Treasuring God’s Word, Part 1: The Authority of Scripture

The following was taught in a LifeGroup class at Northeast Houston Baptist Church on July 16, 2017.

This past week, my family spent our summer vacation at Comal in New Braunfels, TX. We had a great time. But, now that we are back, we suffer from vacation exhaustion. The strange thing is this, we did not to exhaust us. In fact, we did a lot of restful stuff. I guess, our bodies adjusted to the vacation-life so quickly that it is fighting reality now that we are out of vacation and back to our normal schedules. You know how it goes, I’m sure. We need a vacation from vacation.

I bring that up to say this. I’m tired. And, my tiredness reminds me of my finitude. I am a finite being. One of the things I meant to do while on vacation was to prepare for this lesson. But, it didn’t happen. I had no time. My finitude extends not just to energy, but also time and place. I can’t do everything at once. In fact, I’m can’t do much of anything at once. I suffer from dude-disease. I can only do one thing at a time. You know how that is, guys. My wife can have a number of things running around in her mind. She runs on 6 cylinders. I just run on one. Give me one thing to do and I’m okay. Finite.

My finitude reminds me of God’s infinitude and my dependence on Him. When I returned from vacation I slammed myself into preparation mode. I went to bed late and then woke up early to finish. And to be honest, I felt terribly inadequate. Most of my time this morning was in prayer asking God to feel my thoughts and my mouth and to supernaturally speak to you all despite my weaknesses. And, I trust that He will.

Now, to a LifeGroup leader this hits hard. You see, my role in the LifeGroup is to feed you the Word of God. I have to study in order to teach. It requires me to spend hours in preparation and when I fail to give myself that time, it’s scary. It really is. So my prayer this morning was from Ephesians 1:18, “Open the eyes of my heart.” That is my prayer for you as well, “God, open the eyes of their heart.”

All of this is to say that though I might stand up here and teach, I’m not your teacher. God is. He will teach you what you need to know. I might be one of the many ways He speaks to you, but it is ultimately the Word of God that enlightens the soul. And only God can “open the eyes of your heart,” not me. God is your teacher. Remember that.

Now, while I was praying this morning. I decided to read Psalm 119. It is a rather lengthy psalm, more than 150 verses, all of them express love for God’s Word. It is just a remarkable psalm. I needed to get my head right, if you will. I needed to lift my thinking into what the psalmist says in his chapter and so I read it. And in doing so, I jotted down a number of verses that really spoke to me. These are, if you will, the perfect lead-ins to our series of lessons that we will begin this morning. Let me read some of these to you, maybe even paraphrase:

  • Psalm 119:10 – “My whole heart seeks you, let me not wander.”
  • Psalm 119:11 – “I have stored up your word in my heart.”
  • Psalm 119:14 – “I delight in your word, as much as in all riches.”
  • Psalm 119:15 – “I meditate on your word and fix my eyes on your ways.”
  • Psalm 119:33 – “Teach me your ways that I might obey always.”
  • Psalm 119:50 – “Your word gives life.”
  • Psalm 119:60 – “I rush to keep your commandments.”
  • Psalm 119:97 – “Oh how I love your law! It is my daily meditation.”
  • Psalm 119:148 – “I anticipate the time when I can meditate on your word.”

Now let me just say that is should obvious to you, as it is to me, that this is sadly not the kind of expressions we find from the mouths of most people. I might venture to say that it is not even the expressions of our own mouths. I mean, do you anticipate the time when you can medicate on God’s word? Do you go to sleep at night thinking about waking up in the morning to read and study the Scriptures? Are you at work longing to be at home with your nose in the Bible? What is your attitude toward Scripture? That is the question. And that is the question of our series. How do you feel about God’s Word? This is the force behind the next 4 weeks.

