Devoted To The Scriptures
Topic: The Bible Passage: Acts 2:42–47, 2 Peter 1:16–21
I began a new series last week in which we looked at four key ingredients that are necessary for growth - both personal and as a body. And we looked at a text… Acts 2:42-47 which shows us the dynamic work of the Holy Spirit. He had been poured out upon those gathered in the upper room. Three thousand saved… they were gathering together, eating together, worshiping and praising God together. There was reverence, deep joy, a lively witness to outsiders, and the lost were being found (the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved…)
And it’s no surprise - the church was devoted to:
- The scriptures
- The fellowship
- The breaking of bread (remembering and celebrating the cross)
- The prayers
It’s true that they were in the midst of revival and this was all organic. But it does say that “they devoted themselves…” It wasn’t God who did it for them. There was volition on their part. And we cannot divorce the blessings of the Spirit’s work among them from these activities the believers were committed to. Not only that, but I also want to stress that these things to which I am calling for total devotion can be means by which the Holy Spirit of God visits us with extraordinary grace and power. And we ought to pray for that. We ought to see these activities as means of grace.
David Mathis wrote a book entitled Habits of Grace, which is just another way of talking about spiritual disciplines. But he says that we are to develop habits (bible reading, prayer, fellowship, and so forth) that put us in the path of God’s grace or under the waterfall of God’s grace.
Griffith Jones - the morningstar of a great revival in Wales… opened schools and worked with wealthy Englishmen to translate the bible into the Welsh native tongue… to teach people to read in order that they might be able to read the scriptures. This laid the groundwork for the visitation of the Spirit which came later.
So I want to drill down a bit more on each of these ingredients to press upon us the need for devotion more thoroughly and then apply and give some direction for how we might do so as a body to put us in the way of God’s grace and abundant blessing. Today, I want to look more deeply at why we should be devoted to scripture (apostle’s doctrine, truth, etc). Why should we be continually devoted to the scriptures? Three reasons from our text in 2 Peter 1:
The authority of scripture. The trustworthiness of scripture. The sufficiency of scripture. For these reasons, every Christian ought to be wholeheartedly devoted to the bible.
The Authority of Scripture
Scripture is authoritative. Your feelings are not. Your intuitions are not. Your spiritual senses are not. What you think God may be speaking to your heart is not. Scripture is authoritative because it is the very word of God. Verses 20-21 says,
No prophecy of scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
This is such a pregnant couple of verses, but the point is clear: the initiative and the product of scripture is all from God.
Notice, no scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation… Not the product of human investigation or the writers’ own thinking and imagination. No. It is a divine gift. All of it. Not just parts - like the red letters. Notice also, it is not produced by the will of man. Scripture is not the product of human initiative, human ingenuity, or driven by the will of man. No. It was God.
It’s clear. Men spoke from God (not themselves) as they were carried along by (borne of, brought along by) the Holy Spirit. BB Warfield, a 19th and 20th century American Theologian, made a powerful insight on the word that’s translated “carried along”. He said the following:
What is “[carried]” is taken up by the “[Carrier],” and conveyed by the “[Carrier’s]” power, not its own, to the “[Carrier’s]” goal, not its own” The men who spoke from God were taken up by the Holy Spirit and brought by his power to the goal of his choosing.
There is no more important passage in the bible that both affirms the human instrumentality in writing the bible AND also the divine origin and product of the bible. It is because men spoke “from God” as they were “carried along by the Spirit” that the scriptures are Divine. Second Timothy 3:16 is a key text in this discussion, which says,
All scripture is breathed out by God…
Scripture is God exhaling. In other words, what the scripture says, God says. That is the essence of the authority of scripture. What the bible says, God says. Listen to how Paul assumes this in Romans 9:17:
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
Paul is quoting Exodus 9:6, where God is speaking directly to Moses, telling him what he is to say to Pharaoh. In Romans 9, Paul said, “The scripture says to Pharaoh”, but he could have said, “God said to Pharaoh”. What scripture says, God says. Which means one obvious application for us is that there can be no problem passages for us. Once we understand what a passage means (which takes work, especially some texts), we must humbly receive the word implanted (James 1:21). God’s word is authoritative. What the bible says, God says.
Let’s pray that we would be responsive to God’s word like the people of Thessalonica. 1 Thessalonians 2:13-14. God’s word is authoritative.
