point in their favor, but not the only one, since it was easy to falsely claim apostolic authorship. They were more concerned that the contents of the book were in keeping with the apostolic faith. Leaders such as Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons, in A.D. 180, who had been discipled by Polycarp in Smyrna, who had in turn been discipled by John the Beloved. So the second century church had people among them well grounded in the apostolic teachings. Churches, as the Spirit led them, in various parts of the Christian world began to identify the books inspired of God and to share their thoughts with one another.

The early Christians were not exceptionally intelligent people, but they did have the capacity to recognize divine authority when they saw it. And that they judged wisely in distinguishing the canonical writings from the uncanonical will be apparent to anyone who compares the New Testament with other early Christian literature.[8]

The first known list of the twenty-seven books that comprise our New Testament today was in a letter from Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, in A.D. 367. The Synod at Hippo of A.D. 393 gave the official listing, and the action was upheld by the Third Synod of Carthage in A.D. 397. These actions, however, were recognitions of what the believing community had long since accepted as the God-breathed writings of the New Testament.

One of the profoundest doctrines recovered by the Reformers is the doctrine of the inward witness of the Holy Spirit, by which testimony is borne within the believer’s heart to the divine character of the Holy Scripture. This witness is not confined to the individual believer, but is also accessible to the believing community; and there is no better example of its operation than in the recognition by the members of the Early Church of the books which were given by inspiration of God to stand alongside the books of the Old Covenant, the Bible of Christ and His apostles, and with them to make up the written Word of God.[9]

Christ Himself, in John 14:21-27, explained the role of the believing community in understanding the truth of God. In verses 21 and 23 He stressed the benefit of faith in Him to the individual, namely that the individual receives the love of God in His heart, and the personal ministry of Christ and the Father through the indwelling Spirit of God. In verses 26-27, however, He spoke to the believing community when He said the Spirit will teach you all things – all the uses of “you” in English are plural and refer to the believing community. The promise was that the Spirit would miraculously guide those who believed in Him to understand together what words He had truly inspired.

No higher written authority

Baptists have many written books but none of these are on the same level as the Bible. A trait of Christian cults is to seek to interpret the Bible for the individual believer, rather than trust the Spirit and the community of faith. It may be a book, such as the Book of Mormon, or it may be their own special translation of the Bible, such as the Jehovah Witnesses’ New World Translation that has altered many sections to suit their own interpretation. Some Christian cults use what they consider “specially-anointed teachers” who must interpret the Bible for the members of the cult, and which results in a misrepresentation of the passage, such as the Iglesia ni Cristo of the Philippines.

We can expect the Spirit to guide us to understand the truth of God. He speaks to our hearts, as Jesus said, “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). John also wrote,

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth… As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you, remain in him.

1 John 2:20,27

He was not dismissing the calling of teachers in the church, for they are also gifts of the Spirit of God (Romans 12:7 & 1 Cor. 12:8), rather he was explaining that the nature of Christian teaching is to help guide believers to the truth as they also open up their Bibles to read and listen to the Spirit. This was the example of the “noble” Bereans who “received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). We have Paul’s own words to the Corinthian Christians: “We do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:2-3).

The Word of God is authoritative in the church and in the life of the Christian. This is what is meant by saying, “It is the standard against which all Christian belief and behavior are measured” or, as other Baptist statements of faith say, “it is the only authority for faith and practice.” The Bible is not just one source among others. It is the authoritative source for living an obedient life as individual believers and as a community of faith. Christ prayed to the Father for His followers, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). The Bible is an indispensible tool of God for our personal maturity as individual believers and for the health and vitality of the local church.

Why not the Apocrypha?

There are fourteen books that are included in the Roman Catholic Bible, having first been included by Jerome in the Latin Vulgate (A.D. 450), but are not included in Evangelical and Protestant Bibles. These fourteen books were written during the four hundred year period between the close of the Old and the beginning of the New Testament and never received recognition by Christ, by the Jewish rabbinical councils, or by the New Testament believing community. Merrill F. Unger identified several of the weaknesses of these books: They have numerous historical and geographical inaccuracies; they teach false doctrines or encourage practices which are in conflict with the inspired Scripture; they lack the distinctive elements which give genuine Scripture their divine character, such as prophetic power; and their general style is not in keeping with the style of the inspired Scriptures.[10]

These books are somewhat helpful as historical references, despite their inaccuracies, but are not considered as God-breathed. Luke 24:44 is the compelling reason why these books do not belong in the Christian canon, since Christ specifically limited His list to the 39 books of the Old Testament that we have today.

