The Holy Scriptures, Part 1 – Preface

Preface

An interest in writing on the subject of the Holy Scriptures, is one that has been with me a long time. I’ve had a strong desire for the study of God’s word since the first day that I knew my sins were forgiven in Christ. This love that I have is not just for a few favorite topics contained in the Scripture such as the gospel, law, history and prophecy. I have a deep love for the study of Scripture itself in every area, for it is the revelation of God to mankind. Early on in my spiritual pilgrimage I became aware of the fact that there was an abundant supply of Bible translations to choose from, and so, like everyone else I was forced to make a choice of which one of these I should use for my own study. I believe that the direction I took toward the selection of one of these versions was just like everything else that had just occurred in the circumstance of my conversion. It was the result of the Lord’s will. That is to say, the choice I eventually made in which translation to use was providential will.

When I was ten, my parents gave me a King James Bible for either my birthday or Christmas that year, I don’t remember which, because both of these are only three weeks apart. I would read that Bible on occasion starting at the beginning each time and continuing up to the point in which it ceased to make any sense to me. Even though the King James Bible was written in old English, and beyond the first two chapters on creation I had no clue of its meaning, still, I knew in my heart that it was indeed God’s word. That Bible eventually was packed away in storage and was forgotten about for many years, until the day came when in my twenty-ninth year, God made Himself known to me in a saving way. I then retrieved that King James Bible and began reading it. I hadn’t known that I was spiritually dead until God made me spiritually alive in Christ (Eph. 2:1,2). When God did this, there was a sudden spiritual hunger within me that cried out for the pure milk of the word. Just like a new born babe cries out for his mother’s milk, I too, did the same for God’s word. When I read that King James Bible with it’s outdated English, I heard God’s voice speaking silently, yet, powerfully to my heart.

In spite of the fact that the King James Bible was speaking to me in my new spiritual life, I stumbled over the old English words in it that were not familiar to me. I had not been brought up in a church situation, nor did I have a Christian family, so everything was new and unfamiliar to me. The thought struck me, isn’t there a Bible translation in modern English? A trip to the local Christian book store ended in the discovery and purchase of a new Living Bible. The introduction to this Bible made no bones about the fact that it wasn’t a translation, but rather a paraphrase of the Bible made for easy reading. It certainly did make my Bible reading easier, especially since all of these things were so new to me. At the same time however, something didn’t seem quite right about this Bible which I couldn’t put my hand on. The Living Bible reads like a magazine article rather than a sacred book.

I began to attend a local Baptist church in my hometown that had a wonderfully helpful minister named Pastor Heaney who took an interest in me. Pastor Heaney invited me to meet with him for some basic Bible instruction in which I’m very thankful to God for as I think back on those days. Pastor Heaney convinced me of the propriety of using something better than the Living Bible, one that is a legitimate translation of the original languages. He gave me a modern English paperback edition of the New King James Version which I was delighted to learn existed. This translation of the Bible done in modern English was plain in its manner of expression and therefore, easy to read. It was through these several circumstances at the beginning of my spiritual pilgrimage that God providentially brought me into contact with His written word.

What I found to be especially helpful from Pastor Heaney was his instruction concerning the direction my Bible reading should take. I was advised to start with the Gospel of John for in it contains a clear picture of whom Jesus is with a special focus on His Deity and miracles. It was there and then that I realized that the Bible was not just a collection of writings from God given to read a little here and there. But rather, that it had a specific construction to it that should be approached in a certain way, according to the specific spiritual need of doctrinal instruction. As I read that Bible in the book of John, over and over again, the reality of the Deity of the Person of Jesus Christ jumped out of the pages at me. The book of John is loaded with all kinds of doctrinal teaching that bring a new Christian into familiarity with the Person and work of Jesus Christ. It seems especially suited to this end. Thereafter, my lifelong love affair with God and His word was well on its way.

There was another providential thing which happened to me too that occurred shortly after I had been converted to the Christian faith. I was suddenly forced to relocate to another town. Although it wouldn’t have been too far for me to drive to the church I had been attending, the Lord brought people and circumstances into my life, that led me to seek another church which was located in the town I had moved into. Within that first year of my spiritual life, a friend from work as well as one of the Elders of that church, each simultaneously gave me a book as a gift from the same author, AW Pink. The first of these was entitled “The Attributes of God,” and the second one “The Sovereignty of God.” The reading of these two books introduced me to a couple of important things about God which had a profound effect upon me. The first of these was the nature of God and His attributes, the second, was the nature of Theology, that it is systematic and logical.

Of course, the premier book of systematic Theology in Scripture is the book of Romans. Throughout the second year of my spiritual life, Romans became the next course of study for me, as it brought me into contact with all the great, and most important doctrines of the Bible. The following year, it was the book of Hebrews which occupied my personal study time, which familiarized me with an understanding of the Old Covenant, and it’s relationship to Christ in the New. I mention all of this to illustrate my previous statement about the construction of God’s word, and our approach to studying it. Even though the word of God came about over the course of approximately fifteen hundred years, through many (app. 40) human authors, it has been transmitted and compiled by none other than the Spirit of God.

