Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Authority and Inerrancy of Scripture

The authority and inerrancy of Holy Scripture are the bedrock upon which true Christianity stands. We depend upon Scripture’s witness for all that we hold true concerning God, man, and the way of salvation in Christ. The great events of redemptive history, such as the incarnation of the Son of God in the person of Jesus Christ, His atoning death, His glorious resurrection, and His ascension into heaven, are recorded only in Scripture. If the witness of Scripture is not reliable and compelling, then we have no basis for our faith and nothing to command our obedience.

Scripture has authority because it is the Word of God. God is first revealed as the Creator who speaks with compelling authority to call creation into being out of nothing (Gen. 1). That creative word was executed by the Holy Spirit, who secured the result intended by the words that were spoken. From that time until Christ came, God continued to speak through His servants, the prophets. In the person of His Son, God has spoken His final word, offering grace, forgiveness, and eternal life to all who believe in Christ (Heb. 1:1–3).

Moved by the testimony of the Holy Spirit, Christians confess that God’s Word is true and trustworthy in all that it affirms. If the basic tenets of our faith are challenged by anyone, our reply must be, “Thus saith the LORD.” This is equally so whether it concerns what man is to believe concerning God or what duty God requires of man. As a rule or authority for faith and life, Scripture has no equal or rival, but stands alone and supreme.

This authority extends equally to all sixty-six books of Scripture. Though revealed “Long ago, at many times and in many ways,” (Heb. 1:1) and mediated through an astonishing array of human writers, “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16). It comes forth from God as breath proceeds from the body. Scripture is the product of one divine mind and speaks with one divine voice: “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21).

The authority of Scripture implies its inerrancy. As the Word of “God that cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), it cannot err or stray from the path of truth: “Your word is true from the beginning” (Ps. 119:160). Such was the faith of the church of the Old Testament, and zealous care was taken by her scribes to preserve every word and letter of the text of Scripture. Christ Himself confessed, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

A vain attempt has been made to distinguish inerrancy from infallibility by those who wish to maintain the authority of Scripture while granting the claim of unbelieving scholars that Scripture contains many errors by the writers of the books and those who transmitted the text. This attempt fails because the two words are synonymous, and because if the Bible errs at any point, it may err at every point and cannot be trusted.

While affirming the infallibility and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures, we do not attribute either quality to mere human beings whose task it is to read, translate, or expound them. There is no office in the church high enough to confer infallibility on the man who holds it. There is no degree of learning in the languages of Scripture and the history of their interpretation sufficient to ensure inerrancy on the part of the church’s Bible scholars and teachers, much less their secular counterparts. No translation of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures is absolutely perfect as a representation of the inspired Word of God; none is so good that it cannot be improved. Because our understanding is limited in so many ways, reading and interpreting the Bible must be an enterprise of faith. We must trust in Christ as our Chief Prophet to open our eyes to the wondrous things taught in Scripture and to lead us to a right understanding and faithful application of them.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Tapestry of Ruth and God's Providence

The Old Testament is the story of heroes. Its characters are bigger than life, from the opulent reign of Solomon to the fantastic visions of Daniel. It covers the rulers of Israel as our political histories recount the rule of caesars and presidents. The prophetic books recall God’s messengers as our church history chronicles the deeds of popes and Reformers. The book of Ruth, however, tells the story of God moving not just through the institutions of church and state but with and through His most humble servants.

The book of Ruth exhibits a high standard of literary excellence. The descriptions are clear and concise. Perhaps its greatest quality, however, is its use of dramatic suspense. The uninitiated reader skips lightly over key phrases which are shown later to be significant. Chapter 2, verse 23 suggests a seemingly random event. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.” In 3:8 we are told that something startled Boaz so that he woke and discovered Ruth there. We are accustomed to thinking of such events as but random occurrences. Later we discover the hand of God actively guiding the events.

The guiding, providential hand of God is easy to accept as Ruth finds first a means to support herself and, ultimately, a loving husband. We rejoice to learn that this union continued a line which wrought David and Jesus of Nazareth. We are comforted as God brings blessing to Ruth and later to Israel and finally to all the peoples of the world.

The living God, however, is not one whose hands only bring blessing. God created the drought which set the context for Naomi and Elimelech’s migration to Moab. God exercised providential control over the deaths of Elimelech and his sons, the husbands of Orphah and Ruth. God was even sovereign over the hostilities between Moab and nascent Israel, hostilities which made Ruth’s immigration all the more difficult. Naomi spoke accurately when she said, “The Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full but the LORD has brought me back empty” (1:20–21). Viewed only from the human and temporal perspective, the tapestry of God’s providence brought her to despair.

