THE WONDER OF GOD’S WORD (1 of 2)
Romans: God’s Invitation to Grace ❧ Part 16
Romans 3:1-2 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney
For years I taught a course in a Bible college called Bible Introduction. It was an apologetic for the Bible, a defense of the integrity of God’s Word. How can we know God’s Word really is true? Can we verify it, or should we just believe it? Often, I would begin the course with a series of questions I knew would be very personal as well as challenging. My point was to connect their faith with their values. “What do you believe about abortion?” I would ask them, knowing that I may very well be nudging painful memories. “What do you think of homosexuality?” “Do you believe there is a literal Hell?” “Do you believe God’s Word is the final authority for our faith and conduct?” My questions were purposely to the point. I wanted them to ask the hard questions of the Bible and hopefully come out on the other end of the semester with an unswerving conviction that the Bible truly is God’s Word. I knew these young people would be teaching others God’s Word. If they didn’t know what they believed about God’s Word and why, how could they teach others? This pulpit may not be a college lectern and these pews may not be a college classroom, but when you leave here, you are all teachers. How you live, the choices you make, your attitude toward life and the world is having a greater impact on those around you than you know. My prayer for you is that the roots of your faith grow deep and solid in God’s Word.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’m convinced that what is needed for believers today more than ever is an unshakable trust in and committed obedience to the Word of God. We will not be able to stand against the darkness of this world or be able to offer any real hope unless we are firmly rooted in God’s Word. When people are looking for a reliable Voice to make sense of our world and our lives, I pray God will use you in their lives like He used Philip the evangelist speak into the life of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:29). The world really is desperately hungry for a message of hope. God has given us the privilege to take His message of hope and light to a hopeless and dark world.
If the Bible is not God’s Word to us, then we have every reason to despair along with the rest of the world. The great theologian Woody Allen addressed this world-wide sense of despair when he said, “More than at any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and hopelessness. The other, to total extinction… I speak, by the way, not with any sense of futility, but with a panicky conviction of the absolute meaninglessness of existence.” Thankfully, Woody Allen is not a real theologian!
This morning we’re going to look at part two of the indescribable wonder of God’s Word. A couple of weeks ago, we began looking at the opening words of Romans 3 where the Apostle Paul writes, Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God(Romans 3:1-2, NAS). Paul’s words hang on the hard-hitting fact he’s just pointed out in the first two chapters, namely that all of us are guilty before God and one day He will judge everyone’s secret life through Jesus Christ (2:16). It doesn’t matter who you are whether Jew or Gentile. There are no favorites with God (2:10-11).
Paul carefully points out there are three kinds of people in the world. There are those who don’t give a rip about Who God is or what He says. They deliberately reject truth for a lie (v.25). Their lives are marked by an open and defiant hatred of God. They know they are storing up God’s fierce punishment against them, but they don’t care. In doing so, God gives them over to their depraved mind (1:18-32). The second kind of person Paul points out is the self-righteous moralist. This is the person who looks down his nose at the first group thinking he is not nearly as bad as they are. He’s morally offended by the sins he sees in others but willfully blind to his own. By sitting on his moral high horse he imagines he is a good person who will avoid God’s judgment (2:1-16). The third person Paul points out is the Jew. By being a physical descendant of Abraham, the Jew believed he was a spiritual descendant, a spiritual benefactor, of Abraham’s blessings. Paul says being right with God was never about being a physical descendant of Abraham. It has always been a changed heart produced by the Spirit of God through genuine belief (2:17-29). Paul is saying, in effect, any attempt to gain God’s favor by your own accomplishments is like building a house of cards. It is extremely unstable and ultimately destined to collapse.
So, Paul asks, if being a Jew doesn’t save you, then what advantage is there being a Jew? He answers his own question by saying, much in every way. First, he says, the Jews have been entrusted with the oracles of God. Of all the nations, God chose the Jews to be the first people group to know Who the Creator of the world is through His special revelation, the Bible. Just how important is God’s Word? I want to answer this question in two ways: 1) What God’s Word is, and 2) Why God’s Word matters.
- What God’s Word is. Let me quickly review five of them I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.
- It is exclusive in its authority. That is to say when the Bible speaks, God speaks.
When we say the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, we’re saying the Bible is the fully reliable authority to answer questions about Who God is and how to know Him personally. What is the purpose of man? How can we be saved? What happens when we die? What is Heaven? What is Hell? What is the future of planet Earth?
Proverbs 30 says, Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection (Proverbs 30:5, NLT). If the Bible says Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, then Jonah really was swallowed by great fish (Jonah 1:17). Jesus said he was (Matt. 12:40). Does that make Jesus a liar? I read this week about a little girl talking to her teacher about whales. Teacher: It is physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it is a very large mammal its throat is very small. Little girl: Jonah was swallowed by a whale. The irritated teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it was physically impossible. Little girl: When I get to Heaven I will ask Jonah. Teacher: What if Jonah went to Hell? Little girl: Then you ask him.
Without the Bible, we could only guess at the answers. In other words, without God’s revelation we are left with man’s speculation. The Bible is exclusive in its authority.
- It is absolute in its necessity. Without the Bible we would not have the Gospel. The
sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15).To the world the Bible appears as ordinary as the five common loaves and two fish in which Jesus miraculously fed over five thousand people, just another book. No one believed those five little loaves and fish could possibly feed thousands and thousands of people. But in the hands of Jesus those five loaves and two fish fed all those people until they were satisfied and there were twelve baskets full of scraps left over! To the world, it seems Jesus is only a great teacher, a good man, a prophet maybe, but not the Savior of the mankind. Jesus said I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh(John 6:51). Only faith in Jesus Christ can satisfy you the hunger of your soul. Without the Bible, we would not know Jesus’ invitation. God’s Word is absolutely necessary to know how to be forgiven and accepted by God.
