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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:Why we value and believe in the Bible
Text:BC 3 -7 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Written Word of God
 
Preached:2022
Added:2022-12-06
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 56:1,4,5

Psalm 119:40-42

Psalm 119:39

Hymn 1

Hymn 83

Scripture readings: Psalm 19:7-14, 2 Timothy 3:10-17

Catechism lesson:  Belgic Confession articles 3-7

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

The Word of God has often been regarded as dangerous by those who hate it. It’s illegal to own a Bible in certain countries even today.  In countries like North Korea or Somalia, you could go to prison or even face death for just owning a Bible.  You wouldn’t even have to read it.  Just have it in your possession and you’d automatically be a criminal.  Christians in places like North Korea and Somalia put themselves in great danger just because they want to read the Bible. 

But sadly, history tells of times when even people who professed to be Christians banned the Bible.  Our Belgic Confession was written in 1561.  Around that time, the Roman Catholic Church had a list of prohibited books.  The Bible was on that list.  No one was supposed to have a translation of the Bible in their own language.  The only authorized Bible was the Latin Vulgate and it was only supposed to be for the priests.  Ordinary people didn’t read Latin anyway, so it was out of reach at any rate.  But just imagine banning the Bible like that!  And then calling yourself the church of Jesus Christ. 

True Christians hunger for the Word of God.  They value it and believe it.  Christians do that because of who they are in Jesus Christ.  We’re united to him, to the one John calls the Word, the Logos.  Through the Spirit we’re united to the Word, to Jesus.  Because of that fact, what’s true of Christ is increasingly true of us.  We want what’s true of Christ to become true of us. 

What’s true of Christ can be seen by reading the gospels and seeing how he lived each day close to the Bible.  But we can also see what’s true of Christ in the Psalms.  We read from Psalm 19 and we have to read that as Christ’s song about God’s revelation.  If we look at verses 7 to 9, Christ regarded God’s Word as perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true, and righteous.  Since we’re united to him, we take the same view.  If we look at verses 10-11, Jesus regarded God’s Word as more precious than gold, more pleasurable than honey.  Christ regarded Scripture as a means of protection and as a path to reward.  Since we’re joined to Jesus by the Holy Spirit, that’s got to be our view too. 

We highly value and believe in the written Word of God.  Articles 3-7 of the Belgic Confession are all about Scripture.  Here we learn more about why Christians have such a high regard for the Bible.  I want to focus on three things as we look at why we value and believe in the Bible.  We’ll learn about Scripture’s:

  1. Authority
  2. Reliability
  3. Sufficiency

What is it that makes the Bible so valuable to us?  That gets us right into the question of where the Bible comes from.  Many say the Bible is just a human book.  It’s an ancient record of what people believed in the past.  That’s not the approach of our Belgic Confession.  In article 3, we confess that the Bible has come to us from God.  Yes, most of the time he used human authors.  But ultimately God is the author of the Bible.  That’s why we call it God’s Word.

This is what the Bible itself teaches.  Article 3 mentions 2 Peter 1:21.  But if you look in the footnotes, you’ll also see a reference to what we read from 2 Timothy 3.  According to 2 Tim. 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God…”  Specifically, God the Holy Spirit is behind the writing of the Bible.  We say that he inspired the Scriptures.

It’s important to understand that he inspired all the Scriptures.  In article 4, we find a list of all the canonical books of the Bible.  They’re called canonical, because they’re the standard for the church.  Canon (spelled with one ‘n’ in the middle) means standard.  There are 66 canonical books.  But how did we get that number of books?    

Some years ago, there was a movie called the Da Vinci Code.  It was based on a novel by Dan Brown.  The Da Vinci Code made it look as if it was the Church that determined the canon.  The Church conspired to leave out certain writings and include others. The Da Vinci Code is fiction.  In reality, the church recognized the canonical books God had given.  You see, there’s a big difference between determining or deciding and recognizing or acknowledging.  The church didn’t decide what the canon would be, which books would be included.  The church acknowledged the books God had decided would be included.  You can even see this in the New Testament itself.  At the end of 2 Peter 3, Peter refers to the writings of Paul as being the Word of God.  Through usage in the church, they were recognized to be the Word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit.  The church heard the voice of God in these writings.

