SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS McCARTHY
5th SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY
FEBRUARY 3, 2019
Title: “The Living Word”
Text: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Scripture Reading: 2 Peter 1:19-21
In 1985, for the first time in more than fifty years, Congress authorized the issue of official US government gold coins. Beginning in 1986 these new coins came on the market. Each of these American Eagles, as they are known, is guaranteed by the US Mint to contain the stated amount of pure 22 karat gold. They come in 1/10, 1/4, 1/2, and 1-ounce sizes, and buyers from around the world trust these coins because they trust the promises of the United States government that the coins are what they claim to be.
When it comes to Scripture, we have something far more reliable than the guarantee of a government—we have the promises of Almighty God that His Word is perfect and pure. God promised to preserve His Word for us. That means that, according to the promise of God, we can have complete faith that every word in the Bible is there on purpose. Psalm 12:7 affirms, “Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” The wise man in Proverbs also caution, “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.” Proverbs 30:5
What should be one’s attitude toward the Bible? Some have made a sacred fetish out of the Bible. People worship the book rather than the Christ it portrays. Others feel that there is some magical value in having a Bible nearby, regardless of whether it is read or studied. These attitudes are dangerously close to bibliolatry. Bibliolatry is the worship of the Bible as a book rather than understanding the Bible as a divine Word of God and the expressions of God’s plan for people’s lives.
Before we can properly assess our attitude toward the Bible, we must discover what it is. We call it the Word of God, the living Word, the Law of life. All of these definitions are valid. But what we do mean by them? To answer this question, let us look at few things we can consider the Bible to be.
The Bible is a specific revelation. People decide that they are going to “study the Bible” and master its contents just as they would study American history, anatomy, philosophy, or any other subject. They immediately become frustrated and convinced that the Bible is nothing more than a mass of unrelated material filled with contradictions. What is their problem? It is simply that they are natural people attempting to understand spiritual things. Paul commented on this problem to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 2:14).
On the other hand, when people are filled with the Bible, they find an inexhaustible source of truth opening up before them. They discover an amazing unity and a beautiful symmetry in its message. They see a magnificent interrelationship between its sixty six books, each making a contribution toward the overall theme of God’s redemptive purpose for the fallen, sinful humanity, as that purpose is culminated and revealed in Jesus Christ. That makes me to ask the question, what do we mean by the term revelation?
The word itself means “drawing back the veil,” signifying that an obstruction must be removed for a person’s vision to be complete. It means to make known that which was once concealed from view. Divine revelation is disclosure by God of truths that one could not know otherwise. Therefore whatever people discover about the truths of God must come by divine revelation. So then, what do we mean by illumination?
If a specific revelation by God to a person is to take place, that person’s understanding, which has been darkened by sin, must be illuminated. Spiritual illumination means the bringing of heavenly light into the soul of a person who was born into spiritual darkness and who has lived in that darkness. This is one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit. This is to illuminate the minds of believers so they understand God’s Word. In honesty and sincerity, the true believer prays, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psalm 119:18).
To receive illumination from God in regard to the meaning of the Bible, we must be faithful to the light, or understanding, that we receive. If the motive of our study of the Bible is spiritual pride, causing us to be “puffed up” with our intellectual grasp of the Bible, we grieve the Holy Spirit within us. We must carefully apply the spiritual knowledge we receive to our everyday lives.
The Bible is a progressive revelation. Not only is the Bible a specific revelation of God to humanity, but it is also a progressive revelation. When Christian begin a systematic study of the Bible, they discover that it is a gradual unfolding of God’s plan and purpose.
When children are in kindergarten, they aren’t given Shakespeare to read and algebra problems to work or solve. Rather, they learn how to write the alphabet and how to count. The progressive development of their minds and understanding begins here. So it is with God’s Word. God started with people, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little,” until Jesus came and lived with symbols, or “pictures.” The Old Testament is a great picture book filled with symbols that lead us to Jesus as he is revealed in the New Testament.
For example, there is a ‘scarlet thread’ that runs through the Bible. It begins in the garden of Eden, where the blood of an innocent animal was shed to provide coverings for the nakedness of Adam and Eve after they had sinned. From that primeval incident, God began to show that people cannot hide their sins from him nor remedy the condition of sin in their lives. Only God can do it. Thus the ‘scarlet thread’ has woven its way through the Bible. Finally, in glorious climax and culmination, it flows forth on Calvary to fulfill every symbol in the Old Testament.
One would see how the New Testament as a book is bathed in blood, the vicarious, redemptive blood of our crucified Lord. Natural people are repulsed by this; the critics of Christianity turn away from it. But without the power of God progressively revealed in the Scriptures, flowing forth in the shed blood of his Son, there is no power to save people from their sins. Therefore God has progressively “turned on the lights” of understanding. The first promise of God in Scripture (Genesis 3:15) has in it the anticipation of a completed redemption; and the first act of worship looks toward God.
Finally, the Bible is an inspired revelation. In addition to being a specific and progressive revelation of God to humanity, the Bible is also an inspired revelation. Without an acknowledgment of the divine inspiration of Scripture, the Bible becomes little more than the study of history, myth, and superstition. The word inspired is found twice in the King James version of the Holy Bible. It is found in Job 32:8 and 2 Timothy 3:16. The job reference refers to God’s authorship of humanity’s intelligence, while Paul’s word in 2 Timothy means “God-breathed,” suggesting that God imparted his Word directly into the minds of the authors.
When we speak of inspiration of the whole Bible, we refer to those original documents as they came from the pens of the various authors. We no longer have the original manuscripts, but of one thing we can be certain: the same Holy Spirit who inspired the writers in the beginning will preserve the truth of the Scriptures. Translators are not inspired in the sense that the original authors were , so their choice of words and phrases may not always be completely accurate.
God’s Word was inspired not by ‘common inspiration’ or in the same way that human literature geniuses are inspired. Rather, God gave his thoughts to the individual writers, and they then expressed them within the framework of their unique personalities. Holy people of God spoke in old times as they were “moved,” or inspired, by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).
Since John penned Revelation, God has not given any new pr further revelation to humanity. His will for people and for the ages is contained in the Bible. Everything people need to know to be saved from their sins and to live a Christian life is in God’s Word. It tells people that they are lost and condemned in their sin. It also tells people that God loves them and that he demonstrated his love in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All they need to do is accept by faith the message of the living Word of God.