Friday, May 20, 2016
Genesis 3:1 "Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”
Introduction and Review
Yesterday we began considering five important words or terms associated with describing the nature and character of scripture. As Christians, we need to know that the Bible we carry in our hands is the Word of God. In today's post we will conclude where we began by focusing in on the two last terms (preservation, illumination) that followed after the three we did yesterday (revelation, inspiration, canonicity). As we noted yesterday, each of these terms could be given their own post. The point of these two posts is to get into the reader's mind the reliability and sufficiency of the Bible as God's very words.
1. Preservation- God's Providential preservation of the words of the Bible in the hand-copied texts of the Old and New Testament.
We possess more certainty over the words of the Bibles in our possession today as being those originally penned by the Biblical authors than we do of any other ancient document. Once that original manuscript left the hand of that prophet or apostle, how was its contents preserved as it was copied over and over again? Certainly as the scriptures were copied by hand, minor variations would had entered into the textual stream. However we can be assured that we have the words of God in our manuscripts. Insofar as a manuscript copy and translation represents those words, that copy or translation carries the authority of being God's Word. A whole field of study aims to answer this question.1
Perhaps in illustration I heard one time will aid in this point. Take any dollar bill or paper currency that you have in your possession and ask yourself whether that bill can be used to make a purchase? Of course the answer is yes. That bill is a copy of the original plates on a printing press to produce the bill. Perhaps when you got the paper currency, it was torn, tattered or worn. Despite its condition, that dollar bill is a valuable and carries the authority of a Federal Reserve Note just as much as those original plates. The plates are flawless, and the dollar bill bearing their image carries those flawless elements, despite having tears and signs of use. The authority of such and is for all practical intents and purposes flawless in as much as it represents its original. So it is the same with the copies and translations of the Old and New Testaments. We should have no worries concerning the Bibles we have today - they are the Word of God!
If God had not guaranteed the preservation of His words down to our day, we would have no idea what He communicated. (Matthew 5:18) More could be said but we must hasten to the final key term...
2. Illumination - How God the Holy Spirit helps Christians understand the meaning of the Revealed, Inspired, Canonical and Preserved Text
When a Christian is converted by grace through faith, the Holy Spirit enables him or her to understand the meaning of the words of the Bible. Passages such as 1 Corinthians 2:10-13 and 1 John 2:20,27 give us this promise of the Spirit's ministry in the life of the Christian. Without the Holy Spirit's work of illumination, I could not preach the Bible with clarity nor could those to whom I preach apply what is preached. Furthermore, without the proverbial "light-bulb" of understanding given by the Holy Spirit, no Christian could have fruitful study of God's word.2
As you consider the five terms: Revelation, Inspiration, Canonicity, Preservation & Illumination, you will discover the truth of the matter: the Bible that you and I carry to church and read every week is the Word of God. I would like to end today's blog with this quote from the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 Article 1 on the Holy Scriptures, of which I affirm: "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. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy."
1. The scholarly field to which I'm referring is called textual criticism.
Without going into too much detail, the thousands upon thousands of copies of manuscripts, both Old and New Testament, can reconstruct the original text in over 99,9% of cases, with no variation in the copies affecting any doctrine or teaching.
2. Often people will confuse the terms "revelation" and "illumination". It is important to keep those two terms distinct, since God is not giving no new revelations today. Any insights people have into the spiritual realm or in guidance for every day life is a result of the Spirit's illuminating work through the scriptures. Even when we hear God's voice and know what He wants us to do, its because at some point we heard a Biblical- based sermon or read a Bible verse that spoke on that subject.