The following was taught in a LifeGroup class at Northeast Houston Baptist Church on July 30, 2017.
We started this little series that we are in now with the matter of revelation. If you remember, the matter of divine truth is the matter of God’s revelation—the truth that God has sovereignly decided to make known to man. There is a kind of revelation, theologians call it “general revelation,” that is truth revealed through natural means. John 1:9 says that God “gives light to everyone.” He does this in two ways.
First, He does this through creation. Psalm 19:1, a very popular verse, says, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” The psalmist recognized that the order and complexity of creation reveals to mankind that a Creator exists. The heavens, the sky, the mountains, the forests, the animals, the various laws of nature all give evidence that a supreme being is behind it all.
Paul has a lot to say about this. In his opening chapters of Romans, he says that God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:20). In other words, creation—no matter where you look—has the fingerprint of God all over it. Everything that can be observed cries out in a loud voice, “God exists and He is eternally divine.” It is so obvious, so reasonable, so logical, that everyone is “without excuse” when it comes to judgment, so Paul says. It is so obvious that the Psalmist argued that only a “fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Ps. 14:1). You literally have to throw away reason and logic and scientific observation in order to conclude that there is no God. The psalmist is not saying “fool” in a derogatory sense like we would use it today. Rather, it is a matter of mental abandonment. It is throwing your brain in the trash, turning it off, letting it misfire. Sadly, many do. We know that. It is such a waste of God’s good gift of the mind.
So, God reveals Himself, in a general sense, through creation. Second, He also does this through conscience. Still in Romans, Paul says that Gentiles, “who do not have the law,” that’s the Bible as it existed at the time, “by nature do what the law requires” (Rom. 2:14). This is to say that people who do not have the Bible still recognize a kind of moral law revealed by nature. He says that “they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.” In other words, the law—in some fashion—exists in their inner being without any help from the Bible, it is in themselves. The Gentiles didn’t have God’s Word like the Jews did. But, they still recognized to some degree what was expected from each other, morally speaking. Paul goes on to say that they can “by nature do what the law requires.” This means that human nature reveals a certain kind of appreciation and expectation in matters of justice, honesty, compassion, and goodness toward man. “Without the Bible,” Paul says, “people understand moral concepts and know what is right and wrong—the Gentiles are the prime example.”
He continues in verse 15 by saying that the “work of the law is written on their hearts” and that “their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.” They have a built-in judge, a mechanism that sounds the alarm when there is injustice, dishonesty, cruelty, and wickedness toward man. This is called a conscience. It is an inner moral nervous system. When a man steals from another man, his moral nerves sting. When a man kills another man, his moral nervous system brings emotional pains. This is called guilt. At the same time, when a man rescues a child from a predator, the man has feelings of reward and happiness. When a man helps an old lady with her groceries, the man is rewarded by his conscience. This is the work of the law written on his heart. We all have this natural, moral law in our hearts by nature.
So, God makes Himself known through General Revelation, that is through creation and conscience. And, as Paul said, He leaves man “without excuse.” There is no reason for them to say that there is no God. Rather, creation and conscience screams that God exists and He is eternally divine. Those who deny this are called “fools” because they “suppress the truth … that God has made plain to them” as Paul says in Romans 1:18-19. He adds this, “For although they knew God,” that is to say that the recognized God by creation and conscience, “they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:21-22).
They saw God but didn’t want to give God His due glory. They willfully threw their brains in the trash because it was better for them to be “foolish” than to be humbled. They rendered themselves “futile,” or useless, “in their thinking.” And when they did, “their foolish hearts were darkened” and they were unable to see the light that God has given to everyone (Jn. 1:9). But that is not all, they also “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Rom. 1:23). They had to have something to call god in order to help themselves so that crafted a god that was more suitable for their pleasures. Very sad. What they ought to say is found in Psalm 119:73, “Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.” But only some will say that, only those who embrace the truth.
Now that is General Revelation. And all who see this general light and desire to know the God behind creation and conscience are granted by God’s providential grace to lay hold of Special Revelation. This is more specific revelation that Goes beyond the truth that can be discovered in creation and conscience. This is the truth of the Bible.
