************ Sermon on Belgic Confession Article 3 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 18, 2019
Belgic Confession Article 3
2 Peter 1:12-21
"The Written Word of God"
A pastor from Hawaii was on a trip to China to train church leaders. After beginning his lesson, the pastor realized he only had fifteen Bibles to pass around, so seven people went without. He announced he was going to read 2 Peter 1. One lady handed her Bible to the person next to her. Do you know why? She gave her Bible away because she had memorized 2 Peter and was able to recite the whole chapter by heart. After the lesson the lady told the pastor China imprisons Christians and that Scripture written on paper is smuggled to Christians in jail. They hide it from the prison guards and memorize it as fast as they can because prison guards "can’t take what’s hidden in your heart."
Following the three-day training session, one Chinese Christian man asked the pastor, "Could you pray that one day we could just be like you?" He looked at him and said, "I will not do that." "In my country, we have an average of two Bibles per family. We don’t read any of them. You hardly have any Bibles and you memorize them from pieces of paper." "I will not pray that you become like us, but I will pray that we become just like you."
Chinese Christians memorize the Bible. Chinese Christians prize their Bible. Why? What is it about the Bible that causes this? What is it about the Bible that makes people band together and donate their money and time to translate it into some obscure language? No other book has seen so many copies printed. No other book has been translated into so many different languages. What is it about the Bible that makes it so popular? How does one explain its continued existence? What is this book's source? Whose idea was it to write a book like this?
The Bible itself answers these questions in verses 20-21 of our Scripture reading:
(2 Pet 1:20-21) Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. (21) For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
I The Bible is from God
A The Belgic Confession of Faith begins article 3 on the Word of God as follows:
We confess that this Word of GodHere we confess that the Bible comes from God; it is from His will and good pleasure. Anything that comes from God to us is because of His gracious favor. Have you ever thought of the Bible this way? We all have Bibles throughout our homes. Do you acknowledge this is a gift of God's grace?
was not sent nor delivered by the will of men,
but that holy men of God spoke,
being moved by the Holy Spirit,
as Peter says.
Last week we were told God has revealed Himself. He revealed Himself in Special Revelation and in General Revelation. Yesterday I rode my bicycle up Road 245 to Mountain House and was amazed at all the wildlife I saw on the road: a tarantula, a young coyote, two sets of baby quail with their mother, two sets of turkeys, and two young bobcats with their oversized feet trying to get away from us. All of this speaks to me of our God.
God has revealed Himself. That God has done so is a wonder, for it demonstrates that He is willing to deal with us in a saving way. He wishes to be known by us. In His revelation God turns to sinners and says, "Here am I!" God did this to Adam right after the fall into sin. He did this as the God Who loves the world. He did this as the God Who sent His only begotten Son to die upon the cross in human form. He did this as the God who loves us freely from eternity. God didn't have to do this. He owed His revelation to no man. His self-revelation is solely an act of grace.
B How did God reveal Himself in Special Revelation? He did this in many different ways. He spoke directly to Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses. He spoke indirectly to others through wonders, signs, dreams, and angelic appearances. He spoke through the symbols and ceremonies of Temple worship. He spoke through His prophets. The climax of His Special Revelation is His own dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Word became flesh in order to fully reveal the love of the Father to us.
God spoke in these various forms and He revealed Himself in different manners. However, we confess more than this:
Afterwards our God --It is amazing that God revealed Himself to men and through men, speaking by them and through them. It is furthermore remarkable that God ordered these same men to write down what He said. For instance, we specifically read that God commanded Moses, Isaiah, and Daniel to record their own prophetic words. In other cases, someone else wrote down what the prophets said.
because of the special care he has
for us and our salvation --
commanded his servants,
the prophets and apostles,
to commit this revealed Word to writing.
Imagine if the Lord had not commanded this. What words of God would be lost to us today as we would be dependent upon an oral tradition that is passed on from generation to generation? Imagine if the Lord had not directed this. How could we be certain of what God said? God commanded this and God directed this so we have His Word. So we could know Him. So we could know Jesus Whom He sent. So we could know Jesus is the Suffering Servant Who was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.
Imagine if the Lord had not commanded this. No one would hear the wonderful invitation of Isaiah 55:
(Is 55:1) Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.Without this written Word we would not know of Jesus' desire to gather the children of Jerusalem to Himself; we would be unaware of the spiritual struggles of the patriarchs or of David; we would not know of the promises of the Messiah to come; we would know nothing about the types and shadows of Christ or of the grace of God in the Old Testament. All of this has been written down because of the special care God has for us and our salvation. God said, "Write it down. Write it down so people will know what I say and what I mean. Write it down so people will know how much I love them."
C The Confession reminds us that God wrote with His own finger the two tables of the Law. God put His own signature on the two hand-written tablets of stone. The Law is from God. Likewise, the Bible is from God. Every word in the Bible, every thought in the Bible, comes from Him. To doubt the Bible is to doubt God. To question the Bible is to question God. The Bible, like God, is absolute true and trustworthy and reliable and dependable.
