The glory of Scripture
By John M. Brentnall
The high esteem we should have for the written Word of God is finely stated by the preacher-theologian Thomas Boston.
He says winsomely that there is “a transcendent glory” in it, and whoever discerns that glory cannot fail “to hug and embrace” it. (The Beauties of Boston. 1979.22) The sensitive William Cowper expresses the same truth poetically:
A glory gilds the sacred page,
Majestic, like the sun. (Christian Hymns. 1978. No. 332)
For us to perceive this glory, however, depends on the sovereign will of its Divine Author. So we should beg Him: “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.” (Psalm 119.18) For as one of the effects of the fall is spiritual blindness, we sorely need His enlightenment before we can see its glory and gather its treasures into our hearts. Only He who inspired Scripture can interpret it to us and bring us to love it.
Scripture is God-breathed
We do not realise as we should that the Holy Bible is the only book in the whole world that is “God-breathed.” The world’s libraries are full of books, but not one of them was “given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). When they wrote, its human penmen were infallibly guided by infinite one grain of human dross in them. This quality imparts to Scripture a glory that is unique. The holiness of God permeates its pages, from beginning to end. The ancient Greeks hung anxiously on the demonic lies uttered by the Delphic Oracle; but here are the “oracles of God” (Romans 3.2). The Reformer Martin Luther was perfectly right to claim that when we read Holy Scripture we “hear God speak” (Luther: Works. Weimar. 54. 263). So was John Calvin when he said that it has such “credit and authority with believers” that it is “as if they heard the very words pronounced by God Himself” (Calvin: Institutes. I. 7. 1). Because “it is the Word of the living and almighty God,” said John Jewel, “it is of more majesty than the word of an angel” (A Treatise of the Holy Scriptures. Works. IV. 1163) . Indeed, the Holy Spirit Himself ranks it above all other forms of divine revelation: “Thou hast magnified Thy Word above all Thy name” (Psalm 138:2). Even the glory of the heavens is cast into the shade by the Scriptures of Truth.
Scripture is God’s Law
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7). God is our Lawgiver, and His Word is our Law. It shows us the perfect rule by which we should believe and live. “Let others be wise to their own destruction; let them establish their own imaginations for the Word of God and rule of their faith;” says Hugh Binning, “but . . . take the Word of God as the only rule, and the perfect rule, a rule for all your actions, civil, natural and religious . . . Let not your imaginations, let not others’ example, let not the preaching of men, let not the conclusions and acts of assemblies be your rule, but in as far as you find them agreeing with the perfect rule of God’s Holy Word. All other rules are … like publications and
intimations of the rule itself … the Scripture is … a ruling rule” (Works. 1839. 1. 36-37) Be sure of it, this Word shall determine our absolution or condemnation on the Day of Judgment. From its witness there is no appeal.
What a solemn responsibility this fact places on preachers and hearers! There will be a resurrection of sermons on the Last Day: to many they shall be a savour of death unto death; to a few they shall be a savour of life unto life. What a solemn responsibility too it places on governments and legislators! God’s Law is the Law of Nations. It is no disparagement of national leaders for them to stand in awe of God’s Word, and make it the basis of their legislation and national life (See Psalm 2:10-12). King Jehoiakim thought the Word of God unfit for his statute books, so he burnt it. But God caused it to be re-written, word for word. (Jeremiah 36) The king was captured and put to death. National rulers reject the Word of God at their peril.
Scripture is God’s Signpost to Christ
It was given, says William Tyndale, “’to lead us to Christ,” the only Saviour. Therefore we must “go along by the Scripture as by a line” until we “come to Christ . . . the way’s end and resting-place” (Works. Parker Society. 1. 317).
In this connection, the Bible fulfils four major functions:
1. As the Book of the Covenant of Grace.
It reveals to us how our gracious, loving and merciful God made a covenant . with His Son, who agreed to purchase with His precious blood the redemption of all whom the Father gave Him. Had Christ not fulfilled its terms perfectly, we could never find acceptance with God, nor lawfully hope to spend a blissful eternity with Him.
2. As Christ’s Last Will and Testament.
It bequeaths to every believer an eternal inheritance in God. This legacy will never be revoked. We therefore appeal to its terms as the ground of our hope. It is our charter for heaven, the legal disposition by which we lay claim to our portion in Christ’s heavenly kingdom.
3. As the Sceptre of His Kingdom.
It is the Word by which Christ governs and guides us in every step to our inheritance. Wherever He takes possession of a soul, He enables that soul, by His Word and Spirit, to accept it and live by it.
3. As the Divinely-ordained Channel of Grace.
It conveys to us all covenanted, purchased and promised blessings. Paul appeals to the Galatians’ experience to confirm this: “Received ye the Spirit by the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:2). When we are born again, it is by the incorruptible seed of this Word. (1 Peter 1:23). When we believe, our faith is fixed on that self-same Word; for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). When we grow in grace and the sanctified knowledge of Christ, it is through the faithful ministry of the Word. (1 Peter 2:2; 1 Corinthians 3:2). And when we enter glory, we do so hanging on that self-same Word. (Hebrews 11:13). In short, as Christ is the Fountain, and faith is the soul’s mouth, so Holy Scripture is the channel down which all saving blessings flow to us.
Let us then “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” Holy Scripture, as Thomas Cranmer exhorts us. It is the necessary food of our souls: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4). We have every reason to do so. When we look back to the Dark Ages (miscalled by many of today’s writers “The Age of Faith”) before God revealed the art of printing, and raised up such godly translators as Wycliffe, Luther, Tyndale and Diodati; when we see how Popery kept whole nations in spiritual darkness, forbidding them to read the Bible; when we consider the hunger folk had for the Word of God once it became available; when we look around at the unevangelized masses, both at home and abroad, and watch them perishing for lack of spiritual food; when we observe a generation largely given to feeding the mind and pampering the body; when we realise our privileges in having the Word of God in our own language; and when we see on our bookshelves many helps to understand the mind and will of God in Scripture, let us be diligent to feed our and others’ souls, as the Lord gives us opportunity. How inexcusable we shall be at the Last Day if we neglect the Word of God! May we all seek grace to pray with Jeremiah: “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart” (Jeremiah 15:16) .