The Necessity of Scripture
Now, over the past two weeks, we’ve attempted to look at the Bible in a way that would lift our appreciation for the Scriptures. I mentioned that we don’t always have the proper attitude toward the Bible probably because we don’t have the proper perspective. And though that may not be the only reason, it really is the best way to start if we are to see the light of the Scriptures in a way that is fruitful to our spiritual life.
We’ve been reading from Psalm 119, which is over 150 verses full of expressions of love toward God’s word. Verses like 119:60, that says, “I rush to keep your commandments” and 119:97, that says, “I love your law,” convey a deep sense of appreciation and honor the Scriptures. A kind of appreciation that makes most of us feel uncomfortable because we can’t, with a good conscience, say that we think the same way. Of course, there is Psalm 119:148 that kicks the dead horse that extra mile, “I anticipate the time when I can meditate on your Word.” I’d like to think that when I go to sleep, I’m always having a tough time because I’m so excited to wake up and spend time in the Bible. Verse 55 says, “I remember your name in the night,” and verse 62, “At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your Word.” I admit, I am there at times, but not all the times. But, that is my particular gifting. In a way, I am more passionate about the Word of God than others simply because God has gifted me to teach it. But, even still, it is not always my desire. In fact, sometimes I want the opposite.
It’s all about our attitude toward the Word of God. We started with the doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture and we said that it refers to the Bible as God’s Word. It comes from Him. He is the author. He wrote the Bible. And, He did this by supernaturally breathing it out, speaking, by carrying the human writers of the Bible—the ones who actually penned it to paper. From the inspiration of Scripture, all sorts of properties unfold.
For starters, the Authority of Scripture is a natural flow from the Inspiration of Scripture. It’s very easy to see. If no one is higher than God, then no word is higher than God’s Word. It’s as simple as that. If no one is greater than God, then no word is greater than God’s Word. If no one is purer than God, then no word is purer than God’s Word. And so forth. You see the logic, right?
Last week, we said that having God’s Word is good and all, but if we can’t understand it, if it is not plain to us, then it is worthless and God is no good at communicating to the very beings He gave language. Where there is no clarity, there can be no certainty. This is the Clarity of Scripture. This doctrine teaches God’s Word is mentally accessible, reasonable plain, and spiritually enlightening. Today, we want to turn our attention to the doctrine of the Necessity of Scripture.
I made the statement at the beginning of this series that “God, in His wondrous grace, decided by His good pleasure to not leave humanity without truth.” Now that is a wonderful statement—not because it is craftily worded, but because is profoundly remarkable. God was under no obligation to speak to us in any way. Moreover, there was nothing inherently worthy in us that would warrant such a holy and self-sufficient God to extend Himself to mere man. Yet, He did.
I followed that statement with a question that is more or less another way to put this into words. I asked, “What would life be like if God had never spoken?” Both of these were designed to get you think about the necessity of Scripture. Both of these were designed to rearrange your view about the infinite worth of God’s Word.
You see, we prioritize things that we value. We value things that we need. We need things that are rare—at least, they are rare to us. Something that is easily accessible to us is not something we need, because we have much of it. If you have enough, you have no need. If you have no need, you have no value. If you have no value, you have no priority in the thing of which you have enough.
Necessity is defined as “that which is dictated by constraining circumstances.” Let me give you a couple of illustrations of this from the Bible. Mark 7:24-37 describes a Syrophoenician woman who runs to Christ begging like a dog for her daughter’s life. Listen to what it says:
And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
Jesus was looking to rest in this house. He was tired. He wanted to hide from the crowds because they wouldn’t leave him alone. But the woman, a mother of a demon-possessed daughter, “immediately,” it says, “came and fell down at his feet.” The text says that she was a Gentile woman. Matthew calls her a Canaanite. Now, I don’t want to go into all the details but you should know this, she was doubly rejected by the Jews. She was scum. Canaanites were supposed to be wiped out by the Jews. Somehow she survived. She personifies everything that the Jews were against. And yet, in her desperation, she wasted no time and rushed to fall at the feet of Christ.
Jesus’ response sounds a little repulsive but it wasn’t. The “children’s bread” was Jewish phrase for the blessings that God has for Israel. Dogs were house pets. They were fed after their owners, but they were still fed. Jesus is simply saying that she has come to a Jew for a Jewish blessing. Her response is one of desperation and faith. “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” The crumbs from God’s blessed table were more than enough to satisfy the soul. She knew that. She got it. The point here is that out of her affliction came necessity. Desperation compelled her.
