Your Word Is Truth

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : Psalm 119
Psalm 19:7-10
2 Timothy 3:16-17
2 Peter 1:21

It is in the Bible, honestly read, fairly interpreted and properly understood, that we find our rule. It is there we find the truth about God. The Bible teaches us both what to believe and how to live. Above all, it shows us the way to heaven.

You may know that Psalm 119, with 176 verses, is the longest chapter in the Bible. You may also know that every one of those 176 verse mentions in some way the Word of God. They use a variety of terms such as law, statutes, precepts, commandments, testimonies – there are eight different synonyms in all. But you may not be aware that this poem is also highly stylized. In the original it consists of 22 eight-verse stanzas, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each verse in a stanza begins with that stanza’s letter so that, for example, the first stanza of each of the eight verses begins with aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and so on through.

No doubt one reason for the Psalm’s elaborate structure was to enable devout students to memorize it more easily, although I wouldn’t want to try that myself. But even greater than the structure is the wonderful theme of this massive Psalm. It is all about one thing, the incomparable Word of God.

A LOVE SONG TO A BOOK

All of us could probably sing a little bit of a love song that was written for a person. But have you ever heard a love song written for a book? Well, the 119th Psalm is just that. Listen to the way this ancient Hebrew poet sings of his love for the Word of God:

Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. . . .
To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless.
Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. . . .
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. . . .
The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. . . .
All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. . . .
I hate and abhor falsehood but I love your law. . . .
May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.

(Psalm 119, selected verses, niv)

Whether the psalmist calls it God’s law, his word, or his commandments, he is talking in every instance about the Hebrew scriptures, the book we call the Bible, or the Old Testament, to be precise. To the writer of this Psalm, the Bible was limitless perfection. All its words were righteous and true, and it was more desirable than anything else on earth. It’s the same view of God’s Law, or Word, as is expressed exactly 100 Psalms earlier, in the 19th Psalm:

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is pure,enduring forever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.

Psalm 19:7-10

And this isn’t just a view of the Old Testament. A similar attitude toward the Bible is evident in the New Testament. The apostle Paul said in a famous verse that all scripture, even though it was written in human words and came from the pens of various authors, nevertheless was inspired by God:

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17, nrsv

Peter confirmed this view when he said that the Bible came to be written as “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21, niv).

YOUR WORD IS TRUTH

I believe this is one of the most crucial, if not the most crucial, issues faced by people today. Do we believe that which the psalmists and apostles did about the Bible, or do we believe something else? To the psalmist, the Bible as God’s Word was an utterly reliable guide (“a lamp and a light” to our feet) because it was true. Precisely because the Bible is inspired or literally God-breathed, because it comes from him, its words are true, that is, they always correspond with reality. “Your word is truth,” exclaimed Jesus (John 17:17). So there’s the real issue. Do we believe what Jesus believed about the Bible, not just the apostles and the prophets? The Bible never misleads us. It never gives us false information. It is utterly reliable and trustworthy in everything it means to teach.

Christians have developed a special vocabulary to express this view of the significance of scripture. We say first that the Bible is inspired, meaning that it comes from God and is in fact his word. In and through the Bible’s human authors God speaks. That’s the inspiration of the Bible as we saw in our last program. Secondly, we believe that the Bible is infallible, which is a word we use to stress the truthfulness and reliability of scripture. Precisely because it does come from God, we can trust what the Bible says about him and about us. To quote one church statement:

Infallible means that the Scriptures are true and absolutely unfailing in matters of faith and practice. The Bible is true and trustworthy in all that it intends to teach.

What It Means to Be Reformed: An Identity Statement of the Christian Reformed Church

Or here’s another fine statement on the truthfulness of the Bible. This is from a sermon by the great nineteenth-century preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon:

Scripture itself cannot be broken; we cannot take from it nor add to it. The Lord has never re-written nor revised his Word, nor will he ever do so. Our teachings are full of errors, but the Spirit mistaketh not. . . . The faith has been delivered once for all to the saints, and it standeth fast for ever. “Thy word is truth.” The Scripture alone is absolute truth, essential truth, decisive truth . . . undiluted truth, eternal, everlasting truth. Truth given us in the word of God is that which is to sanctify all believers to the end of time: God will use it to that end.

So Scripture is, first of all inspired and that means that it is infallible. Because of those two things, here’s a third word that we apply to scripture: It is authoritative. Exactly because it is true, and because it does come from God, God’s Word has authority. It must be followed and obeyed (Psalm 119:9-16, 129-130). The Bible is useful, said the apostle (2 Timothy 3:16), “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” What this means is that we don’t make up what we want to believe about God. Nor do we decide for ourselves what is right and wrong for us.

I just read a story in the paper the other day. It was one of those advice columnists. This person in writing an answer to someone who had raised an issue said, “There is no right or wrong concerning opinions.” Well, that’s simply not true. An opinion is a belief, and the beliefs that are true are the beliefs that are taught in the scriptures. So we don’t decide for ourselves. As Christians, we are people under authority. The Bible, not speculative thought, teaches us the truth about who God is and about what he has done to save us. The Scriptures tell us right from wrong. It is not merely a matter of relative opinion. And the scriptures rebuke us when we have done wrong. It is the Bible that stirs our conscience and appeals to us and sets us straight, correcting us when we go astray morally. It is indeed a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. It always shows us the right way to go in our walk with God.

Finally, here’s a fourth term that we apply to scripture. Evangelical Christians say that the Bible is our only ultimate authority. One of the watchwords used at the time of the Reformation that great correcting movement in the church’s history which began with Martin Luther in the 16th century was the Latin phrase Sola Scriptura; “the Bible alone.” The Bible, we say, is “our only rule of faith and practice.” So it is not just an authority. It is the only authority in the sense of the ultimate authority.

During the course of church history many people have suggested that other things share the status and teaching authority of scripture. Not the Bible alone, but the Bible plus church tradition, or the Bible plus the teachings of church leaders, or the Bible plus the statements of church councils, these are our authorities.

Some have gone so far as to suggest that the church stands over the Bible as the only authoritative interpreter of what scripture teaches. To which Protestant Christians, at least, say, No. Only the Bible is our ultimate rule. And the basic message of the Bible is clear to everyone. The church does not sit equal to or above the Bible; the Bible sits above the church.

No other human writing or pronouncement, if it contradicts or conflicts with scripture, can be accepted. It is in the Bible, honestly read, fairly interpreted and properly understood, that we find our rule. It is there we find the truth about God. The Bible teaches us both what to believe and how to live. Above all, it shows us the way to heaven.

Can the Bible really do all of that? you may be wondering. More basically it comes down to this: Can I trust the Bible? Can I trust it with my life? Can I trust it with my soul? Many years ago a great Christian thinker named Anselm struggled with that very question. Should you seek to have iron-clad proof and absolutely convincing arguments before you commit yourself to accepting the Bible as the Word of God? Anselm concluded that it doesn’t work that way. You can’t understand everything before you put your faith in God and his Word. You don’t understand in order to believe. Rather, said Anselm, “I believe in order to understand.” So if you accept the Bible and believe it and do what it tells you to do, will it lead you to God? Well, you know, there’s really only one way to find out. Why don’t you try it?