Which Translation?

The history of the translation of the Bible into various languages is an exciting page from church history – several pages actually. Brave and committed Christians gave their fortunes and even their personal lives so that their countrymen could read the Word of God in their own language. In English alone there were numerous early translations. John Wycliffe, Oxford professor, translated the Bible into English from the Latin Vulgate in A.D 1380, the only copy of the Scriptures available to him. William Tyndale translated the Bible into English in 1525 from the Greek, and on the Continent, Martin Luther had translated the entire Bible into German by the 1530’s. In 1539 Myles Coverdale was employed by Cranmer, the archbishop of Canterbury, to translate what came to be known as the “Great Bible,” the first officially sanctioned translation of the Bible into English. In 1611 the King James Version was officially published, being the translation work of a committee of scholars, and remained the favorite translation for centuries.

There is no official “Baptist Bible,” rather our people are free to choose, under the Lordship of Christ, those Bible translations that they prefer. We have mostly avoided making our own translations and tended to use translations that have been achieved through combined efforts of scholars. Baptists have also worked together with believers from other denominations and Bible societies around the world in the translation, publication, and distribution of the Bible into the languages of the various cultural-linguistic groups of the world.

How is the Bible to be interpreted?

Paul wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). But how did God inspire the writing of the Bible? There are some who hold to the idea that during their inspired writings, the human authors’ thought processes were suspended and they wrote in some type of Spirit-induced trance. Others have thought that God only inspired the general ideas of Scripture and that people wrote down in their own words their understanding of what God said. Both of these extremes have been largely rejected by Baptists, but there has been left open a large middle ground of faith, that sees the work of the Spirit of God moving in the writers’ hearts and minds, but yet the individual authors writing as Spirit-filled individuals, with their own unique personalities and perspectives.

There are several things we can understand from Scripture itself about what it means to have been God-breathed. First, the method of inspiration that God used resulted in the inspiration of every word of Scripture. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul specifically said “all Scripture” or pasa graphe, meaning “every word” of Scripture was God-breathed. Christ taught the identical truth when He said, “Not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18). Often the arguments of Scripture hang on a single word in a single verse, such as John 10:34-36. The Bible is not a book filled with general vague ideas that we may interpret and apply in an equally general and vague manner. Rather it is filled with specific words inspired of God.

Second, the Bible is all equally inspired. This is called “plenary inspiration” and though we may find more nourishment for our souls from some sections of Scripture more than others, this does not mean that those sections that appear more “boring” to us are less inspired. This also means that it is not a mixture of truth and error, with some sections being correct and others being incorrect. Words such as “inerrant” and “infallible” are often used to describe the Scripture and they mean that God did not make mistakes in inspiring the written Word. The original documents, the “autographed versions” are the ones considered inerrant copies, even though the Bible text has been faithfully copied through the centuries. The question was asked in Moses’ day how the people might know the difference between a God-sent prophet and a false prophet. The answer: “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him” (Deut. 18:22). God’s standard is 100% accuracy; for “It is impossible that God should lie” (Hebrews 6:18). God said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Luke 21:33).

Third, the Bible gradually reveals the mind of God. This is called “progressive revelation” meaning that God revealed His truth gradually to humanity. This is very different from saying that earlier writings contain some mistakes, for God does not inspire mistakes. The idea of revelation really means an unveiling, a gradual pulling back of a veil or cover. It is true that humans have made wrong assumptions because they did not have the entire picture, but it does not mean that the revelation was in error.

This does not indicate [God’s] inability to reveal at a given point in time. It refers to man’s ability to receive the revelation. Einstein would not have begun with his theory of relativity in teaching a child simple arithmetic. He would have begun with the simpler elements and moved toward his more complex knowledge as the child was able to grasp it. So God began where man was and moved forward in his revelation.[11]

For example, the Law of Moses was given to teach the holy standard of God, and not as a way to attain personal salvation. Salvation in the Old Testament, just like today, was a matter of faith – “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Gen 15:6) we read in the Old Testament. Some, however, began to attempt to earn God’s favor through obedience to the Law. In Romans, however, we read the entire picture, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin” (Romans 3:20).

