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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by continuing to examine Christology. Last time we finished discussing Christ’s fulfilling the office of our King. Dr. Spencer, what would like to cover today?

Dr. Spencer: I want to cover Christ as our example. We have talked about his three offices, he is our Prophet, Priest and King. But in addition to those offices he is also our example. In Romans 8:29 we are told that “those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”[1] So Jesus is also our older brother and we should emulate him.

Marc Roby: That makes me think of Ephesians 5:1-2, where the apostle Paul gave us this command; “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Dr. Spencer: Yes, Paul uses the example of children, which is exactly the picture we should have in mind. Children emulate their parents and their older siblings. It is completely natural. And if we are children of God, we should emulate Jesus Christ. He is the unique God-man, he came in the flesh and so we should look to him as our example. He is our older brother and, in addition, we are told in John 14:9 that Jesus told Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” And in Hebrews 1:3 we read that “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being”. Therefore, if we want to emulate our heavenly Father, we should emulate Jesus Christ.

Marc Roby: Of course we shouldn’t do everything he did, some things that he did were appropriate only for him as the God-man.

Dr. Spencer: And the same thing is true of children. They shouldn’t emulate their parents in everything because there are things that it is proper for a parent to do but not for a child. But, ignoring that rather obvious point, Jesus is our example. And so we should ask ourselves, what characterized the life of Christ? And a one-word answer should come immediately to mind.

Marc Roby: Yes, obedience.

Dr. Spencer: You’re absolutely correct. In John 8:29 we read that Jesus said, “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” And when Jesus was facing his crucifixion, we read in Luke 22:42 that he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus was fully submitted to the will of God the Father, even to the point of taking our sins upon himself and going to the cross.

Marc Roby: That is obedience in the most difficult situation anyone has ever faced.

Dr. Spencer: In his marvelous book called Redemption Accomplished and Applied, John Murray wrote the following with regard to Christ’s work of redemption: “The Scripture regards the work of Christ as one of obedience and uses this term, or the concept that it designates, with sufficient frequency to warrant the conclusion that obedience is generic and therefore embracive enough to be viewed as the unifying or integrating principle.”[2] In other words, obedience is the rubric under which we can place all of Christ’s work. And it then follows, since we are to be conformed to his image, that obedience should also characterize our lives.

Marc Roby: We have certainly looked at quite a number of Scriptures in the past few sessions that speak about the necessity of obedience for God’s people.

Dr. Spencer: And we could have looked at many more. If you read the New Testament with obedience in mind, you will see that it jumps out at you from almost every page in one way or another. In Titus 2:11-12 Paul wrote, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age”.

Marc Roby: That’s an important point. We are to live godly lives in this present age. And we do that by walking in obedience.

Dr. Spencer: And we must point out the obvious, it is God to whom we owe absolute, unquestioning obedience.

Marc Roby: That certainly should be obvious.

Dr. Spencer: But it then leads to a very important question.

Marc Roby: Which is?

Dr. Spencer: How do I know what God wants me to do?

Marc Roby: That is a very good question. But I think the answer is obvious, I should look in his Word and listen to his delegated authorities. But the Word is primary – even properly delegated authorities are not to be obeyed if they tell me to sin.

Dr. Spencer: I agree that that should be obvious. The Word of God is our only infallible rule for faith and conduct. But regrettably, the modern church world has turned away from that obvious truth in a number of different ways. Many professing Christians do not believe that the Bible even is the inspired word of God. They think it is just fallible human testimony about things God has done. It may contain the Word of God at some points, but it is up to us to somehow ferret out what that word is.

Marc Roby: That would be a rather hopeless situation. It necessarily implies that something else becomes the ultimate standard by which we judge truth.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that is exactly the problem with any view that lowers the Bible to anything less than God’s infallible Word. It immediately means that we have some other ultimate standard by which we judge the Bible. We spent a fair amount of time early on in these podcasts discussing the Word of God. I encourage any new listeners who are interested to go to our archive at whatdoesthewordsay.org and look at Sessions 22-25, which discuss the doctrine of the Word of God; namely, that it is sufficient, necessary, authoritative and clear for salvation. And then also look at Sessions 34-38, which present the case that the Bible is the infallible Word of God.

Marc Roby: That material does form a foundation for everything we are doing. Why else would be so interested to know what the Word says?

Dr. Spencer: Exactly. And it is also important that we know how to properly interpret the Word, which was the topic of Sessions 39-48 covering the science of hermeneutics.

But getting back to emulating God. If we use anything other than God’s Word as our guide, we are getting into subjectivism and are in very dangerous territory.

Marc Roby: There is an important biblical example of God’s people doing something that was in itself good, but which resulted in judgment because they weren’t following God’s prescribed method. I’m thinking about the case of Uzzah.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that is a great example. King David wanted to move the arc of the covenant to Jerusalem, which he had properly established as the center of worship now that he was in charge of the united kingdom. The arc had been kept in Kiriath Jearim and we read about David’s first attempt to move it to Jerusalem in 1 Chronicles 13. And the important point is that he did not inquire of God by praying and looking in the Word of God to see how to do it. They followed their own ideas and moved it by placing in on a cart pulled by oxen.

Marc Roby: And they thought they were being very careful and reverent. We are even told that they used a new cart. But when the oxen stumbled and Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, we read in 1 Chronicles 13:10 that “The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God.”

Dr. Spencer: God’s response often strikes people as being way too harsh. After all, Uzzah was just trying to prevent the ark from sliding off of the cart. But we are not allowed to worship God and do his work in any way that we please. We read in 1 Chronicles 15:13 that David later said to the heads of the priestly families, “It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the LORD our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way.”

David had the Word of God and should have consulted it and prayed the first time. If he had, Uzzah would not have died.

Marc Roby: Sin has serious consequences.

Dr. Spencer: Sin is the cause of all human troubles and it is the reason people go to hell. So, yes, it is very serious. And God is very serious about our need to worship him correctly. The prophet Amos prophesied around the middle of the 8th century before Christ, when the Jewish people were divided into a northern and a southern kingdom. This was a time of great prosperity for the Jewish people, so you would have thought that they were enjoying the blessings of God because he was pleased with them. But that is not the case.

Marc Roby: It was a time that had a lot in common with our day. Prosperity caused the people to turn away from the true and living God in all kinds of ways.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. And we read in Amos 5:21-23 that God said, “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.”

Marc Roby: That again sounds harsh. The people were having religious feasts and assemblies and were bringing the burnt offerings required by the law, but God would not accept them.

Dr. Spencer: It does sound harsh to modern ears, but God is the Creator and we are only creatures. We must worship him in a way that is acceptable to him, not in a way that we choose. And he isn’t just interested in the outward form of our religion, he is interested in the heart attitude and the lives we live. We can’t worship God and our idols at the same time. He demands exclusive, obedient worship.

Marc Roby: But many modern professing Christians would object to the examples of Uzzah and Amos because they are in the Old Testament. How would you respond to them?

Dr. Spencer: I would remind them that God cannot change. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament. And we can look at two New Testament examples to show that God doesn’t change. First, let’s consider Ananias and Saphira. We read about them in Acts Chapter 5.

Marc Roby: We should probably set the context first. Ananias and Saphira were part of the early church in Jerusalem and we are told in Acts 4:32, 34-35 that “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. …  There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”

Dr. Spencer: This situation is sometime erroneously used to say that Christianity supports the idea of socialism, but nothing could be further from the truth. These people were voluntarily sharing their possessions in a very unusual set of circumstances. But, let’s get back to Ananias and Saphira.

Marc Roby: Alright. In Acts 5:1-5 we read, “Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.’ When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.”

Dr. Spencer: And we also read later that God also struck down Saphira when she came in and told the same lie. And, even though this is now the New Testament, I can almost hear some people again thinking this is too harsh. But God used this to set an example for the early church. He knows and judges the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. Ananias and Saphira were not under any compulsion to sell their property and give the money to the apostles. As Peter pointed out, they were free to keep all or part of the money. Their sin was not giving less than all of it, their sin was lying about it to try and appear more generous and zealous than they really were. And God judged them severely. He is the same God yesterday, today and forever.

Marc Roby: And you mentioned that you wanted to examine a second New Testament example.

Dr. Spencer: Yes. The church in Corinth had some problems with unity among the believers. One manifestation was, evidently, that when they gathered together for a feast that included partaking of the Lord’s supper, those who were wealthy feasted while those who were poor went hungry and were publicly humiliated for not having food. Paul dealt with this problem harshly. We read in 1 Corinthians 11:17, “In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.” And then he goes on in Verses 20-22 to write, “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!”

Marc Roby: That is rather harsh by modern church standards, but it is not as harsh as God himself was with their situation.

Dr. Spencer: No, it’s not. God was not pleased and the result was trouble for the Corinthian church. Paul wrote in Verses 27-30, “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.”

Marc Roby: And saying that some had “fallen asleep” was clearly a euphemism for dying. God had brought weakness, sickness and death to the Corinthian congregation for this extreme lack of unity and brotherly love.

Dr. Spencer: And I can again almost hear people thinking that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. But God does not change. The God of the New Testament is the same as the God of the Old Testament. He takes the unity and love between his people very seriously. As we are told in 1 John 3:10, “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”

Marc Roby: And so proper worship again depends on living an obedient life. The two great commandments according to Jesus are to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we aren’t doing that, we are not truly God’s children. In other words, we are not born again and are not on our way to heaven.

Dr. Spencer: Exactly. Obedience is the essential and necessary proof that we have been born again. It is the sine qua non of true Christianity, meaning that it is essential. As we have said a number of times, it is not the basis for our salvation, but if we are truly saved there will be obedience. In Proverbs 28:9 we are told that “If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable.” We must pay attention to God’s law and we must obey it.

In Acts 26:20 the apostle Paul wrote that “First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” It isn’t just what we say that matters, but what we do.

Marc Roby: Well, I look forward to continuing this discussion, but we are out of time for today, so let me take this opportunity to remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org, and we’ll get back to you.

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1955, pg. 19

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Marc Roby: In these podcasts, we have now covered two of the six classic loci of reformed theology; theology proper – in other words, the study of God, and anthropology, which is the study of man. We still have four more loci to cover: Christology, which is the study of Jesus Christ the Redeemer; Soteriology, which means the study of salvation; Ecclesiology, which means the study of the church; and Eschatology, which means the study of last things. And so, today we are going to begin to examine biblical Christology. Dr. Spencer, how would you like to start?

Dr. Spencer: I’d like to begin by pointing out the logic behind the order of presentation we are using. We began our podcast series with some preliminary material: why people should be interested in what the Bible says, a brief outline of what the Bible teaches, and a presentation of external evidence that corroborates the truthfulness of Bible. We then went on to present a case that the Bible is sufficient, necessary, authoritative and clear, which can be represented by the acrostic SNAC.

Marc Roby: And when we say the Bible is sufficient and necessary, we mean that it is sufficient and necessary for salvation.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. And we then made the case that the Bible is infallible, which is what one would expect since it is the Word of God. And we closed our preliminary material by discussing hermeneutics, the science of how to properly interpret the Bible.