Another side of necessity is joy. Turn to Matthew 13:44. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Joy compelled him.
Necessity, then, arises out of being compelled by desperation or joy. If I may lean on my own experience, I would say that the Necessity of Scripture is first compelled by desperation, but later by joy. Let me explain.
Personal Testimony of Necessity
When I was younger, I developed a supernatural dependence on the Word of God. It was developed, I think, out of a need a kind of desperation that was born into joy. It started when I came to terms with sin in my life. I couldn’t rid it. I wanted to kill sin. It troubled me, tormented me, frustrated me, ruined my relationships, corrupted my attitude, and murdered my desire to live. I wanted sin dead. I was desperate to kill sin.
Next, I wanted to understand. When I dove into God’s Word, I came up for air and had questions. It was like an archeological dig. It fascinated me. The more I found, the more I wanted to find. Knowledge became a drug to me. I needed more. I was finding answers, but coming up with more questions. I was desperate for understanding.
Next, I wanted to grow. As I began to win battles against sin and understand more of God’s Word, I wanted simply to grow. I wanted to mature and not be pushed around by theological bullies and doctrinal heresies. There was something intriguing about the Christian life that caused me to desire it. There was a sense of love and assurance. I wanted that. There was a sense of clarity and peace and joy. I wanted those too. I was desperate for growth but finding joy.
Next, I wanted to please God. By this time, my growth was evident. I was described by most people as mature. Not that I was perfect, but I was not a spiritual child in the faith. I was not scrambling against sin, troubled by questions, in need of spiritual milk. I simply wanted my life to be pleasing to God. I wanted to think and act like He does, be gentle and longsuffering like He is. I found joy in obedience.
Now, I want to be near God. I have a inner longing like a spouse who is away from home for weeks. When I wake, my thoughts are usually, “Where is my Lord?” When I go about my day, my thoughts are usually, “Give me the Scriptures.” When I have my devotional time, I’m not seeking answers, but seeking nearness. When I turn to Scriptures, I feel like He is with me. I do it because I am compelled by joy.
Now, let me start to bring all this together. Affliction compels. To put it biblically, General Revelation compels us to Special Revelation. What we know about God through creation and conscience afflicts us to the point that we need the Word of God. General Revelation compels us to Special Revelation. Why? Because General Revelation creates desperation. It afflicts us. Creation says look heavenward for God. Conscience says look heavenward for salvation. But, we cannot see heaven. We look but we cannot find. We need God to come to us. We need Scripture to help us look and see.
This is the idea from an academic point-of-view. However, bring it home to your soul. Think in terms of your own need. Why do you, not humanity, need God’s Word? What afflicts you today? What makes you desperate? What brings you joy? Is the most valuable, most rarest gem in existence—the Word of God?
In our remaining time, let’s look at some ways Scripture is necessary, ways in which no other book can meet your need, ways in which the Bible is lifted high above all the other words of man.
The first way might be the most obvious. We are sinners. We need salvation. Paul said it this way, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24). He answered the question in Romans 10:13-17:
For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
The idea here is that unless one hears (or reads) the Word of God, he cannot believe in God. If he cannot believe in God, he cannot call upon God. If he cannot call upon God, how then can he be saved. The conclusion is that faith, that leads to salvation, comes from receiving the Word of God. If there is no Word of God, there is no salvation—simple and plain.
This is communicated all over the Bible. John 3:8 says, “he who does not believe is condemned.” Believe what? Well, believe God’s Word. John 14:6, “no one comes to the Father except by me.” Jesus is the only way. He is the Living Word. Acts 4:12, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name by which you can be saved.” Well, you need to know the name, right? First Timothy 2:5-6, and this is good one, “there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” Salvation is exclusively found through Jesus. Jesus is exclusively found through God’s Word.
There is a lot involved in the spiritual growth, but let’s summarize. Scripture is not only necessary for salvation, but also spiritual growth. John 3:7 and 1 Peter 1:3 says that we are born again in Christ, given new life in Him, and spiritual babes. Being born and born into a new life implies spiritual growth. Listen, babies are fun to have around the house, but when help is needed, they are of no use. There are some people who are spiritual babes in Christ and need to grow up.
