A Book Now Speaking
Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? (Jeremiah 23:29)
I believe that much of our religious unbelief is do to a wrong conception of and a wrong feeling for the Scriptures of Truth. A silent God suddenly began to speak in a book and when the book was finished lapsed back into silence forever. Now we read the book as the record of what God said when He was for a brief time in a speaking mood. With notions like that in our heads how can we believe? The facts are that God is not silent, and has never been silent. It is the nature of God to speak. The second Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Word. The Bible is the inevitable outcome of God’s continuous speech. It is the infallible declaration of His mind for us put into our familiar human words.
I think a new world will arise out of the religious mists when we approach our Bible with the idea that it is not only a book which was once, but a book which is now speaking. The prophets habitually said, “Thus saith the Lord.” They meant their hearers to understand that God’s speaking is in the continuous present. We may use the past tense properly to indicate that at a certain time a certain word of God was spoken, but the word of God once spoken continues to be spoken, as a child once born continues to be alive, or a world once created continues to exist. And those are but imperfect illustrations, for children die and the world burns out, but the Word of our God endureth forever.
If you would follow on to know the Lord, come at once to the open Bible expecting it to speak to you. Do not come with the notion that it is a thing which you may push around at your convenience. It is more than a thing, it is a voice, a word, the very Word of the Living God.
A. W. Tozer
Our approach to the Bible in these days has the appearance that we see it in the same way we approach a buffet. We can pick through it and carefully select the portions that appeal to us or that bolster our own views and perceptions of what is right and wrong or what is acceptable or unacceptable according to our social norms or cultures. We view it as a collection of writings written in the distant past by flawed humans and since that is so we conclude that the book itself must also be flawed. Due to this we have created a state of unbelief among those who are the children of God and since they are confused in their beliefs, those who walk in darkness see uncertain light. I think that in our pursuit of knowledge, we believe that somehow to have simple faith that the Bible is the written record of God speaking is somehow foolish and naive. Those who choose to accept and believe the entire account of God’s Word are often branded as religious zealots especially if they let the Bible speak to everything just as it is without any extrapolation or modification. Our most important question concerning the Bible is whether it is truly the Word of God. Is it God-breathed? Did the writers express their own views or did they write as instructed with the words written only a record of the Voice speaking? Is the Bible in its fullness an accurate reflection of God and His will and desires for His creation?
Our honest answers to these questions will then determine how we read the Bible. Do we view it as it is and let it speak to everything in our lives or do we only selectively let it speak when our personal feelings agree with what is written. Do we see it as a book of philosophy that may be debated or is it God speaking? When we think about all the confusion and conflict in the church today we must confess that it comes from the “buffet view.” Each party has chosen what they will “eat” and what they will leave untouched.
I believe there would be dramatic change in the church and the world if we chose to see the Bible as the recorded Word of God rather than a mere book. What if we saw the Bible as the Complete Instruction Manual for Life rather than a book of suggestions.
I recognize that this illustration falls far short of the reality. Most tools or appliances come with detailed instruction manuals. These include instructions of putting the parts together in their proper place and instructions of proper use. They include warnings of improper use and there’s usually a troubleshooting section when something goes wrong. Suppose you purchase a product and discard the instructions, thinking that you are more knowledgeable about it than the manufacturer. So you attempt to put it together, and you might eventually succeed. But in truth you could have saved a lot of time and frustration by reading and following the instructions. Suppose you decide to ignore the stated purpose of that device and attempt to use it for what it’s not designed to do. You might force it to operate outside its design for a time but eventually you will either damage it or it will cause injury to you. You may even try to use it for its purpose but it doesn’t perform as well as it could because you didn’t read the instructions and don’t really know how to operate it at its full capacity. Maybe it breaks and you decide that you will fix it. So you get your tools and begin to take it apart. You failed to read the troubleshooting part so you wind up spending a lot of time trying to solve the problem when there’s a simple solution or you mess it up even worse because you don’t know what you’re doing.
This simple small illustration describes us when we treat the Bible this way. God, the Creator of all things really knows what He is doing. When He gives us instruction it is for our good. When He forbids certain conduct its to keep us safe. When He speaks to life and living, He does so from the view of the Creator rather than the view of the end user. He sees the whole picture from eternity’s view rather than from our finite view.
John connects the written Word with the Living Word as he opens his gospel.
“In the beginning [before all time] was the Word ( Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. He was [continually existing] in the beginning [co-eternally] with God. All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him not even one thing was made that has come into being. In Him was life [and the power to bestow life], and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it [and is unreceptive to it]. There it was—the true Light [the genuine, perfect, steadfast Light] which, coming into the world, enlightens everyone. He (Christ) was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own [that which belonged to Him—His world, His creation, His possession], and those who were His own [people—the Jewish nation] did not receive and welcome Him. But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the right [the authority, the privilege] to become children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name— who were born, not of blood [natural conception], nor of the will of the flesh [physical impulse], nor of the will of man [that of a natural father], but of God [that is, a divine and supernatural birth—they are born of God—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified]. And the Word (Christ) became flesh, and lived among us; and we [actually] saw His glory, glory as belongs to the [One and] only begotten Son of the Father, [the Son who is truly unique, the only One of His kind, who is] full of grace and truth (absolutely free of deception).”
Let us then cease our foolish debates and choose to let the Bible in its fullness speak to every issue we are wrestling with.
For those who choose to accept certain portions and to reject others, I pose a question. How do you know what to keep and what to throw away? If I choose to discard His commandments, then how will I then believe His promises? If I accept that portions of Scripture aren’t an accurate reflection of God or His will, how can I then believe others are? I know there is always the argument of interpretation or translation. I suggest that you find multiple translations done by serious scholars and you will find an amazing correlation between all the translations. I further suggest that you read the Bible with an open heart, letting it speak to you rather than searching to find support for your own views and perceptions.
Finally, may I say that God still speaks today through the Holy Spirit who has been sent to “guide us into all truth.”
16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive [and take to its heart] because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He (the Holy Spirit) remains with you continually and will be in you. 26 But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you. 26 “But when the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of Truth who comes from the Father, He will testify and bear witness about Me. 27 But you will testify also and be My witnesses, because you have been with Me from the beginning. 7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you]. 8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world about [the guilt of] sin [and the need for a Savior], and about righteousness, and about judgment: 9 about sin [and the true nature of it], because they do not believe in Me [and My message]; 10 about righteousness [personal integrity and godly character], because I am going to My Father and you will no longer see Me; 11 about judgment [the certainty of it], because the ruler of this world (Satan) has been judged and condemned. 12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear [to hear] them now. 13 But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future]. 14 He will glorify and honor Me, because He (the Holy Spirit) will take from what is Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Because of this I said that He [the Spirit] will take from what is Mine and will reveal it to you.
May we the people of God in this dark world seek out the light and search for the truth. May we view the Bible as God’s voice speaking still and may we go further on in our relationship with God until we hear His voice speaking to us clearly. May we truly be people of the Book.
Dr. John Thompson