I thought about this pretty intensely this morning. It occurred to me that most of us probably don’t have have the proper attitude toward Scripture because we don’t have the proper perspective of Scripture. In other words, we don’t see it right, so we don’t feel it right. We don’t have a high view of Scripture because we don’t see it for what it is. And that is our goal in these lessons—to see Scripture for what they are in order that we can appreciate them as we ought.

The Most Powerful Book

The Bible is the most powerful book in existence. Did you know that? It is the most powerful book. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” In other words, it has the capacity to cut to the very soul of man. It can dissect his inner thoughts and character. It can reveal the real part of a person. It is that powerful.

It is powerful because of its awesome capacity to work, but it is also powerful because of its inherent value and uniqueness. The Bible is a rare find. There really is nothing like it. No book in all of history compares to it and no book in the future will compare to it. It stands alone and the most preeminent book. Psalm 119:162 says, “I rejoice at your word like one who finds great treasure.” It really is a treasure. It is a rare treasure. It is one of kind, infinitely valuable.

Let me help you see it’s worth by saying this one statement: God, in His wondrous grace, decided by His good pleasure to not leave humanity without truth. Do you feel that? You know that God was under no obligation to tell you anything? Does that rock your world? Let me put it to you this way: What would life be like had God never spoken a word? What would life be like if there were no Bible? What would you be like?

Well, we do have God’s Word because He did stoop down to speak to us. We call this revelation. It is the stuff, or the content, that God communicated. You see, God has secrets. He knows some stuff that we don’t. And, over thousands of years, He made known to man the truth that man needed to know for spiritual life. Over this period, God revealed truth upon truth until all that He wanted to reveal was revealed. We call this progressive revelation, because God progressively revealed truth to man.

Think of this way. Most of us are familiar with Christmas gifts. You know, parents purchase a toy or something and drop the toy in a box. Then, they wrap the box with paper. Then, they tie up that paper with a ribbon and drop a card on it with your name. The gift is the put under the Christmas tree where shines like beacon of hope to you as a young child. I mean, you see that thing and you can’t wait to get to the bottom of it. And so you eager anticipate. Then, on Christmas Day, you ravage that thing. You pull off that card and ribbon. Then you rip off that paper and tear that box apart. Each layer reveals something new to you. You are getting something new about the gift. And finally, you arrive at the toy itself. You are so happy about it. You found the gift from your parents.

This is how progressive revelation can be understood. Over the years, God’s people were pulling away the dressing of God’s truth finding more and more details about it and discovering more and more from God. I think of Simeon, the righteous and devout Jew was “waiting for the consolation of Israel” and when the “Holy Spirit was upon him” he laid eyes on Jesus and felt at rest. “Lord,” he said, “now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation” (Lk. 2:25-32). This progressive truth is truth about God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ. This truth, when it was fully revealed, was compiled into a book, we call the Bible.

Now, if “revelation” is the “what” of God’s truth, then the doctrine of Inspiration is the “how” of God’s truth. You see, it is important to know how God communicated to man if we are to be confident in His Word, right? I mean, if God told this guy something and this guy told another guy and he told another guy and so forth, it would be like that “telephone game” you used to play as a child. You sit in a circle and one person whispers something into the ear of another and around the circle this secret goes until it comes back to the first person and it resembles very little of what he first whispered. If the Scripture is from the mouths of man, then we cannot trust it. If somehow, God’s revelation was muddied up, we cannot trust it.

So the question is this: Where did the Scripture come from? And if we know where it came from, then we will be able to see with what kind of authority it speaks. So, let’s look this morning at the Inspiration of Scripture. Really, our aim is to understand that Authority of Scripture. Now, “inspiration” describes, if we can break it up into memorable pieces, the source, the means, and the method of revelation.

God Breathed: The Source of Revelation

Turn with me to 2 Timothy 3:14. Here is a little bit of context while you are turning there. This is a final will and testament from the apostle Paul to his young protege, Timothy. He was basically telling Timothy to carry the torch of the gospel. Timothy was ethnically similar to Paul—maybe it reverse, you can say. Timothy had a Greek father but a Jewish mother. It was customary for the Jewish parents to teach the Old Testament to their sons beginning at age five. So, Timothy was trained by his mother and grandmother. Listen to 2 Timothy 1:4-5, “As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.”