Spiritual growth has little to do with age. There are people who have been with Christ for decades that are immature and others who have been with Christ months who are mature. What matters is the Biblical intake. A baby develops with milk and then graduates to solid food. The youngling must then embrace the new food. This is spiritual growth. Some grow faster than others. But all grow the same way—by eating God’s Word. Jesus said, “man shall not live on bread alone but by every word out of the Word of God” (Matt. 4:4). Jeremiah said, “Your words were found and I ate them” (Jer. 15:16). We need God’s Word to grow.
Turn to 1 Corinthians 3:1-2. This is Paul writing to Christians in Corinth. They were a wild bunch, very showy, very prideful, very selfish. He said, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready.” Paul wanted to give them spiritual food, but that is for the mature. The church there was immature and couldn’t receive food. They still needed milk. Milk is for babies. They were still babies in the faith.
Colossians gives us this, “as you received Christ Jesus the Lord,” that is salvation, as you have been born again in Christ, “so walk in him.” This simply means that what began in Christ will continue in Christ. He saved you. He will sanctify you. He continues in verse 7, be “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith” (Col. 2:6-7). Remember that the phrase “the faith” is usually a reference to the collection of doctrine in the Bible that is believed. Jude says it is “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Here, in Colossians, God is telling us to walk in Christ, that is to abide in His Word, in order that we can be built up and established in His Word.
Acts 20:32 says something similar. This is Paul’s farewell to his good friends. He has spent many years with these guys and it was time to part ways. He was moving on. It was a very intimate moment among brothers. He says to them, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” God’s Word is tool by which God builds His body in the faith. It saves you. It also grows you. Scripture is necessary for spiritual growth.
Next, you need to know that if there is no growth there will be no victory. God’s Word is necessary for sanctification—that is, becoming more and more holy. It is the matter of fighting sin. Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” Do you want to fight sin? Do you want to keep your way pure, keep your life pure? Then guard your life with God’s Word. The Bible, when it is brought into your life, works as a shield to keep away sin. It also becomes a sword to slay sin when it peaks its little head. Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
Paul describes the Word of God as a critical piece of a soldier’s armor. He says that it is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). John wrote to young men describing them as strong because “you the Word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 Jn. 2:14). The idea of abiding is all over this letter. He was urging the people to abide in Christ by abiding His Word. “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you” (1 Jn. 2:23). Abiding is the idea conforming, obeying, continuing in God’s Word. And in doing so, you be cleansed of sin and grow stronger in your fight against it.
The way it works is rather interesting. Listen, when temptations arise the Scriptures should arise. If the Word of God is in you, then the Spirit of God will reach into your heart and pull out those passages that help you fight temptation. So filling yourself with the Word of God is like filling your quiver with arrows. And when temptations come, the Spirit of God reaches in and grabs the arrow with the perfect arrow head to slay that thing. Look, here is a few ways that the Scripture helps us while temptations arise:
First, the Scriptures change our momentary desires. You know something, we sin because when we are tempted, the thing that tempts is more desirable than anything else at that moment. Don’t deceive yourself. We are slaves to the will. When our will sees something desirable, it goes after it. We fall to temptation because it is most desirable at the moment. However, if they Scriptures are in you, they are working behind the scenes rearranging your desires so that you do not desire the things that you once did. The Scriptures change your momentary desires.
Second, the Scriptures preoccupy your thoughts. Listen, temptation locks in on your through your mind. It gets into your thoughts and takes over. And when it does, your mind feeds your emotions and the will says, “this thing is most desirable.” Now, here’s the thing, Scripture is so deep, so profound, that you can meditate on it all day and it will never run dry. This is why we are told to meditate on it day and night. And listen, when you do, it will lock into your thoughts and take over. You can be preoccupied with meditating on Scripture that temptations doesn’t even have a limb to lay hold of.
