Doctrine of Scripture – A Paper for Dr. Bruce Ware’s Systematic Theology I Course

Introduction

What follows are my personal notes and reflections upon Psalm 1, Psalm 19, & 2 Timothy 3:1-4:8 as required in my Systematic Theology I course at SBTS this winter semester as we study the doctrine of scripture.  My approach to these notes became somewhat expositional unintentionally along the way. Though this paper goes beyond the scope of the syllabus, my hope is that these meditations upon God’s law are warmly received.

Psalm 1

Ps 1:1 – “Walks…stands…sits”

The wicked, sinful, and scoffing person is always busy about his business. The poetic introduction to the entire Psalter starts, after introducing the concept of divine providence with the word “Blessed”, with three parallel statements highlighting the activity of those who have no delight of God’s law. Indeed the Blessed man must also walk, stand, and sit, but not as those of this world.

Ps 1:2  – “Delight”

How can one delight oneself in a law? Any observance of a law by necessity includes a consideration from whom it is given. This is certainly true when man judges laws made by men; how much more so ought we consider God who has given His laws? The meditations of the blessed man are full of revelations of God; this seems to be the providential result of observing the goodness of God’s laws. The blessed man is blessed by delight then, a delight in God’s law.

Ps 1:2 – “Day and Night”

The continual meditation upon God’s Word being spoken of here is the result of delightful desire, not cold hearted duty. This is surely a gift of grace to be prayed for regularly.

Ps 1:3 – “Like a Tree”

A tree is a living thing with bark, branches, and roots which is planted and not easily moved. It is not a source of life in a way comparable to that of a stream flowing continuously with water. The tree planted by the water’s edge ensures it’s continual supply of a life giving resource. The fruit it bears is due to the life giving power of the water and so there is an application in understanding that the Christian is dependent upon God to supply his every need. It’s leaf not withering is certainly due to the supernatural source of this supply. Scripture is just that to the Christian, an endless supply of life giving, spiritual water required for good fruitfulness and faithfulness.

Ps 1:4 – “Wicked…like chaff”

The Hebraic poetic power of contrasting the wicked as dry and weightless chaff “that the wind drives away” comes after the imagery of verse 3 where the righteous man is described as planted, healthy, full of life and unmovable. No wind will blow the blessed man away, though for sure any tree experiences its share of gusts. The terror that awaits the wicked is not even a fear for the blessed man.

 Ps 1:5-6 – “the LORD knows”

Putting the introductory providential blessing in its context we learn at the end of this Psalm that it is the LORD’s knowing that has brought it about; for He “knows the way of the righteous.” Given that this knowledge cannot mean a knowledge that is God’s apart from first having given the blessing of delight to the man for His law, we see an element of sovereign grace here in the text. The text implies that the wicked, though currently busy about standing, sitting and walking..always defiantly in God’s world, will all perish unless there is grace. The blessed man knows he too would perish apart from this grace.

Personal Reflections:

I’m humbled to have received grace from the Lord to have any measure of delight in His law. I know that apart from His grace I too would be chaff, completely deserving His just judgment that I should be  blown away by the wind. Yet, I now learn that the LORD knows me. Not some passive type of knowledge, but an active type, one that is nothing less than salvithic love which provides for my every need, for which I will eternally be grateful.I’m also encouraged to be even more firmly rooted by the constant feeding upon His life-giving word. I pray that I will rest more by His calm waters and feed daily on His truth.

Psalm 19

Ps 19:1-4 – “Declare…proclaim…pour out…reveals…voice”

For the purposes of our study upon the doctrine of scripture no greater word seems to capture the doctrine more than the word “reveals” found in verse 2; scripture itself is revelation. But the nature of the revelation of these passages is not special, but rather natural revelation which is evident in the creation. One thing this scripture establishes confidently, creation reveals God, and no-one has not understood that reality.

