In the lead-up to the Truth Matters conference in October, we will be focusing our attention on the sufficiency, authority, and clarity of Scripture. One of our previous blog series, Looking for Truth in All the Wrong Places, strongly emphasizes those doctrines. The following entry from that series originally appeared on June 28, 2017. -ed.
From the very beginning, the battle between good and evil has been a battle for the truth. The serpent, in the Garden of Eden, began his temptation by questioning the truthfulness of God’s previous instruction:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” . . . The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1, 4–5)
Casting doubt on the straightforward revelation of God has been Satan’s tactic ever since (cf. John 8:44).
With eternity at stake, it is no wonder that Scripture reserves its harshest words of condemnation for those who would put lies in the mouth of God, usurping His Word with dangerous experience that is paltry in comparison. The serpent was immediately cursed in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:14), and Satan told of his inevitable demise (v. 15). In Old Testament Israel, false prophecy was a capital offense (Deuteronomy 13:5, 10), a point vividly illustrated by Elijah’s slaughter of the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal following the showdown on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:19, 40).
But the Israelites often failed to expel false prophets; and by welcoming error into their midst, they also invited God’s judgment (Jeremiah 5:29–31). Consider the Lord’s attitude toward those who would exchange His true Word for a counterfeit:
Then the Lord said to me, “The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds. Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who are prophesying in My name, although it was not I who sent them—yet they keep saying, ‘There will be no sword or famine in this land’—by sword and famine those prophets shall meet their end! The people also to whom they are prophesying will be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and there will be no one to bury them—neither them, nor their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters—for I will pour out their own wickedness on them.” (Jeremiah 14:14-16; cf. Isaiah 30:9-13; Ezekiel 13:3-9)
The point of those passages is unmistakable: God hates those who misrepresent His Word or speak lies in His name. The New Testament responds to false prophets with equal severity (cf. 1 Timothy 6:3–5; 2 Timothy 3:1–9; 1 John 4:1–3; 2 John 7–11). God does not tolerate those who falsify or fake divine revelation. It is an offense He takes personally, and His retribution is swift and deadly. To sabotage biblical truth in any way—by adding to it, subtracting from it, or mixing it with error—is to invite divine wrath (Galatians 1:9; 2 John 9–11). Any distortion of the Word is an affront against the Trinity, and especially against the Spirit of God because of His intimate relationship to the Scriptures.
Martin Luther put it this way, “Whenever you hear anyone boast that he has something by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and it has no basis in God’s Word, no matter what it may be, tell him that this is the work of the devil.” Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 23, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (St. Louis: Concordia: 1959), 173–174. And elsewhere, “Whatever does not have its origin in the Scriptures is surely from the devil himself.” Luther’s Works, Vol. 36, 144.
Although charismatics claim to represent the Holy Spirit, their movement has shown a persistent tendency to pit Him against the Scriptures—as if a commitment to biblical truth somehow might quench, grieve, or otherwise inhibit the Spirit’s ministry. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible is the Holy Spirit’s book! It is the instrument He uses to convict unbelievers of sin, righteousness, and judgment. It is the sword by which He energizes the proclamation of the gospel, piercing the hearts of the spiritually dead and raising them to spiritual life. It is the means by which He unleashes His sanctifying power in the lives of those who believe—growing them in grace through the pure milk of biblical instruction.
Thus, to reject the Scriptures is to rebuff the Spirit. To ignore, disdain, twist, or disobey the Word of God is to dishonor the One who inspired, illumines, and empowers it. But to wholeheartedly embrace and submit to biblical truth is to enjoy the fullness of the Spirit’s ministry—being filled by His sanctifying power, being led by Him in righteousness, and being equipped with His armor in the battle against sin and error.
Charles Spurgeon explained it this way to his congregation:
We have a more sure word of testimony, a rock of truth upon which we rest, for our infallible standard lies in, “It is written. . .” The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, is our religion. . . . It is said that it is hard to understand, but it is not so to those who seek the guidance of the Spirit of God. . . . A babe in grace taught by the Spirit of God may know the mind of the Lord concerning salvation, and find its way to heaven by the guidance of the Word alone. But be it profound or simple; that is not the question; it is the Word of God, and is pure, unerring truth. Here is infallibility, and nowhere else. . . . This grand, infallible book . . . is our sole court of appeal. . . . [It is] the sword of the Spirit in the spiritual conflicts which await. . . . The Holy Spirit is in the Word, and it is, therefore, living truth. O Christians, be ye sure of this, and because of it make you the word your chosen weapon of war. Charles Spurgeon, “Infallibility—Where to Find It and How to Use It,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 20 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1874), 698-99, 702.
The Bible is a living book because the living Spirit of God energizes and empowers it. The Word convicts us, instructs us, equips us, strengthens us, protects us, and enables us to grow. Or more accurately, the Holy Spirit does all of those things as He activates the truth of Scripture in our hearts.
As believers, we honor the Spirit most when we honor the Scriptures—studying them diligently, applying them carefully, arming our minds with their precepts, and embracing their teaching with all of our hearts. The Spirit has given us the Word. He has opened our eyes to understand its vast riches. And He empowers its truth in our lives as He conforms us into the image our Savior.
It is difficult to imagine why anyone would ever disdain or neglect the words of this Book, especially in light of the divinely promised blessings that come from cherishing it. As the psalmist declared so long ago:
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)
(Adapted from Strange Fire.)