For our fourth installment of reflections on revival, I want to briefly consider the essential work of God the Spirit’s work to give us confidence in the Bible.
In every revival in the story of the Scripture, the Word of God becomes central again, not only in beliefs but in practice. Conversely, in the Bible, every time Israel abandons God, they are abandoning the Word of God. God’s Word was and is profoundly clear on His love, His promises, and the necessity to reject idolatry to grow in the love and knowledge of God. Yet, Israel persisted in unbelief, turned toward the easier and less costly forms of self-salvation offered to them by pagan practices. Those pagan religions also, quite frankly, used sexual sin as part of their liturgy, so you can see the appeal. Stop and think about that story within a story. The Bible shows us that when we abandon the Bible, things go bad. That is why when the Spirit grabs hold of a people, an essential outcome is a fervor for belief and obedience to the Scriptures.
Some things to consider…
There is a great call to justice in America by many who are casting a Christian vision for such things and yet at the end of the day their vision, their reasoning, and their methods do not seem very tied to the text of Scripture. This is not really a cry for revival. This ends up being a cry for revolution more akin to the French Revolution than Biblical revival. Next week we will talk about the community of love that is formed by revival, but our current ‘Christian’ conversation about justice for the oppressed is not always born from the Spirit, nor empowered by the Spirit, nor will ultimately work because it is not shot through with Biblical truth, motives, and envisioned outcomes.
But let’s be more positive.
The Bible is inspired of God.
“For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”2 Peter 1:21
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”2 Timothy 3:16-17
Those who deny that verses like these can be applied to the full canon because they are focusing on the OT more narrowly or that it is even unprofitable to talk about inspiration in that we do not have the original documents, I do not think have a valid argument. But alas we do not have time to delve into that now. Perhaps a series for later. I do believe passages like this teach us a truth about the entire canon.
A logical and Scriptural deduction of inspiration are the twin truths of inerrancy (the Bible is without error in what it claims) and infallibility (the Bible cannot be compromised or proved wrong by definition).
Like inspiration, I do not think inerrancy or infallibility are bygone or humanly engineered truths that create more problems than they solve. Sure, the terms are English words introduced about 150 years ago, but they absolutely reflect ideas that the Bible teaches about itself, in the OT, the NT, and from the lips of Jesus Himself. In fact, we will never have as high a view of Scripture – its ideas, its words, and its power – than Jesus Himself. The claim that we do not have the original texts is also used as an argument against the usefulness of these ideas, since the texts we do have now have questions of originality and thus divine authorship. Quick lesson – let’s maybe stop using ‘original manuscripts’ in our doctrinal statement verbiage and replace that with ‘original words’. It is the words themselves we are concerned with, not the papyrus, velum, or paper. Very trained and respected Biblical scholars can show the math through what is called Text Criticism that the words we use to get our modern translations are extraordinarily lined up with the words first penned by the original authors who were moved by the Spirit. We could go on and on, but my point is that we can have full emotional confidence in the Bible being without error.
Finally, the Bible is powerful and authoritative.
It is one thing to have a solid doctrine of the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible, but that means little if we do not sit practically and earnestly under it. Quite frankly, a true understanding of the truthfulness of Scripture only really comes by way of daily, sacrificial, persevering, and Spirit empowered obedience to the Scripture. Many a person has a good theology of the Scripture and yet does not actually abide in Scripture.
The Bible is always going to inform, guide, and be the result of true revival. In fact, it is not merely an equal among many Spiritual outcomes. The Bible is the golden thread of the renewed life that guides us on moral formation, repentance of sin, justice, love, mission through vocation, and the like.
My point? Please seek revival and do so by committing yourself to a daily, practical, dependent, even desperate, reading and living in the pages of God’s Word.
For further reading, check out Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung.
Amen Pastor! I think that people who want to argue about the Word of God, are terrified to meet him. They are afraid they may have to change and submit to the Word. It’s the only true foundation Jesus has given us to build our lives on. He IS the word. I appreciate your rock solid commitment to it.