Part VIIc: TRANSLATION — Chapter Eleven: A Book to Live ByRelated Media
The law of the Lord is perfect,
restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean,
The judgments of the Lord are true;
they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold,
yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the
drippings of the honeycomb. (Ps. 19:7-10)
Robert G. Lee, well-known author and Bible conference speaker, president of the Southern Baptist Convention for three consecutive years, tells the remarkable story of an exceedingly costly jewel that for many years was considered of no more value than a mere pebble:
Gustaf Gillman, a Chicago lapidary was at work in his shop, according to the narrative, when John Mihok of Omaha entered. Mihok, who was a laborer, drew out of his pocket a rough red stone and handed it to Gillman and said, “I want you to cut and polish this.”
“Where did you get it?” gasped Gillman, as his eyes almost popped out of his head.
“My father picked it up in Hungary fifty years ago,” was the reply of Mihok. “He thought it was a pretty pebble. When I landed in this country, I found it in my valise. It has been lying around the house ever since. The children played with it. My last baby cut his teeth on it. One night, I dreamed it was a diamond and worth a lot of money, but it’s not a diamond. It’s red.”
“No, it’s a pigeon’s blood ruby,” said Gillman.
“What might it be worth?” was the question of Mihok.
“I’d say anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000,” answered Gillman; Mihok leaned against the door.
The big, rough stone, we are told, cut to a flawless ruby of 23 9/10ths carats. It is believed to be the largest ruby in this country and possibly the largest in the world.1
How tragic that the Book that is infinitely more valuable than a thousand jewels is considered of so little value by so many today! Hopefully, the study of the making of the Bible has enhanced the value of the Book to you, and increased your appreciation of its infinite worth.
The ultimate test of its value is in its practical impact on your personal life. To conclude our study, let us consider several of the prominent purposes of the Scriptures.
I. It Leads Men and Women to Christ
First, and foremost, this is the Book that leads men and women to God. The great English translator, William Tyndale, boldly declared:
The Scripture is that wherewith God draweth us unto Him, and not wherewith we should be led from Him. The Scriptures spring out of God, and flow unto Christ, and were given to lead us to Christ. Thou must therefore go along by the Scripture as by a line, until thou come to Christ, which is the way’s end and resting place.
This statement stands the test of Scripture itself (Luke 24:27; John 5:39). Is it not through this that you have come to know, trust and love your Saviour? The fulfilling of this purpose alone renders the Bible a priceless Book.
Project Number 1
- Who is the central subject of all the Scripture? (John 5:39; Luke 24:27).
- What are the Scriptures able to do? (2 Tim. 3:15; John 3:16).
- Of what may one be absolutely assured through the Scriptures? (John 6:37, 10:28-30; 1 John 5:11-13).
II. It Equips the Christian Worker
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof; for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17)
Project Number 2
The profit of the Scriptures extends into four areas. Consider each of these carefully. What is the specific use of Scripture in each of these four areas?
Training in righteousness —
The orderly sequence of this verse may be viewed from still another perspective. The “teaching” acquaints us with the truth. The “conviction” or “reproof makes us aware of our failure to live up to the truth. In its “improvement” or “correction” it shows us how to eliminate the failures thus exposed. Its “training” is the total education in holiness, which is the result of the first three levels.
Not only is it profitable, however, it is also sufficient. If our text is to be taken seriously, the Scriptures are sufficient to equip us fully for any service for our Master. If you know the Bible as you ought to know it and as God intends you to know it, you are equipped to do anything God wants you to do. The person who knows the Word is adequate. He is equipped for every good work.
III. It Arms the Christian Warrior
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:17)
The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. It will be extremely helpful to make a fine distinction here between two Greek words. Both are translated “word” in our English Bible, but they must not be confused. In Hebrews 4:12 the Bible is designated as the logos of God while in our text, Ephesians 6:17, it is called the rhema of God. Logos refers to the Bible as a whole, to the written word of God. Rhema is a much more technical, restrictive term. In Luke 3:2 it is used in a solemn sense of a particular word of the Lord that came to the heart of John the Baptist. It is used of a Christian confession or a preached word in Romans 10:8, 9 and Ephesians 5:20. A definite, specific, preached utterance is classified as a rhema in John 6:63.
In Ephesians 6:17, the rhema of God bears three distinctives.