Not surprisingly, God’s work in history tends to follow these patterns—out of tragedy He weaves blessing. From the agony of the Cross He wrought salvation for His own. From a stable in Bethlehem He brought forth the ruler of the universe.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

3 Minutes to a Stronger Faith - Ep. 10 - "Is there absolute truth?"

Got three minutes? In episode 10 of this weekly podcast, we ask the question, "Is there absolute truth?" Yes, absolute truth is real. In fact, Christianity rests on a foundation of absolute truth, and that foundation is as sturdy as a rock. Find out why today as you invest 3 minutes and grow your faith!

Samson and Delilah: A Lesson in Wasting God's Gift

"He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him" (Judges 16:20b).

For twenty years Samson judged Israel righteously and warred against the Philistines (Judges 15:20). Then, as Judges 16 records, he fell into sin. We read first that he visited a prostitute in the Philistine city of Gaza. On his way out of town, he took away the gates of the city and carried them away—but no Israelite army invaded the open city. Samson was playing games with his gift and failing to give leadership to the nation.

Then he got involved with Delilah. Perhaps she was Philistine or an apostate Israelitess. The Philistines knew her, however, and offered her a tremendous amount of money to betray Samson. Complying she cajoled him into telling her the secret of his strength. At first, Samson played games with her, too. He told her that if he were bound with seven fresh thongs he would be helpless. She bound him and then brought in Philistine warriors, but Samson arose and drove them away.

Samson was playing a deadly game with the gift God had given him. Next, he told her that if she bound him with new ropes he would be helpless. She did so, but Samson again easily broke the bonds. Rather than seeing through Delilah’s scheme, Samson regarded it as a game. He thought he was invincible.

The third time he told her to weave the seven locks of his hair into a loom. This time he drew himself closer to the fire because his dedicated head of hair was indeed connected to his special power as a Nazirite holy warrior. Again she did what he said and it did not work.

Finally, in answer to her fussing, he told her the truth. Sure enough, she had his head shaved. God removed Samson’s strength. The Philistines blinded him and made him labor for them in the humiliating role of a beast of burden. In his darkness, we can be sure Samson repented before God. Slowly his hair grew back and with it came his sense of calling as a holy warrior.

One day the Philistines had a great religious celebration. All their nobility, their priesthood, and the five kings were present as was Samson, whom they planned to ridicule. In a final act of fulfilling his Nazarite vow, Samson pulled down the temple, killing himself and all the heads of the Philistine culture.

Samson drifted into sin one inch at a time, but finally there was a point when God withdrew His favor from Samson and denied him access to the gift of strength. Pride, presumption, and neglecting your spiritual gifts may result in the same end. As Paul encouraged Timothy (2 Timothy 1:6), stir up your gift into a righteous flame.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Samson and the Philistines

"When he returned, he said to his father and mother, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife” (Judges 14:2).

From the womb, Samson was set apart as a Nazirite. A Nazirite was under a vow to serve God with a peculiar singleness of mind. According to Numbers 6, the Nazirite was not to eat grapes or raisins and was not to shave the hair of his head until his vow was fulfilled. In the book of Judges, men took Nazirite vows as they went into holy war (Judges 5:2, literally: “That locks of hair hung long in Israel”). Thus, one aspect of the Nazirite was that he was a special holy warrior.

At this time, the southern part of Israel was under the domination of the Philistines. Unlike previous invaders, the Philistines were cultured and not terribly oppressive; thus, Israel relaxed under their domination and did not cry out to the Lord. Samson’s job was to stir things up, make it uncomfortable for Israel, and heat up the holy war.

The first thing Samson did when he came of age was to offer marriage to a Philistine girl. His parents thought this was wrong, but the Bible says that the Holy Spirit led him to it (Judges 14:4). Samson planned to use this offer of marriage to set up a challenge to Philistia. The marriage feast was hosted by the Philistines and one of their customs was to have a contest of riddles.

Now once when no one was watching, Samson had killed a lion. Later, he found honey in it and took some home to eat. He had kept this a secret. So Samson’s riddle said, “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet” (Judges 14:14). When the other men could not solve the riddle it appeared that Samson would emerge as the Riddle Master, scoring a victory over Philistine wisdom. But they threatened the bride, saying they would kill her and her family if she did not tell them the answer. She wept before Samson, so he told her the secret.

This was all according to Samson’s plan. Now the girl had a choice: Would she put her trust in him, who was powerful enough to kill a lion and wise enough to defeat Philistine riddles? Sadly, she made the wrong choice and told the Philistines Samson’s secret. Later, having rejected Samson’s protection, she died (Judges 15:6).

This story shows us that an offer of salvation is part of leaving this unholy world and living under God's reign. If the girl had put her trust in the power and wisdom of the Lord’s anointed Nazirite, she and her house would have been spared. Before you engage in spiritual warfare against our fallen society, make sure you are secure in your own salvation. Do not be so concerned with others that you neglect the destiny of your own soul.