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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:What God Has Written!
Text:BC 4 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2007-10-21
Added:2009-04-30
Updated:2009-05-21
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


BELGIC CONFESSION OF FAITH IV

(Reading: 2 Peter 3:1-18)

 

What God Has Written!

 

 

Congregation in our Lord Jesus Christ...

 

     This fourth Article of the Belgic Confession of Faith is about what is in the Bible.

          It’s something which we often don’t give much thought to.

 

     I mean, if I ask you to think about what’s in the Bible, how would you answer?

          Wouldn’t you straight-away think about the 66 books – the 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New.

              That’s what we read in Article IV after all!

 

     And of course we think about the gospel.

          That’s especially what’s in the Bible.

 

     Article IV of the Belgic, though, is looking at this question in terms of the distinctiveness of what’s in Scripture.

          How is it different from anything else, for example?

              Why is it not the same as other types of ancient literature?

 

     These are important questions.

          You see, if there is any doubt whatsoever about the reliability of any of this, how can you know it is true?

              One single mistake, or even a slight contradiction, would be catastrophic for all that Christians believe in.

 

     The fourth Article helps us in this vital area.

          And it does so in two ways.

              It gives us two distinct answers to these questions.

 

     The first of these is that it declares THE UNITY OF ALL THE BIBLE.

          This is how the article begins, “We believe that the Holy Scriptures are contained in two books, namely, the Old and New Testament…”.

 

     While we may not think twice about the Old and New Testaments and all that’s in them being in our Bibles, it wasn’t always that way in church history.

          There have often been attacks against either of these two books, or parts of them.

 

     Almost within a hundred years after the dying and rising of our Lord there was the heretic Marcion who took his scissors to the Bible.

          Around 140 A.D. he completely cut out the Old Testament.

              And he didn’t leave the New Testament intact either.

     He tore out three of the four gospels – Matthew, Mark and John.

          He got rid of all the general letters, Acts, and revelation, leaving just ten of Paul’s letters.

 

     But don’t think he left Luke and those letters alone either.

          He soon cut them to a truncated size in a clear display of producing an anti-Jewish canon.

              He wanted only a God of love through allegedly discovering what the true heart of the Gospel was.

 

     There was soon a reply from the orthodox Church.

          But what Marcion did do was to confirm which books were in the Bible, even if it was by trying to get them out of the Bible!

 

     The next time there was a specific attack on the unity of the Scriptures was at the time of the Reformation.

          It came this time from the Anabaptists.

              They too rejected the Old Testament.

     And they did so, they said, because God had only an earthly covenant with Israel.

          So the Old Testament was claimed to be speaking only of earthly blessings.

 

     As proof, they appealed to 2nd Corinthians 3 verse 6.

          There Paul wrote, “for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

 

     This is not saying, however, that the law is dead.

          It says that it kills.

              So it is very much alive!

                   Thus they were strongly opposed by the Lutheran and Reformed churches.

         

     The next major era is the effect of liberalism in the 19th century.

          This began in Germany in the theological colleges there and soon spread.

              One of those professors, Adolf von Harnack wrote, “Rejecting the Old Testament in the second century was a mistake which the ancient Church did not accept; preserving it in the sixteenth century was a lot which the Reformation could not avoid; maintaining it as a canonical record in Protestantism in the nineteenth century is the result of ecclesiastical and religious impotence.”

 

     So liberalism blasted against the Old Testament.

          They too said that it was far too earthly and unloving.

              And their influence has remained until this day.

 

     You only need to think, in this regard, of the so-called ‘Jesus Seminar.’

          This is a group of liberal theologians who have been working their way through the gospels for a number of years trying to agree on what it was that Jesus actually said.

              And you know what they came down to?

                   One single phrase!

 

     But there has been a come-back for Anabaptism also these days.

          In many Arminian churches you will find the Old Testament also disparaged.

              Because again the old mantra of “God is love” has wiped it out.

 

     Well, the early New Testament Church had no doubt where the Old Testament fitted in.

          In Acts 17 the Bereans are commended for searching the Scriptures to check out if what the apostle Paul was telling them was of God.

              Verse 11 describes them as having a “noble character” for doing that.

 

     Already in the Old Testament we see that same understanding.

          In Exodus 40 verse 20 the two tables of the law were placed within the ark as God’s testimony to Israel for all times.

              The laws of Deuteronomy were entrusted to the sons of Levi for safekeeping as chapter 31 of that book details.

         

     Then when Solomon brought the ark into the finished temple, 1st Kings 8 verse 9 said that the law was still laying under the mercy seat.

          When Joash was crowned the priest Jehoida placed also the ‘testimony’ on his head, as 2 Kings 11:12 says.

              To preserve the proverbs of Solomon as holy writing Proverbs 25 verse 1 tells of Hezekiah’s wise men making copies.

                   And when there was reformation the people all shouted, in the words of Exodus 24 verse 7, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.”

 

     I think we get the idea, don’t we?

          There is a unique coherence in what the Holy Spirit has preserved for us.

              The quote is so true which goes, “The new is in the old concealed; and the old is in the new revealed.”

 

     The second distinct answer to the question about what God has written is THE AUTHORITY IN ALL ITS BOOKS.

          Reading further down Article IV we read that the Old and New Testaments “are canonical, against which nothing can be alleged.”

 

     It’s helpful here to define the word ‘canon’.

          It comes from the Greek word meaning ‘yardstick’ or ‘guide’.

              Over time it came to mean within the Church, ‘the standard for faith and life.’

 

     So you cannot contradict these books.

          They make perfect sense.

