This is the great Reformation principle; the foundation principle of every truly Christian church; our only authority in all matters of faith and life; the rock on which our personal faith must rest and from which comes our assurance of salvation and comfort in every time of need. This is the word of the one, living, and true God. Here alone is the divine, infallible, and sufficient revelation of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Here, in the words originally written, is that divinely inspired message from God. He used holy men of old who were inwardly moved and controlled by the Holy Spirit to speak and write the very words which He intended. All the developing circumstances of history, all the detailed circumstances of each man’s life produced the spokesmen God intended, with just the personal characteristics, spiritual experience, and deep feelings, necessary for them to speak from their hearts the precise message which God purposed to give to His church and eventually to send into all the world.
This marvellous work of the divine and sovereign Spirit is then followed by the amazing grace of our Lord in bringing these inspired words into the minds and hearts of His children. The same Holy Spirit who inspired the Word now uses that Word as His sword to wound, His balm to heal, His light to guide, and His fire to purify. It is He who moves preachers to preach, writers to write, and believers to converse, so that Biblical truth is brought into the heart and applied in the lives of all true believers. It is He who blesses us with that inner persuasion and confidence that God has spoken, and who satisfies our hungry souls with the spiritual food of the Word. It is He who reproves the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgement, and it is He who brings such convinced souls to rest by faith in the Incarnate Word, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is He who enables us to know, obey, and love a real living Saviour, using the revelation already given in the Word of God.
Sadly, this precious Word of God is attacked not only by those outside professing Christianity (which is to be expected) but also by many within. In such attacks Satan has always focussed on the Incarnate Word revealed in the written Word. This is seen in the way in which opposers of truth seek to attack the three great proofs which the New Testament gives us of the true and eternal deity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Firstly, the manner of His coming into this world, conceived as that ‘holy thing’ in the womb of the virgin Mary. “Behold a virgin
shall conceive and bare a son and shall call his name Immanuel” Is. 7.14 and Matt. 1.23).
Secondly, His life and works, especially His miraculous works. ‘If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him” (John 10.37-38).
Thirdly, His resurrection. “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses” (Acts 2.32).
It is about these three great vindications of the true deity of our Saviour that the Bishop of Durham has been recently expressing his doubts and questions. Rejecting the reliability of the written word he sets up his own intellect as the arbiter of what is to be received and what rejected of the New Testament record. It is to be hoped that such confusing, misleading and unchristian pronouncements will be treated with the disdain and abhorrence they richly deserve.
Thankfully, true believers who love the Lord and His word will see through the high-sounding intellectualism of such men, and will not easily be swept aside by such unbelief even though it is couched in persuasive and subtle arguments. However, a far more dangerous attack upon the true church now comes from another direction, from many who would gladly agree with all that is written about the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible and who strongly emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit. The crux of the issue is the sufficiency of Holy Scripture. This serious deviation from evangelical orthodoxy is often expressed in simple slogans such as – “All the gifts are for today”, or “We need God’s message for today”, or “I have a word from the Lord for you”, or “God has revealed to me…”, or “God has told me to…”. This is a strange and confusing mixture of truth and error which needs a plain answer and refutation. Consider this both positively and negatively.
- God does speak today – through Scripture, according to its proper sense and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
- There are spiritual gifts essential to the life and health of the church today.
- We do need God to deal with us personally and powerfully.
- God does not speak today by way of direct infallible inspiration of “new scripture”.
- None of the gifts essential to the church today are revelatory gifts such as the apostles and prophets possessed uniquely.
- God’s personal dealings with us are not apart from the word of God, or through a new, personal,
infallible revelation. Even the prophecy of Scripture itself is not of any private interpretation (2 Peter 1.20).
- It is essential to reject every claim to a divinely given infallibility; whether it be the Pope speaking ‘ex cathedra’; the modern “prophet” with his spurious ‘thus saith the Lord’; the charismatic with his ‘word of knowledge’ or his ‘tongues and interpretations’; the confused believer who claims to give some private guidance as coming direct from the Lord; or even the mistaken preacher who, in the abuse of his pastoral office, lords it over God’s heritage by claiming some divinely given authority for his own unbiblical opinions.
Louis Gaussen in his book Theopneustia says, “There are in the Christian world but two schools, or two religions: That which puts the Bible above everything, and that which puts something above the Bible. The former was evidently that of Jesus Christ; the latter .has been that of the rationalists of all denominations and of all times. . . . Instead of putting the Bible above all, it is, on the contrary, either science, or reason, or human tradition, or some new inspiration, which it places above that Book. Hence all rationalisms; hence all false religions.”
Believers and churches need to return to Psalm 119 and learn how David felt about the word of his God: “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.”