Fourth, there is a Christ-centered unity in the Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. He is the central theme that holds the book together and faith in Him as Savior and Lord is the overall purpose of the book. Christ said that the Scriptures testify about Him (John 5:39). Paul wrote that through the preaching of the gospel, “God … made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). In the imagery of the Old Testament temple, for example, we see the future sacrifice of Christ depicted, the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Christ answered Satan’s temptations with quotations from the Word of God and He serves as our example (Luke 4:1-10). If our Master and Lord sought the comfort and strength of God’s Word, so should we. The end result of studying the Bible is that the lost might believe and be saved, and that the believer, man and woman, may be built up, strengthened in his faith, sanctified in their Christian walk, thoroughly equipped for every good work, and that the church might be united in its belief, in its love, in its witness, and grow together into Christlikeness (2 Tim. 3:16-17; John 17:17; Eph. 4:11-16).

The Bible does not present itself as a scientific textbook, but neither is it contradictory to science when understood in the proper context of the language. Just as the most learned scientist may say casually to his wife, “the sun rose this morning,” even though technically speaking it was the earth that rotated on its axis, so the Bible often uses the language of common observation. Yet many of its statements reveal scientific knowledge far ahead of the age in which it was written. For example, in Job we read, “He suspends the earth over nothing” (Job 26:7) giving the correct scientific description of the earth suspended in space, contrary to common beliefs at that time.

The Bible lays no claim to being a textbook of history, literature, philosophy, psychology, or science. Yet it contains true elements of all these and more. It is not designed as an encyclopedia containing answers to all man’s questions. Yet it answers the vital and ultimate inquiries of the heart, mind, and spirit. It may not tell man all he wants to know, but it does tell him all that he needs to know about his moral and spiritual duty and destiny.[12]

The Grammatical-Historical Method of Interpretation

Most Evangelicals have sought to understand the Bible through a method of interpretation called the Grammatical-historical method. This means that the Scripture is understood in light of the type of language in which it was written and in consideration of the historical and cultural situation in which it was given. For example, we read in Isaiah 55:12, “The mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” We understand this as poetry, beautiful imagery inspired of God, not that the hills will literally sing and the trees grow hands and clap. For another example, Christ said to Peter on the night of His arrest, “All who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matt. 26:52). In consideration of the meaning, however, we would extend the meaning of this passage to include weapons of every age and not just to swords alone.

A classic example of how to apply this method is Romans 16:16, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” Does this require that we must actually kiss one another, or is there another way to understand and apply this in culturally appropriate ways around the world? The grammatical-historical method would see the basic command as “greet one another,” meaning that believers in Christ should recognize and uphold one another publicly, and the phrase “with a holy kiss” being an expression of the culture of the first century Mediterranean world, and not binding on all Christians for all ages. Clearly the guidance of the Spirit and wisdom are needed or we may spiritualize things that should be interpreted more literally. Generally speaking it is wiser to take the plain sense of Scripture literally when and where possible.

This is one of the major differences between Christianity and Islam, that though we uphold the principles of holiness and righteousness, we are free to apply these with some consideration for our cultural and historical reality. The Koran, on the other hand, identifies specific ways to act, how to dress, how to pray, etc. Christians, however, do not have any such rules on exactly what we should wear, whether we should have shoes or sandals, or how we should bow when we pray. There is responsible freedom in the Christian faith, and though certain sins are clearly condemned, such as sexual immorality, stealing, lying, gossiping, the New Testament commands us more often in positive ways to obey Christian principles and uphold moral values than to just go through certain actions. The emphasis of the Scripture is a changed heart that loves God and serves others.

This method of interpretation also seeks to understand Scripture in light of the historical place they were in God’s plan for the ages. Many of us use the term “dispensation” to describe this, as Paul used the term in Ephesians 3:2. Though some prefer to use other terms, we would all recognize that there are differences between the different major stages in biblical salvation history. We read, for example, in Hebrews that the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary made the Old Covenant “obsolete” (Heb. 8:13), so we Christians do not take yearly trips to Jerusalem to sacrifice animals there today. In the Old Testament there were many restrictions on foods (Lev. 11:4-23 for example), but in the New Testament we see a note on Christ’s teaching about inward cleanness, “Jesus declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:19), so we Christians are free to eat foods banned in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament circumcision was a sign of the people of God, but in the New Testament we read Paul strongly condemning those Jewish Christians who sought to force Gentile converts to be circumcised (Gal. 6:12-16).

