“Holy Scripture, being God's own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God's instruction, in all that it affirms: obeyed, as God's command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God's pledge, in all that it promises.” Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy, 1978.
That was the Declaration of almost 300 Evangelical scholars at a time that some Bible teachers and Seminaries were holding and teaching liberal views. Some had started to deny the authority of the Scriptures on certain issues.
We are still on the series, “Listening to the Holy Spirit”. You may access the previous articles by clicking on the link. I had noted that the written Word of God, the Scriptures, the Bible, is one of the ways the Holy Spirit speaks today. It is not just one of the ways, but the major way the Holy Spirit speaks today.
The assertion that God speaks through the Scriptures sounds like a hyperbole, after all, the Scripture is God’s Word. Yes, the Scripture is God’s Word, but many times people read God’s Word without hearing what God is saying. There was a man in the Bible, the Ethiopian Eunuch, who was reading the Scriptures but could not hear the voice of God in the Scriptures. (Acts 8:28-40). Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him. Philip helped him to understand what God was saying. In response, the Ethiopian eunuch repented and was baptized. So many people have read the story of Jesus, His crucifixion, resurrection and God’s gift of salvation, yet have not responded with a resounding, “Yes”. They have not in return, surrendered their own lives to God. This is an indication that they have not heard God from the Scriptures. I can compare this to a Police Officer who has been busy tracking down a robbery gang. He met this young, innocent man on the road and told him to leave the road, take cover because of the danger in the environment. If this young man keeps walking along the street without responding in any way to the instruction of the Policeman, what would you think could be the possible reason for that behaviour? Mostly likely he never understood! When someone understands God’s call to safety, the person would mostly likely give a positive response.
Do we then conclude that, if someone is born again he or she always hears God from the Scriptures? Not necessarily! Many people have read the Scriptures and concluded that the days of miracles are over. Some believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues, prophecy, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, etc., are no longer available to modern Christians; some professors in Biblical studies have held that prophecies of the Old Testament have contextual interpretations, and do not apply to events in the world today.
Some zealous believers, reading what Jesus said in Mark 11:22-24 came up with “name it, claim it” fantasy. And the list goes on. It is a proof that Christians read the Scriptures but sometimes, do not hear God in the Scriptures.
Apostle Paul understood this problem and offered his explanation with the admonition, “Who also has made us able ministers of the new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” (2Cor.3:6).
It is not just the Old Testament Law Paul was referring to here, but any legalistic, sterile interpretation of the Word of God without the illumination of the Holy Spirit. That is to say, even in the New Testament, the Word of God could be interpreted without the insight of the Holy Spirit, and it kills nonetheless. When we read our own meanings into the Word of God, it kills instead of giving life. Except the Holy Spirit gives light to your heart on a Scripture you could read that Scripture times without number without hearing what God is saying. So, Paul prayed for the Ephesian Church,
“Wherefore, I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power…” Eph.1:15-19. It takes illumination of the Holy Spirit to hear God in the Scriptures.
“Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.” 2Pet.1:20-21.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2Tim.3:16.”
Peter told us that the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament Apostles were moved by the Holy Spirit as they spoke and wrote; and Paul told us that the Scriptures came by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This inspiration is not the same way believers today receive inspirations. Today, when a believer says he is inspired by the Holy Spirit he actually means that, he is motivated, influenced, stirred, directed or lead by the Holy Spirit. But, when we say the Scriptures came by the inspiration of God, it means that the words penned down as Scriptures (by the Apostles and Prophets) were “breathed out” by God. That is, they were dictated by God. The Spirit of God was encapsulated in those words. The root word translated spirit is the same that is translated, breathe. It is impossible to separate the Word of God from the Spirit of God. The prophets were like stenographers, they penned down what they heard. And what they penned down were God’s Spirit expressed in written form.
Everyone who desires to hear God must first believe that the Scriptures is the written Word of God, and that God means what He says in the Bible. There must be absolute confidence that the Scriptures are God’s own Words, even though they were written through many writers. Without this confidence in the Scriptures the believer is predisposed to delusion even before he or she begins.
The Scripture must be given the regard of an Absolute in a world of relativism. It is the Divine Standard. The believer must approach the Scriptures with the reverence of an Arbiter. The Scripture is the Arbiter of Truth. (An arbiter is a person empowered to decide matters at issue; judge; umpire; a person who has the sole or absolute power of judging or determining). The Scripture should be recognized as Sovereign; the finality in every controversy; the authority before whom every argument and reasoning bow. The Scripture must be consulted as the Absolute in every matter it engages.
“And that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2Tim.3:16.
The standard expounded in the Scriptures is adequate for Divine approval. Any believer who seeks the approval of God has one manual of reference, and that is, the Scripture. Any believer who seeks to be properly equipped to execute God’s work according to Divine prescriptions has one instructional manual, namely, the Scripture. The absolute authority of the Scriptures must not be in doubt if a man wants to hear from God.
Failure to acknowledge the total, absolute authority of the Scriptures has made many Christians to cling to dreams, personal visions and revelations, ideas and opinions which they preach and teach as though they were equal to Scriptures. The fastest way to detect apostasy in churches today is to compare the practices of that church with the practices of the early Apostles. Apostle Paul said he laid down the pattern for this Building (1Cor.3:10-11).
Matthew Henry, in his Bible Commentary, commenting on the statement of Paul, said, “But let every man take heed; there may be bad building on a good foundation. Nothing must be laid upon it, but what the foundation will bear, and what is of a piece with it … But of those who rest on this foundation, there are two sorts. Some hold nothing but the truth as it is in Jesus, and preach nothing else. Others build on the good foundation what will not abide the test, when the day of trial comes. We may be mistaken in ourselves and others; but there is a day coming that will show our actions in the true light, without covering or disguise. Those who spread true and pure religion in all its branches, and whose work will abide in the great day, shall receive a reward.”
If the structure you build upon this foundation (your teaching, preaching, practice, etc.) does not match the structure and quality of the foundation already laid in the Scripture, particularly the Gospel preached by Jesus Christ and the Epistles of the Apostles) you stand the risk of getting your works burnt.
Let each of us search within and ask ourselves these questions;
As we meditate on these questions let us turn them into prayers. Let us allow the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin, disobedience and lethargy towards God; and may we be humble enough to repent, draw closer to God and learn to hear God from His Word.
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