A. A Spoken Word Appropriate to the Situation
When an overwrought parent says to her two scrapping children, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” she is using the Scriptures as the rhema of God. When a frustrated embittered Christian reminds himself, “Be ye kind one to another... ,” he is using the Bible as the rhema of God. When a teenager faced with a temptation to disobey her parents is confronted by, “Children obey your parents in the Lord,” she is feeling the thrust of the rhema of God. How important it is to know the Word of God. Cultivate a working knowledge of this Book. Memorize it. It is the rhema of God, the spoken word, which is peculiarly appropriate to the situation. It is the sword of the Spirit in your spiritual warfare.
B. An Authoritative Word
It is a spoken appropriate word that carries with it all the authority of God. It is the rhema of God. Never forget that Satan and his demonic forces remain subject to that authority even today. In the midst of a spiritual conflict, you have at your disposal an arsenal of appropriate words that, if but spoken to the enemy, will subdue him. He is subject to the authority behind that word. It was the realization of this great truth that prompted Luther to write:
And let the prince of ill
Look grim as ever he will
He harms us not a whit
A Word shall quickly slay him. (Emphasis added.)
It is pure folly to leave the security and safety of the authoritative Word of God to engage the archenemy of your soul in open combat. Defeat is certain. Learn the Word. Study it. Memorize it. Use it. Then trust in it! If you aspire to victory, confide in the authority of the Word of God. It alone is adequate for the foe we face.
C. An Acquired Word
We receive it from the Holy Spirit. It is the “sword of the Spirit.” Students of the language will call this a genitive of source. It proceeds from the Holy Spirit. He puts the sword into the hands of the believer. He provides the appropriate text. He does this in our witnessing, in our prayer life, and also in our spiritual warfare. It is acquired from the Holy Spirit at the time of combat. The Holy Spirit brings to the mind of the Christian in the midst of the crisis the very text that is appropriate for the situation.
But can He do this, or will He do this apart from our having learned the text in advance? Hardly. As we read, study and memorize Scripture, we store in the files of our minds the great texts that will be appropriate for any situation and serve in our spiritual warfare. As we are walking in fellowship with the Lord, His Holy Spirit supplies us with the needed weapons from the arsenal stored in our minds.
Computers today can record the entire Bible in one-sixth of a second. On command they can reproduce any verse in two-billionths of a second. This gives us some idea of the capability of the human brain under the impulse of the Spirit of God. From what has been stored there by study and meditation, He can recall and place in our hands for our spiritual defence.
How important it is then, to protect our communion with the Holy Spirit. A healthy relationship with the Spirit of God through confession and submission is an imperative for all who yearn for victory. He is the One who puts the sword in our hands!
If I see the verse correctly then, the successful offence of the Christian is by means of acquiring through the Holy Spirit an authoritative word that is appropriate to the particular temptation of Satan.
F. F. Bruce helpfully states, “the rhema is that utterance of God appropriate to the occasion which the Spirit, so to speak, puts into the hand of the believer to be wielded as a sword which will put his spiritual assailants to flight.”2
This is the biblical means of resisting the devil.
An Appropriate Word
An Authoritative Word
An Acquired Word
Cultivate your knowledge of the Bible.
Confide in the authority of the Bible.
Commune with the Supplier of the Bible.
Project Number 3
1. Our Lord is the perfect example for every believer in every area of life. Read Matthew 4:1-11.
a) How do you account for our Lord’s victory over Satan?
b) How is each of the three answers of our Lord introduced? Which aspect of the rhema is emphasized by this phrase?
c) Demonstrate the appropriateness of each of the three “words” answered by our Lord.
d) How do you suppose He acquired these three obscure verses hidden in Deuteronomy?
2. Eve is a shameful example of failure and defeat. In view of what you have learned of the rhema of God in Ephesians 6:17, how do you account for her fall before Satan?
IV. It Guides the Christian Pilgrim
No single category of questions plagues the minds of believers more, and is posed to pastors more often, than questions related to God’s guidance. This is a constant concern for every conscientious Christian. And rightly so. Yet there is hope and help for such Christians in the Word of God.
To each of us is given the sure promise of divine guidance.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding, In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. (Prov. 3:5, 6)
Again to each of us has been given a gracious and adequate provision for our guidance.
Thy Word is a lamp to my feet, And a light to my path. (Ps. 119:105)
What a glorious provision! He has given us the Book to guide us through life. The acid test to apply to any prospective course of action is this: Is it in obedience to the Word of God?
But how shall we use the Bible to obtain guidance? This is a question I am frequently asked. No doubt you have wondered about this very point. How is it to be used? Perhaps a few brief principles will be of some practical help.3
First, do not conduct a random search through the Bible for some proof text to give you direction.
