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The Last Word

2 Timothy 3:16-17 - All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

This year is going to be very different for many of you. You're now in college, and being in college can be a traumatic experience for a Christian student. Away from families, friends and home church, you are left wide open for all kinds of problems. One of your most vulnerable areas will be in reference to your Christian faith. For many of you on a secular campus, the trauma will begin with a course in Philosophy--or Religion, of all things! The Bible will undoubtedly be mentioned again and again in your courses and discussions. You will hear so many "new things" about the Bible that you'll feel like you've been in a sheltered vacuum all your life. You'll have so many new questions about the Bible that you'll be frustrated and confused and not know where to begin. But when all is said and done, the issue will come down to this very basic question: What is the Bible? Sounds pretty naive, but think over the profound implications of this question before reading on.

Is the Bible merely a collection of man's highest and noblest thoughts about God down through history? Is the Bible simply the result of man's unending search for the divine? Is the Bible only a record of the various experiences of man which are worth passing on for the benefit and preservation of human society? Is the Bible just a "good book" containing what man has found to be timeless truth and the best moral values to live by? Is the Bible merely a product of man's thinking relative to his constantly changing culture, and therefore contains no absolute standards whatsoever? Or--is the Bible what it claims to be: the Word of God?

The basic issue, then, is whether the Bible is man's words about God or God's words to man. If the Bible is only man's words about God, then we may assume that some statements may be true, but other statements may be "slightly erroneous." If the Bible is only man's words about God, great and beautiful though they may be, it can have no real basis for authority over my life. I may appreciate its insights. I may deem it worthy of study. I may respect its values. I may follow its principles. But no way does it have authority over me! How can the accumulated wisdom of fellow creatures possibly make claims on my life and destiny? I am the master of my own ship. I have the last word on my own life!

But--if the Bible is God's words to man, then we have an entirely different situation. If the Bible is God's words to man, then mancannot arbitrarily decide what in the Bible is true and what is "a human error or miscalculation." God is not the author of lies or deceit or confusion. If the Bible is God's words to man, then man cannot pick and choose what values and standards in the Bible are applicable for today and what can be tossed aside as "cultural hang-ons." God does not lower or change His standards to adapt to society's whims. And finally, if the Bible is indeed God's words to man, as it claims, then it does have a basis for authority over my life. God is my Creator and He has spoken, and He has the last word.

Does the Bible really claim to be God's words to man? Yes, it certainly does! The Bible is full of statements such as, "Thus saith the Lord," and "This is the word of the Lord." The whole sense of Scripture is that God is speaking to man--not man speaking aboutGod. The Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles were quite convinced that they were not just writing words about God, but they were communicating God's words to man in writing. The Bible's consistent claim to be the words of God to man is focused in 2 Timothy 3:16 & 17.

"All Scripture is God-breathed" has also been translated "All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God" or "All Scripture is inspired by God." The term "God-breathed" gives us the correct idea of what inspiration is all about. Inspiration does not mean that man breathed out words about God, but that God breathed out words to man. In other words, the origin of Scripture is not the mind of man, but the mouth of God. This is what our Lord had in mind when He said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). The Lord Jesus considered the written Scriptures as having absolute authority because they were God-breathed. Notice how Jesus equates the writings of Moses with the words of God in Mark 7:9­13. Should we have a lower view of Scripture than our Lord had?

The Bible, then, is not inspired because man wrote about God during "moments of inspiration," as we might say about a poet, or a musician, or an artist. And the Bible is not inspired because it stimulates or "inspires" people, as we might say about the emotions that come from a beautiful sunset, or the view from a mountain peak. No! The Bible is inspired because it is the "God-breathed" words of God to man.

But the Bible sounds so human! Of course! God chose human languages and human thought patterns in order to communicate with humans. How else could He have done it?! But doesn't that make the men who actually penned the words mechanical robots who received dictation? Not at all! God used the human authors' own personalities and writing styles as a channel of communication. But as sovereign God and Lord of all, He certainly controlled, guarded, and superintended the words which went down on the parchments. Therefore the Bible is not contaminated with errors--not even in the areas of historical data and numerical data. What a difference between the Bible and other writings of the same period! Just a brief examination will reveal how much grotesque, mythological, and absurd information is contained in these uninspired writings.

"O.K.," someone says, "so the Bible claims to be the word of God and seems to present some pretty good credentials, but who's to say whether it really is or not? I'm not going to submit to it until I find a person who is a real authority on the Bible and take that person's advice." Sorry! The highest authority always has the last word. If the Bible is really what it claims to be, we cannot consult a higher authority. To be consistent, we must let the Bible speak for itself--not ask modern man (brilliant though he may be) to make the final decision on the Bible. "Dr. Bible" must have the last word over "Dr. Scholar" or else we are not being logical. And if we are unwilling to accept the Bible's claim to be God's words to man, then let us not become inconsistent and come to the Bible as the last word on something else. If the Bible is not an authority on what it says about itself, then how can it be an authority on anysubject?

Because the Bible is God's words to man, matters of doctrine and ethics are not up for grabs. It is not just one man's words against another's. God has spoken to us, and has given us His mind on these matters. We can come to the Bible and read it as if God were speaking directly to us and we were hearing the words right from His own mouth. This is true of all the Bible (v16). It is true that correct interpretation comes into play here, and that is another important matter. But receiving the Bible as God's words to man is the first step. Now the Bible becomes authoritative in our lives. We submit to it. We obey it. We come to depend on the words of God in all important matters (vs16b-17). We come to know that the Bible has the last word.
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