Theme: The Words of the Lord
In this week’s lessons we see that although great harm is done by evil people through their words, the word of the Lord remains a sure foundation and support for all those who put their trust in him.
Scripture: Psalm 12:1-8
This brings us to the second half of Psalm 12. For having reviewed the destructive words of wicked persons, the psalmist turns to the words of God and acknowledges that they are quite different. In verse 5 he quotes God directly. It is the first oracle in the Psalms. Then he says that the words of God are “flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times” (v. 6). Silver refined seven times would be completely pure. There would be no dross in it.
This speaks to the struggle over the authority of the Bible in our day. There are three basic views.
The first view is that the Bible is the Word of God, which it claims to be, and that, because it is the Word of God, it is without flaw in whatever it teaches. This is the classic, evangelical view that has prevailed throughout church history. There have been many debates about doctrine in church history, even about such items as the deity of Jesus Christ, the nature of the Trinity and the way of salvation. But whenever such debates erupted it was always the Bible to which the disputing parties turned. Even heretics viewed the Bible as the Word of God. They erred in their interpretation of it and had to be corrected as the church studied the issue, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to them through the Word. But all acknowledged that the Bible is God’s Word and that is it therefore inerrant. It is only in recent times that this high view has been abandoned.
The second view is that the Bible is the words of mere men. This is the outlook of liberalism and neo-orthodoxy, even though many of the neo-orthodox theologians gave serious attention to the Bible and were willing to be guided by it. Liberalism said that the Bible is man’s word only, helpful perhaps, but by no means utterly authoritative or inerrant. Neo-orthodoxy said that God is so transcendent that he cannot speak to us in human words but rather reveals himself non-verbally. The Bible is a book in which men testify in their own words to what they believe God had revealed in this fashion.
The third position is the one we are especially wrestling with today, that the Bible is the Word of God and the word of man combined—not in the sense that the Bible is the Word of God in words of men especially chosen and inspired to be such channels, which is accurate. Rather, the combination of God and man is seen in the sense that when we read the Bible we find things that have come to us from God and are therefore truthful. But there are also (so the argument goes) things that are not truthful, things which we know to be in error, and because we know that God cannot speak lies, the only possible conclusion is that these are not from God but are from men only. The Bible is thus a combination of divine and mere human words. It is the task of scholarship to sort them out for us.
But what happens in this framework is that the scholar himself becomes God. That is, he becomes the authority who tells us what is true and what is not true, what is of God and what is not of God. And because the sinful heart of man, including that of scholars, always prefers its own misunderstandings to God’s truth, there is always a tendency to reject what we most need to hear, calling it mere human teaching or error. Thus the reforming Word of God is dismissed, we continue in our sins, and the vitality of the church suffers.4
What are the three basic views on the nature of the Bible?
What is the danger in the belief that the Bible is the Word of God and the word of man combined?
Reflection: Have you observed any ways in which the Bible gets dismissed, even in the church by professing Christians?
4This summary of contemporary views of Scripture is borrowed with some changes from James Montgomery Boice, Standing on the Rock (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1984), pp. 46, 47.