THE HOLY SPIRIT AND SCRIPTURE

CHAPTER 5  

THE HOLY SPIRIT AND SCRIPTURE

The subject of this chapter is in some ways a continuation of the material at the end of the previous one. The Spirit?s enabling of the prophetic office has resulted in the Holy Scriptures that reveal to men the mind of God, manifesting His wisdom and purposes of grace toward the sons of men. There is no other material that can claim direct Divine inspiration apart from the Holy Scriptures we have.  They have been God-breathed by the Holy Spirit through the instrumentality of  the  men who wrote them (2 Pet. 1:20-21, 2 Sam. 23:1-3).

Without doubt we are living in an age in which there are Bibles in most homes, yet with all this potential for spiritual light, rampant unbelief and darkness prevails. Coupled with the indifference of the majority of people to spiritual matters is the evident attempt to discredit the reliability of the Word of God. That this is often being done by those who claim to be students of the Scriptures makes many people wonder if the Bible is actually God?s Word, and if so, what consequence does it have for them? This result is in keeping with the words of the Lord Jesus to those Pharisees, who in His day sought to cover the light and hinder people from coming to it. ?If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!? (Matt.6:23). Refusal of Divine authorship results in rejection of Divine authority. Decreasing the impact of the Scriptures results in the increase of the darkness even in the midst of available light. We can see the results of this decline on every hand in our day, and that condition is increasingly worse.

INSPIRATION OF SCRIPTURE

The Holy Scriptures are not only precious to the hearts of the saints because of the blessing they bring to the ones who read and obey them; they are also precious because the words and truth contained therein is from God Himself. Those words are the language, breath and will of heaven. This Word gives the conviction that GOD HAS SPOKEN (Heb. 1:1-2) and that His Word has been recorded for us today. If God has spoken, man must respond to what He has given in His Word. No doubt men reject Divine inspiration of Scripture in part because that rejection is according to their desires and because they think it gives them the liberty to continue in their present way of life. But  Christians have abundantly proven beyond question that the Word speaks with Divine power and authority to their souls; its effects have been seen in their personal lives that have been changed to bring glory to God.

We believe in the Divine inspiration of the Bible as it has been  delivered to men from God and passed down to us today through the translations we have. The term ?inspiration,? means that it is ?God breathed? (II Tim.3:16). Not only the thoughts conveyed by it are given by God, but the words used, even to the smallest, are chosen and directed by God (I Cor.2:13). We recognize that the words chosen and the details of those words are given by Divine authorship in the language in which they were written. That is not to deny the human instrumentality that has had its effect on the way it may be  expressed. Human personality is evident from the differences that one can discern between the books written by one man as compared with another. Since we do not intend to examine this subject in detail, the reader would profit by obtaining and reading Mr. W.E.Vine?s book, ?The Divine Inspiration of the Bible,? which ably considers this important subject and will give the reader the fullest confidence in the Word of  God. One cannot be too certain on this subject.

Some, who profess to believe in Divine inspiration of Scripture, also claim that the Scriptures are not perfect, that they are filled with inconsistencies and defects. It seems that it is blasphemous to state that a God Who has spoken to men would not give a perfect word as the means of expressing it! If there were such imperfections as claimed, it is not hard to understand why one would place little confidence in the Bible and why one would doubt its reliability or authority. If there are such defects, why believe any of it? If one chooses to believe it, what part can you believe? When men choose to take their critical penknife to the Bible, it is only their own unspiritual judgment that determines where they start to cut and where they should end! The efforts of these men are as the hammers that have worn out and been discarded from striking the anvil. The poet has expressed it thus:

  "I paused last eve beside the blacksmith?s door,

And heard the anvil ring, the vesper?s chime,

And looking in I saw upon the floor

Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.

"How many anvils have you had?" said I,

?To wear and batter all these hammers so??

"Just one," he answered. Then with twinkling eye:

?The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.?

