When I became a believer as a young man, I came across certain scriptures that shaped my thinking.
Not only have these verses instilled in me an excitement that the God of the universe has not remained silent but instead has spoken loud and clear, but it has also been affirmed for me that the Scriptures are not the mere words of men that I may pick and choose what I want to believe and follow.
May I ask you if any scriptures have developed in you the same worldview?
For example, Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'” What does this mean? God is there and He is not silent on matters that matter to Him.
That God has spoken is no mere passing comment. It should be central to our lives. The writer of Hebrews tells us in his first two sentences in Hebrews 1:1–2, that “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.”
Because of this Peter instructs in 2 Peter 3:2, “that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.”
Jesus Himself said in John 15:15, “for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
Peter wrote about the prophets saying in 2 Peter 1:20–21, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
And Paul said about himself and the other apostles in Ephesians 3:4–5, “By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit.”
About Paul’s writings, Peter penned about our “beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15–16).
What? “The rest of the Scriptures”? Already Peter equates the writings of Paul with Moses, David, Jeremiah, and all the others of the Old Testament. To Peter, Paul’s writings equal the very Word of God.
When I finally understood these texts, they deeply affected me. I soon realized that I needed to make a decision about what I believed. Did I believe that this God was really there and had spoken uniquely through the prophets of the Old Testament, the apostles of the New Testament, and through Jesus Christ as the Son of God?
I said in my heart, “Yes, I believe He did.”
After concluding that the Scriptures were indeed God the Creator speaking to us, I then realized I needed to do what Jesus said. I needed to make a decision not to live on bread alone but live based “on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
Encouragingly, I realized that God had revealed a complete body of truth. For instance, in a three-year period of time, Paul tells those in Asia, “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). To Paul there was a beginning and ending to a body of truth that he communicated in less than thirty-six months (Acts 20:31). When I read Jude 1:3 I learned that I could know “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” What I needed to know, I could know. God had already revealed it to us, “once for all.” There was nothing else to be shown to us. That greatly blessed me.
In fact, on the topic of marriage there was only so much revealed. In my book Love & Respect, I often refer to it as a systematic theology for laity on marriage. I put together all the salient texts about marriage for the married. I sought to restrict the book to only those scriptures.
About “the whole purpose of God” I also learned that I could wrongly add ideas to this body of truth. Paul told the Corinthians, “learn not to exceed what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6). Along that same line, the apostle of love warned that a person can go “too far” and “not abide in the teaching of Christ” (2 John 1:9). I certainly did not wish to be guilty of exceeding or going too far and thus “adulterating the word of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2).
Furthermore, I guarded against concluding portions of the Bible were man-made and antiquated, like sexual purity, which I found some doing when that teaching revealed their guilt. To such individuals Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4:7–8, “For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.” Thus, for me, as a pastor, I took Paul’s admonition to Timothy seriously. I needed to be one who was “accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
What do you believe? Have you made a decision to live on “every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”? Are you seeking to handle accurately the word of truth?
What a high call and privilege it is for us to live our lives according to the whole body of truth already revealed to us in the Scriptures.
- Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” What does that mean to you? How have you applied this to your life?
- Do you believe that the complete body of truth has been revealed to us already in the sixty-six books of the Bible? How have you heard or read about ways in which others have tried either adding to or editing the complete body of truth? Based on the scriptures mentioned above, do you believe we are able to make such additions? Why or why not?
- Why is it dangerous to decide for ourselves that certain portions of scriptures are man-made and antiquated? Where have you seen others making “updates” based on current cultures? What are they saying, consciously or subconsciously, about the Word of God found in the Bible when they make these decisions for themselves?
- How do you need to handle more accurately the word of truth in your life today? If “the word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12), what are some instructions from God that need to become more “active” in your life today?