Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THAT BOOK WE CALL THE BIBLE”

This evening I will bring to you a message about that book we call the Bible, relying heavily on the systematic theology written by Emery H. Bancroft.[1]

In his book, God’s Living Oracles, Dr. A. T. Pierson wrote, “What the heart of a fortress is to its outworks and minor defences, that, to the Christian faith, is the inspired Word of God—its central stronghold. To give up that, in any measure, is, therefore, insofar, to yield up the whole fortress to the foe.”

“Infidelity and irreligion seem now to be massing all their united forces for a combined and final assault upon the whole system of Christianity, and there are signs of a subtle, ingenious and Satanic plot to undermine its very foundations by destroying all belief in the supernatural. All intelligent faith in the supernatural rests, ultimately, upon the divine origin, plenary inspiration and infallible authority of the Bible as the Book of God; and hence, naturally and necessarily, this book becomes the very center both of the attack and the defence.”

“Such facts at such a crisis constitute a challenge to the believer to examine anew into the whole question whether there be ample evidence of a superhuman authorship of this Book, carefully to weigh its claims to divine authority, and to determine how far it utters a judgment and verdict from which there is no appeal. In such matters doubt is disaster, for even an honest misgiving is destructive both of intellectual conviction and moral repose, unsettling, if not undermining the very bases upon which rests human confidence in the stability of a structure, the like of which never was reared. On the other hand, whatever confirms and establishes faith in the living oracles of God correspondingly affects every interest dearest to the believer and to mankind. If intelligent investigation produces certainty of conviction, the results are manifold: the whole history of Christianity for nearly two thousand years is vindicated; fresh force is imparted to all holy living and new nerve is infused into modern missions at home and abroad, while such faith in the Bible inspires a grand hope for all coming ages. The subject calls for calm, candid, patient investigation. If the Bible be a divine Book, it has nothing to fear from rational inquiry. Investigation will issue in vindication, and the more searching the investigation the more triumphant the vindication.”

“A few years ago a party of five, roped together, were climbing a precipitous cliff in the Alps. At a critical point in the assent, the lower man lost foothold, and dragged after him the next above, and so on, till the increased strain caused all the party to lose their foothold, except the leader, who, driving his ax and alpenstock into the ice and bracing himself firmly, enabled the man next below to regain his footing, and so successively each of the four once more recovered himself, because the foremost man had stood the strain. It is not too much to say that, while the Word of God holds its place firmly in the minds and hearts of men, as God’s own Book, inbreathed of the Holy Spirit and to be believed and trusted in every part as a divine guide to doctrine and duty, all that is most precious in our Christian faith and life holds its place in our convictions and confidence; but that, if the Bible loses or loosens its hold upon us as an infallible standard of truth and duty, every thing else goes down with it into the same abyss of doubt. For, let it be remembered, the Word of God is the revelation of Jesus Christ, of the Holy Ghost, of the nature and secrets of all spiritual life; without it we have no authentic history of Jesus the Saviour, no knowledge of the way of salvation, no unfolding of the mystery of Godliness, no clear unveiling of the future life.”

“For such reasons, among many others, it is first of all needful for all believers to have an intelligent, rational, unshakable confidence in God’s Word as divine in origin, inspired of the Holy Spirit, a safe guide in belief, and a sure pattern for practice. We say an intelligent and reasonable faith. The ignorant coal miner’s faith has long been ridiculed as a specimen of blind belief. “What do you believe?” asked Whitefield of a Roman Catholic worker in the coal pits of Cornwall. “What the Church believes,” was the answer. “And what does the Church believe?” “What I believe.” “And what do you both believe?” “The same thing.” To believe only what, and only because, others believe, may be perpetuating false teaching, helping on what Cyprian called “the old age of error.” The Spirit of God enjoins disciples to ‘be ready always to give an answer to every one that asketh a reason for the hope’ that is within them (I Peter 3.15). The more intelligent and reasonable faith is, therefore, the more pleasing and honoring to God, the more helpful to men, and the more restful and forceful to oneself.”

This evening we will very simply set forth the Bible as the Book, and very briefly set before you two things about this Book we call the Bible.

 

First, THERE ARE THE DESIGNATIONS OF THIS BOOK WE CALL THE BIBLE

 

For our purpose tonight we will consider five designations of this Book we call the Bible.

First, the Bible. Our English word “Bible” comes from the Greek words bibloV and biblion. In Matthew 1.1, the word bibloV is found in the phrase, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ,” with the word biblion, actually referring to little book, found twice in Luke 4.17, which begins, “And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book. . . .” Ancient books were written on the bibluV or papyrus reed, and from this custom came the word bibloV, which is the name of the city in modern day Lebanon on the Mediterranean coast where this process was first invented. The word eventually came to be applied to the sacred books.

Mark 12.26: “have ye not read in the book of Moses”

Luke 3.4: “As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet”

Acts 1.20: “For it is written in the book of Psalms”

Acts 7.42: “as it is written in the book of the prophets”

However, the Bible is not merely a book. It is the Book, the Book that from the importance of its subjects, the wideness of its range, and the majesty of its Author, stands as high above all other books as the heaven is high above the earth. This term is one that affirms two things, unity and preeminence. The appropriateness of such a title can hardly be questioned: this conception of oneness through all its parts, of unity and diversity, has been endorsed by the Christian consciousness and has obviously had far reaching influence through the centuries, with no civilized culture being unaffected by it.