We then began looking at the six loci of reformed theology, which you noted at the beginning of today’s session. We started by examining theology proper, the study of God. And we did that first because true biblical Christianity is theocentric, meaning it is God centered. The purpose of creation is the manifestation of the glory of God. He is the only eternal, self-existent, necessary reality. Everything else exists only because God chose to create it and chooses to sustain it.

Marc Roby: And we have made the point many times that we must always keep the Creator/creature distinction in mind.

Dr. Spencer: That distinction is critically important. The universe does not revolve around us. We do not exist necessarily, only God does. We then moved on to discuss anthropology, which is the study of man. Now it might at first seem strange that we would cover anthropology second. Why not, for example, discuss Christology first?

Marc Roby: Yes, that’s a good question. Especially since Jesus Christ is God incarnate and we began with theology proper. So continuing with Christology would make sense.

Dr. Spencer: It would, but we must ask the question, “Why did Jesus Christ become incarnate?” Why, in other words, did God become man?

Marc Roby: And the short answer of course is that God became man in order to save his people from their sins. We are told in Matthew 1:21 that before Jesus was born an angel appeared to Mary’s fiancée, Joseph, and said, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” [1] This is the good news God offers to us, we can be saved.

Dr. Spencer: That is the best possible news. And notice that we can’t fully understand who Jesus Christ is and what he has done without first understanding the problem he came to solve. In other words, the gospel, which simply means good news, makes no sense unless we have first received the bad news that we are by nature justly subject to God’s wrath and headed for eternal hell. The solution makes no sense if you don’t understand the problem.

Marc Roby: But, of course, many people do not believe that they are sinners, or that there is an eternal hell.

Dr. Spencer: And that is why we must always begin by presenting people with the problem. The reality is that everyone knows in their heart that God exists. Paul tells us this in Romans Chapter 1. Many people won’t admit that fact, but it is true nonetheless. And the universality of sin is also obvious. Why do we need keys? Why do we need passwords for our bank accounts? Why do we read about crime every single day? And why don’t we do exactly what we know we should do every minute of every day?

Marc Roby: And the answer to every one of those questions is that we are all sinners.

Dr. Spencer: Exactly. Jesus himself told us in Mark 2:17 that “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” And so the bad news is that we are all sinners and God is a perfectly just and holy God and must punish sin. In particular, he must punish my sin! But the good news is that Jesus came to save sinners.

In Session 108 we made the case for the doctrine of Total depravity, which says that there is no aspect of our being that is unaffected by sin. We are born enemies of God and subject to his eternal wrath. And because we are his enemies, we are incapable of doing anything to save ourselves from his just wrath. We need help. But there is a very fundamental problem that needs to be overcome for anyone to be able to help us.

Marc Roby: What problem is that?

Dr. Spencer: The price that needs to be paid to redeem us from our sin is too great for any mere human being to ever pay. Because our sin is rebellion against God himself, the infinite, eternal, self-existent Creator of all things, it warrants an infinite punishment. I mentioned this way back in Session 13, where I pointed out that the great American theologian Jonathan Edwards correctly argued in his famous sermon “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners”,[2] that the heinousness of our sins is proportional to the dignity of the one against whom we sin.

We see this principle at work in the laws of our country. For example, it is a more serious crime if you murder the president than it is if you murder me. And so, Edwards argues, since God is infinite in his greatness, majesty and glory, he is infinitely honorable and sin against him deserves infinite punishment. And since sin is the transgression of God’s law, all sin is, first and foremost, against God. All sin is rebellion against his rule.

Marc Roby: And, therefore, no mere man would be able to pay the infinite penalty we deserve.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. The only one who can pay an infinite price is God himself. And yet, because it is man who sinned, it must be man who pays the price.

Marc Roby: And, therefore, the problem is that we need someone who is both God and man.

Dr. Spencer: And that person is Jesus Christ. We see a wonderful illustration of his dual nature in Matthew 8:23-27. We read in Verse 23 that Jesus “got into the boat and his disciples followed him.” Now this was a small fishing boat and they were heading out across the Sea of Galilee, which is famous for the violent storms that can pop up very quickly. So, in Verses 24-26 we read that “Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” And then, in Verse 27, we are told how the apostles reacted. We read that “The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’”

Marc Roby: I always wonder how I would respond to such an event. It is an unimaginable display of Jesus’ power.

Dr. Spencer: It is an amazing display of both his humanity and his deity. He is truly human. He walked with his disciples, he talked with them, he got into the boat with them, and like all human beings he got tired. And because he was tired, he went to sleep in the boat. But then, when they had awakened him because of the storm, he simply commanded the storm to cease, and it did. Only God can do that. He didn’t pray and ask God to stop the storm, he simply commanded the wind and the waves and they obeyed.

Marc Roby: That is a wonderfully clear illustration of Christ’s authority over the creation. But the dual nature of Christ, meaning the biblical teaching that he is both God and man, is obviously an extremely difficult doctrine to understand.

Dr. Spencer: And that is why many have rejected it. Jehovah’s Witnesses for example, reject it, but in practice, even many who call themselves evangelical Christians reject it. Many of them do not truly believe that Jesus is who he said he is, God and man, and that he literally died on the cross to pay for our sins and rose from the dead for our justification. But that is exactly what the Bible teaches. It is an absolutely essential doctrine of true, biblical Christianity.

Marc Roby: And we have made the case before that the Bible must be the ultimate authority for a Christian. We can’t use our reason to stand in judgment over what the Bible teaches.

Dr. Spencer: That is the critical point. The issue is one of authority as we have noted before. If a person has been born again, born of the Spirit of God, that person will accept the Bible as God’s authoritative Word. He will use his reason to understand the Word of God, but not to sit in judgment over it. It is obviously ridiculous to use our reason as the ultimate arbiter of truth. We are finite sinful creatures and our reason is so limited and subject to error. We should never accept a true contradiction of course, but we should not reject something as being true just because we can’t fully understand it. If it is a clear teaching of the Bible, we must accept it.

Marc Roby: And there is no contradiction in the statement that Jesus Christ is both God and man.

Dr. Spencer: No, there isn’t. There is great mystery of course, and the church struggled mightily for many years in coming up with a statement about the nature of Christ that is completely consistent with the Bible’s teaching, but there isn’t any contradiction involved. As the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it, “two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.”[3]

Marc Roby: That is a carefully thought-out statement. Jesus Christ is one person, but with two distinct natures. He is simultaneously God and man.

Dr. Spencer:  And his humanity is real, not an illusion. He is a man just like you and me except that he is, and always was, without sin. In Philippians 2:5 the apostle Paul exhorts us to be humble and says that our “attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus”. He then goes in in Verses 6-11 to give us one of the most important statements about Christ. Verses 5-11 together say, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Marc Roby: There is a lot of theology packed into that short passage. And we have looked at it before when we gave some of the biblical arguments for the deity of Christ in Sessions 51 through 54.

Dr. Spencer: There is a lot of theology in that passage, you’re right. And, as you noted, we have discussed the deity of Christ before when we covered the Trinity as part of our study of theology proper. So some of what I’m going to say about the deity of Christ here will be repetition. But the topic is so important that it certainly bears repetition. And I won’t repeat everything we said then, so I would encourage any listener who is really interested in this topic to go listen to, or read, those podcasts as well.

Marc Roby: Yes, and, we should remind our listeners that all of our past podcasts can be found, along with their transcripts and some indexes, on our website at whatdoesthewordsay.org.

Dr. Spencer: That’s a good reminder. But getting back to the passage in Philippians 2, I want to make a couple of points. First, notice that it says in Verse 6 that Jesus was, “in very nature God”. A similar statement appears in Hebrews 1:3, which says that “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being”. The meaning of these verses is clear. Jesus Christ is God. He is also a man of course, but he is God. It isn’t just that he is God’s representative, that could also be said about Adam, or Moses, but Jesus Christ was, is and always will be God.

Marc Roby: Of course, the man Jesus did not always exist in his humanity.

Dr. Spencer: No, of course not. And the rest of the passage in Philippians 2 deals with that. Verses 6-7 in full read, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” In other words, although he was eternal God, Jesus didn’t consider his glory and status as the second person of the Trinity something that he had to hold on to. He was willing to temporarily let go of some of his honor and glory in order to become incarnate and save his people.

Marc Roby: And he did that when he was born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem. In Luke 1:35 we read that an angel told Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

Dr. Spencer: That is the astounding truth. God was willing to humble himself to the point of becoming a man; two distinct natures in one person. He became a poor carpenter from the backwater village of Bethlehem. And Philippians 2 goes on, in Verse 8, to say that “being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

Marc Roby: Which is truly amazing given that being hung on a tree was considered cursed by the Jews of that time. We read in Deuteronomy 21:23 that “anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse.”

Dr. Spencer: And Paul quotes that verse in his letter to the church in Galatia. In Galatians 3:13 we read that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’”

Marc Roby: It boggles the mind that God would do that to save sinful and rebellious people.

Dr. Spencer: It absolutely does boggle the mind, but that is the gospel. As we said, because man is the one who sinned against God, it must be man who pays the price. But no mere man can pay the price, which is infinite because our sin is against God, who is infinite. But God chose to save some people and, therefore, it became what John Murray calls a consequent absolute necessity for Jesus to be incarnate and die on the cross, bearing the wrath of God for our sins.[4] Because Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, he is uniquely qualified to accomplish this task. His humanity makes the sacrifice acceptable on behalf of man, and his deity makes the sacrifice of sufficient value. We are told in Hebrews 7:27 that Christ “sacrificed for [our] sins once for all when he offered himself.”

Jesus Christ was not just a good man who gave us an example to live up to. He was, and is, God and his sacrifice was a real sacrifice that was necessary to satisfy divine justice.

Marc Roby: Many modern professing Christians are offended at the idea of a sacrifice. It sounds vulgar and primitive to them.

Dr. Spencer: Independent of how it may sound to modern people, it is the truth. Sin is ugly and terrible and the penalty is correspondingly ugly and terrible. We can never understand who Jesus Christ is if we divorce him from his fundamental mission. Jesus Christ came for the express purpose of offering himself as a sacrifice to pay for the sins of his people. He is the unique God-man, the only possible Savior. As Peter declared before the Jewish rulers in Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Marc Roby: And we must give all praise and thanks to God for Jesus Christ and the salvation he brings!

Dr. Spencer: Oh absolutely. And the best way to show our thanks is through obedience. Notice that this passage said that Christ was obedient to death. His incarnation and sacrifice were done in obedience to the will of God. We’ll come back to this point later, but if we are God’s children, we must also be obedient, just as our Lord and Savior was.

Marc Roby: Yes, that’s a challenge to us all, but we are out of time for today, so I’d like to remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We’d love to hear from you.

