Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Scriptures - Preface

A few months back I was asked to prepare a teaching for our church on "The Word." Now that my time is drawing near, I need to get down to the business of deciding on what I going to say. When it comes to the scriptures, I an very adept at teaching what they say but have never taught them as their own subject. It is one thing to teach The Word it is another to teach about The Word. This has proven to be quite a challenging proposition; one which, by the grace of God, I hope to accomplish in a way that will stir up in God's people a renewed love and desire for His scriptures. However, before launching forward into such an endeavor, especially one which for me is an uncharted endeavor, it is important to clarify the object of our search and to define the limits of our investigation. Otherwise an eternity may be spent in its investigation and I simply don't have that much time (at least not now).

Scriptures and The Word

We often use the terms "Scriptures" and "The Word" or "The Word of God" interchangeably and, in most cases and for most practicalities, they are. However, there are subtle differences which, without grasping their importance, we may run amiss in our investigation.

In the Old Testament, the term "the Word of God" was almost exclusively used to refer to prophesy or to prophetic insights, dreams, and revelations. For example, when Samuel came to anoint Saul as King over Israel, he said, "Say to the servant that he might go ahead of us and pass on, but you remain standing now, that I may proclaim the word of God to you." (1 Samuel 9:27) Samuel then proceeded to prophesy to Saul the Word of God for him. Similarly, Abram received the Word of God in a vision regarding his future offspring. "After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, 'Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great.'" (Genesis 15:1) The word "scripture" never appears in our English translations of the Old Testament. They were most often simply referenced to as "this book". "Then the king [Josiah] stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord to walk after the Lord, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant written in this book." (2 Chronicles 34:31)

Similarly, in the New Testament many references are made to the prophesies and, in most cases, when referring to "scriptures" they most often were referring directly to the recorded prophesies of the Old Testament. Peter refers to the Old Testament prophesies as "the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts." (2 Peter 1:19) and confirmed their divine origin as being the Word of God. "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." (2 Peter 1:20-21) It would be hundreds of years before any of the New Testament writings would be called "scripture".

However, in the New Testament we learn that the Word of God is also God and proceeds from the Father and is wholly personified in the Person of Jesus Christ. John tells us, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God... And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1-2, 14) Old Testament prophesy had been replaced by the present and living revealing of the Word in human flesh. The Word of God, once hidden in dark sayings and night visions, had now been publicly revealed as the only begotten Son of the Father. However, this should not surprise us for, as John further testifies, "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Revelation 19:10) Jesus was then revealed through prophesy but now He has been revealed in the flesh. This was God's plan all along, as the writer of Hebrews tells us, "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." (Hebrews 1:1-2)

The study of the Word of God is the study of Jesus, and the study of Jesus is the study of the Father, and the study of the Father is the study of God. All of this aided by the gracious work of the Spirit in our lives and upon our minds. Such as study is far more extensive and expansive for us to take up here. It would take a life time, actually an eternity, to properly understand and apprehend God; a vocation that is most noble and praise worth for all who take it up. However, for our purposes, we will focus, not so much on The Word of God, but on the scriptures themselves and our need for them and their benefit in our lives.

Scriptures are those collection of inspired writings. These writings serve to give definition, context, history, and revelation regarding our faith. They also help us to answer the most pressing of life's questions. Irenaeus speaks elegantly of our basic need to know God. "For the Lord who formed the visual powers is He who made the whole man, carrying out the will of the Father. And inasmuch as man, with respect to that formation which, was after Adam, having fallen into transgression, needed the laver of regeneration, [the Lord] said to him [upon whom He had conferred sight], after He had smeared his eyes with the clay, 'Go to Siloam, and wash;' thus restoring to him both [his perfect] confirmation, and that regeneration which takes place by means of the laver. And for this reason when he was washed he came seeing, that he might both know Him who had fashioned him, and
that man might learn [to know] Him who has conferred upon him life." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5 Chapter 15) All our questions of who we are, why we were created, what our purpose in this life is, and how we can know happiness, truth, and joy find their answers when we come to know Him who fashioned us and Him who redeemed us. This is the one that the scriptures speak about and these are the questions whose answers they reveal. This is why the scriptures are precious and important to us, for they tell us about God and about ourselves and show us the way to life abundant. I hope you enjoy the following series on The Scriptures.

David Robison

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