And so, I thought, the anvil of God?s Word

For ages skeptics? blows have beat upon,

But though the noise of falling blows was heard

The anvil is unchanged; the hammers gone."

                                             John Clifford

God has not only spoken perfectly, but there is a clear and definite purpose seen in how He has given us His Word.  The arrangement of truth, its progression and increasing unfolding through centuries of Divine Revelation is an aspect of study that is most rewarding. Behind its arrangement can be found a Divine plan that is consistent with the Author and His holy character.

?Oh, the massive, mighty volume!  Oh, the treasures manifold!

Oh, the beauty and the wisdom, and the grace it proved to hold!

            As the story of the Hebrews swept in majesty along,

            As it leaped in waves prophetic, as it burst to sacred song,

As it gleamed with Christly omens, the Old Testament was new,

  Strong with cumulative power, when I read the Bible through.?

                                                                              

                                                                         Amos Wells

Some would have us believe that the arrangement and development of truth in the Bible is haphazard or according to man?s will. What foolishness! It is only because he has not seen the consistent and steady progression in which truth has been revealed through its pages that any one would express an opinion such as this.

One of the simple evidences for inspiration of the Scripture is the often-repeated phrase, ?Thus saith the Lord.? It would be extremely presumptuous for any man to claim to be speaking for the Lord in this way if it were not true. Examination of the utterances of the prophets makes clear that they spoke as the Lord gave them a message directly from Himself. The evidence that they were speaking for God was that what they spoke was fulfilled; it had to come to pass (Deut.18:19-22). The word spoken by one professing to be a prophet also had to have the effect of drawing the people toward and not away from the Lord (Deut.13:1-5). II Peter 1:20-21 clearly states that those who spoke in this way were not speaking from themselves or by their own will.

Neither did the prophets always know the meaning of what they were speaking (I Peter 1:11). They were being directed (borne along as a sailing ship moved by the wind) by the Holy Spirit. So David could say in II Samuel 23:2, ?The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was in my tongue.? In similar words others of the Old Testament writers clearly revealed that what they spoke or wrote was through the Holy Spirit Who had come upon them. Those who quoted Scriptures in the New Testament did so with assurance that they were quoting the Word of God (see Hebrews 3:7, Acts 1:16).

The same great reality of inspiration is evident in the New Testament.   In I Cor.2:10-13, 14:36-38, and II Peter 3:15-16 the truth of Divine authorship of Scripture is emphasized. In I Timothy 4:1, Paul says, ?Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith...? One can compare earlier writings which depict the development of departure, linking them with II Tim.3:2, II Peter 3:3, I John 2:18-19 to see how apostasy developed. When Paul uses the word ?expressly,? he is indicating that the Spirit has spoken definitely and distinctly. There has been clear purpose in this speaking. This would emphasize to our hearts how impossible it is to take the Scriptures properly and yet try to make them mean whatever one would desire. The definiteness and purpose of the truth given therein is by the Spirit of God.

There are places where that express purpose for the Scripture is given us. For example, we read in Rom.4:23 concerning God?s word to Abraham that ?it was not written for his sake alone...but for us also...? Again in Romans 15:4, we find that ?whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.? They are written for our ?admonition? in I Cor.10:11. It is wonderful for the exercised mind to see the great and eternal purposes for which God has revealed His truth through His precious Word speaking to our souls. We are perfectly correct to take the Scriptures of the Old Testament and use them to emphasize the spiritual truths of the New Testament. They are types, shadows and illustrations of truth God wants us to learn today.

God reveals truth in His Word, and only He can reveal it. It is not of man?s origination or devising. The natural means which men use when they compile information and present it to men are not sufficient in the realm of things spiritual and eternal. We are absolutely convinced that were all the wisest men of all the world given enough time to consider and develop it, they individually or collectively could not produce a book that presents the truths of the Bible!  In even one facet of that truth (albeit an essential one) - the salvation of man - the minds of men could never produce such a plan nor possess the ability to carry it out as God has revealed it in His Word. 