Paul was on his last leg of life. He was dying. He says in 2 Timothy 4:6-7, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Paul knew he was going to die soon and he didn’t want the chain to be broken. He wanted the gospel ministry to continue. So he was passing the baton to Timothy who was sort of flaking out. So Paul exhorts Timothy by pointing to the source of the Scriptures. Essentially, he was saying, “Remember where the Scriptures come from!” In doing so, he believe that Timothy would be exhorted to courageous and persevering ministry. In other words, if he could give him a proper perspective of the Scriptures, Timothy would be motivated to continue in the ministry of proclaiming the Scriptures. Now let’s see what he says:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

He is describing the Bible as “the sacred writings,” which means that they are holy, set apart, unique. They are the “set apart teachings.” When he refers to “all Scripture,” he is not referring to “some Scripture.” See that? He means “all of the Bible” here. Is what? Well, it is sacred and set apart and holy and unique. Why? Because it is “breathed out by God.”

Now, some older translations say that “all Scripture was inspired by God” and this is misleading to us today. So, we have changed it in order to communicate better. To inspire is to stimulate a certain feeling or action. You might hear someone say, or maybe you have said this yourself, “That sermon really inspired me,” or “I was inspired to write a song.” It means to be stimulated to feel something or take some sort of action. It also means, quite simply, to inhale or breathe-in. But neither of these definitions is what is meant by the original language.

It is the word, theopneust, which means to breathe-out, not -in. It means to exhale, or expire. You know when someone passes away, we say that expired, or “breathed their last breath,” right? That is the idea, to breath-out.

There are few times in the Bible that we see God breathing out. They may or may not be the same thing as what is meant here in 2 Timothy, but it does give us a good idea of what happens when God breathes out. First, God breathed the breath of life into Adam in Genesis 2:7. He breathed into a lifeless body and created life, a soul. Second, God breathes into a desert of dry, dead bones and flesh wraps them up and they come alive in Ezekiel 37. In the New Testament, God breathes on the disciples and gives them new life, according to John 20:22.

So when God breathes, He breathes life. This is rather interesting when we see that Scripture, that is all Scripture, is breathed out by God. The Scriptures contain life. They bring life. They give life. But what does this mean?

God Spoke: The Means of Scripture

Well, let’s turn to Hebrews 1:1-3. It says this, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets.” Listen, God spoke at different times and in different ways. He spoke through animals, dreams, visions, fire, storms, and even with His finger. Do you remember that? He did this “long ago,” that is, the Old Testament times. He spoke “to our fathers” and “by the prophets.” He spoke by prophets like Samuel and Moses. He also spoke through Kings who served as prophets like David and Solomon.

“But,” the text says, “in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son,” Jesus. It says that Jesus is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” In other words, Jesus was the summary of all God’s divine nature crammed into a human being. Jesus was the God-man. He was God and He was man. But, the emphasis here is that Jesus perfectly portrays God. Even more, Jesus is the way God spoke “in these last days.” You know that Jesus, according to John 1:14, is God’s Word made flesh. You see the connection? Jesus is what we call the Living Word of God. He is all apex of God’s voice. And back in 2 Timothy 3:15, it says that Scripture is the written Word of God. So, we have the Living and written Word of God. Isn’t that something?

Listen, let me say this quite clearly. Whenever God speaks, it is Scripture. Did you get that. Scripture, all of Scripture, is the Word of God. It is God’s voice, God’s revelation, God’s message. It is God spoken, God-breathed. In fact, watch how the New Testament so easily refers to the Old Testament as God’s Word.

Galatians 3:8 says, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’” Now, you know something, this is quotation from from Genesis 12:3, which says, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Do you know who said that? God said that.

