Scripture’s Self Attesting Authority

When any historical text is read, thought needs to be granted to the context in which the author penned his piece. The original intentions of the author, especially if what is written places itself in an attested historical literary category, need to honored. Truthfulness in reading does no damage to an author’s intent and allows the life and scope of the literature to breath in its own organic way. To force owns own life experience and context into literature that never asks the reader to do so is an all too common literary tragedy, especially when it comes to scripture.
The organic breath of biblical literature comes to us in two primary contexts: The Old & New Testaments we’re penned with Ancient Near East & Greco Roman cultural witnesses. The testimony of the written word was addressed to the people of their time, in a way they spoke and would understand. It came in many literary forms such as historical narrative, poetry, lament, or apocalyptic in nature; it did so with the intent to span generations which required apologetic usefulness. Any sound apologetic communicates truthfully to a person in the language they know most amidst the cultural challenges of their day so that reason may have its way and truthful convictions may result. The Ancient Near East religions were known to Moses as well as the Greek philosophers to Paul; the controversial apologetic was the same in both their voices: absolute monotheism. No God but Yahweh. No salvation but through Christ. Scripture holds this conviction consistently, with knowledge of the other world-views, it is not ignorant of them.
The biblical text reveals the Maker of heaven and earth who is an author and he used real historical people in real historical cultures to reveal Himself to us in literary form. The amazing thing one finds in that same literature are eye-witness accounts of an alien Author who is sovereign over the affairs of mankind. This alien Author literally created a historical nation out of a group of slaves demonstrating His divine power in ways that mankind couldn’t forget. He made promises to these people of a coming suffering servant centuries before he came. He then brought the good news of His kingdom by His Son: all are slaves to sin, not just Israelites but gentiles too, and through faith in Christ are men set free from sin and death. He literally became flesh and walked among us, ate with us, died like us. But we will be lead to marvel and worship as we learn that He is not like us because He was before us and because death couldn’t keep Him: He is risen! His death purchased salvation, a full and eternal pardon for rebel sinners who come to believe in Him. His resurrection is man’s true hope for the new body to come in the next age.
The authority of scripture is self attesting. Any claim to ultimate authority must rely upon its own self-attestation otherwise another authority would be required to validate it. So when reading the Bible it is important to resist reading anachronistically into it. As has been historically observed, when allowing the text to speak for itself, a most holy Author is revealed in scripture that no other text has ever, or ever can equal.

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.

The Righteousness of Christ

What does Habakkuk mean when he says, “The righteous will live by his faith” (2:4)? How does Paul use this verse in Romans 1:17?

The first half of Habakkuk 2:4 addresses the posture of an unrighteous soul; It speaks of it: “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him.” His soul being puffed up, and the second phrase describing that soul not being upright within is establishing the unregenerate status of this soul. It is proud, thinking itself highly capable but in reality condemned. In typical Hebrew poetic fashion, a parallelism is employed that contrasts this negative with a positive to bring greater clarity; namely, the 2nd half of verse 4 which defines what it means to be upright in God’s sight. The opposite of pride is the meekness of faith. Faith is what the righteous, what the upright soul lives by…not in a puffed-up-self-made posture, but in humility.

Paul uses this verse to wage war against the idea of works righteousness, against the idea that a soul can be upright before God apart from faith in Christ. Paul’s usage in Roman’s 1:17 is paramount to his entire letter to the Romans as he labors to teach why not all Israel received Christ and why the gentiles are coming in. Faith alone reveals God’s righteousness. Not puffed up pride, or good works, but faith in Christ which produces humility and leads to truly good works. So Paul teaches the church to live by faith, living in it in an all encompassing way, thus ever warning the brothers to beware of those walking in pride, or of the temptation to think they can be righteous apart from Christ.

An Appointment from Before Time

“[1] Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, [2] but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭1:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬ 

The first verse here presses to the mind the awesome reality that God has spoken! It does so however with a very important qualification, that God speaks through His own appointed mediators. The varying accounts recorded in Old Testiment times were interpreted through the lense of such prophets. So history for God’s chosen people has always had theology as its primary emphasis. For sure, to the 1st century Jew, the events of the Old Testement were ancient history but they had the written word of these accounts passed down to them and they considered the texts revelation from God; Jesus himself held men accountable to those very texts as those who have heard from God through them. 

Verse 2 then draws finality and closure to what is to be revealed from God when it tells us that a greater mediator has been given, The Son. Jesus is understood by the author here to have spoken to God’s chosen people again, in great display, after a long period of silence, in what is framed in the context of “these last days.” God’s revelation gets closure when Christ is done teaching us about His Father who sent Him. 

God appointed Christ “heir of all things.” Instantly, the scripture commands that the relationship between the persons of the trinity come to the mind. The Godhead has determined that all things are for Christ, the Son has been appointed such a global and universal inheritance of glory that is hard to fathom. This assertion that all things have their purpose in this appointment is addressed in the very same sentence that states the Son also created the world. If anyone would credit this inheritance appointment due to the actions of Christ in time as we creatures know it, they miss that the appointment to inherit all things written of comes before His incarnation, it was planned from before the foundation of the world. The context here is that the Son was with the Father when the Father made the world through the Son. For certain, the actions Christ performed on earth revealed the glory due His name but that glory He kept vailed in the form of a suffering servant who would go to a cross and suffer wrath on behalf of His elect. The greatest truly became the least and will forever be praised as the greatest by those He saved in the process. 

Christ is the ultimate purpose for creation and verse 2 here teaches that before time began for the creatures in God’s creation, this purpose was settled among the three persons of the trinity – creation is to be the theater where the Father unfolds the reality of this inheritance appointment to the Son. 

Experiential Testimony Serves Sound Theology 

Our spiritual experiences are important as is our grasp of Christian Theology. Both matter but the Word is preeminent. If our experiences are leading us away from a desire to extol the written word then those experiences cannot be of God. How blessed we are when our experience causes us to treasure the written word of Christ more and more. This truly is an existential move of the Spirit in the Christian life and such testimony ought warm every true believer’s heart. How sad it is to hear the off rhythm drum beat among so many who cry that it is a bad thing that doctrine divides. They are right in saying that it divides; even so much so that it can separate ones own soul from flesh and bone…but they error when they portray this division as some form of evil. No, Christ calls His own out from the world. The church is not to be like the world and her only guide is that bound and sealed inspired book which is full of nothing less than eternal life giving heavenly doctrine.