The Trustworthiness of Scripture
The bible is completely trustworthy. We have to do some work here. Verses 16-19 says,
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention…
I take the idea of trustworthy from the phrase “more fully confirmed.” We have the prophetic word “more fully confirmed”. That phrase means more sure, more firm, more stable, more steadfast, steady, more trustworthy. The question is more fully confirmed than what? The answer is stunning. It is absolutely remarkable! Peter is referring back to the time when he, along with James and John were with the Lord Jesus Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. They saw him transfigured before their eyes. They were there when the Father so honored and glorified the Son. They heard the voice of the Father say, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Peter was there. He experienced this as an eyewitness. He heard the voice of the Father commending the Son. He was there. Then he says,
And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed…
Stunning! Peter says there is a better testimony than even the eyewitness testimony of those with Jesus on the Mount. And what is the testimony that is more trustworthy? The prophetic word, by which Peter simply means scripture. The divine trustworthiness of scripture. And just to reiterate what Peter is saying. He is announcing that though he was on the Mount with Jesus and can recount what he saw and heard, the better testimony, the more trustworthy one, is that which is written down in scripture. It begs the question, what makes the written scriptures more reliable and trustworthy, more sure; what makes the scriptures a better testimony of God’s message to us?
One, for the preservation of God’s word for future generations. Not dependent upon oral tradition the memory of an individual or group of people, which then is passed down (and hopefully they remember - telephone game). [Argument of the unreliability of the bible]. Second, for repeated recalling and inspection - Peter’s immediate concern (v. 15). Three, for widespread accessibility - Into the hands of every person - We have…(in our hands). What a gift. Reformation. Missionary labors… always to get the word of God into the hands of people. Chinese Christians in prison…
God’s word is completely trustworthy. Psalm 119:160 says, “The sum of your word is truth”. Theologians use the phrase the “inerrancy of the word of God”. The word of God is without error, without deceit, without misleading information. But it actually goes beyond that. The scriptures are infallible, meaning it is not possible for it to contain error. Because it is the very word of God - who cannot lie. God is light and in him there is no darkness at all!
Which is why Peter goes on to say, “to which you will do well to pay attention…” We ought to pay close attention. God’s word is trustworthy and therefore we must devote ourselves continually to it.
The Sufficiency of Scripture
The scriptures are sufficient. Verse 19 says,
And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
Sufficient for what? Sufficient to light our way through this dark world. Look at what this says. The word of God is like a lamp shining in a dark place. What’s that mean? We live in a dirty, murky, dark, deceived world. How do we make our way through it victoriously? The word. It is sufficient to light our path. It guides us, gives us insight into God’s mind, wisdom to navigate difficulties, reveals to us what pleases the Lord, exposes the schemes of the devil, illuminates the path of love, and shines a spotlight on the brilliance of the hope of the gospel. Without it, we walk in the darkness. Charles Spurgeon said:
We are walkers through the city of this world, and we are often called to go out into its darkness; let us never venture there without the light giving word, lest we slip with our feet. Each man should use the word of God personally, practically, and habitually, that he may see his way and see what lies in it.
Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105). And it will be for God’s people until the end of the age - until the Lord Jesus Christ returns (day dawns and the morning star rises in your heart - Numbers 24:17). Which is why you will do well to pay attention (bring near, turn your mind to it). You will do well to devote yourself fully and continually to the word of God.
God’s word is authoritative - the very word of God. It is trustworthy - a more sure testimony from God. It is sufficient to light your path through this dark world so you live victoriously until your dying breath. If this is true, then how should we respond? It is clear: “You will do well to pay attention to it.” To heed it. To bring it close to mind and heart. So here are a few practical things you can do today, this week, in order to help you on the ground, in the trenches or life.
1. Long for the word. Peter says in 1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk of the word, that by it you may grow.” Are you a child of God? Have you been born of God? Just like healthy babies long for their mom’s milk, healthy spiritual children long for the nourishment of God’s word. If a newborn has no desire for mother’s milk, it’s not a healthy sign. If you don’t long for it, seek God until you do.
2. Demolish obstacles. Recognize you are in a battle and one of the chief aims of Satan is to keep you from the word of God - to read, understand, believe, and obey it. [Old Deluder Satan Law]. Obstacles are demonic and need to be addressed. Parable of the sower - the devil snatches… What obstacles need to be demolished (excuses: don’t read well, can’t concentrate. Too busy. Too lazy.)? Whatever the obstacle, see it as a scheme of that old deluder Satan, and demolish it! Don’t settle for it another single day.
3. Have a plan. It is doubtful you will make any headway without a plan. Which requires discipline, sometimes uncomfortable discipline. No spiritual gains without pains - JC Ryle. We all understand this and have no problem when it comes to almost anything else in life (sports, academics, advancing in work, instrument, learning any skill). And yet when it comes to spiritual growth we either expect it to just come without any work and/or it sounds legalistic (which it’s not) to speak of discipline, planning, etc. JC Ryle said:
Sanctification, again, is a thing which depends greatly on a diligent use of scriptural means. When I speak of “means,” I have in view Bible-reading, private prayer, regular attendance on public worship, regular hearing of God’s Word, and regular reception of the Lord’s Supper. I lay it down as a simple matter of fact, that no one who is careless about such things must ever expect to make much progress in sanctification
So there needs to be a plan! (give a few tips - morning, consistent, manageable, etc.)