Third, the Scriptures rewire your thinking. Now, this is similar to the first two but it deals more directly with logic, instead of emotion and will. Logic is that pathway of your thinking process by which one thing leads to another. Logic goes like this, “If I step in front of a moving vehicle, I will be killed; so I will not step in front of a moving vehicle.” That is logic. Before you were in Christ, logic would say, “That feels good, I will do it.” But once Scripture gets into you, your logic is rewired and it says things like this, “That feels good, but it will cause pain for my life and my family’s life as well as offend God, so I will not do it.” The Scriptures rewire your thinking.
Fourth and final way, the Scriptures sensitize your heart. Listen, we are all born with hearts of stone. Our hearts are so hard that nothing matters to us outside of what we desire. We are apathetic to wickedness, injustice, hatred, and all the evil things of this world. They don’t offend us. They don’t break our hearts. They don’t even pluck our feathers. It is like we are immune to them. But, when the Scriptures get in you, the Spirit of God tenderizes your heart and makes it sensitive to the things that God is sensitive to. When you see injustice, your heart breaks. When you see sin, your heart breaks. When you see death, your heart breaks. Why? Because God’s heart breaks. And when you get God’s Word in you, you are getting Christ in you. So, the Scriptures sensitize your heart.
The Scripture, in summary, is necessary for your sanctification. It saves you, it grows you, but it also purifies you. It makes you holy. It wars against sin and fights off temptation. Here are some final points a few other things that the Scriptures are necessary for.
Joshua 1:8 says, ”This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Success in what? Well, the Christian who has the Word of God in his heart also has the desires of God and the motivations of God and the purity of God, so he works to build the kingdom. He is building the kingdom at work, at home, at school, in the community. Where ever he is, he is building the kingdom. And get this, he desires to be successful at it. And the way to be successful is to get the Word of God in you and to meditate on it at all times. It is also by obeying it.
This, of course, is the matter of serving. Do you want to serve well? Do you want to be effective in serving? Then you need the Scriptures. When Paul was teaching his young pastor-in-training, he said, “If you put these things [that’s the truths of God] before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed” (1 Tim. 4:6). In other words, put the Word of God in you and put it before your church and they will be trained in the faith and become good servants. So the Scriptures are necessary for serving. This is how Spurgeon put it:
“I would recommend you either believe God up to the hilt, or else not to believe at all. Believe this book of God, every letter of it, or else reject it. There is no logical standing place between the two. Be satisfied with nothing less than a faith that swims in the deeps of divine revelation; a faith that paddles about the edge of the water is poor faith at best. It is little better than a dry-land faith, and is not good for much.”
If we had more time, we would also note that the Scriptures are necessary for guidance, nearness to God, and blessing from God. By “guidance” I mean knowing the will of God. He guides us through His Word. The more Word you have the more guidance you have. Philippians 2:13 says that “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” It’s as simple as that.
Now that is God’s guidance. The Bible is also necessary for God’s presence. Now, let me say this, there is nothing more satisfying than having Christ, having the presence of the Lord. The psalmist asked the question, “Whom have I in heaven but you?” This was more of a rhetorical question, I suppose. Heaven is good, but God is better. He answers this way, “And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:25-26).
This is the nearness of God. Jesus Christ is the Living Word. When you draw near to the Word, you draw near to Christ. When you draw near to Christ, you draw near to God the Father. So the Scriptures are necessary for nearness. The Psalmist knew this, he wrote, “For me, it is good to be near God.”
Let’s close with this. Scripture is necessary for salvation, sanctification, maturity, blessing, serving, guidance, and more. Necessary arises out of desperation and compels us to joy. Here’s the long story short … “God’s divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1:3).
Let me read to you a little poem I found. I think it is a good way to end this. The writer of this poem is unknown, but it doesn’t matter. It really helps us think about the Word of God more deeply. This is what it says:
The Lord I love went on ahead
To make a home for me He said.
He would come back again, and He
Oh, Gracious Love He wrote to me!
He knew I was so weak and blind
And foolish, that I could not find
The road alone. He wrote me things
That all earth’s wisemen and its kings
Have never guessed but I foreknow.
For I read His letter and oh
The depths of love on every sheet
My soul is trembling at His feet
What would He have thought of me
If when I saw Him I should say
I was too busy everyday
To read the letter You wrote to me
I really hadn’t time for Thee.
Make time for God. Make time for God’s Word. Your life depends on it.