One of these differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament is in relation to the Holy Spirit and the believer. We read in Psalm 51:11 where David prayed, “Take not your Holy Spirit from me.” That was, of course, an Old Testament prayer, not a New Testament prayer. In the Old Testament not every believer in God received the Spirit of God, rather God’s Spirit came upon people from time to time but did not always remain. David perhaps remembered the experience of Saul, how at one time the Spirit had come upon him but due to sin God’s Spirit left Saul. But in the New Testament, every believer in Christ receives the Spirit at his salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14 and Romans 8:9) and the Spirit seals the believer, meaning that He permanently indwells us. So we do not need to pray asking God not to take His Spirit from us. He has already promised that He will never leave us.

The Reliability of the Biblical Texts

The Bible we hold in our hands today is by far the most reliably copied book from antiquity, and no other ancient book even begins to compare with the its accuracy. Christians have from the beginning wanted to know what the original authors of the Bible truly wrote, and have sought to accurately copy the biblical texts. Sir Frederic Kenyon, the former director of the British Museum wrote.

It cannot be too strongly asserted that in substance the text of the Bible is certain: especially is this the case with the New Testament. The number of manuscripts of the New Testament, of early translations from it, and of quotations from it in the oldest writers of the Church, is so large that it is practically certain that the true reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in some one or other of these ancient authorities. This can be said of no other ancient book in the world.[13]

According to apologist Josh McDowell, with regard to the New Testament alone, over 20,000 ancient manuscripts verify its reliability.[14] Several hundred of these date from the earliest Christian centuries. In addition, we have thousands of ancient manuscripts of the writings of the church fathers where they quoted the New Testament extensively. It is true that we do not have the autographed copies today, but neither do we have the autographed copies from Plato, Julius Caesar, or even Homer’s The Iliad.[15]

What this means for us today

That God has given us His Word is a call for us all to study and obey it. We should know it and live it. Our effectiveness as followers of Christ and as witnesses of His love will directly depend on our knowledge of and our commitment to the Bible as the Word of God. Russ Bush and Tom Nettles wrote these stirring words in the original introduction to their book, Baptists and the Bible.

Not being a creedal people, Baptists need to find their unity in the Bible. We could wish that all evangelical Christians would search the Scriptures and thus prove what is true faith and practice. But Baptists must not let themselves fall from their place of unique service in God’s kingdom either because of a lose understanding of the Word of God or because of a lax commitment to it.[16]

The only way any church or minister may measure up to their God-given potential is through the faithful study, proclamation, and practice of the Bible.

The benefits of the study of and the commitment of the Word of God are clearly laid out in its own pages. Psalm 119, the longest psalm in the Bible, extols the beauty and effectiveness of the Word of God. From reading and studying it we gain:

· Purity of life: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word” (v. 9).

· Protection in temptation: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (v. 11).

· Comfort in sorrow: “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word” (v. 28).

· Freedom from enslavement to sin: “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set me heart free” (v. 32).

· Spiritual renewal: “Turn my eyes away from worthless things; renew my life according to your word” (v. 37).

· Hope for the future: “Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope” (v. 49).

· Intimacy with God: “I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise” (v. 58).

· Repentance from false ways: “I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes” (v. 59).

· Assurance of God’s love: “May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant” (v. 76).

· Guidance in life’s decisions: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (v. 105).

· Comfort and deliverance in trouble: “Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands are my delight” (v. 143).

· Peace in a world of unrest: “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble” (v. 165).

These are just a few summations of the many promises contained in this psalm and in the Bible itself. The end result to the church that studies the Scripture is also unity in the faith.

Discussion Questions:

1. What is new to you in this material? What has surprised you in this chapter about the Bible?

2. In your own words describe what “God-breathed” means.

3. Which translation do you prefer and why?

4. Can you identify five truths from Scripture that everyone in your small group agrees with?

5. What is your current method of studying the Bible? Do you prefer book studies or topical studies? Why?

6. What are some of the harder sections of the Bible for you to understand? What can you do to understand them better?

7. What are some things in your church that you believe you must do a certain way because of the Bible’s teachings?

8. What are some things in your church that you believe we are free to do any way you would like, so long as it honors Christ?


[1] Leon McBeth, Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, Broadman and Holman, 1987), p. 63.

[2] James Emery White, “Inspiration and Authority of Scripture,” Foundations for Biblical Interpretation, Edited by Dockery, Mathews, and Sloan (Nashville, Broadman and Holman, 1994), p. 20.

[3] Charles Hodge; Systematic Theology, vol 1 (1863; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960), p. 154.

[4] Matthew 24:15

[5] F.F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments (Westwood New Jersey, Fleming Revell Co., 1963), p. 98.

[6] Paul R. House, “Canon of the Old Testament,” Foundations for Biblical Interpretation, edited by Dockery, Mathews, and Sloan, (Nashville, Broadman and Holman, 1994), p. 153.

