Summary: There’s power in the Word that we bring to church and study through the week.
April 16, 2005
On your laps, in your case, or, at least, in your home, you have one of the most incredible books- the Bible. When we understand how we got it, we have to appreciate that we have a miracle in our hands each time we read or, even, hold it, and when we consider the words of the Bible, we can appreciate that we really do have words intended to guide our lives. Our faith is founded on the conviction that God is there and that he is not silent. He has revealed himself to mankind, and the record and the focus of that revelation is Scripture. It’s interesting, and valuable, to understand how authoritative we can understand scripture to be.
1. The biblical writers were confident that they were speaking from God. So often, we read, especially in the OT, the words, “Thus says the Lord.” And the NT is no less clear- 1 Peter 1.10-12- Peter, understood to be the author, is clear that the Holy Spirit who inspired the prophets was present in a unique way in Jesus of Nazareth, and was at work in ‘those who preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven’. In the second letter, Peter sees the inspired OT scriptures confirmed by the coming, transfiguration, and the voice of Jesus (2 Pet.1.16-21). Paul clearly felt that he was involved in God’s work- 1 Cor.2.12-13- this was the authority back of Paul’s spoken word, and he was no less clear about the authority of the written word- 2 Tim.3.16.
2. The preaching of the NT evangelists shared a common content, using a basic outline, which provided a framework for the simple, but powerful, scriptural message: “The age of fulfillment has dawned, as the Scriptures foretold. God has sent his Messiah, Jesus. He died in shame upon the cross. God raised him again from the tomb. He is now Lord, at God’s right hand. The proof of this is the Holy Spirit, whose effects you see. This Jesus will come again at the end of history. Repent, believe, and be baptized.” (C.H. Dodd in “The Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments”. Those who heard the message believed it came from God- 1 Thess.2.13.
3. When you look around the world, and look at churches which believe the Bible, teach the Bible, allow their outlook and attitudes to be molded by the Bible, they are the growing churches in the world. This is as true in the First World as in the Two-Thirds World- it makes no difference. There is a power in biblical preaching, which is never present where scripture is not the centre.
The fact is that there is power in scriptural Christianity. It has power to build up believers, and enable them to face the temptations, problems, and crises of this life. It has a unique power to convert. God’s word is alive and powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword- Heb.4.12, and time and again, the person who makes good use of it will find that it has pierced to the hearts of his hearers in a way that his own words could never do.
In the second century, Justin Martyr, a disciple of the apostle John, wrote, “The Scriptures and the words of Jesus possess a terrible power in themselves and a wonderful sweetness. Straightaway a flame was kindled in my soul, and a love of the prophets and of those men who were friends of Christ possessed me.’ His disciple, Tatian, wrote, “I sought how I might be able to discover the truth, and I happened to meet with certain barbaric writings, too old to be compared with the opinions of the Greeks, and too divine to be compared with their errors. And I was led to put faith in these by the unpretentious cast of the language, the genuine character of the writers, their intelligible account of creation, the foreknowledge they displayed of future events, the excellent quality of the precepts, and their declaration that the government of the worlds is centred in one Being.”
We need to know these things to be confident with the writings that we call Holy Scripture and when we think of using them in our contemporary world. We don’t want to have the wrong tools at our disposal. We want to do good in the lives of those we touch, and we need confidence, in a time when people downplay scripture, that it is not to be downplayed, but to be lifted up. The most important question we have to decide for ourselves is whether or not we will accept the Bible’s claim to bring us God’s own word. On that foundation, all else depends. We have such an impact of secularization around us, and are so much affected by it, ourselves, that we can feel less than confident with the tools that we know mean something to us, as individuals. Can they mean as much to others? However, the authority of Scripture can be rationally held and competently defended by modern, critical theologians.