Next, the Old and New Testaments. The application of the term testament carries us beyond the simple fact of books or writings to some indication of their main theme. Woven into the very texture of the Old Testament is the idea of a covenant between God and man, first made with Adam, then with Noah, then also with Abraham, the nation of Israel, and with David. We frequently refer to them as the Adamic Covenant, the Noahic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Palestinian Covenant, and the Davidic Covenant. Reference to it occurs again and again throughout history, psalm and prophecy, as the relation into which God entered with His chosen people. In Jeremiah, prophecy reaches its height in the sublime prediction of the New Covenant, a prediction declared by the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The phrase “New Covenant” was appropriated by Christ at the Last Supper, and is claimed by Paul as the substance of the ministry to which he was called. Luke 22.20, where Jesus said, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” First Corinthians 11.25, where the Apostle Paul rehearsed His words, “This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.” In Second Corinthians 3.6, the Apostle Paul declares that God “also hath made us able ministers of the new testament.”

The word testament means covenant, and is the term used to designate the relation that existed between Himself and His people. The term covenant was first of all applied to the relation itself and afterward to the books which contained the record of that relation. Second Corinthians 3.6 once again: “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament.” Second Corinthians 3.14: “for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament.” Hebrews 9.15: “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” Hebrews 12.24: “And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.” By the end of the second century AD we find the “Old Covenant” and the “New Covenant” as the established names of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures; and Origen, in the beginning of the third century, mentioned “the divine Scriptures, the so-called Old and New Covenants.” The Old Testament deals with the record of the calling and history of the Jewish nation, and as such it is the Old Covenant. The New Testament deals with the history and application of the redemption wrought by the Lord Jesus Christ, and as such it is the New Covenant.

Third, the Law and the Prophets. The books of the Old Testament fall into several divisions, the grouping of the English version being somewhat different from that of the original. The Hebrew Scriptures are divided into The Law, The Prophets, and The Writings. The earliest Jewish Bible was the Law, the five books of Moses, or the Pentateuch. Later on this expanded when prophets began to write historical books and prophetical books, and when the poetical books written by Job, the Psalms of David, and Solomon’s Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs were included in the canon. Later historical books and prophetical books were added as they were written during and following the Babylonian captivity. This would include such books as Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi.

Fourth, the Scripture and the Scriptures. The Bible is called the Scripture in Mark 12.10, Mark 15.28, Luke 4.21, John 2.22, John 7.38, John 10.35, Romans 4.3, Galatians 4.30, and Second Peter 1.20: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” The Bible is called the Scriptures in Matthew 22.29, Mark 12.24, Luke 24.27, John 5.39, Acts 17.11, Romans 1.2, Second Peter 3.16, and Second Timothy 3.15: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” The name applied in the New Testament to the books of the Old Testament collectively is The Writings, or in Latin, The Scriptures. Once we find the phrase Holy Scriptures, and once with a different form of the Greek word, Sacred Writings.

Fifth, The Word of God. Of all the names given to the Bible, “The Word of God” is doubtless the most significant, impressive, and descriptive. Mark 7.13: “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition.” Romans 10.17: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Hebrews 4.12: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” First Thessalonians 2.13: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” The Bible as the Word of God is sufficient to justify the faith of the weakest Christian. It gathers up all that the most earnest search can unfold, it teaches us to regard the Bible as the utterance of divine wisdom and love—as God speaking to man.

 

Next, THERE ARE THE SYMBOLS OF THIS BOOK WE CALL THE BIBLE

 

The following symbols which are used to illustrate the power and value of the Word of God are found within its pages, and may be classified under seven divisions:

First, the revealing power of the Word is illustrated by the symbol of the mirror. James 1.23-25:

 

23     For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:

24     For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

25     But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

 

Notice that the Word of God has great revealing power while you are looking into it, but you immediately forget what you have seen in God’s divine mirror once you go your way. This is why it is important to hide God’s Word in your heart, Psalm 119.11: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”

The generative power of the Word is illustrated by the symbol of the seed. James 1.18: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” First Peter 1.23: “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” Then, of course, there is the parable of the sower in Matthew chapter 13, where the seed is the Word of God.

Third, the cleansing, purifying power of the Word is illustrated by the symbol of the laver and water. Ephesians 5.25-27:

 

25     Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

26     That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

27     That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

 

John 15.3: “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” John 17.17: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

Fourth, the illuminating, guiding power of the Word is illustrated by the symbol of the lamp and the light, Psalm 119.105: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” It not only reveals where you are in the spiritual darkness, but serves to guide your path to get you where you need to go.

Fifth, the power of the Word to equip for the work and warfare of life is illustrated by the symbols of weapons and implements, the sword and the hammer. Jeremiah 23.29: “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” Hebrews 4.12: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Sixth, the enriching and adorning power of the Word is illustrated by the symbols of gold and fine apparel. Psalm 19.10: “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” First Peter 3.1-6:

 

1      Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;

2      While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.

3      Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

4      But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

5      For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

6      Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

 

Finally, the nourishing, sustaining, and satisfying power of the Word is illustrated by the symbols of milk, meat, bread and honey. First Peter 2.2: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” First Corinthians 3.1-2:

 

1      And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

2      I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

 

Matthew 4.4: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Job 23.12: “Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.” John 6.35 and 51:

 

35     And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

 

51     I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

 

Hebrews 5.12-14:

12     For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

13     For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

14     But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

 

And, once again, Psalm 19.10: “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”

 

The Bible is a book, but it is no ordinary book. Penned by more than 40 human authors over a period of more than 1,400 years, it is both a single Book and a compilation of 66 books.

We have not yet considered how the Bible came to be, or what the Bible actually is, but have only barely touched the surface of its various designations and symbols.

May God bless you as you read this Book we call the Bible, as you study it, and as you obey it. The Bible will reveal your true nature, God’s true nature, and will point you to His blessed Son, Jesus Christ, the Savior of sinful men’s souls.



[1] Emery H. Bancroft, Christian Theology - Systematic and Biblical, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, Revised Edition, 1961), pages 11-15.



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