[7] Paul House, p. 155.

[8] F.F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments, pp. 110-111.

[9] F.F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments, p. 113.

[10] Merril F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary, “Apocrypha” (Chicago, Moody Bible Institute, 1957), p. 70.

[11] Herschel H. Hobbs, The Baptist Faith and Message (Nashville, Convention Press, 1971), pp. 23-24.

[12] Herschel H. Hobbs, The Baptist Faith and Message, 1971, p. 26.

[13] Frederic Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts (London, Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1895) online edition.

[14] Josh McDowell, More Than a Carpenter (Wheaton, Illinois, Tyndale, 1977). p. 48.

[15] McDowell documents that much of what we assume regarding the ancient world is believed on the basis of much, much less literary evidence than the Bible. For examples, the history of Thucydides (460-400 B.C.) that details the events of the Peloponnesian War left him with the title “The Father of Scientific History” due to his precise method. Scholars assume that his works are basically true and factual, yet the most ancient manuscript we have of his writings dates 1,300 years after his death, and we have only 8 ancient manuscripts in total. Aristotle wrote around 343 B.C. yet the most ancient manuscript we have dates 1,400 after Aristotle, and we have only five in existence. The record of Caesar and his Gallic Wars (58-50 B.C.) is likewise assumed to be true, but the most ancient manuscripts we have date 1,000 years after the event and only number ten. The second most well-documented work of antiquity is actually Homer’s poem, The Iliad, which does have more than 600 ancient manuscripts that verify its consistency.

[16] L. Russ Bush and Tom J. Nettles, Baptists and the Bible (Nashville, Broadman Holman, 1999), p. xvii.

Doctrinal Studies

Experiencing God’s Rest

September 26th, 2011

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

The Lord’s invitation is offered without condemnation as to the causes of our fatigue. If there is blame on our part it will be dealt with in another venue, at another time. He simply offers rest. He offers to lift the burdens from our shoulders and to place on us a light and easy yoke.

What is not said is that He will merely give us a brief respite from our labors. This is all that the world can offer, a mere period of amusement or a short rest from the journey, after which we return to take up the burden all over again. We are glad enough for these moments, and He is not speaking against such things. After all, it was God who initiated the day of rest, and we need rest from our labors.

But Christ was saying something different here – not to merely give us a temporary break but to so re-interpret life and living so as to give us constant deliverance from the burden of religion. Religion demands things from us, either by the official dictates of the officials of the specific faith that we prescribe to or by our own needy souls that long for salvation and deliverance. But religion by itself has never truly delivered, has never truly given a light burden. Either the demands from above in the structural hierarchy or the demands from within in the fears and worries of our souls push us to seek and seek and seek some life, some joy, some true victory where there is none.

Christ gives us rest for our souls through His grace, in which we become truly alive and His righteousness is bestowed on the believer (Eph. 2:4-10, Rom. 3:21-22). He gives us rest by His Spirit who comes in indwells our hearts (Eph. 1:13-14). He gives us rest by providing us with the spiritual armor we need to face our adversary (Eph. 6:10-20). He gives us rest by sharing with us His heart of love, filling our souls with Himself, and drawing us into a community of faith (Eph. 5:15-20). And out of this spiritual rest we find joy, peace, contentment, and usefulness for His purposes.

Prayer:

Lord, fill us with Your love and power that we might find the spiritual rest that our souls truly need. Let us follow you and serve You in your power, and not in our own. Amen.

Miles Stanford wrote:

“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest” (Hebrews 4:9-11a). So many of the life-giving truths in the Word consist of two intertwining halves that are inseparable. “Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest.” As for labor, it is true that there is a great deal of struggling and searching and pleading and agonizing in the process of discovering and understanding truths fitted to our needs. And much of the same pathway is trod (or crawled) in an effort to appropriate and enter in. All this is not in vain; it is necessary. But it is not the key that opens the door to reality. Rest is the key to entering into rest!

In the important but exhausting labor process we come to see the needed truth; we become sure of our facts; we begin to realize something of what is ours in the Lord Jesus Christ. The appropriation of, the resting in the reality must be on the basis of faith, not struggle and labor. We are told to reckon, to count upon what we now know to be true of us in Him as set forth in the Word. “In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). We are to look quietly and steadily to our Father in confident trust, and thankfully receive that which He has given to us in His Son. “These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good” (Psalm 104:27-28).

Evening Devotionals