God’s plan for pure churches comes from God’s written, holy, and inscripturated Word. This collection of books we have in this Bible is a library of truth. Sixty-six books, written over a span of approximately 1,500 years by forty different authors, comprise what we call the Bible, the Holy Bible, the Scriptures, and appropriately the Word of God. A.W. Pink was right when he began one of his books, “Christianity is the religion of a Book. Christianity is based upon the impregnable rock of Holy Scripture. The starting point of all doctrinal discussion must be the Bible. Upon the foundation of the Divine inspiration of the Bible stands or falls the entire edifice of Christian truth.”[i]
However, some question whether these 66 books are truly authoritative. Why those books? Other books attributed to some of Jesus’ disciples were floating around. In Trinidad, I became acquainted with some Rastafarians. I read about them in preparation for helping a church in Trinidad plant a church, and noticed they held to some Christian roots. Yet, in reading Dennis Forsythe’s authoritative work on Rastafarianism, quotes a number of “Christian” scholars who claim that Christ was a mystic. [ii] Christ sought to reveal the spiritual mysteries of knowledge to just a select few—tipping his hand to a clear Gnostic tradition![iii]
Yet, God sought to reveal His truth to all who would hear and hear clearly, not through self-awareness as a starting point, but with God as a starting point making His Word clear to all who believe. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
11For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (1 Cor 2:11-13)
B.B. Warfield noted:
Any book or body of books which were given to the Church by the apostles as law must always remain of divine authority in the Church. That the apostles thus gave the Church the whole Old Testament, which they had themselves received from their fathers as God’s word written, admits of no doubt, and is not doubted. That they gradually added to this body of old law an additional body of new law is equally patent. In part this is determined directly by their own extant testimony.[iv]
In Titus 1:2, we see an interesting phrase that Paul used in his opening to Titus: “. . . in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began. . .” The emphasized portion is translated from the word (apsuedes) which means, “free from falsehood, without lie.” Therefore, not only does God choose not to lie, he cannot lie. [v] Given that this is God’s nature, we trust that what He says from that nature will be truthful in every part. Paul sought to give Titus both general instructions, but also instruction that addressed issues in his specific context.
In his letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” The word ‘breathed out’ is qeo,pneustoj(theopneustos)—God inspired/breathed out His Word. And as God stands, so does His Word stand. The word for this principal is ‘infallible,” which, as the root implies, means that the Word cannot fall. This truth fueled the Reformation, whose fire was lit by Martin Luther’s hymn A Mighty Fortress is our God. Take note of the last stanza:
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.[vi]
At times, this truth is put to severe scrutiny. French atheist Voltaire (1694-1778) boasted, “One hundred years from my day there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker.” Yet, not twenty years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society bought his house for printing the Bible, and later became the headquarters for the British and Foreign Bible Societies, which stored and distributed Bibles throughout Europe.[vii] Truly the Psalmist was correct when he wrote, “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens” (Psalm 119:89).
We must not forget Emperor Diocletian who in A.D. 300 ordered an edict seeking the removal of all Christians from every government position, and ordered the Christians’ houses of worship and their Bibles burned. Some Christians refused to turn over their copy of the Scriptures and were thus tortured and condemned to death.[viii] He declared extincto nomene Christianorum (Latin for “the name of Christians will be extinguished”). Yet, in A.D. 313, Emperor Constantine replaced the pagan symbols with the symbol of the cross, and as a result the Empire gave protected status to Christians. Even with the various viewpoints as to whether this ultimately helped or hurt Christianity, the point is clear: God would not permit his Word to be extinguished!
Paul also reminded Titus of God’s truthfulness for a very practical reason. In his specific ministry context, he struggled with false teachers infecting the church. In Titus 1:10-14, Paul warned Titus of the nature of the deceivers:
10For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.
We must see that his ministry context was on the isle of Crete, the very place whose inhabitant were described by one of their own prophets as “liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (v. 12). Paul described those coming into the church as “insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party” (v. 10). Titus needed to understand the culture to whom he ministered, but he also needed to recognize how diametrically opposite God is to the unbelievers on Crete. Yes, they may lie, but God “never lies.” He His holy—deception is not in his nature. Christians can trust every word He breathes out!
[i]Arthur W. Pink, The Divine Inspiration of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1976), 5.
[ii]See Dennis Forsythe, Rastafari: Healing of the Nations (New York: One Drop Books, 1999), 11-43.
[iii]For more information on Gnosticism, see Matt Slick, Gnosticism, accessed 7 Jan 2010, available at http://www.carm.org/gnosticism [on-line]; Internet. Here is a small definition: “The word “gnosticism” comes from the Greek word “gnosis” which means “knowledge.” There were many groups that were Gnostic and it isn’t possible to easily describe the nuances of each variant of Gnostic doctrines. However, generally speaking, Gnosticism taught that salvation is achieved through special knowledge (gnosis). This knowledge usually dealt with the individual’s relationship to the transcendent Being.” Salvation starts with a personal self-knowledge, differing this from orthodox Christianity which stays that salvation begins with the Lord (Jonah 2:9; Eph 2:8-10) and that man does not have the equipment due to the fall to pursue God on their own (Romans 3:10-12).
[iv]B.B. Warfield, The Authority & Inspiration of the Scriptures, ed. Shane Rosenthal. Accessed on 6 January 2010; available at http://homepage.mac.com/shanerosenthal/reformationink/bbwauthority.htm [on-line]; Internet.
[v]The Scripture reference is from the ESV as it is throughout, but it is the opinion of the author that this translation should be stronger. Other translations such as the KJV and the NAS translate this as “God who cannot lie.” While the end result is the same (God is and remains full of truth), the ESV’s translation implies that God never lies, but could if he wanted to. An example would be, “John never goes into the dirty movies.” Yet, that is a far cry from, “John cannot go into the movies.” One is about choice, the other deals with their moral and ethical nature. According to the Greek, not only did God choose not to lie, it is a moral impossibility for him.
[vi]Martin Luther, A Mighty Fortress is our God, 1529; translated from German to English by Frederic H. Hedge, 1853.
[vii]Michael C. Bere, Bible Doctrines for Today, ed. B. Horton(Pensacola, FL: A Beka, 1996), 23.
[viii]Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Present Day (Peabody, MA: Prince Press, 2001), 104.