The previous article sought to outline the attitude of the Old Testament (OT) prophets to the Scriptures. We now turn to the apostles in the New Testament (NT) and consider Paul and his view of Scripture as outlined in the Epistle to the Romans.
THE SCRIPTURES: UNIQUE!
The dictionarys definition of "unique" is "having no like or equal" and this summarises the attitude of Paul to the Word of God. Note the following:
Authorship: In Romans 3.2 Paul referred to Scripture as "the oracles of God" (see also Acts 7.38; Heb 5.12; 1 Pet 4.11). They represent the very words of God (with their truth initially committed to the nation of Israel - see Rom 9.4; Ps 147.19-20). The prophets (Hosea is cited as one example, Rom 9.25) were used to record Gods written Word (Rom 15.4).
Accuracy: The Apostle refers to the Bible as "the holy Scriptures" (Rom 1.2). Note this description as it confirms that Paul considered the Bible to be sacred, pure and without error (cp. 2 Tim 3.15).
Authority: Paul considered the Scriptures to be fully authoritative in all aspects: eg. theology, there is one God over both Jew and Gentile (Rom 3.29); ministry, only faith in the work of God can bring salvation (Rom 4.3); and history, Paul refers to a range of OT characters as genuine historic figures (for example, Adam & Moses in Rom 5.14).
THE SCRIPTURES: UNDERSTANDABLE!
The epistle confirms that the Bible can be accessed by any and all of Gods children. Note the following:
Revelation: The Scriptures stand as two book-ends to the epistle (Rom 1.2 & 16.26) and both references teach that God delights to reveal Himself to His people. This revelation is personal (about Himself, His Son and the Holy Spirit Rom 1.1-4) and progressive (the mystery of Jews and Gentiles being united through the gospel was a secret only revealed in the NT Rom 16.25-26).
Quotation: The Apostle uses in excess of fifty quotations from the OT and two points emerge from this statistic. Firstly, we can and should seek to memorise Scripture. Secondly, what the Bible says God says. For example, in Romans 7.7 Paul states that the law condemns covetousness (the OT reference is from Ex 20 where God is the direct speaker); in Romans 9.17 Paul refers to Scripture speaking to Pharaoh (the OT reference is from Ex 9.13-16 where God is the speaker).
Interpretation: Paul uses various OT characters to press home important truths. For example, Abraham and David illustrate the principle of trust (Rom 4); Adam is contrasted with the Lord (Rom 5); Isaac and Jacob show Gods prerogative to save whomsoever He will (Rom 9); and Elijah/7,000 unnamed believers teach that God is faithful to those who serve Him (Rom 11).
Consolation: The written Word of God is designed to comfort the people of God (Rom 15.4). In times of worry we should resort to the Word.
THE SCRIPTURES: USABLE!
Within each section of the epistle the Apostle displays how the Word of God can be applied to each and every avenue of life. For example:
Sin: In the opening three chapters the Apostle shows that both Jew and Gentile are sinners before God. In proving the reality of sin (Rom 3.9-18) Paul points to a range of Scriptures five from the Psalms and one from the Prophets (Isaiah).
Salvation: Between Romans 3.21 and Romans 5 the plan to save guilty sinners is outlined. We learn that salvation upholds the righteousness of God and justifies those who believe on His Son. The role of the OT is to bear testimony to the saving grace of God (note the reference to "the law and the prophets" in Rom 3.21).
Sanctification: In the section between Romans 6 and the end of Romans 8 Paul shows that salvation brings us into a new association with Christ: freedom from the law and life through the Holy Spirit. There are references from the Law (Rom 7.7; Ex 20.17) and the Psalms (Rom 8.36; Ps 44.22), with the latter teaching that nothing, even extreme persecution, can separate the believer from Christ.
Sovereignty: The Gospel enables the believer (Jew or Gentile) to access the same spiritual blessing. Furthermore, between Romans 9 and Romans 11 the Apostle teaches that God will fulfil His OT promises to Israel. A variety of OT references are used, with the central chapter teaching some sublime truth regarding Scripture (eg Rom 10.17).
Service: The concluding section (Rom 12-16) gives practical guidance on Christian living. From responsibilities in the assembly and government (Rom 12-13) to personal conduct and evangelism (Rom 14-15), the Scriptures are used to outline our duty as believers (eg. Rom 12.20; 13.9).
THE SCRIPTURES: UNCHANGEABLE!
One chapter of the epistle (Rom 15) can be used to confirm the eternal character of Gods Word. Note the following:
The Sections of Scripture: In the chapter, the Apostle draws from the three sections of the OT to support his teaching the Law (v.10), the Psalms (v.3) and the Prophets (v.12). This consistency (between OT and NT) confirms that Scripture is immutable.
The Strength of Scripture: The phrase "it is written" is repeated throughout the chapter (eg. vv.3,9,21). It confirms the durability of the Word; it cannot be broken (Jer 23.29; Jn 10.35). "The phrase [it is written] is significant in that it registers the fact that what follows is part of the written and unbreakable word of God" (B Edwards, Nothing but the Truth, Evangelical Press, 2006).
The Subject of Scripture: The chapter confirms that the Lord is the theme of the Bible He is the One who accomplished the will of God despite the cost (v.3), and He established OT truth through His ministry (v.8). Both the incarnate Word and inspired Word are immutable.
THE SCRIPTURES: UP-TO-DATE!
The epistle displays the dual truth of Bible history (eg. Rom 5.14) and prophecy (eg. Rom 11.25-27). If the record of the past is shown to be accurate (which it has been), we should be confident about what the Bible says regarding the future. To be continued.