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1, Hendrickson Publishers, 2005, pg. 669

[3] From; Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter VIII, Paragraph 2 (http://www.apuritansmind.com/westminster-standards/chapter-8/)

[4] John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1955, pp 11-12

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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by continuing to examine the doctrine of the infallibility of the Bible. We have established that the Bible itself claims to be the very “words of God” [1] to use the apostle Paul’s expression from Romans 3:2. Dr. Spencer, we ended last time by beginning to answer the question raised by the existence of some errors in the Bibles we have in our possession, and you pointed out that inerrancy does not require perfect grammar, or unreasonable precision, nor does it prevent the Bible from using normal modes of human expression like hyperbole or phenomenological expressions.

Dr. Spencer: Except I didn’t use the words hyperbole or phenomenological, so let me define those in case our listeners don’t recall what they mean. Hyperbole is simply exaggeration used for effect, rather than any attempt to deceive. If I read in the newspaper that the whole town of Davis showed up for some event, I recognize it as hyperbole. I don’t truly expect that every single person in town showed up.

Phenomenological expressions are expressions that indicate how something appears to us, they are not meant to be descriptions of what is truly going on. So, for example, when we talk about the sun rising or setting, or the earth standing still, we all understand those expressions and don’t accuse the speaker of being scientifically illiterate.

Marc Roby: Very well. What else do you want to say about supposed errors in the Bible?

Dr. Spencer: I think it will be worth our while to examine what the 19th-centuray theologian Charles Hodge said about them. In his Systematic Theology, he wrote that “The objection under consideration, namely, that the Bible contains errors, divides itself into two. The first, that the sacred writers contradict themselves, or one the other. The second, that the Bible teaches what is inconsistent with the facts of history or science.”[2]

Let’s discuss the supposed contradictions first.

Marc Roby: OK, what does Hodge say about those?

Dr. Spencer: He makes four points. First, he says that the apparent discrepancies, although numerous, are for the most part trivial. An example might be the question about whether there were one or two demon-possessed men who came to Jesus when he arrived in the region of the Gadarenes. In Matthew 8:28 it says there were two, but in the parallel accounts in Mark 5 and Luke 8 it says there was one. Some people think this is an error, but that is simply not true. There were, obviously, two demon-possessed men, but for some reason, Mark and Luke only mention one. Perhaps he was notorious and the other was unknown, we don’t know. But, whatever the reason, Mark and Luke don’t mention the other one. That can hardly be called an error however; as has been pointed out by many, where there are two demon-possessed men, there certainly is one. So, there is a rather easy way to deal with the difference.

Marc Roby: Some have also claimed there is another error in these stories because Matthew refers, as you just did, to the “region of the Gadarenes”, whereas Mark and Luke both refer to “the region of the Gerasenes”. How would answer that charge?

Dr. Spencer: First of all, Gadara and Gerasa were both prominent cities in the region to the east of the Sea of Galilee and it is likely that the area was sometimes called the region of the Gadarenes and at other times the region of the Gerasenes. This is somewhat similar to the fact that some people will refer to the town of Sunnyvale, California as being in the San Jose area, while others will refer to it as being near San Francisco, or in the south Bay Area. There are different ways of referring to the same general area. In addition, not all of the Greek manuscripts we have agree on the name used. It seems perfectly reasonable then that both names might have been used in the original documents and later copyists changed the name to try and make things uniform. We can’t know for certain of course, but this most definitely is not evidence of an error in the autographs, and is another example of the kind of trivial errors noted by Hodge.

Marc Roby: Alright, that sounds reasonable. You said Hodge makes four points, what is the second?

Dr. Spencer: His second point is that the great majority of these supposed contradictions are only apparent, and disappear after careful examination, as we’ve just seen with the story of the demon-possessed men. His third point is that many of these supposed contradictions can reasonably be ascribed to errors made by transcribers, which we also just noted in regard to the name of the region in which Jesus drove demons out of a man.

Marc Roby: And what was Hodge’s fourth point?

Dr. Spencer: I’d like to just quote him on this one, because I think he makes the point beautifully. He wrote that “The marvel and the miracle is that there are so few [apparent contradictions] of any real importance. Considering that the different books of the Bible were written not only by different authors, but by men of all degrees of culture, living in the course of fifteen hundred or two thousand years, it is altogether unaccountable that they should agree perfectly, on any other hypothesis than that the writers were under the guidance of the Spirit of God. In this respect, as in all others, the Bible stands alone. It is enough to impress any mind with awe, when it contemplates the Sacred Scriptures filled with the highest truths, speaking with authority in the name of God, and so miraculously free from the soiling touch of human fingers. The errors in matters of fact which skeptics search out bear no proportion to the whole.”[3]

Marc Roby: That is a powerful statement. After nearly 2,000 years of searching for errors, you would think that the Bible’s critics would have come up with some better objections.

Dr. Spencer: In fact, if the Bible were just a book written by men, without being miraculously guided by the Holy Spirit, I’m quite certain they would have come up with a number of very serious errors and contradictions. The fact that they haven’t is, as Hodge politely put it, unaccountable.

Nevertheless, we do have to concede that there are some problems that don’t lend themselves to quick, easy answers. In the book we’ve been using, Thy Word is Truth, E.J. Young writes that “In our doctrine of inspiration we are faced with certain perplexities, and they are real. Let us grant that freely. Nevertheless, they seem almost trifling when compared with the tremendous problems which face those who do not accept the Scriptural doctrine. Those who do not receive the Biblical witness to itself must explain the Bible. How did it come to be? Whence came the heavenly doctrine that is found within its pages? What is its origin?”[4]

Marc Roby: I really like the fact that he turns the question around on the skeptics and points out that they have far more serious questions to deal with!

Dr. Spencer: I like that too. Whenever someone attacks Christianity, we should not feel defensive in any way. People sometimes seem to think that we should have the answer to every possible question. But, that is simply unrealistic and irrational. Why are we supposed to know everything? God hasn’t revealed everything to us, and I’m quite confident we wouldn’t be able to understand it all even if he did, so it doesn’t bother me at all that I can’t answer every question that might be asked.

Marc Roby: I want to return to the concession that you made though, that there are problems that don’t lend themselves to quick, easy answers. Can you give any examples of this?

Dr. Spencer: Sure, in his book Young gives the example of Matthew 27:9-10, where we read “Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: ‘They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.’” And he notes that the quotation is actually from Zechariah 11:13. So, we must ask, was Matthew in error when he ascribed it to Jeremiah? He was, after all, a fallible human being, maybe he just got mixed up and remembered incorrectly which prophet made the statement.

Marc Roby: That would seem to be an impossibility if he was “carried along by the Holy Spirit” as 2 Peter 1:21 tells us and if the promise Jesus made to his apostles in John 16:13 was true, where he said that when “the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth”.

Dr. Spencer: You’re right, it is impossible. This may not seem very important to someone if they haven’t thought it through carefully, but if you conclude that Matthew made an error in ascribing this Old Testament quote to Jeremiah, then the doctrine of infallibility goes out the window and we are left with the insurmountable problem of having to decide which things in the Bible to believe. In other words, we are back to subjectivism.

Marc Roby: So how do we handle this problem?

Dr. Spencer: Young discusses this question at some length and I’m not going into all that he says, but I will note that there have been several attempts to explain the reference. I’ll briefly mention one as an example. In the Babylonian Talmud Jeremiah is placed at the head of the prophets, and this tradition may be much older than the Talmud, which is from hundreds of years after Christ, so it is possible that Jeremiah’s name may have been used to refer to the entire section of the Hebrew Bible that contains Zechariah.

Now, I must say that I don’t find that explanation very satisfying, and it is less problematic than the other possibilities Young presents. At the end of the discussion it is clear that none of the proposed solutions are satisfying to Young either because he says that he “inclines” toward the view that there was a copyist’s error early on and he gives an idea of what might have happened.[5] I’ll let the interested listener consult Young directly for the details. But, whatever the solution, Young is correct when he states that “One thing, however, is clear. There is no warrant for the assertion that Matthew has made a mistake.”[6]

Marc Roby: That is a difficult passage to explain, but I also agree with Young’s conclusion that we have no warrant for saying that Matthew made a mistake. This example reminds me of an objection that is sometimes raised to the doctrine of infallibility though. How can an infallible book be written by fallible men? Doesn’t their fallibility guarantee that there are errors, even if only in detailed matters having to do with history or geography, or maybe even getting an Old Testament quote wrong? There are people who would say that such errors are not that important, it is only the larger truths in the Bible that are important. How would you respond to that?

Dr. Spencer: As we have attempted to make clear a few times, you can’t pick and choose. If the authors of the Bible were wrong about details of history or geography, then how can we possibly know that we can trust them on more important issues? Errors of any kind would make it clear that the Bible had not been written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If it is only a fallible human record of what Jesus did and said, then we have no solid basis for our faith.

This is a very important point because it is common view in the modern church. And it goes back to the 19th century. Young quotes from something written by the 19th-century Scottish theologian A.B. Bruce, where he criticized those who try to find ways to harmonize the gospels in the sense of trying to explain apparent contradictions. He wrote, “To the harmonists busy at their petty task we are inclined to say, Sirs, we would see Jesus. … To paint the image of the Great Master successfully, one must be set free from slavish solicitude about harmonistic problems, and feel at liberty to handle the materials with a fearless breadth of treatment.”[7]

Marc Roby: I don’t like the idea of treating any part of the Word of God in a so-called fearless way!

Dr. Spencer: Neither do I, but Young’s response to this view is very important. He wrote that “One wonders how it is possible for a man so completely to miss the point. … Dr. Bruce would cry, ‘Sirs, we would see Jesus’. Very good, but how is Jesus to be seen? Are we to find Him in a record that is filled with blemishes?”[8]

Young’s point is precisely the one we have been laboring to make. If the Bible is not the infallible Word of God, we have no objective basis for knowing Jesus Christ. And if we don’t know Jesus Christ, we are not saved, we are still subject to the wrath of God.

Marc Roby: That is a terrifying thought. But, before we finish for today, I want to tie up one loose end. You said that Hodge divided the supposed errors in the Bible into two groups. We’ve dealt briefly with the supposed contradictions. You said that the second group is that the Bible teaches what is inconsistent with the facts of history or science.  What do you want to say about that?

Dr. Spencer: Nothing. We handled that issue at great length when we discussed external evidence that corroborates the Bible in Sessions 7 through 11.

Marc Roby: That was quick! Are we done discussing the infallibility of the Bible?

Dr. Spencer: I think we are, at least for now.

Marc Roby: Well then, that wraps up this session. I’d like to remind our listeners that we encourage them to email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org.

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1997, Vol. 1, pg. 169

[3] Ibid, pp 169-170

[4] E.J. Young, Thy Word is Truth, the Banner of Truth Trust, 2012, pg. 59

[5] Ibid, pg. 172

[6] Ibid, pg. 173

[7] Ibid, pg. 127

[8] Ibid, pg. 127

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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by continuing to examine the doctrine of the infallibility of the Bible. In our previous sessions we have shown that the Bible is infallible because God is its author, and that this is a critically important doctrine, which was central to the reformation. We also showed that Jesus himself used the Bible as his ultimate authority. Dr. Spencer, what else do we want say about this doctrine?