One great evidence for Divine inspiration of the entire Scriptures is the wonderful unity of the Word of God. There are those who spend their time looking for contradictions and problems in the Scriptures. There may appear to be ?evident contradictions?, but they are due to limited understanding or a lack of careful reading and consideration of the Word of God. In some small cases, minor errors have slipped into the text through translation and copy mistakes. These are very minor and have no effect on the truth or content of the Bible needed for our blessing. Against any contradiction is the remarkable unity of truth presented in a volume composed of 66 individual books, written over a period of more than 1500 years by about 30 writers, most of whom never knew each other. Such unity causes a discerning and honest reader to recognize that there is One Author behind it all. It is a blessing and a source of enlightenment to the soul for one to trace the themes of truth that continue right through from the beginning to the end. We profit when we see how they are developed and magnified as more truth is revealed. This could only be so if there is a Divine Author giving the truth to men.

In addition, those who have been born again of the Spirit of God and have personally entered into the experience of God?s work in their own souls  can  see the  hand of  God in the  Scripture.  Paul could say concerning the believer that ?we have the mind of Christ? (I Cor.2:16) in contrast to those who are not saved. The living spirit of a redeemed man can respond directly to the voice of the Spirit of God as the Word of God is read, and he recognizes the truth as being from God. Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers that the prophet or spiritual man would discern that those things he wrote were the commandments of the Lord (I Cor. 14:37). Only those who are natural and without the indwelling Spirit of God fail to realize that God is expressing His voice in His Word. ?My sheep hear my voice, and I know them..." John 10:27.

Last of all, inspiration of Scripture is seen in its power and effect in the lives of those who honestly read it. This could never be said in the same way about any other book. There is a power of God at work when souls read and apply the Scriptures to themselves. ?Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God? (Rom. 10:17).  It has often been well-proven that the Word of God alone is sufficient to bring light and life to darkened souls so they are regenerated and brought to salvation in Christ. There are even those who began to read the Bible from a point of unbelief, even seeking to disprove its truth, only to find that they were brought to belief through that reading. What power is in the Word of God! Only what is of God Himself by His Holy Spirit could effect such changes in the lives of men. As an illustration, we read of Jacob de Shazer, one of Doolittle?s raiders on Japan in 1942. When he was captured by the Japanese, he was an atheist. He saw two of his companions shot by the firing squad and another die of slow starvation. As a result, he began pondering why the Japanese hated him and he hated them. He began to recall some of the things he had heard about Christianity. Boldly he asked his jailers for a Bible. At first they laughed and joked about it, even threatening him. But after over a year of repeated asking, a guard brought him a Bible,  flung it at him, and told him he could have it for three weeks only. After three weeks the guard took the Bible away, and de Shazer never saw it again. However, as a result of those three weeks with God?s Word, four years later de Shazer, his wife and infant son were on their way back to Japan as missionaries, saved because he asked for a Bible, and a Japanese guard gave him one for three weeks.

REVEALING TRUTH TO SAINTS

The Holy Spirit has done more than give us the Word of God.  He is the One Who reveals its truth to the hearts of the believers. The Lord Jesus, in His comforting and instructive words to His disciples in the Upper Room, encouraged them by telling them that the Comforter would come. It was He Who would teach them all things and bring all things to their remembrance (John 14:26). It was He Who would guide them into all truth and lead them to a deeper understanding of the things of God (John 16:13-15). This work was first true of the apostles, but it also includes the work that the Spirit necessarily must do to enable any believer to know the things of God and make progress therein. He is the Divine Instructor and Revealer of truth.

The aged Alexander Fraser amazed Dr. Harry Ironside as a young preacher as he heard him opening up the rich and precious truths of God?s Word. He cried out, ?Where did you learn these things??  Mr. Fraser told him that he learned them on his knees on the mud floor of a little sod cottage in the North of Ireland. There with his Bible open before him, he used to kneel for hours at a time, crying to God that the Holy Spirit would reveal Christ to his soul and open the Word to his heart. On his knees before God, he learned more of God?s Word than he could have learned in all the colleges and seminaries in the world.