Have you read of the man who was seeking guidance by closing his eyes, opening the Bible at random, putting his finger on the page, and then opening his eyes to read the text? The first text he chose told him Judas went out and hanged himself. Unhappy with the result he tried again. This time he fingered the verse which said, “Go, thou, and do likewise.” More discontented than before, he tried a third time. He was shocked to read, “What thou doest, do quickly.” This would surely be enough to cause anyone to abandon such a reckless and irresponsible procedure. The Bible was never intended to be used this way.
Second, do not resort to Scripture for guidance only at the time of the dilemma.
Actually the dilemma will test the depth of your regular systematic study of the Bible. The biblical message needs to be planted into the very depths of our thinking and attitudes so that it can percolate there and become a part of us, so that our real selves will be formed by it.
Third, we are to act on the biblical principles that govern life’s large blocks. Here it is again. “Principlize.” This will assist in moving from Paul’s life to yours, from the interpretation to the application.
Fourth, be true always to the context. Never be guided by a text or a principle that is not true to its context.
Fifth, always remember that the Bible as a source of guidance does not eliminate the element of struggle. Apart from the struggles of discerning His mind, there would be little prayer, less growth and no sifting of priorities and values. It is for the cultivation of these rare and precious virtues that God schedules for His children those days and weeks of oppressive and agonizing struggle.
Project Number 4
Study the following texts. What is the particular contribution of each one to the subject of guidance and discerning the will of God?
- Psalm 37:4, 5
- Colossians 3:15
- Romans 12:1, 2
- James 1:5
- Proverbs 3:5, 6
V. It Accomplishes in the Believer Sanctification
“Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth.” (John 17:17)
The progressive sanctification of the Christian is his progressive growth into the likeness of Christ. It is his progressively being set apart for His use as His possession. It is the work God is doing in us today. And what is the means? The Word of God!
There is no verse in all Scripture that indicates the great importance of the Word of God to our spiritual life better than this text. But how does it accomplish this result? How do the Scriptures sanctify?
As a believer is exposed to truths of Scripture, as a person assimilates them, personally studies and develops proficiency in using the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit will be progressively moulding the person and setting the person apart as God’s possession for God’s use.
A child of God in the world is like a diver in the depths of the sea. One is pressed in on every side by evil—almost overwhelmed by it. The existence of the diver depends upon the diving suit. And what that suit is to the diver, the Word of God is to us. It keeps us from the evil. It separates us unto God. How utterly indispensable it is to our daily existence and growth.
In his Lectures to My Students, C. H. Spurgeon shows how anecdotes and illustrations may be used to explain a great story:
A woman is called upon by her minister on Monday, and he finds her washing wool in a sieve, holding it under the pump. He asks her, “How did you enjoy last Sabbath’s discourses?” She does not recollect, “What was the subject?” “Ah! sir, it was quite gone from me,” says the poor woman. Does she remember any of the remarks that were made? No, they are all gone. “Well then, Mary,” says the minister, “it could not have done you much good.” Oh, but it had done her a great deal of good; and she explained it to him by saying, “I will tell you, sir, how it is; I put this wool in the sieve under the pump, I pump on it and all the water runs through the sieve, but then it washes the wool. So it is with your sermon; it comes into my heart, and then it runs right through my poor memory, which is like a sieve, but it washes me clean, sir.”
You might talk for a long while about the cleansing and sanctifying power of the Word, and it would not make such an impression upon your hearers as that simple story would.4
This Bible is the most precious piece of property possessed by any believer today. Treasure it above all else. Read it. Study it. Memorize it. Share it. But most of all, live it.
Project Number 5
Set for yourself several goals for your personal devotional reading of the Scripture. They should be specific and direct. Make them realistic enough that they can be attained, yet difficult enough that they will stretch you. We should have both short-range and long-range goals.
Bruce, F. F. The Books and the Parchments: Some Chapters on the Transmission of the Bible, third ed. Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1963.
Greenslade, S. L. (ed. et al). Cambridge History of the Bible. Cambridge: The University Press, 1963-1970.
Herklots, H. G. G. How Our Bible Came to Us. Oxford University Press, 1954.
Metzger, Bruce and Coogan, Michael D. The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Oxford University Press, 1993.
1 Robert G. Lee, By Christ Compelled (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969). p. 49.
2 F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Ephesians (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1961), p. 131.
3 For further study consider carefully the article by Montagu Barker entitled “How the Bible Helps You Make Decisions,” How to Study the Bible, ed. John B. Job (InterVarsity Press), pp. 90-98.
4 C. H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1954), pp. 385, 386.