Dr. Spencer: I first want to point out that, as with every other doctrine, we should turn to God’s Word itself to see what it says. And, when we turn to the Bible, we find that it clearly claims to be the authoritative Word of God as we documented extensively in Sessions 4 and 27. I don’t want to repeat all of that here. But, let me quickly summarize what we said. The Old Testament clearly claims to be the very words of God in many places. In fact, phrases like “God said”, and “The Lord says” are used over 3.800 times. There is also an implicit claim to being the Word of God when the Old Testament tells us things about creation, or things said in heaven that cannot possibly be known by any human being except by divine revelation. In addition, as we saw with a couple of examples in our previous session, Jesus Christ treated the Old Testament as the authoritative Word of God, as did all of the apostles. We have quoted the famous statement in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (ESV) several times.

Then, with regard to the New Testament, we previously cited 2 Peter 3:16 where he calls the apostle Paul’s writings “Scripture”. We have also noted that in John 14:25-26 Jesus promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would guide them and remind them of everything he said. Paul then explicitly mentions this guidance in 1 Corinthians 2:13, and he claims to speak the very words of God in 1Thessalonians 2:13. I will let interested listeners go back and listen to Sessions 4 and 27 for more details.

Marc Roby: And in that connection we should remind our listeners that all of the old sessions are available in the archive on our website, whatdoesthewordsay.org. So, we have made the case that the Bible itself clearly claims to be the Word of God. What else is there to say about infallibility then?

Dr. Spencer: There are even more references in Scripture that we have not previously adduced, and I think it would be worthwhile to go through some of them because this doctrine is so frequently denied in the modern church. For example, when the Sadducees tried to trick Jesus by asking him about marriage in heaven, Jesus rebuked them saying, in Matthew 22:29, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”[1] Which clearly holds up the Scriptures as the ultimate authoritative standard for us.

In addition, Jesus frequently noted that what the Scriptures say will happen, not only will happen, but must happen. For example, in Mark 14:21 he said “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him.” And in Mark 14:27 he told his disciples, “You will all fall away, … for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’” Then again, in Mark 14:49 he said, “But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” And, in Matthew 26:53-54 he asked the rhetorical question, “how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”, with the clear point being that it must happen this way because that is what the authoritative Scriptures have declared.

Marc Roby: It is compelling when you consider all of the references, and these are just ones that we had not mentioned in the previous sessions.

Dr. Spencer: It is very compelling. And it is also clear that it wasn’t just general ideas or principles that came from God, but the very words themselves; Christ said, in Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” In other words, every single word is infallible.

I don’t believe it is possible for a born-again person to carefully read the entire Bible, or even just the New Testament and come away with any view other than that the Bible is, in its entirety, the very words of our infallible God. And if it is his words, then it is itself infallible.

Marc Roby: And yet, there have been and still are many professing Christians who deny the doctrine.

Dr. Spencer: There have indeed been many, and are still many. And I think they must fall into one of two camps; either they are not truly born again, or they have had bad teaching and have not yet looked into this issue and carefully thought it through for themselves. You can be saved without believing this doctrine, as Article XIX of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy states[2], but it is an extremely important doctrine, and not believing it will stunt your growth and life as a Christian and, as I said last time, not agreeing with this doctrine is a serious warning sign that you may not be born again at all, you may be believing in a false gospel – so you should take it very seriously indeed. What is extremely sad is the number of ministers who have given up on this doctrine. But, that isn’t really all that surprising when you consider that many modern ministers are trained more as social workers than ministers of the gospel.

Marc Roby: That’s a pretty strong statement.

Dr. Spencer: Yes it is. But it isn’t hard to back up. Just listen to the sermons that are preached, look at the counsel that is given – if, in fact, any counsel is given, read modern supposedly Christian books and so on. So much of it is completely dominated by an anthropocentric, or man-centered, outlook, rather than a theocentric, or God-centered, outlook. Much of it is simply social work done in the context of the church. Human psychology, rather than the Bible, dominate.

In his book No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?, David Wells tells a story about when he was a seminary professor teaching theology. He says that after giving an introduction to the class on the first day an “obviously agitated student” came up and told him that he “had had a mighty struggle with his conscience about” whether it was right “to spend so much money on a course of study that was so irrelevant to his desire to minister to people in the Church.”[3]

Marc Roby: It’s amazing to think that someone could consider theology to be irrelevant to being a minister of the gospel!

Dr. Spencer: I agree. This man’s view of a minister was obviously that he is basically a social worker. But, even given that view what he said was wrong. Theology is not irrelevant to anyone. Every person alive is a theologian in one sense; they have all decided whether or not they think God exists, and if they think he exists, they have some idea of what they think he is like and what he requires of them. So, the question isn’t whether or not you will be a theologian, the only question is whether your theology will be biblical or not. This young man probably thought the only theology needed for a minister was to say that Jesus was a good example for us to follow and that God loves us and has a plan to bless us, or something along those lines. But, such a view of theology is not even close to biblical, and it can’t save anyone. In fact, with the anthropocentric view of most churches today, there is really nothing for us to be saved from because we aren’t really all that bad in the first place, and hell doesn’t really exist. So, the whole concept of salvation is missing.

Marc Roby: At that point you might as well join the Elks Lodge.

Dr. Spencer: Or spend your Sundays fishing, or golfing, or watching television and doing yard work, or whatever. And your morning quiet times in private meditation, rather than prayer and reading the Word of God.

Marc Roby: Very true. But we have digressed again, so let’s get back to the infallibility of the Bible. What other biblical evidence do we have that it claims to be the infallible Word of God?

Dr. Spencer: Let me cite some more examples. But, we must realize that when the New Testament speaks of the Scriptures – the Greek word used is γραφή – it is usually speaking of the Old Testament. Therefore, we understandably have more evidence for the Old Testament being the very Word of God than we do for the New. Although, as we saw a few minutes ago, there is compelling evidence for the New Testament as well. In any event, in Romans 1:2, Paul says the Scriptures are holy – he says this because he knows they come from the thrice-holy God. And, in Romans 3:2, Paul calls the Scriptures the “very words of God”.

There also a number of places where the words of Scripture are equated with the words of God, for example, in Romans 9:17 Paul wrote that “the Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’” But, this quotation is from Exodus 9:16 where the words are attributed to God himself, so we see that to say “Scripture says” is equivalent to saying “God says”.

Marc Roby: Are there other similar examples you want to cite?

Dr. Spencer: Yes, there are other examples as well. In Galatians 3:8 Paul wrote that “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’” So, Paul tells us that Scripture said something, but he was quoting from Genesis 22:18, and when we look there we see that these words are again attributed to God himself.

And this isn’t just the apostle Paul. In Acts 4:25, we read that after Peter and John were released by the Sanhedrin, they returned to the other disciples and prayed to God, saying, in part, “You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?’” They were quoting from Psalm 2 when they said in prayer to God that he “spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of” David.

Marc Roby: That is a pretty clear statement that they considered the Old Testament to have been written by God through the agency of the Holy Spirit working in the human authors.

Dr. Spencer: And there are more examples as well. In Acts 28:25-26, the apostle Paul was speaking in Rome and said “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet: ‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”’”.  Notice that Paul says that God the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophet, in this case Isaiah, words that are recorded for us in Scripture.

Marc Roby: Yes, another very clear statement that God the Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible.

Dr. Spencer: Yes it is. We’ve already gone over a number of instances in previous sessions of Jesus himself treating the Old Testament as the infallible Word of God. But, we also have a very interesting statement from Jesus about how important it is to receive the Bible as the Word of God. In John 5:46-47, Jesus is rebuking the people for not believing him and he said, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

Jesus is saying explicitly that if you fail to believe what the Old Testament says, you are not going to believe what he says either. This puts the lie to the idea that I can have some private relationship with Jesus apart from the Bible.

Marc Roby: That reminds me of Jesus talking to the men on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection. We are told in Luke 24:27 that “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that is a good passage to mention. Jesus often spoke of the Old Testament prophecies concerning himself and used them as evidence that he was the promised Messiah. He clearly believed the entire Old Testament to be the infallible Word of God and we have given many more biblical references in earlier podcasts to show that.

Marc Roby: Alright, I think we have presented enough evidence today, and in previous sessions, to clearly demonstrate that the Bible is the infallible Word of God.

Dr. Spencer: I agree. The doctrine we have been advocating by the way, is often called the plenary, verbal inspiration of the Bible. The word plenary just means all, and the word verbal refers to the individual words. So, to speak of the plenary, verbal inspiration of the Bible just means that every individual word was breathed out by God himself.

Marc Roby: Having established the biblical doctrine, let me ask you the question that I’m sure many of our listeners have in mind. What do you say about all of the supposed errors in the Bible? We are saying that it is infallible, but can an infallible book have errors in it?

Dr. Spencer: That depends on what you mean by an error. Everything the Bible teaches us is true. But, when we say the Bible is inerrant, we do not mean, for example, that the grammar is perfect or that every number is precisely correct. James Boice notes that this is one reason some people don’t like the term inerrant.[4] But it would be silly, I think, to say that the Bible is in error if something in it is ungrammatical, or if when the it says 300 people did something the number was actually 302. The rules of grammar are violated by great writers all the time, the purpose of language is communication and the rules of grammar, while useful, are not absolute laws. And when I say 300 people did something, I think every reasonable person recognizes that I’m giving a round number. They wouldn’t say I was wrong if the precise number was 298, or 303.

Also, the Bible uses every kind of normal human expression to communicate truth. So, for example, if I read a newspaper report that says something like “all of the fans in the stands jumped to their feet when the ball was hit”, do I accuse the newspaper of being factually incorrect if, in fact, a few people stayed seated, or slowly stood up rather than jumping up? Of course not. We all recognize hyperbole as a normal mode of communication. So, the word “all” does not always mean “all”. You have to use the context to judge the true meaning. Also, if I look on the calendar on my cellphone or computer, it tells me the time of the sunrise and the sunset for today. Should I conclude that whoever chose those words actually thinks the earth stands still and the sun rotates around us? Of course not! I understand that is a common expression that refers to what we normally see.

Marc Roby: I sense that we are getting ready to launch into an entirely different discussion at this point, so this is probably a good place to finish for today. I’d like to remind our listeners that we invite them to email their comments and questions to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org.

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] Available from http://defendinginerrancy.com/chicago-statements/ and also from http://www.alliancenet.org/the-chicago-statement-on-biblical-inerrancy

[3] David F. Wells, No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993, pg. 4

[4] James Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith, Revised in One Volume, InterVarsity Press, 1986, pg. 71

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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by continuing to examine the doctrine of the infallibility of the Bible. In our previous sessions we have made several points: First, the Bible is infallible because God is its author, and he is infallible. Second, that this is a critically important doctrine because without it our faith is, ultimately, based on subjectivism. And, third, the idea that Scripture alone is to be our authority was the formal cause of the reformation, which further emphasizes the importance of this issue. Dr. Spencer, how do you want to begin today?

