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Reason or Revelation? (3)

J McCall, Australia

Revelation and its Completeness

Does the Bible teach sufficiency and finality? Whatever subject is addressed, the Bible provides all the revelation from God that we need to have. Each subject introduced by the Holy Spirit is fully considered, either by direct precept or by indirect principle. This is what is meant by the sufficiency of Scripture. Sufficiency and finality are plainly evidenced in how God righteously justifies the sinner and how He spiritually furnishes the believer.

How God righteously justifies the sinner

Romans 1-5 establishes that mankind is guilty and needs to be justified, and, being guilty, is subject to the righteous judgment of God on account of personal sin. Before the sinner’s need could be met, there is still the more urgent question of meeting the claims of God’s justice which had to be satisfied before a single sinner could be justified. Romans 3.24-26 teaches that such claims have been fully met in the Person and propitiatory sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 3.26 declares triumphantly, "…that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus" (RV).

What does it mean to be justified? What is its Scriptural definition? Some simplistically define justification to be "as if I had never sinned", but this would mean to be in a state of innocence. Such a suggestion is entirely without Scriptural support. Justification has always to do with the dealing of guilt, as Romans 5.16 explains: "The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation" (NASB). Paul is saying that the one sin of Adam brought inevitable judgment and the verdict was condemnation. But the free gift of Christ dealt effectively with many offences, not just one, and resulted in the verdict of acquittal. Therefore, justification must mean the clearance of the guilty in God’s court of justice; they are declared righteous, and brought into a new and right relationship with Him.

God justifies the sinner in three ways:

a) Sovereignly by grace – its source. "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom 3.24). This is given gratuitously by God. The word "freely" is translated in John 15.25 as, "…they hated me without a cause". It is by grace alone, because God’s free bounty is the only adequate cause for such an act on God’s part. The gospel of God’s grace tells how He justifies sinners as a free gift and by an act of unmerited favour. It cannot be earned. It can only be accepted. As it is by grace, it cannot be an achievement. It is given and received undeservingly.

b) Meritoriously by blood – its cause. "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him" (Rom 5.9). It is by blood, because there must be a righteous basis on which God can act, and one that will provide an unchallengeable answer to the universe. Such an answer is in His blood: "justified by (in) his blood". This is the application of His death, appropriated by faith, recognising that His blood was the price that was paid.

c) Instrumentally by faith – its means. "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 5.1). It is by faith, because this is the principle on which all blessings are received from God. The empty hand is outstretched to receive the gift of justification. Faith is taking God at His word. It is an assurance that what He has promised to do He will do.

How God spiritually furnishes the believer

This is another telling example of the sufficiency of Scripture: "That the man of God (representatively) may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work" (2 Tim 3.17, RV). The first nine verses of this chapter describe the character of the last days as days of sham, scandal, and sacrilege. It is far worse than Romans 1, where they had the light of creation and conscience. But here they have the complete revelation of God in His Son, and in His Word. Observe important issues in 2 Timothy 3.13-17.

a) The progress of evil (v.13). "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." It is sad to witness the progressive degeneracy of those who reject and repudiate the Word of God. Notice that the expression, "deceiving, and being deceived" refers to those who juggle the truth for others, and in the end are themselves hopelessly caught in the deception. They follow Satan’s old line of questioning the inerrancy of what God has said: "Yea, hath God said…?" (Gen 3.1). God’s motives were impugned and His veracity was brought under suspicion. How necessary for the Christian to be vigilant of this.

b) The perseverance in the things believed (v.14). "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them." The man of God is being encouraged to hold fast the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, and to continue in the way of life that those teachings have outlined. This would enable him to stand against the swirling currents of false and foul teaching developing around him. "Knowing of whom thou hast learned" would have included Paul, and the other New Testament prophets. Those who passed on such an untarnished spiritual heritage would not misrepresent, nor exaggerate, nor neglect anything that pertained to his spiritual well-being.

c) The privilege of being taught the Scriptures from infancy (v.15). "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures." The general trend today is in the opposite direction. There are those who claim that learning and memorising Scripture is of no value to little children, because the Scriptures are not related to the actual experience of children. Timothy’s example is substantial proof of such folly. It is wholesome for children to have their minds saturated with the Word of God, even before they can fully comprehend its teachings.

d) The profit and purpose of the inspired writings (vv.16-17). "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."

i. Their scope (vv.14-16). This embraces the inspired writings of the New Testament (v.14) - "the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them"; the inspired writings of the Old Testament (v.15) - "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures…"; and both Old and New Testaments (v.16). It is important to observe that the writings of Paul, and the other writers of the New Testament, are of equal validity with those of the Old Testament. Peter acknowledged this when he wrote (2 Pet 3.15,16): "…even as our beloved brother Paul also…hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles…in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest (distort) as they do also the other scriptures". The New Testament revelation is the complement of the Old Testament.

ii. Their source (v.16). "All scripture is given by inspiration of God." The entire phrase, "given by inspiration of God", is expressed in the original by one word, theopneustos, which means "God-breathed". This word is only used once in the New Testament, but not used at all in secular Greek. It would seem that God fashioned the word for the special purpose of informing us accurately how He transmitted His mind into the language of men. The Scriptures are the product of the creative breath of God, just as the creation of the universe is described in Psalm 33.6: "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth". Divine inspiration of Scripture covers not only the thoughts, but extends to the very choice of words. We are told that "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Pet 1.21).

Inspiration, then, of necessity takes in both, and is known as the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Scriptures. This expression means that, in the composition of Scripture, the Spirit of God chose every word, and that His superintending work in inspiration extends to the whole Bible, and to each part of the Bible. Plenary inspiration ensures that all that we have come to affirm as Scripture is both authoritative and profitable for belief and practice.

iii Their success (vv.16-17). Does the Word of God possess inherent powers to achieve what no other book is able to do? Hebrews 4.12 reminds us that "the word of God is quick, and powerful (living and effectual), and sharper than any twoedged sword".

Here in 2 Timothy 3.16 it is profitable for: doctrine (teaching what is true), reproof (convicting what is false), correction (restoring from what is wrong), instruction in righteousness (disciplinary training in what is right), "that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work" (RV). This has the meaning of being "altogether fitted out for a long ocean voyage". This is true, lasting, and rewarding success. Nothing but the Word of God, correctly interpreted, and applied, can produce such abiding results.

To be continued.


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