Now there were also some writings the Holy Spirit didn’t inspire.  There are the apocryphal books, mentioned in article 6.  These are ancient writings.  They can be informative, they can even be edifying.  You can read them, no problem.  But there are places where these apocryphal books contradict or undermine the 66 books of the canon.  As a result, they’ve been labelled apocryphal.  Apocryphal means ‘hidden.’  The Church hid these books away, didn’t want them to be referred to in the same way as the Bible.  The term “apocryphal” is only used by Protestants.  Roman Catholics look at these books as being part of the Bible.  They call them deutero-canonical books.  ‘Deutero’ means second, so they regard them as a second part of the canon.  But for us, they have no authority. 

The 66 books of the Bible have authority for us.  That’s because of who gave them to us.  They came to us from God.  Because they have that divine origin, they bear the right to tell us what to believe and how to live.  Because the Bible comes from the Holy Spirit, it has to be our source for doctrine, but also for ethics.  Our whole life comes under the authority of the Word of God.            

At least that’s the way it should be.  It was that way for our Lord Jesus.  He perfectly respected the authority of the Bible.  That’s something he did out of gospel love for us.  For us, who sometimes forget to respect the authority of the Bible, or who sometimes even deliberately put it aside.  Christ was obedient for all the times we’re not.  Jesus also offered himself on the cross to pay for all the times that we’ve ignored or forgotten the authority of the Bible.  Through him, you’re forgiven.  And through him, you’re also called to a new obedience for yourself.  Because you’re in Christ, you’re called to resist the temptations of our flesh.    

Loved ones, one of the greatest temptations is to seal off certain areas of our life from the authority of the Bible.  As if the Bible has no authority over where we go and what we do on our Friday night.  As if the Bible has no authority over what we watch on TV.  As if the Bible has no authority over the games we play or where we go on the Internet.  As if the Bible has no authority over what apps we have on our phone.  As if the Bible has no authority over our relationships.  And on it goes.  Loved ones, if we’re Christians, if we’re united to Christ, then the Bible must have authority over every single area of our lives.  Nothing can be left out.  If you’re sealing off certain areas of your life from the authority of Scripture, you’ve got to repent.  You need to turn away from that sin and confess it to God, and seek his forgiveness in Christ.  Scripture says, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  We acknowledge God by respecting the all-encompassing authority of his Word.          

Moving on to our second point, we also value and believe in the Bible because of its reliability.  Because it comes from God, Scripture is trustworthy.  Trustworthy – it’s worthy of our trust. 

Because the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible, we talk about its inerrancy and infallibility.  In the morning service, before we read Scripture, you’ll often hear me say, “Let’s listen to the holy and infallible Word of God.”  And in the afternoon service, I’ll say, “Let’s listen to the holy and inerrant Word of God.”  I say that on purpose.  I want to drive it home to everyone that the Bible is both infallible and inerrant.  What do we mean by those terms? 

Let’s start with infallibility.  Article 7 refers to Scripture as being our “infallible rule.”  That’s what the Bible says about itself.  Jesus said in John 10:35 that Scripture cannot be broken.  There’s no potential for it to be broken.  No possibility that it will fail or be mistaken.  So infallibility refers to potential or possibility.  Because the Holy Spirit inspired it, there’s no chance that it will end up wrong. 

Inerrancy is slightly different.  This refers to the way things actually are.  Psalm 12:6 says that “the words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times.”  Psalm 119:160 says, “The sum of your word is truth.”  And in John 17:17, Jesus prayed to God and said, “Your word is truth.”  These passages tell us the way Scripture is, in reality.  In actual fact, Scripture does not err.  It is pure truth.  Scripture doesn’t make mistakes. 

So infallibility has to do with potential, inerrancy has to do with reality.  I like the illustration used by R.C. Sproul to explain the difference:  “A student can take a test made up of twenty questions and get twenty correct answers, giving him an inerrant test.  However, the student’s inerrancy in this restricted arena does not make him infallible, as mistakes on subsequent tests would verify.”

But both infallibility and inerrancy point us to the trustworthiness of the Bible.  You can depend on God to give us truth in his Word.  That’s why we confess in article 5 of the Belgic Confession that “we believe without any doubt all things contained in them.”  The Holy Spirit teaches us that these writings are from the faithful God.  Not only that, but we can also see that “the things foretold in them are being fulfilled.”  For example, God promised that he would always gather, defend, and preserve his church.  He continues to do that.  You can see it, even here among us.  His Word is faithful and true, always reliable.