Dr. Spencer: I want to start by saying that in holding up the Bible as the ultimate authority for life, we are not in any way opposing science, history, or any other human endeavor to gain knowledge; in fact, we encourage them. God created us with the ability and desire to understand the world around us. We just need to remember that the Bible is our only infallible source of information. But, we should certainly try to understand as much of the world around us as we can and to put that information to good use in fulfilling what is sometimes called the creation mandate.

Marc Roby: For those listeners who may not be familiar with that term, let me explain that the creation mandate refers to God’s command to Adam and Even in Genesis 1:28, where we read that God, “blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” [1]

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. The theologian John Murray, in his book Principles of Conduct, speaks even more generally of the creation ordinances, which include filling and subduing the earth, labor, the weekly sabbath, marriage and more. He wrote, “The whole earth is full of God’s glory. The chief incentive in subduing the earth and the chief end to be promoted by it would have been the discovery and exhibition of the manifold wisdom and power of God.”[2] He says it “would have been” because this command was given before the fall. But, he then goes on to show that the creation ordinances did not cease with the fall, so making God’s manifold glory manifest should still be our main goal.

Marc Roby: Which agrees with the Westminster Shorter Catechism. The answer to the first question of the catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”[3]

Dr. Spencer: The catechism and Murray agree because both are biblical. But, in addition, there are other secondary purposes for man to learn how to properly manage and use the earth’s resources. For example, as the population grows it is necessary for our technology to get better in order to be able to feed everyone.

The current population of the earth could not possibly be supported if we had not greatly increased our ability to grow food. Modern farms are dramatically more efficient in producing food than they were just 50 years ago, let alone a thousand years ago. That’s a good part of the reason why the dire predictions of mass starvation by Paul Ehrlich in his 1968 book The Population Bomb didn’t come true.

Marc Roby: So, fulfilling the creation mandate is a good thing. But, of course, the Bible also tells us that studying creation should drive us to God himself.

Dr. Spencer: Yes. Studying creation should definitely drive us to God. How can you look at the beauty, immensity, and complexity manifest in nature without finding yourself in awe of the God who created it all? Psalm 19 famously begins, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” (Ps 19:1-3)

Marc Roby: I love that psalm. And it goes on, after discussing creation in Verses 1-6, to talk about God’s revelation in his Word.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. Verse 7 begins “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.” The “law” here really refers to all of Scripture. And, in the King James Version, it says “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul”. It is speaking about the use of the Word of God in bringing about new birth and salvation, in other words conversion, through the work of the Holy Spirit.

We can learn a great deal about God from creation itself, but as we argued in Session 22, that knowledge is only sufficient to leave us without excuse. It should cause us to recognize that there is a God and to give him glory, thank him for life and all blessings, and seek to know and please him. But, the Bible is absolutely necessary for salvation and to live a life pleasing to God as we explained in Session 24.

Marc Roby: The central importance of the Word of God was emphasized by Christ himself as well. When Satan tempted him to turn stones into bread after 40 days of fasting in the desert Jesus replied, in Matthew 4:4, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Dr. Spencer: That is a great verse, and of course Jesus answered Satan’s other temptations the same way, by quoting the Bible. So, his answers affirm that our Lord himself considered the Bible to be the infallible Word of God.

In addition, we should notice that Christ was quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3, where Moses explained to the people that God had allowed them to experience hunger during the exodus so that they might learn that the Word of God is every bit as important for life as food. You can have physical life without the Word of God, but you cannot have spiritual life without it. And when you deny the infallibility of the Bible, you deprive yourself of the Word of God because you are now the authority who must decide which parts of the Bible are his word.

Marc Roby: You have argued that the Bible is authoritative and infallible because it is the Word of God. But, in doing so, you assumed that God exists and that the Bible is his word. But, you often hear people say that we should read the Bible from a neutral point of view to see if it is true. How would you respond to that charge?

Dr. Spencer: I would respond as the great Old Testament Scholar E.J. Young did in his book Thy Word is Truth. He wrote that “There can be no neutral position. We believe that either God is our Creator and the One who alone gives meaning to all aspects of life, or that we are faced with the dismal gloom of relying upon the human mind as the ultimate point of reference and predication.”[4]

His language is a bit old fashioned here. To rely on “the human mind as the ultimate point of reference and predication” means to use our minds as the ultimate judge of what is true. Predication means to make a statement of fact about something.

Marc Roby: We all remember from grade-school grammar that a sentence has a subject and a predicate, and the predicate tells us something about the subject.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, and it’s the same root word. And Young’s point is very important. There is no neutral position. As we have argued many times before, there are only two possible ultimate authorities; either God’s revelation, or man’s reason. A Christian’s ultimate authority must be God’s revelation, which is only found in the Bible.

Marc Roby: Which, it is important to point out, is not opposed to reason in any way.

Dr. Spencer: That is important. And Young addresses that issue. He writes[5] that when compared with the “crude polytheism of the Babylonian documents”, and the “pseudo-creation accounts of the ancient world, … the Bible stands out like a fair flower in a dreary, barren desert.” And that when you look at man’s attempts to find some way to atone for his sins and then look to the Bible you see “How unspeakably grand is the doctrine of salvation by grace!”

Marc Roby: In other words, the Bible is its own best evidence once the Holy Spirit changes our hearts so that we receive it.

Dr. Spencer: The Bible is definitely its own best evidence. We spent a number of sessions looking at external evidence that corroborates the Bible, which is of great use to a Christian to bolster our faith. But, that is not the basis for our faith as we noted a number of times. If we have determined that the Bible is true because it conforms to some external standard, then the Bible itself is not be the ultimate standard, human reason is. You simply cannot escape from this choice.

Nevertheless, to believe the Bible is absolutely not belief without warrant, it is not a leap in the dark, it is belief that is entirely consistent with all evidence and logic. But, it is a belief that cannot be attained without new birth – sin blinds the unbeliever and prevents him from accepting what he knows to be true. So, as you said, the Holy Spirit must change our hearts so that we can receive the Word of God. Which is why the apostle Paul thanked God for doing this work in the Thessalonian church. In 1 Thessalonians 2:13 he wrote, “we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God”.

Marc Roby: But, we recognize that there are many professing Christians who do not agree that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. What would you say to them?

Dr. Spencer: I would say that we must be very careful about our salvation. It is the most important thing there is for us to consider because our eternal destiny is at stake. Perhaps you have been taught that the Bible is not God’s Word, but that it only contains God’s Word, or that it becomes God’s Word as you interact with it, or whatever. But you need to think that through very carefully. As we have been laboring to demonstrate, if you don’t believe that the Bible is entirely the infallible Word of God, then your faith is based on subjectivism. And, if that is the case, you may not have a biblical Christianity. You may be believing in a man-made substitute, which will not save you.

Marc Roby: That warning is very serious. In our last session you quote the theologian John Murray who wrote that one aspect of biblical faith is “our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority of Scripture as the Word of God.” [6]  And that this “is inseparable from a state of salvation.” [7]

Dr. Spencer: I understand that this may be a hard word for some people to hear, but Murray is exactly right. But, I also said that these statements are an expression of a mature faith that has been thought through. It is my hope that our listeners will think this through carefully, recognizing the extreme importance of the issue. If they do not find themselves agreeing with the Bible’s own declarations that it is the infallible Word of God, that is a strong indication that they may not be born again.

Marc Roby: That immediately brings Paul’s letter to the Galatians to mind, where he warned them, in Galatians 1:6-7, saying, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.”

Dr. Spencer: That is a very serious warning. But, there are many people today who are not turning away from the true gospel to a different gospel, they have simply never known anything but a different gospel because they go to a church that doesn’t preach the true gospel found in the Bible. And that is a very dangerous thing.

Marc Roby: Jesus Christ himself gave us a frightening warning in Matthew 7. In Verses 21-23 Jesus told the people that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Dr. Spencer: What a frightening passage. And doing the will of God certainly includes believing the gospel as it is presented to us in the Bible, not as it is distorted by some men. It is always important for us to remember that calling ourselves Christians will not save us. The only way I will be saved is if Jesus Christ owns me as his on that day.

So, one of our chief reasons for doing this podcast is to lay before people what the Bible itself says so that they can trust in the true gospel of grace.

Marc Roby: And there are many ways of twisting and perverting that gospel of grace and, thereby, turning it into a damnable man-made religion.

Dr. Spencer: And there are ditches on both sides of the road. On the one side of the road is the ditch of lawlessness. This is the common idea that because we are saved by grace our own works don’t matter at all and we can go on living however we want to live so long as we once said “Jesus Christ is Lord.” But this idea is completely foreign to the Bible. I am saved by grace alone; my own works are in no way at all meritorious and do not earn my salvation. But, if I have truly been saved, then I am, as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, a new creation and, as he wrote in Ephesians 2:10, I have been “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for [me] to do.”

Marc Roby: I love the way Paul puts it in Romans 1:5. In the Greek it says we have been called into the obedience of faith. Which makes it clear that true saving faith has obedience as a necessary concomitant.

Dr. Spencer: That is a great way to put it. Our works are necessary to prove that we are, in fact, new creations. So, our works are the evidence that we are truly born again, not the cause of our being born again. But, there is a also ditch on the other side of the road, and that is legalism; the idea that I can somehow earn my salvation by fulfilling the law. I think this view is also common today, but with a very defective sense of what it means to fulfill the law.

There are many professing Christians out there who think that they will be saved because they are, quote-unquote, good people who try to be kind to everyone and keep the Golden Rule. These people need to see their sin in all of its ugliness and, therefore, their true need for Christ and the biblical, gospel of grace.

Marc Roby: Which brings us back to the infallible Word of God.

Dr. Spencer: Yes. We need to understand what God has revealed in his Word about our sinful condition and what we must do to be saved. No plan conceived by man can save us, which is why the infallibility of the Bible is so important. If it isn’t infallible, then we have no way to avoid the ditches on either side of the narrow path, we are bound to listen to the ideas of men instead of to God.

Marc Roby: Let me take a stab at stating your argument in a different way. If the Bible is not infallible, then the Bible is not the word of God; and if we do not have God’s words, then we have nothing solid on which to base our supposed understanding of God, salvation, or anything else for that matter. To rule out an infallible Bible is to rule out the God of the Bible, which of course is what unbelieving man wants to do. Once we’ve ‘X’d out God, then we can listen to and follow our own opinions and thoughts. But, we are warned twice in the book of Proverbs, in 14:12 and 16:25, that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

Dr. Spencer: That is a very clear way to state the argument. E.J. Young wrote about this question of listening to God or man in Thy Word is Truth. He wrote, “Having their vision obscured by the dense fog that modern theology is casting over the way, many do not realize that there is a crossroad. They are not aware that they must decide which road they will follow. Unless something is done, they will travel on, taking the wrong turning, until the road leads them at last into the valley of lost hope and eternal death.

“Pray God that He will awaken His people from their slumber. Pray that He will warn them of the dangers that lie ahead in the forsaking of His Word.”[8]

Marc Roby: And part of the dense cloud that modern theology produces is the misconstruing of what it means to be saved by grace as we just illustrated. We are praying that all of our listeners will choose the right path, meaning to trust the infallible Word of God as their ultimate standard for truth.