This book is an amazing book that has no parallel anywhere in written history. Because the Bible is the word of the living God, it is a spiritual document that can be read over and over again, with new discoveries of Him to be found every time. No other book is like this, not even from the most gifted and educated men that God has ever given to the church. A contemplation of the reality of this fact has been at the root of my interest in writing about this Holy book from God. By faith we believe in and live for an unseen God, but He is not silent in the slightest. The voice of God is in the book called the Bible. In these words a silent voice speaks to the heart of the faithful communicating the wisdom and the will of the invisible Deity to them; In these words the eye of faith beholds the living God, enabling it to “see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3). This is what I want to convey in some measure to the reader, in this attempt to write about God and His word.

Having said this, I will attempt to focus the remainder of my opening remarks on the primary purpose of my interest in the subject. But before doing so, there is another less positive side to it that requires a few words to be spoken of here as well. It wasn’t very long into my new life as a believer in Christ that I became painfully aware of many things about the church at large, but especially of its views on the handling of Scripture. Although I was learning the things of God at a steady pace, I found that there were many around me who said they were Christians, but had little time or use for it in their lives. As I read God’s word, I trembled at what seemed obvious to me in it, that it speaks to every area of the Christian life with authority. And since it is from God as His word to mankind, it should be received as such by all, especially His people.

I was troubled to learn that many in the church however, did not share this same attitude with me. The result of this discovery was to learn that much of what is in the modern church is not biblical at all. As I learned more and more from Scripture, it became necessary for me to constantly evaluate every thing I believed and practiced, and if necessary, to make changes if I was made aware of a more accurate understanding of it. At first, with nothing else to go on, I accepted everything that I was exposed too in the church. But in time it became apparent to me through diligent Bible study, that this was not an acceptable thing to do, for there was much that I could see in it that just didn’t square with Scripture. I wondered, if the people I saw in church are reading the word of God like I thought I was, with an open and objective mind, how could this be? Over time, it became apparent to me as well, that two people can look at the same thing in Scripture, but see two different things in it. Again, because the Bible is the book of the living God, it is not some sort of academic writing, but a spiritual book full of wisdom that requires understanding from God.

There were therefore, certain questions that came to me such as “If professing Christians can differ so much on just about everything to do with the faith and practice of it, what is the cause of this?” “Surely there is only one body of truth as it relates to God, why then is the church so fragmented when the Scriptures clearly teach the unity of the Spirit?” The conclusion I eventually came too, was that because of remaining sin and ignorance even regenerate people were prone to accepting error if it is packaged properly. What I mean by this is that regeneration by no means erases the tendency for bias in God’s people. When a person becomes a new believer just like I did, they become exposed to certain things in the church without any basis of evaluation. The newness of being born again, along with the sincerity of heart it brings leads a Christian initially to accept everything they are being exposed to by respected others. The Pastor, the Deacons, older believers in the faith, all of these are looked to for guidance. If something wrong is believed or practiced it is often adopted without question.

Once a wrong belief or practice is accepted by someone however, the sin of pride often takes over. It takes a truly teachable heart to change and mature in the Christian faith. Bad examples are hard to change when they are given by the right people. For a time I assumed that the issue merely involved having the right information. I quickly found out this was not true when I discovered how vehemently people would defend a false position, even using Scripture to do it against better teaching. The real explanation for disunity in the church is because of the presence of a party spirit that is the fruit of remaining sin. A sort of deliberate ignorance exists where there is an unwillingness to be challenged by God’s word in any given matter. I discovered too, that part of this issue related to what a person believes about the word of God itself, that is, whether it was authoritative in everything it said or not. Of course, this is a matter of the heart too, but it is an attitude that affects the faith of a Christian. Some are content to accept only parts of the Bible while simply paying no attention to others.

There is another matter that has drawn me into this work on the Holy Scripture and that is the matter of Bible translation. As I already have noted above, I was confronted early in my faith with the question of Bible translation. Although I recognized the voice of God in the King James Version, still there was to me a certain amount of disconnection due to the archaic language that it employed. I yearned for a translation in a language that I could better understand. This is what motivated me to obtain a paraphrase like the Living Bible. I have since become keenly aware of a major problem that exists in the modern church about the Bible. A plethora of Bible translations that don’t agree with each other has presented a problem in our day that needs addressing.

Underlying this issue is the matter of the Greek text that the Bible should be based on in its translation. Most Christians are completely ignorant of the fact that there has been a dispute in the academic field of textual criticism for more than a hundred years in this matter. This dispute involves the question of which particular available version of the Greek text should be used for translation. Although I’m no Greek scholar, I have researched the history of this dispute in the light of what logical biblical faith requires in regard to it. I have discovered that it is not a matter of being a Greek scholar that resolves the confusion of the controversy, but rather, in understanding what has happened providentially in the development of modern translations. I do not think it is coincidental that decline in the church for more than a hundred years has run parallel to this controversy, and just how it has been approached by men in positions of authority.

In conclusion then, my interest in a study of the Scriptures is one in which I desire to address all matters of faith and practice in the Christian faith as they relate to the Scriptures. I will do so with God’s help of course, and not because I’m clever. If I have gotten anything right about this subject it is because God has shown it to me in His word, having given me eyes to see, and a heart to receive the things therein (I Cor. 2:12). For this reason all glory must go to God and Him alone. I do want to say as well, that the substance of my essay has come from a collection of outlines I prepared in the nineties for use in a Bible study I taught to a group of people. Most of it came from using the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. In regard to the subject matter, it is constructed according to the paragraphs found in the chapter on the Holy Scriptures. The outlines are entirely mine however, as well as the substance of the essay. Anything that is not will be duly noted. It is my hope that God will use this in whatever way He might choose.

 

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