              In fact, they have everything we need when we need it.

 

     Our Lord referred to this in connection with the Hebrews Scriptures.

          In Matthew 22 verse 29 He is quite clear about its authority.

              And in John 5:39 and 10:35 He states clearly that they are being fulfilled in his own person and work.

    

     In Galatians 6 verse 16 Paul spoke of this.

          He said there that peace and mercy would come to all who followed this rule.

 

     It is particularly relevant in our Confession of Faith because the Church of Rome claimed to determine the canon.

          They stated then, and still state today, that the Church is above Scripture.

 

     This is why, even with the encouragement to read Scripture amongst many Roman Catholics today, they still teach that the Scriptures themselves are not necessary.

          You can be saved through the sacraments on their own, for example.

 

     The Confession of Faith rejects any idea whatsoever of an “open canon” which implies that a new book could yet be added to the Bible or that the Bible as a standard is subservient to anything else.

          The great Church Father Athanasius was clear about this.

              In 367 he stated the 27 books of the New Testament in a pastoral letter.

                   And then he said of them, “These are the wells of salvation, so that he who thirst may be satisfied with the sayings of these.

     “Let no one add to these.

          “Let nothing be taken away.”

 

     While officially the canon was stated by the Council of Cathage in 397 A.D. it had been commonly recognised for hundreds of years before.

          As had the Old Testament which we heard of earlier.

 

     This is what the next phrase in Article IV refers to.

          “These are thus named in the Church of God,” it declares.

 

     While the books of the Old Testament were compiled over more than a thousand years, the books of the New Testament were all written within fifty years.

          They are more than self-authenticating.

 

     For example, Colossians 4 verse 16 speaks about that letter also being read in the church of Laodicea.

          And vice versa for the letter Paul had sent to Laodicea.

 

     Didn’t we read earlier the words of the apostle Peter about the writings of Paul?

          In his second letter’s third chapter, he wrote in verse 16 that they were equally “Scriptures.”

 

     This phrase in the Confession, “these are thus named in the Church of God,” also tells the story of why the Scriptures are as widely promulgated as they are today.

          What has remained the constant best seller since the printing press was invented?

              The Bible!

 

     What has been translated into thousands of languages?

          The Bible!

 

     And that’s not to get into all the books that have been written about the books of the Bible or the themes in the Bible or about the whole of the Bible.

          The Church of God has been busy!

              And she will continue that great labour of love until the Word has gone throughout this world and fulfilled the Lord’s great commission.

 

     You only need to look at how the cults try to rob us of God’s Word.

          Whether it’s by distorting that Word, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Local Church does.

              Or by adding their own books to the Word and so taking away from the Word, as the Mormons and Christian Scientists do.

                   This applies also to the Seventh Day Adventists who consider Ellen White a true prophet and insist on her writing as on par with Scripture.

 

     Will there ever be found a book that could destroy our faith?

          Remember the Gospel of Judas?

 

     No, that won’t happen.

          Whatever discoveries will be made, also in archaeology, will only further confirm the truth found in God’s Word!

 

     And hasn’t ‘The Gospel of Judas’ definitely shown this?

          It is a later Gnostic gospel which comes from a sect seeking to distort the scriptures.

              There are many more of the same kind where that came from!

 

     This is a warning we read of in Scripture.     

          It’s right there in the very last chapter of the last book in the Scriptures, in Revelation 22, verses 18 and 19.

              As the apostle John wrote while under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.

                   “And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”

    

     Now, you might still here one more objection, though.

          It concerns what is written in the rest of Article IV.

              For the eagle-eyed critic will notice what appears to be several errors.

                   There is no first book of Ezra, David didn’t write all the psalms, and Hebrews wasn’t written by Paul.

 

     In answer to this we need to say that this doesn’t diminish the force of Article IV, or the Confession at all.

          The title ‘first book of Ezra’ was used because Nehemiah is sometimes called “2 Ezra”.

              The psalms are so-called even though it’s always been known that there were other authors as well.

     And Hebrews may well have not been written by Paul.

          But it could have been.

              We don’t know.

     The issue here is not the authorship of the book but its canonicity.

          That is not disputed.

 

     What God has written in a unity and it is an authority.

          It will never contradict itself.

              Rather, it will always affirm all its parts as the only true divine Word it is.

                  

     Do you believe that?

          And, just as important, do you live that?

 

     There were four ministers discussing the merits of the various translations of the Bible.

          One liked a particular version best because of its simple, beautiful English.

              Another preferred a more scholarly edition because it was closer to the original Hebrew and Greek.

                   Still another liked a contemporary version because of its up-to-date vocabulary.

 

     The fourth minister was silent for a moment.

          Then he said, “I liked my mother’s translation best.”

 

     Surprised, the other three men said they didn’t know his mother had translated the Bible.

          “Yes,” he replied.

              “She translated it into life, and it was the most convincingly translation I ever saw.”

 

     The most important thing, dear believer, is to learn God’s Word and do it!

          That’s what the faithful servants of the past have showed.

              So let’s also be thankful that we have God’s authoritative Word.

     Let’s translate it into life.

          Amen.

    

         

PRAYER:

Let’s pray…

     O Most Loving Heavenly Father,

          How glad we are that You have given us Your Word and kept it for us by the preserving work of Your Holy Spirit.

              Help us to deeply treasure it.

     Even more, help us to show its treasures with lives that translate these scriptures for those around.

          May many see that we’re living with You every day because we’re doing what You say.

              In the Name of the Living Word, Jesus Christ, we pray, Amen.

 

 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.rcnz.org.nz

(c) Copyright 2007, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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