Dr. Spencer: Absolutely. And, we have already shown that Jesus Christ himself considered the Bible to be the infallible Word of God. So, it seems obvious that anyone who calls himself a Christian must do the same.

Marc Roby: That does seem reasonable. I look forward to getting into more biblical evidence for the infallibility of God’s Word, but we are out of time for today. I’d like to remind our listeners that we would very much like to hear from them, and they can email their questions or comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org.

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] John Murray, The Principles of Conduct, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1957, pp 37-38

[3] WSC, Q1

[4] E.J. Young, Thy Word is Truth, the Banner of Truth Trust, 2012, pg. 32

[5] Ibid, pg. 33

[6] John Murray, Collected Works, Vol. II, Banner of Truth Trust, 1977, pg. 241

[7] Ibid, pg. 254

[8] Ibid, pg. 35

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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by continuing to examine the doctrine of the infallibility of the Bible. In our previous session we argued that this is a critically important doctrine because if the Bible is not infallible, then our faith is, ultimately, based on subjectivism. We closed by quoting from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which says, in part, that “Recognition of the total truth and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture is essential to a full grasp and adequate confession of its authority.” Dr. Spencer, what do you want to add to that?

Dr. Spencer: I mentioned last time that the authority and infallibility of the Bible are inextricably linked, and you see that point clearly in the sentence you just quoted from the Chicago Statement. Notice that they link a “recognition of the total truth and trustworthiness” of the Bible, in other words our believing that it is infallible, to “a full grasp and adequate confession of its authority.” By adequate confession I think they mean one that is conducive to living a proper Christian life. I would like to begin therefore by more forcefully making the point that the authority and infallibility of the Bible are inextricably linked.

Marc Roby: Please do.

Dr. Spencer: If the Bible is infallible, then it logically follows that it is inerrant, simply meaning that it does not have errors in it.

Marc Roby: Now, when you say it does not contain any errors, I think it is important to note again that you’re talking about the autographs.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, I am. Our copies can obviously contain printing errors, poor translations and even, in a few cases small errors caused by errors in the manuscripts we have available.

Marc Roby: But none of these small errors in any way affect any doctrine of biblical Christianity.

Dr. Spencer: No, they don’t, and that is an important point. In fact, with regard to these small errors, James Boice points out that “due to the extraordinary number and variety of the biblical manuscripts, there is no reason to doubt that today’s text is identical to the original text in all but a few places. And these few problem areas are clearly known to commentators.”[1] Which agrees with what we said last time regarding the number and quality of our existing manuscripts.

Marc Roby: OK, but I think we’ve gotten off topic just a bit. You said that if the Bible is infallible, then it logically follows that it is going to be inerrant. What were you going to say next?

Dr. Spencer: I was going to say that the only alternative to the Bible being inerrant is that it does, in fact, contain errors. And, if the Bible contained errors it would logically follow that not everything in it would have authority, because not everything in it would be from God, from whom all authority comes. That would leave us with the horrible problem of deciding for ourselves which parts of the Bible have authority and which don’t. And you can easily guess what would happen.

Marc Roby: I can think of a number of things.

Dr. Spencer: So can I, but let me give one concrete example to illustrate the seriousness of the problem. Suppose that a man named John was extremely unhappy in his marriage and was convinced that he had done everything possible on his end to work the problems out. Further suppose that his wife had not committed adultery, their problems were just relational. What do you think he would decide about Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:32, where he says, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress”,[2] which implies that divorcing a wife for any reason other than adultery is sin. Do you think John would conclude that he can’t divorce his wife, or would he conclude that statement was some kind of error?

Marc Roby: I’m pretty sure he would conclude that Jesus didn’t really say that.

Dr. Spencer: I think you’re right. In other words, he might say that the Bible has authority to govern his life, but he would then completely eviscerate that authority by concluding that anything in the Bible that opposes his own view is an error.

Marc Roby: That would be the natural, sinful, human tendency.

Dr. Spencer: In other words, if the entire Bible was not the authoritative Word of God, then none of it would really have any authority because we would have to decide which parts have authority. And our natural, sinful tendency would be to say that the parts we agree with have authority, and the parts we don’t agree with do not have authority. In other words, I am the ultimate authority. We see this all the time when people argue that you can be a Christian and divorce your spouse for irreconcilable differences, or be a Christian homosexual, or any number of other examples we could name.

But, that is not biblical Christianity and, therefore, it is not a Christianity that will save you from hell. It is no better than any other man-made religion. If I am a true, born-again Christian, then I must accept the entire Word of God as his infallible, authoritative word.

Marc Roby: Are you saying that if someone doesn’t agree with this doctrine that they are not a true Christian?

Dr. Spencer: I don’t think I would go that far. But, I would argue that they do agree with it, even if they are not yet aware of that fact. When a person is first born again and exercises true saving faith, that faith is not mature, and you wouldn’t expect that they have had time and opportunity to think it all through carefully. And, if they don’t receive good sound teaching, it may take a while for them to do so. But, when we believe something to be true, that necessarily requires that we have determined there is sufficient reason to accept it as true. And the Bible is the only source of our knowledge that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. So, if a person has truly placed his trust in Jesus Christ and is saved, that means that he has judged the Bible to be trustworthy. And, if he thinks that through carefully, which is what we are trying to help people do now, he will realize that the only consistent position is to believe that the entire Bible is infallible.

Marc Roby: The theologian John Murray makes that point. He even goes so far as to say that one aspect of biblical faith is “our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority of Scripture as the Word of God.”[3] And that this “is inseparable from a state of salvation.”[4]

Dr. Spencer: And I would agree. But I think that is an expression of a mature faith that has been thought through. So, if one of our listeners does not agree with this doctrine, it may be that he is truly saved, but has not yet thought this all through carefully. And, if that is the case, I hope and pray that our discussion of this material will result in his giving this topic careful consideration, because it is the clear teaching of the Bible itself that it is the infallible Word of God as we will demonstrate in later sessions. So, if I find myself disagreeing with it, on this doctrine or any other doctrine, I am the one who needs to change. The problem is with me, not the Bible.

Marc Roby: Of course, that presupposes that we understand the Bible correctly.

Dr. Spencer: Of course it does, and we will talk about that issue more later as well. But for now, I want to move on with making the case for the importance of the doctrine of the infallibility of the Bible. Let me begin by noting that the Westminster Confession of Faith recognized the central importance of the Word of God and that it receives its importance – and we could add its infallibility and authority – from the fact that God is its author.

In Chapter 1, Paragraph 4 of the confession we read that “The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.”[5] When they say it is to be “received”, I think they mean it is to be believed and obeyed. But, they were also indicating that they were simply receiving the revelation from God, not passing judgment on it as being correct.

Marc Roby: Which would, of course, again make man the ultimate authority, not God.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. As we’ve discussed before, we must use our reason to recognize and understand the Word of God, but not to judge it. The theologian R.C. Sproul, in his Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith commented on the use of the word receive in this phrase in the confession and wrote that “When the early church settled on the books of the canon, it spoke of receiving these books as canonical. The church fathers were humbly recognizing the authority of these books, not presuming to give them authority, when they stated, ‘We receive these apostolic writings as the sacred Scriptures’ … The authority of Scripture does not depend on the testimony of any man or of the church; its authority depends and rests wholly on God, the supreme author of the Bible. Scripture should be received, not so that it can become the Word of God, be because it already is the Word of God.”[6]

Marc Roby: That is a very clear statement of the distinction between receiving the Word and judging the Word. I think it is also important to point out that the statement you read is in Chapter 1 of the confession of faith; so the Westminster Confession of faith begins with the Word of God.

Dr. Spencer: That is an important point. The confession begins with the Word of God because it is only in the Word of God that we learn what God wants us to believe and how we are to be saved.

Marc Roby: The Westminster Confession was also responding to the Roman Catholic church, which placed the traditions of the church on a par with Scripture.

Dr. Spencer: That’s true. The Council of Trent was an ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church and was called in response to the reformation, which most people mark as having begun with Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenberg Church door on October 31, 1517. In the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church officially decreed that it “receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament … as also the said traditions”[7], which is referring to the traditions of the church. They go even further and declare that if anyone does not receive the traditions of the church as of equal value with the Bible itself, “let him be anathema.”[8]

Marc Roby: And to be anathema means to be cursed and excommunicated from the church, in other words, to be damned.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. The Roman Catholic Church has never rescinded the decrees of that council, so if we do not accept the traditions of the church as of equal authority with Scripture, we are, according to the Roman Catholic Church, damned to hell. The problem with that view is that it is giving the church the power to declare something with the same authority as God himself. And the reformers were united in their condemnation of that view. This issue of the absolute and sole authority of the Scriptures has been called the formal cause of the reformation, and it is voiced in the famous Latin phrase sola Scriptura, which means Scripture alone.[9]

Marc Roby: But, the reformers did not simply throw away all the traditions of the church.

Dr. Spencer: No, they did not. In fact, the reformers embraced those traditions when they were consistent with the teachings of the Bible. R.C. Sproul, in his book What is Reformed Theology? Says that “the Reformers embraced the doctrines articulated and formulated by the great ecumenical councils of church history, including the doctrine of the Trinity and of Christ’s person and work formulated at the councils of Nicea in 325 and Chalcedon in 451.”[10] The reformers were returning to the Word of God as the supreme authority and were testing everything according to it.

Marc Roby: That reminds me of what we are told in Acts 17. Paul and Silas had been preaching about Christ in Berea and we are told, in Acts 17:11, that “the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

Dr. Spencer: That is a great passage to make this point. The Bereans were commended by God himself for testing what the apostle Paul told them by looking in the Word of God. In Paul’s closing comments to the church in Thessalonica he wrote, in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21, “do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good.” And, while he doesn’t say it here, it is clear that he would have them test everything by the Word of God, since that is what he labors to do in every one of his letters.

Marc Roby: And so, getting back to the Westminster Confession of Faith, they chose to begin by declaring that the Bible alone has absolute authority.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. In addition to the passage we read earlier from Chapter 1 Paragraph 4, it might be worthwhile to give one more quote, which clearly shows that what you just said is true, the confession clearly does state that the Bible alone has absolute authority. Chapter 1 concludes with the following statement, in Paragraph 10; “The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.”[11] When the confession says “in whose sentence we are to rest”, it is using the word “sentence” in the sense of a judicial finding or judgment. In other words, we are to use the Bible as the ultimate authority in judging everything and we are to rest in its judgment.

Marc Roby: Well, I know that we have more to say on this topic, but this seems like a good place to stop for today. I’d like to remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org. We would love to hear from you.