Ps 19:7-11 – “The law of the Lord is perfect”

How profitable is God’s law! It revives the soul (v7a), make’s wise the simple (v7b), brings joy & enlightenment (v8), signals out danger (v11a), and is rewarding (v11b). These are benefits that cannot come from simply observing the natural revelation expounded earlier in this Psalm. Instead, this is clearly referring to God’s precepts, commandments, and rules come to his people through the scriptural revelation available to them at the time this was written.

In verse 8 again is seen the delightfulness spoken of in Psalm 1. The conclusion that God’s precepts are right produces joy because life is full of chaos yet God’s truth is solid and worthy of placing one’s faith, one’s entire life and hope in. Indeed, the scripture is to be desired more than wealth or of the most pleasant imaginable delicacies (v10).

Ps 19:12-14 – “Declare me innocent”

After praising the nature of God’s special revelation the Psalmist asks “Who can discern his errors?” This after declaring that the law of the Lord is perfect back in verse 7. The contrast should not be missed and it is safe to infer the author intends to argue for the inerrant nature of God’s special revelation. So much that his reflection upon it produces a beautiful prayer requesting of the Lord to be “declared innocent from hidden faults” (v12). This awesome Author of scripture is also capable of affecting the will of man, to even keep him back from committing presumptuous sins (v13)!

The prayer continues and closes out the Psalm making appeal to the Lord to bless the meditation of the Psalmist’s heart (v14a). Again, like the blessed man of Psalm 1, here is displayed the reliance upon the providential grace of God. What can a recipient of sovereign grace proclaim other than praise? “O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (v14b).

Personal Reflections:

I again am comforted in the sovereign grace of God in these passages. The means of His providential care is clearly in the meditation upon his rules, precepts, commandments…upon His perfect law. He who can keep us from error, who warns us, who makes wise the simple, does so through His revealed word. I need to be much more steeped in the word and be more active in praying to be kept by His providential care.

2 Timothy 3:1-4:8

3:1-9 – “Their folly will be plain to all”

These passages highlight the difficult context that true believers have in a fallen world (v1-7). Like the two men who stood before Pharaoh, the false religions and passions of the world will be exposed for what they are but not before hardships and trials. The scripture declares that “they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all” (v9) and in this we must hope. Many falsely profess Christ in our day but thanks be to God that He has provided a measuring rod so that we may examine them against His revelation.

3:10-17 – “The sacred writings”

Paul reinforces that the Christian life is indeed lived in a trying context (v12) and responds that imposters will continue in their deception (v13). He then grounds Timothy firmly upon the “sacred writings, which are able to make [him] wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (v15). Declaring that “All scripture is breathed out by God” (v16), Paul is appealing to the authoritative nature of the OT scriptures and their complete inspiration while at the same time referring to his authoritative teaching as an apostle of Christ Jesus. Thus the teaching Timothy is to continue in is one that sees all of Scripture, including those of the apostles of Christ, as God breathed and profitable in every way.

4:1-8 – “Preach the Word”

These passages appeal to the appearance of Christ in an authoritative manner. The charge of preaching the word is given by Paul by pressing the reality of  “his appearing” in v.1 and the final reward for those faithful who do, will be received by those “who have loved his appearing” (v.8). The teachings of Christ are deeply rooted in the reality of His physical presence among the disciples; they are rooted in historical reality and this truth is loved by those He calls. Imagery of the planted tree by the water from Ps.1:3 is also conjured from Paul’s charge here. If one’s leaf doesn’t wither by God’s grace then one will always be ready no matter what the season is.

Personal Reflections:

To summarize my reflections upon these texts, I see a greater need to mediate upon God’s Word in my life. How high a view of scripture that scripture itself displays has been further impressed upon me. To be a faithful preacher, to answer Paul’s charge, I must be more amply supplied by the life giving source of God’s special revelation. I’ve very much enjoyed this aspect of the course and look forward to working through the texts of scripture surrounding the Doctrine of God.

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