Have you heard of the Jesus Seminar. A group of about 150 individuals, including biblical and religious scholars, vote with colored beads to decide the historicity of what Jesus said and did according to the four gospels. Just think of it! After considering a passage that the gospel writers recorded as the word or deed of Jesus, and analyzing it from all sides, they then drop colored beads into a jar to determine if the passage in question was really of Jesus or not. Is this the kind of Bible you want? Keep in mind what Peter says:
(2 Pet 1:16) We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.It is real. It is true. None of the Bible is made up. None of the Bible is in the hands of men to decide whether or not it is real and true.
Some people might wonder if this even matters or might think this makes no difference. Dear friends, it does matter. If this is our approach to Scripture then we have a Bible that is no longer from God, no longer inspired by God, no longer the very words of God. We believe the Bible is from God and therefore holds eternal weight.
Scripture is much more than a collection of religious and spiritual stories. It is from God. It is a record of His will, His good pleasure, His Law, His Gospel, His way of life for us, His threat of punishment upon law-breakers. And, it is His will that this Word be protected and kept throughout all generation, across the centuries, so that it reaches us today and has real, life-changing impact on each one of us.
D As an aside, I am sure you realize not every word spoken by God has been written down in the Bible. The Bible doesn't record everything said through the prophets. Towards the end of his gospel, John said that if all the things which Jesus did and said were written down, there would not be enough books in the world to contain it all. The Lord has given us a selection of what we need to know. And, because He made the selection, it is perfect. He has given us precisely when we need to know for our salvation.
It might surprise you to learn that at the time of the Reformation, the origin of the Bible was not questioned. Neither the Roman Catholics nor the Reformers doubted that the Bible was God's Word. There was full agreement on this -- all of the Bible is from God. Doubts didn't arise until the Enlightenment when man placed himself above and over the Word.
II The Bible is Through God
A Not only is the Bible from God, it is also through God. This is how Article 3 of the Belgic Confession of Faith puts it:
... holy men of God spoke,Being "moved by the Holy Spirit" is the doctrine of inspiration.
being moved by the Holy Spirit ...
There are various theories of inspiration. There is mechanical inspiration in which God simply dictated His Word. Dynamic inspiration states God gave some men heightened awareness of religious ideas so they could produce profound religious literature. Dualistic inspiration says some parts of the Bible are inspired and other parts are additions of man. Other theories say the central message, the heart or kernel, comes from God, but the writers had to put this truth into their own words. So, I ask, what does the Bible itself say?
B According to Peter, the Holy Spirit is the primary author of the Bible.
(2 Pet 1:21) For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.It was the Holy Spirit Who moved or inspired men. This does not mean He used them as recording machines, as word processors, who did not really understand what they were doing. No, the Holy Spirit used these men, their talents, their times, their styles, their education and training and knowledge, and so directed them that they infallibly produced the written Word of God. Versus all the other theories of inspiration, this is known as "Organic Inspiration."
The biblical authors were not just secretaries who took dictation. They were servants of God and through the Spirit, God gave them the Word. To be "carried along by the Spirit" means there was no room for their own original ideas or additions or subtractions.. The Holy Spirit took full control of them. The Greek word for "carried along" raises up the image of a sailing ship carried along by the wind. Without that wind the ship just sits there, not able to do anything or go anywhere. Likewise, only with the Spirit can the human authors of the Bible write the Word of God. So what they wrote were not man's words, but God's words. What they wrote was the pure Word of God.
This is how Jesus received it. And Paul. And Peter. This is how we must receive it too.
III The Bible is Unto the Saved
I want to end by saying the Bible is unto those chosen for salvation -- that is, the true church. Here I want to focus on the delightful words at the start of the second paragraph of Article 3:
because of the special care he hasThe Confession tells us here why God gives us His Word, why we have the Bible.
for us and our salvation
Why did God cause Moses to speak? Why did He preserve the Ten Commandments? What do we have the gracious words of Isaiah, the sharp words of Amos, the mystifying acts of Hosea, the wonderful promises of Daniel? Why did God preserve all this? So that we might be saved!
Why do we have the historical books of the Bible, the writings, the major prophets, the minor prophets? So that we may be saved!
Why did God give us the life story of Jesus? Why are the letters of Paul preserved? So that we may be saved!
Why are we told the early history of the church in the book of Acts? So that we may be saved!
Why do we have the small letters at the back of the New Testament and the Revelation given to John? So that we may be saved!
God gave us His Word so we may turn our hearts unto Him in repentance and faith unto His glory!
The church should stand in awe of this. God, in giving us His Word, takes special care of us and our salvation. Are you in awe of this? Children, young people, if you have been given a Bible on your birthday or when you graduated, do you realize how wonderful and gracious and awesome this is? How wonderful it is to receive God's unchanging Word! How wonderful it is to hear His warnings so that we may repent and believe and receive eternal life! How wonderful it is to read His unchanging and eternal promises! How wonderful it is to have a Word that God will never deny and always uphold! How wonderful it is to have a Word that leads to the glorification of God!
The Bible is from God. The Bible is through God. The Bible is unto those chosen for salvation.
But now let me ask: Have you received the Word? Do you believe its promises and its threats? Have you accepted its message of salvation? What He says is sure. He would never stamp "cancelled" or "void" on His words. That is impossible. There is no expiry date on the offer of grace contained in Scripture. So, have you received it and believed it?
And now another question. We have heard how great and awesome and gracious the Word is so do you spend time with it? Do you read it? Do you study it? Do you meditate upon it? Do you let it permeate your mind, your heart, your soul, your life?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page