- It is comprehensive in its clarity. The truths of the Bible are given in such a way as to
be understood by anyone sincerely seeking God. This is not to say there aren’t disagreements about the meaning of Scripture. Clearly there are. However the disagreements are not due to the lack of clarity in Scripture but the lack of clear understanding of those interpreting it. Often people come to Scripture with their own preconceived ideas about what it should say instead of letting it speak for itself. What we can’t deny is that Jesus tells us the Holy Spirit will guide believers in all truth. In John 16 Jesus says, When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth (John 16:13). That is, He will give us understanding of His Word as we seek Him in it. I may not understand it right then, but over time I will.
The story is told of an old man who was wandering in the desert looking for water. He approached an old shack and on the porch area he found a water pump. Next to the water pump he saw a one-gallon jug. A note on the jug said, “Use all the water to prime the pump.” The man’s sense of driving thirst said to drink the water and not trust the pump. Nevertheless he poured the water into the pump and began pumping until an abundance of cool water came to the top. The Bible is like the note on that water jug. Sometimes the instructions contained in the Bible do not make sense to us, but it is always right.
- It is complete in its sufficiency. This is to say the Bible is enough. We don’t need
additional revelation. The Bible teaches Jesus is the final and ultimate revelation we need. 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 (Hebrews 1:1-2, NAS). Jude 3 makes points to this when he refers to, the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints(Jude 3). God says His Word is enough.
Two cows were grazing in a pasture when they saw a milk truck pass. On the side of the truck were the words, “Pasteurized, homogenized, standardized, vitamin A added.” One cow sighed and said to the other, “Makes you feel sort of inadequate, doesn’t it?” People try to improve on milk, but one thing you will never be able to improve on is the Word of God. It does not need any pasteurizing, standardizing, or homogenizing. The Bible is complete in its sufficiency.
- It is certain in its efficacy. God will accomplish all that He says He will. I send it out,
and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it(Isaiah 55:11). I think one of the ongoing challenges in our daily pursuit of following Jesus is believing God will accomplish all He says He will. If you find yourself spinning your wheels in doubt, you’re not alone. God tells us over and over in His Word that He keeps all His promises.
Two pictures in the New Testament come to mind. Both are found in Luke 1. One is of an old priest named Zacharias. Like Abraham, he’d always wanted a son but never had one. Now, he was an old man, and it seemed his hope of having a son was a thing of the past. But to his surprise one day the angel Gabriel appears to him while he serving in the Temple. Gabriel tells him his prayers have been answered, he’s going to have a son. This son will be the promised forerunner of the Messiah. Old Zach’s instant response was one of doubt. He could not believe it. Gabriel tells him because of his doubt he will be mute until his son is born.
The second picture is of Mary the mother of Jesus. She is just the opposite of her uncle Zacharias in a number of ways. He’s very old, she’s very young. He’s spent many years studying the Scriptures, studying the character of God, teaching His promises. As a young woman, Mary has not spent near the time in God’s Word. Yet when the angel tells her she is going to supernaturally become the mother of Jesus, she believes. Over and over in Scripture we see God honoring those who choose to believe in His Word even though what God promises is so far beyond their experience or imagination. What I see in Mary that God wants us to have is a child-like faith. Not an immature faith, but rather a faith that simply takes God at His Word. Jesus said, I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it (Mark 10:15). God is not asking us to try to understand how He will work out all of His promises. He’s telling us to have the simple faith of a child. Our walk with God would be greatly refreshed if we did.
In the last stanza of Amazing Grace, John Newton makes an amazing claim of his belief in the certainty of God’s Word. When we’ve been there ten thousand years bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.
What is God’s Word? It is exclusive in its authority, absolute in its necessity, comprehensive in its clarity, complete in its sufficiency, and certain in its efficacy.
- Why God’s Word matters. Why is all of this important to what Paul is saying in Romans? Everything Paul is going to say is based on God’s Word. He is going to quote the OT alone some 74 times showing us how we can be justified (made right with God) through our faith in Christ alone.
- It tells me Who God is. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My
ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). We’ve already touched on this. Without God’s revelation we are left to mans’ speculation. Thousands of years of painful failure have demonstrated what kind of trouble man’s speculation has gotten us into! Unbelievers are constantly trying to close gap between God and man by reducing God or redefining man. The God of the Bible is the all-powerful Creator and Sustainer of the universe. He is perfect in holiness, righteousness, love and justice. The God of the Bible is beyond the grasp of our comprehension, yet He has made Himself known through His Word and His Son. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him (John 1:18, NAS).
- It tells me who I am. God’s Word paints a breath-taking picture of who we are. At one
end of the spectrum, we are created in the majestic image of our Creator (Gen. 1:27). Yet, at the other end of the spectrum, we are hopeless sinners who’ve plummeted far away from the glory God intended us to realize (Rom. 3:23). The Bible says because of our sin we are radically corrupt. An infinite gap exists between us and God. The Bible confirms what our guilty consciences tell us.
- It tells me how I can be right with God. Yet, because we have God’s Word, we know
there is hope. There is a way of forgiveness and new life through our faith and repentance in Christ. Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).