[1] James Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith, Revised in One Volume, InterVarsity Press, 1986, pp 75-76

[2] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[3] John Murray, Collected Works, Vol. II, Banner of Truth Trust, 1977, pg. 241

[4] Ibid, pg. 254

[5] From http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/index.html

[6] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, P&R Publishing Co., 2006, Vol. One, pg. 13

[7] From: The canons and decrees of the sacred and ecumenical Council of Trent, Trans. J. Waterworth (London: Dolman, 1848), The Fourth Session, DECREE CONCERNING THE CANONICAL SCRIPTURES, pg. 18. Available in pdf form from file:///C:/Users/rrspe/Documents/Religion/Books%20&%20Papers/Council%20of%20Trent%20-%20decrees.pdf

[8] Ibid, pg. 19

[9] R.C. Sproul, What is Reformed Theology?, Baker Books, 1997, pg. 30

[10] Ibid, pp 28-29

[11] From http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/index.html

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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by beginning to examine the doctrine of the infallibility of the Bible. Dr. Spencer, I suspect that this doctrine is unfamiliar to most of our listeners, why is this topic important?

Dr. Spencer: It is important because true Christianity stands or falls with the truthfulness of the Bible. By “true Christianity” I mean a Christianity that has the power to save a person from eternal hell and bring him into the very presence of God in eternal heaven. That’s why I often refer to “biblical Christianity”, by which I simply mean the true Christian religion as revealed by God, in distinction from all man-made variations and imposters. The bottom line is that, if the Bible is not completely and totally the very Word of God, and therefore completely infallible, our faith is built on the shifting sand of subjectivism and is bound to unravel one doctrine at a time, which is precisely what we see happening in the church today.

Marc Roby: That is a very strong statement and I look forward to seeing how you back it up. Where shall we begin?

Dr. Spencer: Let’s begin, as usual, by looking at the what the Bible itself says. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 the apostle Paul wrote that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”[1]

The Greek word translated as “God-breathed” by the NIV is θεόπνευστος, which literally means breathed out by God, which is how the English Standard Version renders it. The King James Version says that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God”, which is why you hear people say that the Bible is inspired by God.

Marc Roby: By which they don’t mean that God gave the person the idea or encouragement to write, which is what we usually do mean by the word inspire.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. We can talk about some actor or musician giving an inspired performance, but that is an entirely different usage of the word. That’s why I don’t like to say the Scriptures are inspired by God, it is too easily misunderstood. The NIV and ESV translations are better here. The Greek says that all Scripture is breathed out by God. The idea is that the Bible, while written by human authors, is uniquely the very words of God himself. We discussed this in Session 27 when we examined the authority of the Bible, and the authority of the Bible is inextricably linked to its infallibility. But, the bottom line is that the Bible is completely infallible because God is infallible and he is the author of the Bible.

Marc Roby: It would be good to define precisely what you mean when you say that the Bible is infallible.

Dr. Spencer: The word infallible means not capable of being in error, so it is a stronger statement than saying the Bible is inerrant, which is, of course, also true. When I say that the Bible is infallible, I mean that because it is the very words of God, who himself is the perfect, all-knowing, sovereign creator of all things and who cannot lie, the Bible, in its original manuscripts, is incapable of being in error.

Marc Roby: These original manuscripts are called the autographs, but we don’t have them in our possession, so how can the doctrine of infallibility be important if it only applies to the autographs?

Dr. Spencer: As we noted back in Session 7, there is a science called textual criticism, which allows us to reconstruct what the autographs said based on the copies we have available. This science is used on other ancient documents as well. We covered this topic in some detail in Session 7, and I am only going to summarize the argument here. But it necessarily begins by examining the copies we have of the original documents, because if these were not complete, or if they were corrupted too badly, textual criticism would yield a very uncertain or incomplete result. In the case of the Bible however, we have very good and complete copies.

The Old Testament has been preserved almost perfectly through the millennia, which we know because the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were found in 1947, gave us copies of much of the Old Testament from before the time of Christ and they agree to an astonishing degree with the next oldest extant copy we have, which is from about 1000 AD. With regard to the New Testament, it is by leaps and bounds the best attested book from antiquity, bar none, as even non-Christian scholars will admit.

Marc Roby: Alright, so we have really good copies of the original documents. What then is this science of textual criticism?

Dr. Spencer: Let me repeat what I said in Session 7 about it because it is critically important to our present discussion. E.J. Young, in his book Thy Word is Truth, provides a marvelous example of how textual criticism can work.[2] He says to consider a schoolteacher who writes a letter to the President of the United States. To her great joy, she receives a personal reply. It is a treasure which she shares with her pupils by dictating the letter to them. And, after collecting the assignment, which gives her 30 imperfect copies of the letter, she loses the original. The question is, can she reconstruct it from the 30 imperfect copies? And the answer is, of course, yes. With a very high degree of certainty she can reconstruct the original letter. The different copies will contain spelling errors, missing or added words and so on, but these errors will be different in the different copies, so by comparing the 30 copies she can surely correct these errors and arrive at a very good copy of the original.

There is, of course, more to it, but that gives you a good idea. When this technique is applied to the Bible, we’re able to reconstruct with very high confidence what the autographs said. And, unlike most ancient documents, we don’t have to fill in holes where there is material missing. When you combine our many different manuscripts, we have reliable, complete copies of the entire Old and New Testaments.

Marc Roby: Alright, so we have very good copies, in the original languages, of the autographs. But, what about the translations that most of us read?

Dr. Spencer: Well, first let me note that the New Testament quotes from the Septuagint, which is a Greek translation of the Old Testament that was in use at the time of Christ, so clearly translations, in and of themselves, are not a problem. Also, as you would expect, some of them are better than others. Translation is never exact and it isn’t neutral either. The particular theological biases of the translator can significantly affect the final result. That is why we should read different translations to find out what the differences are and then also examine the theological biases of the translators. You should also look in good commentaries that go back to the original language and discuss the reasons for various choices made during the translation process.

Marc Roby: That sounds like a lot of work. How can a layperson, with limited time and knowledge, be sure that he or she is getting to the right answer?

Dr. Spencer: First of all, pray. Then you trust God to guide you. And, hopefully, if you have found a good church, led by pious and learned men, you can ask for their help. We use the 1984 New International Version, or NIV, Bible in our church, but it is no longer readily available and the newer versions of the NIV have been corrupted by liberal theology, so if you are looking to purchase a new English-language Bible, I would recommend the English Standard Version, or ESV. The New King James Version is also good. The old King James is still good too, but most modern readers find the English in it a bit difficult to understand.

Finally, it is very important to note that the basic message of salvation is so clearly taught in the Scriptures, that even a poor translation is sufficient to bring you to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. You may get some confusion on secondary points, but the basic message is there.

Marc Roby: And, if a person is born again, then he is guaranteed to have the Holy Spirit to guide him as he seeks to learn God’s truth more completely.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. If you have been born again, you are never truly alone in your search for God’s truth. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to put forth the effort and be careful, but God will guide you. And, if you are reading your Bible, God will also use that to help you recognize whether or not you are in a good church. We have a mutual friend who was saved and started attending a Jehovah’s Witness church – which is definitely not a true Christian church. But, he was reading the Bible and discovered for himself, guided by the Holy Spirit, that that church did not truly stand on the Word of God, so he left and found a good church.

Marc Roby: Alright, you’ve established that the Bible claims to be the very words of God, which makes it infallible, and you’ve argued that the copies we possess in our own language are extremely good representations of what the original documents said, so now let me get back to your opening statement. You said that if we give up on the infallibility of the Bible, our faith will unravel one doctrine at a time. Can you defend that statement?

Dr. Spencer: Sure. If the Bible had errors in it, how would we determine where they are? The only answer is that we would have to look to human reason and scholarship to see if what the Bible says is true. That may sound like a plausible approach, but if you think about it for a bit you can see that it is fatally flawed.

First of all, it means our ultimate standard for truth is human reason, but every rational person admits that human reason is fallible and human knowledge is limited, so our conclusions are necessarily conditional and subject to later revision.

Marc Roby: Can you give us an example of what you mean?

Dr. Spencer: Sure. Prior to the 1990’s many scholars taught that king David was a purely mythical character. But, as we noted in Session 19, the discovery of the Tell Dan Stele and other evidence now makes it clear that King David was a real person in history.

If we subject the Bible to our current understanding of history and science, our ultimate authority is really human reason, not the Word of God. And that is shifting sand. It really leaves us with subjectivism because we have to decide which parts of the Bible to believe and which not to believe. As I just noted, while it may sound reasonable to do that for historical issues, such as the question of whether or not Kind David was a real, historical figure, that really is not a solid foundation.

In addition, it is clearly not a reasonable approach when it comes to what the Bible tells us about God and how to be saved. On what basis are we going to decide which statements are true and which are not? If the Bible cannot be relied upon completely, we are left with our own subjective ideas about God and salvation.

Marc Roby: Perhaps another example would be useful.

Dr. Spencer: Consider the fundamental question of God’s nature. The Bible tells us that there is one God, but that he exists in three persons. On what basis, outside of the Bible, can someone say whether that teaching is true or not? There are many other doctrines that are similar. Where, besides the Bible, can we look to see whether an eternal heaven or hell exists? What about how we can escape the punishment of hell? These things are only revealed to us in the Bible. If it isn’t infallible, then we can’t possibly know that what it teaches us about these most important issues is right.

Marc Roby: I see your point.

Dr. Spencer: There is a lot of confusion in the modern church world because so many people have given up on the infallibility of the Bible. As a result, people question whether there really is an eternal heaven, or an eternal hell, or whether Jesus Christ truly rose from the dead, or even whether or not Jesus Christ is truly God, or was born of a virgin.

Let’s examine just one common example. Many people who claim to be Bible believing Christians will say that they don’t believe in eternal hell. And the argument they give will virtually always be something like this; God is love and it wouldn’t be loving for God to punish people for all eternity, so I can’t believe that God would do that.

Marc Roby: I’ve heard similar arguments.

Dr. Spencer: Even if the argument is far more sophisticated than I’ve made it sound, it still boils down to human theorizing about what God would or would not do. But, if we believe the Bible to truly be God’s infallible Word, then the question can only be answered by looking at the Bible; and when you do that, the answer is quite clear.

The infallibility of the Bible is of central importance because it establishes the only firm foundation for our faith. Once we have come to the realization that Word of God is infallible, then all speculation and human philosophizing go away and the only question we need to ask on any issue we are interested in, is “What does the Word of God say?”

Marc Roby: And hence the title and subject of this podcast.

Dr. Spencer: Precisely. But, I really want to emphasize how important this issue is and establish clearly in our listener’s minds that, if they are Christians, the Word of God is not only their absolute authority, it is also infallible. The book I quoted from earlier, Thy Word is Truth, by the great Old Testament scholar E.J. Young, was written precisely because he saw this issue as central to our faith.

Marc Roby: And that book was written in 1957!

Dr. Spencer: Absolutely, and the problem is much worse now. Young states his purpose in writing the book clearly on page 7; he wrote that his purpose was “To acquaint the intelligent layman with the Biblical doctrine of inspiration and to convince him of its importance”.[3] I’m going to be using his book quite a bit in our discussion on this topic and I highly recommend it to our listeners, it’s still readily available in print from many sources.