So loved ones, be like that wise man in the parable Jesus told at the end of Matthew 7.  The wise man built his house upon the rock.  When the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew, the house remained steadfast because it was on the rock.  The rock represents God’s Word, hearing God’s Word, believing God’s Word, and doing God’s Word.  The rock provides a stable foundation.  God’s Word gives us a stable foundation for our lives.  It’s reliable.  But Jesus also spoke about the foolish man who built his house on the sand.  When the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew, that house came tumbling down.  Sand gives you no stable, reliable foundation.  So many people today are building their lives on sand.  But what about you?  Loved ones, look to God’s Word for a reliable and stable foundation for your life.  When the nasty weather comes, and it always does, your house will stay standing.  With the Word of God as your foundation, you’ll get through.

Last of all, we want to learn about the sufficiency of the Bible.  We value and believe in the Bible because it’s enough.  Because it’s the only authority for our lives. 

Back in the days when the Belgic Confession was first written, the Roman Catholic Church also believed in the authority of the Bible.  They’d have agreed back then and still agree today that the Bible has authority for Christians.  But they don’t believe it’s the only ultimate authority. 

Besides the written text of Scripture, they say, there’s also the teaching office of the Church, what’s called the magisterium.  They hold to papal infallibility.  When the pope speaks in his teaching office, he cannot make a mistake.  Everything the pope says is on the same level as the Bible.

But there’s more.  There’s also the tradition.  Roman Catholics believe that there is an apostolic tradition that has been passed down through the centuries.  This tradition also has authority.  This is why they believe in things like the Immaculate Conception.  The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception says that Mary was conceived and born without sin.  That’s not said anywhere in the Bible, but they maintain that it’s part of the tradition of the Church and therefore has authority.  Roman Catholics have to believe it. 

Against that wrong view of authority, the Reformation maintained what we call sola Scriptura.   ‘Sola Scriptura’ is Latin and it means ‘by the Bible alone.’  As we confess in article 7, the Bible alone is sufficient for teaching us the will of God and all that we must believe in order to be saved.  The Bible alone teaches us how we’re to worship God.  Our Belgic Confession refers to passages like Deut. 12:32 to prove that people are not supposed to add or take away from the Bible.  The Bible alone is to be our authority.

In our church community we have a lot of respect for theologians from the past.  For example, John Calvin is an important figure in our history.  But we confess that no writings of any men can be considered as being on the same level as the Bible.  If you were to read Calvin for yourself, you might be surprised at some of the things he said.  I don’t think you’d want to hold to everything John Calvin believed.  He was just a man.  As the saying goes, “The best of men are men at best.”  Everything John Calvin wrote has to be evaluated according to God’s Word.  Everything I say and write has to be evaluated according to God’s Word.  Even the Belgic Confession itself has to be compared to the Bible to determine whether it’s truthful.  No human writing is above the Bible.

So in principle, on paper, we have this high view of the Bible.  Loved ones, I want to encourage you again, to not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk.  If the Bible really is valuable to you, if the Bible is really what you believe in, then show it.  Live in union with Christ, walk as he did.  Treasure the Word of God, study it, make use of it every day.  Study it for yourself, read it with your family.  Study it with your brothers and sisters. 

Listen, while we may find it hard to believe that it could ever happen, the day could come when the Bible is banned here.  The day could come when you’re placed in a prison cell because you’re a Christian.  They won’t let you have a Bible and you certainly won’t have your phone with your Bible app.  How are you going to be encouraged and comforted at a time like that?  We should prepare for such a day, not only by studying the Bible, but also by memorizing it.  Laying up God’s Word in your heart is never a waste of time.  Psalm 119:11 says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”  If we really value the Word of God, if we really believe it, we ought to be busy with it, also in memorizing it.

Loved ones, we should value and believe in the Bible ultimately because we value and believe in God.  The Bible is his Word.  The Bible reveals him to us.  Above all, the Bible is how we get to know the good news of our salvation in Christ.  There’s no book more precious than God’s Word.  AMEN. 

PRAYER

Father in heaven,

Your Word is precious to us.  We value it and believe in it, because we value you and believe in you.  The Bible is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true, and righteous.  It’s delightful, it protects us, and it profits us.  In your Word alone we see light and truth.  We find the good news of our salvation to encourage us.  In the Bible, we find the right paths to walk to show our love for you and thankfulness to you.  Please help us with your Holy Spirit to love and value your Word more.  Strengthen our understanding of the Bible.  Make us more convinced of its reliability.  Father, please help us with your Spirit so we wouldn’t seal off areas of our life from the authority of your Word.  We confess how there are times we’ve done that.  We acknowledge that it’s wicked and sinful.  Please forgive us through Christ.  Please help us to hate this sin of not acknowledging you in all our ways.  We want to live for your glory, so please be merciful and provide us the strength we need through your Word.                                                      




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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