Here is another one. Romans 9:17, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’” Guess who actually said that to Pharaoh? God did. “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (Ex. 9:16).

So there is no difference between God speaking and Scripture. They are the same. The Scripture is God breathed and God spoken, if you will. When God speaks, it is Scripture—written by the instruments of man. God said to Moses in Exodus 4:12, “I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” So, how did God speak through man?

God Carried: The Method of Revelation

Let’s turn to 2 Peter 1:20 for our final text. We will see here how God spoke through man. The passage says, “knowing this first of all,” now listen to this, “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.” Well, that’s good news, isn’t it? Man didn’t muddy up the waters of God’s Word. Man didn’t intervene and mess things up. The Scripture is God’s Word. Verse 21 says, “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.” Well, there you have it. Men “were carried along.” This means that the human writers were “moved, carried along, borne along” by God. It has the idea of sailboat that is carried along by the winds and waters. The winds and waters determine where the boat will sail.

When we were on vacation, we floated the Comal river. It was fun. We did really did nothing. We drop a tube in the water and hopped on top. Then we relaxed and got out about a mile down stream. We simply allowed the water to carry us along wherever it was taking us. This is the idea here. Men were carried along by the Spirit of God and the Spirit of God carried them to their destination. The Spirit didn’t bypass their mind or culture, but carried them right through it all using their language and cultural nuances. They weren’t machines of any kind. They were carried.

Now I can’t pretend to know how all that works, but I don’t have to. God does. He understands how He carries men along to bring us His Word. All we need to know are these two disclaimers in the passage. First, “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.” An interpretation is an unleashing of something. It is a word that describes source. “Where did the Scripture come from?” That is what it relates to. It says, that Scripture didn’t come from man. The second disclaimer is this, “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man.” In other words, God carried His Word to us by the writers of the Bible. We don’t know how it works, but we do know that man didn’t get his hands in the mix. It came from God, not man. It came through man, but not from man. It is God’s Word, not man’s word.

Scripture is miraculous book. Scripture communicates God’s Word exactly the way God intended. Simply miraculous. Scripture is God’s Word. God’s Word is Scripture. Look, drop your finger down anywhere in your Bible. You see that word? That is the word that God intended. That word fits into a sentence with other words which fit into a paragraph and book and collection of books. God super-intended all of those words so that they would communicate the message that God wanted to communicate. Now that is just miraculous.

Do you want God to speak to you? Think about it. Do you want God to speak to you? Well, here He is. He is speaking to you now. He is ready to speak to you at home. He speaks through the Scriptures. You know, some of us hit the snooze button more than we hit the Scriptures. Paul said, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13). He also told Timothy to meditate, think hard, on the Scriptures and the Lord will grant you understanding. Do you want to know what God thinks? Do you want to hear God speak?

Closing

Listen to this in closing. I heard it once by a preacher and I did some research myself to figure this out. Think about your intake of food over the period of 70 years. The average person eats 3 meals a day. Now, I know that we are Americans and nothing about us is average. But just suppose you ate 3 meals a day. This is roughly one pound of food and about 700 calories. You with me? By the time you are 70 years old, you will have eaten enough food to stock an entire supermarket. This is about 38 tons of food (or 20 Honda Civics, to give you an idea). It is also more than 53 million calories, over 73 cows—unless you are vegan. I suppose it is a lot of yogurt. I didn’t calculate. It is over 175 pigs and over 4,300 dozen eggs—or 51,000 baby chickens. That is a lot of food in your gut!

Now listen, Jesus said in all seriousness, “Man shall not live by bread alone,” but by what? Yes, the Word of God. You know something, if you spend 15 minutes per day in the Bible, that’s not that long, then by the time you are 70, you will have fed your soul about as much as you fed your body. Now let me ask you this: what are you feeding most? What are you going to live in the longest? Think about it. Where have you set your priority? Job 32:12 says this, “I have treasured the words of God’s mouth more than my portion of food.” Maybe you should do the same.

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