Marc Roby: The debate over this topic also led, in 1978, to a large number of biblical scholars producing the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right, and I think the opening paragraph of that statement would be good to read. It says, “The authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian Church in this and every age. Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are called to show the reality of their discipleship by humbly and faithfully obeying God’s written Word. To stray from Scripture in faith or conduct is disloyalty to our Master. Recognition of the total truth and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture is essential to a full grasp and adequate confession of its authority.”[4]

Marc Roby: That is a wonderful statement, and a good place to end for today. I’d like to remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org.

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] E.J. Young, Thy Word is Truth, the Banner of Truth Trust, 2012, pg. 57

[3] Ibid, pg. 7

[4] Available from http://defendinginerrancy.com/chicago-statements/ and also from http://www.alliancenet.org/the-chicago-statement-on-biblical-inerrancy

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[Download PDF Transcript]

Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by continuing to examine the characteristics of Scripture. We introduced the acrostic SNAC, which stands for sufficiency, necessity, authority and clarity. We have discussed the sufficiency, necessity and clarity of Scripture in previous sessions, so today we move on to examine the authority of Scripture. Dr. Spencer, where do you want to begin?

Dr. Spencer: As always, let’s begin with Bible itself. It clearly claims to be the authoritative Word of God. So, I like what Wayne Grudem says in his definition of the authority of Scripture. He says that “The authority of Scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.”[1] Now we must be clear that he doesn’t mean that God personally spoke every word in the Bible, but only that he inspired the writers in such a way that what they wrote is completely true. When we read the Bible, we find many things said by many different people, and even by some things spoken by angels and Satan. And the Bible was written by a number of different people, who used their own words. The classic biblical statement about the nature of Scripture is found in 2 Timothy 3:16, where we are told that “All Scripture is God-breathed” [2], and in 2 Peter 1:21 we read that “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Therefore, although we are not given a detailed account of how God accomplished this, we know that everything that has been written was in some way guided by him so that Paul could truthfully say it is God-breathed, and Grudem is right to say that to disbelieve or disobey the Bible, is to disbelieve or disobey God.

Marc Roby: And, of course, there are many places in the Old Testament where something is prefaced by the statement “God said”; so, at least some of Scripture is made up of words that God himself spoke.

Dr. Spencer: That’s true. We discussed the Bible’s claim to authority in Session 4, and in that session I noted that Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that the Old Testament uses sayings such as “God said” or “The Lord says” over 3,800 times.[3] Also, in the New Testament we have many quotations of things said by Jesus Christ, who is himself God. But, it is important to note that even those things that are clearly not said by God, have his authority. Everything we read in the Bible is authoritative, we shouldn’t make the mistake that many make of saying that it is only authoritative when it speaks about matters pertaining to salvation.

We must also be careful to point out however, that not everything you read in the Bible is good or true, because we have wicked statements of Satan and others recorded there as well. But, even when we are being told about a lie that Satan or some person spoke, the content of what they said is being truthfully relayed to us.

Marc Roby: Since you brought up Session 4, perhaps it would be good to remind our listeners that the old podcasts and their transcripts can all be found on the website, whatdoesthewordsay.org.

Dr. Spencer: That is a good reminder. And I don’t want to go back and cover all that we said in that session, but we adduced a number of Scriptures to support the fact that the Bible itself, both the Old and New Testaments, presents itself, from beginning to end, as the very words of God.

Marc Roby: And the theological term used for that idea is the plenary inspiration of Scripture.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. The word plenary simply means complete, or including every member. So, the plenary inspiration of Scripture means that every single word is inspired by God.

Marc Roby: But, we should be clear that when you say every word is inspired by God, you don’t mean the Bible was simply dictated by God.

Dr. Spencer: Of course not. Although some parts of it were. For example, the letters written to the seven churches in Asia, as recorded in Revelation 2 and 3, all begin with Christ telling John to write what he says. So, these letters apparently were dictated. And, in a number of places in the Old Testament prophets God tells a prophet to go and tell someone that the Lord says something as you noted a couple of minutes ago. So, presumably, those passages were also essentially dictated. But, the vast majority of the Bible is written by human authors under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Marc Roby: And you can tell that by their different styles and vocabularies.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, you can. And yet, the Holy Spirit “carried them” along as we saw earlier in such a way that what they wrote is exactly what God wanted them to write. And that is the main point. Since God is the Sovereign Lord of creation and history, and since he knows absolutely everything perfectly and exhaustively, and since he cannot lie or make a mistake, the Scriptures themselves must be infallible.

Marc Roby: Which also means, of course, that they are inerrant.

Dr. Spencer: It’s good that you mentioned that since inerrant is a term you often hear. And yes, given that they are infallible, which means that it is impossible for them to be wrong, it also true that they are without error. I usually prefer the stronger word infallible since it is at least logically possible for man to write things that are without error, but given that God is the author of the Bible, it is not possible for it to have any errors in it.

Marc Roby: Now, you’re of course speaking about the autographs, or in other words, the original manuscripts when you say that.

Dr. Spencer: Yes. But as we discussed in Session 7, given the science of textual criticism and the huge number of manuscripts we have available, we have a nearly certain copy of the original autographs. In addition, what small doubts remain do not affect any significant doctrine of Christianity in any way. So, while there may be small errors here and there in our copies, and there can certainly be errors in our translations as well, we have great confidence that what we have is a reliable record of the very words inspired by God. And, therefore, with minor and non-critical exceptions due to copyist errors, or translation errors, or printing errors, the Bibles that we have are infallible. And that is why the Bible has intrinsic authority, meaning that its authority is an essential trait because of its very nature.

Marc Roby: In other words, it isn’t authoritative because someone has declared it to be so.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. Whether I think the Bible has authority or not makes no difference. It does have authority. Whether I think it is infallible or not doesn’t matter, it is infallible. The two ideas are inextricably woven together with the inherent infallibility and authority of God himself.

Marc Roby: Which is why we have said a number of times that the Bible must be a Christian’s ultimate authority.

Dr. Spencer: Mm-hmm. In the middle of Christ’s High Priestly prayer in John 17, he prays to the Father for his followers and says, in Verse 17, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” This is a very interesting statement and the English translation properly reflects what it says in the Greek. It does not say, “Your word is true”, it says “Your word is truth”, which is very different. As Wayne Grudem points out in his Systematic Theology,[4] had Jesus said “Your word is true”, it could be taken to mean that the Word of God has been compared with some external standard for truth and found to be in compliance with it. But, to say “Your word is truth” is a different statement. It implies that the Word of God itself, is the ultimate standard for what is true.

Marc Roby: And, of course, Jesus calls himself the truth in one of his famous “I Am” statements. In John 14:6 we read that he said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Dr. Spencer: Very true. And Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that in Luke 24:44, during one of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, he told his disciples that “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”[5] In other words, he was saying that everything written about him in the entirety of the Old Testament must take place. In Session 4 we noted that in John 10:35, Jesus said that “the Scripture cannot be broken”, which is an even broader statement than he made in Luke 24. So, all of Scripture is the truth. All of it is infallible. It cannot be broken. Whatever it declares will happen will, in fact, happen. We just need to be sure that we are understanding it correctly.

Marc Roby: And that requires that we be born again. We’ve noted before that it says in 1 Corinthians 2:14 that “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that point deserves repetition. I think James Boice makes an interesting point in this regard in his book Foundations of the Christian Faith. He points out that the fact that the Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible and the one who enables us to properly understand the Bible gives us a great balance to help us avoid errors in interpretation. He wrote that “The combination of an objective, written revelation and its subjective interpretation to the individual by God’s Spirit is the key to the Christian doctrine of the knowledge of God. This combination keeps us from two errors. The first is the error of overspiritualizing revelation.”[6] He then explains what he means by this first error of “overspiritualizing revelation”. It occurs when someone says that God has spoken directly to them by his Spirit, but fails to check and see whether what they think the Holy Spirit is speaking is in agreement with the Bible, which is the written word of the Holy Spirit. We don’t deny that the Holy Spirit speaks to people in various ways and at various times, but he will never contradict what is stated in the written Word of God. The second error that we avoid by needing both the written word and the illumination of the Holy Spirit is what Boice calls “overintellectualizing God’s truth”, by which he essentially means people who study the Bible without ever being transformed by it. When you come across a Bible scholar who knows a great deal about God’s word, but fails to understand it properly, you know that he has not been born again.

Marc Roby: As Jesus said, you will know them by their fruit.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. And the first fruit of regeneration is repentance and faith. But, without regeneration, you can study the Bible in the original languages for your entire life and you will never properly understand it.

Marc Roby: Alright. So, we have established, partly back in Session 4 and partly today, that the entire Bible is the authoritative, infallible Word of God. And that the authority and infallibility of the Bible go hand in hand. We have also noted that to disbelieve or disobey what the Bible says is to disbelieve or disobey God himself. And we have noted that a person must be born again to understand the Bible correctly and produce the fruit of repentance and faith. What else do you want to say about the authority of the Bible?

Dr. Spencer: I want to move on to discuss the delegated authority that God gives to people through his word.

Marc Roby: Very well. We discussed authority in Session 5 and noted there that it is something most modern people don’t like. So, what else do you want to say about it?

Dr. Spencer: Well, our modern egalitarian mindset is, in one limited sense, perfectly biblical. The Bible indicates that all human beings are made in the image of God and are precious in his sight. There is no inherent superiority in terms of worth of men over women, or of one race of people over another, or even of one individual person over another.

Marc Roby: Now, there are, of course, many undeniable differences in ability between different people, not all men and women are created equal in that regard.

Dr. Spencer: That is clearly true. And I have never met a person who denies that obvious fact. I dare say that no one would want to pay money to come watch me play basketball, or come hear me play guitar. When we spend our money on something like watching a sporting event or going to a concert or a play, we want to watch the best. And not very many people deny that there is a need for someone to have the authority to make decisions at a company, for example, either. And yet, for some reason people get very offended at the idea of authority in a family, or in the church.

Marc Roby: That is an interesting phenomenon. And yet, the Bible pretty clearly establishes authority in three different spheres; the family, the church and the state.

Dr. Spencer: Right, and the church and the state are, in a sense, an outgrowth of the family. In his book The Doctrine of the Christian Life, John Frame refers to all of these as “spheres of society” and points out while discussing the Fifth Commandment, which is to honor your father and mother, that “The family is the fundamental sphere from which all others are derived. This is true historically, developmentally, and logically.”[7] He then goes on to describe that, historically, Adam was the prophet, priest and king in his family. And, developmentally, parents of young children are “their authoritative source of teaching, discipline, employment, and religious leadership.” And, finally, he writes that, “logically speaking, rule in all spheres is similar to that of the family.”

Marc Roby: That is an interesting point, and I look forward to discussing these different spheres of authority, but we are out of time for today. I’d like to close by reminding our listeners to email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org.

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, pg. 73

[2] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[3] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Authority, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016, pg. 50

[4] Grudem, op. cit., pg 83

[5] Lloyd-Jones, op. cit., pg. 46

[6] James Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith, Revised in One Volume, InterVarsity Press, 1986, pg. 56

[7] John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, P&R Publishing Company, 2008, pp 584-585

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