It is likely that we don?t appreciate as we should the debt we owe to the Spirit of God for this essential ministry to our souls. The precious truths of the Word of God are opened to our souls and embedded therein by His gracious work. We are enabled to grow spiritually and make progress for God in our understanding by His teaching us and leading us into all truth. It is that Word that makes it possible for the believer to stand successfully against the attacks of the devil (Eph.6:10-18).

For this reason, we reject the common, prevailing idea that spiritual knowledge of the things of God is gained by going to schools. We believe in the value of teaching and ministering the Word of God to the saints. This teaching ministry must be accurate and spiritual to be profitable. The character of ministry given should be the best possible in its spiritual qualities and power.  However, only by the work and teaching of the Holy Spirit can we properly learn truth. Such teaching requires men who are spiritual and who have spent time learning from God the precious truths contained in His Word. That kind of knowledge cannot be derived from an intellectual study of the Word of God alone.  Many who entered Bible schools and seminaries with an earnest desire to learn God?s Word have been led aside into a rationalistic approach to the Scriptures by instructors who did not believe the Word of God. More trouble has resulted from Bible schools and theological institutions than one can possibly estimate. The entire system of clerisy is propagated and perpetuated by those who have such positions to uphold. That is only one aspect of harm that has resulted from such schools. In fact, the vast majority of theologians and seminarians teaching in such religious institutions are well known to be more liberal and unbelieving than the local preacher or the ?man in the pew.? Most wrong doctrines and unscriptural practices have come into professing Christendom by way of theological seminaries and those trained there. That may seem to be strong language to some, but it is upheld and proven by a consideration of the history  of the  professing church.  The Scrip-tural means of teaching and learning God?s Word is in local assembly gatherings through those who teach and display the reality of that truth in their own lives. There is no scriptural Bible school outside the local assembly.

The existence and need for such schools cannot be upheld by an appeal to the supposed schools for the sons of the prophets in the Old Testament days of departure (II Kings 2:3,5; 6:1-8). If some would appeal to this example it must be pointed out that the sons of the prophets generally exhibited very little spiritual understanding or depth. Rather, Paul reminds Timothy in II Tim. 3:14-17 that the truths he had learned were from those whose character of life he was fully acquainted with. It would seem that this teaching started with his mother and grandmother (1:5), continued through the elders of the assembly where Timothy grew up, and was carried on through the teaching of Paul and those who labored with him.  There is always something faulty to be receiving teaching from those whose lives may not be in keeping with the truth or who are not known by the individual believer. This can also apply to teachers on the radio and elsewhere. Many believers receive much of their teaching from these sources, yet those men usually are not willing to submit to the complete Word of God they profess to teach.  If they were, we believe that they would be found in a local assembly fellowship. In addition, the fact that these men do not give positive teaching of the truth concerning the assembly subtly undermines the importance we believe this truth should have in the convictions of God?s people. One can teach, not only by what one emphasizes, but by what one does not emphasize.

Scriptures could be multiplied to show that the way to learn the truth of God?s Word is to listen to the ministry of the Word with personal exercise of the soul, waiting on God and diligently applying oneself to the Word of God. Helps can be used within reason and should not be despised, but without that dependence on the Holy Spirit to teach, all one can derive is an intellectual knowledge of facts from the Word without any actual inward spiritual reality.

The Holy Spirit delights to teach the exercised saint the truth He has given in the Word. It seems that the general problem hindering us is our unwillingness to put into practice the truths He would reveal to our hearts. It is through willing obedience to the Word of God that we make progress and grow thereby. Until there is that obedience and willingness to submit to it, the Spirit has to wait. May we realize the effect of this work in our souls and lives more and more in days to come!

?Now may Thy Spirit, by the Word,

  Refresh each wearied heart, O Lord,

Wearied of earth?s vain strife and woe,

  And longing more Thyself to know.?

                             John Newton  (BHB 59)