Apology: This article is 1 week and 1 day late. There were some technical issues last week when I was supposed to post this article, and by the time posting became possible there would not have been sufficient time for memorisation. Then, again, yesterday when I was supposed to post again, I was further hindered. So I present, with many apologies, week 2 of the guided tour of the Catechism. This week only has 2 questions, so we ought to be able to memorise by next week. Thank you for your patience.
Welcome back our guided tour through the modified Baptist Catechism. Today marks the beginning of week two, and we will be focussing on questions four and five.
Before we begin, let’s test our memory.
1: Who is the first and best of beings?
2: What is the chief end of man?
3: How do we know there is a God?
The answers will be at the end of today’s article. Now, let’s begin.
Question 4: What is the Word of God?
Answer 4: The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, being given by divine inspiration, are the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.
Scripture: 2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Isaiah 8:20; Matthew 5:17-18; 1 Corinthians 2:13; Psalm 19:7-8.
This question follows on from question three naturally. In question three, we read that God’s “Word and Spirit only do effectually reveal Him unto us for our salvation.” What, then, is God’s word? It is:
- The Old Testament
- The New Testament
These two collections of writing have been “given by divine inspiration”; if you’ve followed up the Scripture references, we see that men write Scripture as the Holy Spirit carries them along, and that it is “breathed out” by God. This makes Scripture the very words of God Himself.
This is important to understand because there exists a heresy, largely in nominal Christianity, that says that the Bible is merely Man’s thoughts about God, that it doesn’t matter as much as what one feels about God. This is an incredibly dangerous belief; when we have no solid teaching about God, when we have no “rule of faith”, we project our own personality onto God. We are kept from really knowing God, and instead we believe all kinds of things. This is a fast road into sin.
When we understand that Scripture is God’s very Word then we understand that we, as His servants and children, must believe what He says about Himself.
Now, Scripture is also “the only infallible rule of faith and practice”. Infallible means ‘incapable of being wrong or making mistakes’. The Bible is ‘inerrant’ – in it there is no error. Therefore we are free to trust God’s word.
Finally, the Bible is our “rule of faith and practice”. Not “rule” as in ‘law,’ but “rule” as in ‘measure’, like those wooden school rulers. We measure what we believe – our faith – and what we do – our practice – by the Bible.
Being that such important matter is in the Bible, we ought to be careful to read it often. We also need to be careful to search the Scriptures to test the truthfulness of the things we’re taught and to become more familiar with God’s word.
Question 5: How do we know that the Bible is the Word of God?
Answer 5: The Bible evidences itself to be God’s Word by the Heavenliness of its doctrine, the unity of its parts, and its power to convert sinners and edify saints. But only the Spirit of God can make us willing to agree and submit to the Bible as the Word of God.
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2:6-7, 13-16; Psalm 19:7-9, 119:18, 119:129; Acts 10:43, 26:22, 18:28; Hebrews 4:12; Romans 15:4; John 16:13-14; 1 John 2:20-27; 2 Corinthians 3:14-17, 4:4, 6.
Again, this question naturally follows from the last. We’ve asked what the word of God is and we’ve been given our answer: it’s the Bible. Now we’re asking how we know this is the case.
First of all, the Bible evidences itself to be God’s word. Scripture is self-authenticating. My own pastor loves to say that you cannot authenticate a truth by something lesser than that truth. Every truth needs authentication, and in order to authenticate a truth you must appeal to something greater. For example, if I said “when I throw this rock just right at the lake, the stone will skip across the surface of the water” then I can authenticate this truth by appealing to the laws of physics. However, when it comes to God there is no greater authority. Therefore, the greatest truth must be self-authenticating. So the Bible proves itself to be God’s word, and it does this three ways.
1: By the Heavenliness of its doctrine.
The teachings (doctrine) of the Bible are Heavenly. They are beautiful, yes, but also otherworldly. Humility, self-sacrifice, self-denial, pure hatred of sin, and the necessity of holiness are not doctrines which man would invent to impose upon himself.
Christianity is unique in this way because, though we are commanded to be holy, ours is the only religion in which God became man and died for us, we cannot contribute anything except the sin which made His sacrifice necessary. This truth, along with all the other truths of God, when grasped properly, is indeed Heavenly.
2: The unity of its parts
The Bible tells one unified story throughout its pages. There is no error contained within and the theme is common throughout. The reason why some preachers say that we must preach Christ in every passage is because every passage points to Christ.
The Old Testament contains history, wisdom, and poetry, but its main function is to point us forward towards Jesus. Noah’s ark, the testing of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac, the Exodus from Egypt – all of these are playing out in history what God was preparing to do Spiritually through Jesus.
When examined together, the Old and New testaments align; the prophecies and promises of God point to Jesus. No human book could be unified on this scale; thousands of years of prophecy written by many different human authors, all foreshadowing the same event which is fulfilled only once all of the human authors of the Old Testament are dead.
3: its power to convert sinners and edify saints
The Bible changes people. You cannot deny this. People who would ‘never become a Christian’ hear the Gospel and are saved. Christians across the world are transformed, refined, and encouraged by Scripture. Yes, it’s true that not everybody responds in this way, but you cannot deny that:
- a) The Bible changes people, and
- b) The Bible changes people more radically than any other book.
There is a wondrous power about Scripture.
So those are the three ways in which Scripture evidences itself to be God’s word. But we have a caveat here: “But only the Spirit of God can make us willing to agree and submit to the Bible as the Word of God. This means that we, as “totally depraved” human beings, do not want to have God in charge over our lives. It is only when God gives us His Holy Spirit to live in us and change our hearts that we become willing to agree with the doctrines contained in the Bible, to find them beautiful and treasure them as David did, and submit to the Bible as the Word of God, acknowledging the authority and commands contained within, as well as the warnings and the clear path to safety through Jesus Christ.
Ok, so that does it for another week. Let’s give the answers to last week’s questions, and see whether you were able to memorise them.
1: God is the first and best of beings.
2: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
3: The light of nature in man, and the works of God, plainly declares that there is a God; but His word and Spirit only do effectually reveal Him unto us for our salvation.
If you need some prayer points for inspiration this week:
1: Thank God for His word
2: Thank God for preserving Scripture for us
3: Thank God for His Spirit, who helps us to understand His word and submit to it
4: Ask God to help you understand His word, and submit to it