THE WONDER OF GOD’S WORD (1 of 2)
Romans: God’s Invitation to Grace ❧ Part 15
Romans 3:1-2 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney
If I were to ask you, “Do you believe the Bible is God’s Word?” My guess is that most of us would say without a moment’s hesitation, “Absolutely!” If what you say is true, that you believe the Bible is God’s Word, you’re among a very slim minority. Let me tell you why. Earlier this year a Gallup survey found that only 20% of Americans say the believe the Bible is the literal Word of God. Of those who say they are Christians, only 58% say they believe the Bible is God’s Word, but not everything in it should be interpreted literally. In other words, many who identify themselves as Christians don’t really believe what the Bible says is actually true. Only a small percentage, 25% to be exact, of those who say they’re Christians say they believe the Bible is literally true (News Max: Gallup Survey July 2022). George Barna recently shared even better news. After conducting a national survey, Barna Research found that only six percent of American adults have a biblical worldview. George Barna commented, “Frankly, the culture is impacting the Christian church and the Christian faith more than the Christian church or Christian faith are impacting the culture.” He adds the increasing belief in reincarnation, declining belief in a literal hell, and the pervading belief that people are basically good are other indicators that Christianity is losing influence in America (Family Research Council: New Barna Research…). So you see just how slim a minority you are if you say you believe the Bible is God’s Word.
I suspect none of this is a real surprise to you. Discouraging maybe, but not surprising. You don’t need to be discouraged though. If we say we believe in God’s Word, then we should take heed to God says. God tells us over and over to be thankful no matter what. Ephesians 5 says, Give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ(Eph. 5:20). Philippians 4 tells us, Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done(Phil. 4:6). The point is, if God says we should be thankful for everything and not worry about anything, then He must have a good reason.
This morning we’re going to look at God’s good reason we should be thankful and not worry. It is my deep conviction that God’s Word is literally His Word, both Old and New Testaments, all sixty-six books. In fact, the more time I spend getting to know it, the more convinced I am. I am convinced the Bible is not one way to look at the world among others – it is the only way. 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. God’s Word is the only reliable Voice that helps us make sense of our lives now and the life to come.
My goal is to anchor your faith in God’s Word. The world is desperately hungry for a message of hope. God has called you to be sons and daughters of His light to shine in a dark world. I am convinced 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. My prayer is that God will deepen your trust in His Word.
We’re going to return to our series in Romans this morning looking at just the first two verses of chapter three. Paul has just spent the last two chapters pointing out no matter who you are or where you come from everyone is guilty before God. Whether you are the person who thinks God does not matter; you can live however you want (1:18-32), if you’re a religious person (2:1-16), or if you are a Jew (2:17-29) all are guilty. All of us came from one of these categories and all of us deserve God’s wrath. Paul finishes in verse 29 saying a true Jew is one who is whose heart is right with God. Being right with God is not about merely obeying the letter of the Law, but a changed heart produced by the Spirit of God through genuine belief (2:29).
His next question logically follows: 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 (logia) of God (Romans 3:1-2). In other words, if God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants doesn’t make them right with Him, then what does? Many believed being a physical descendant of Abraham automatically made them a spiritual descendant. The same kind of thinking happens today when someone says, “I’m a Christian because my parents are Christians.” Growing up in a Christian home doesn’t automatically make you a Christian. Paul’s question is if Jews are in the same sinking boat as the rest of sin-fallen humanity, then what advantage is there to being a Jew? After years of taking the Gospel to various synagogues around the known world, this was probably a common question thrown at Paul. He answers, What advantage has the Jew? Great in every respect. First of all they were entrusted with the oracles of God.
The Jews were the first to receive the Bible, the special revelation of God. Paul has already pointed out in Romans 1 that all of mankind know that God is. God has made it evident both within our hearts and in the rest of His creation so that we are without excuse (Rom. 1:19-20). The fingerprints of God can be seen everywhere in creation. But creation is limited. It can only tell us there is a God. What it can’t tell us is Who God is. Only the Bible can do that. The Bible reveals things about God we would otherwise not know about Him. The Jews were the first to experience this incredible privilege. Paul’s going to talk more about the advantages of being Jewish in Romans 9. But the two greatest advantages were that from the Jews the world received the written Word of God, the Bible, and the incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ.
Paul held God’s Word in the highest possible regard. He believed it thoroughly and taught it completely. He was convinced the Scriptures were the very words of God spoken directly from His mouth (2 Tim. 3:16). He was totally committed to following and trusting God’s Word to the point of being hated, rejected, persecuted, even killed. For Paul, God’s Word was the only real message of eternal hope our world desperately needs to hear. God wants us to share Paul’s same conviction. I want to give you five great truths that reveal why God’s Word so important. What makes the God’s Wordso important?
- Its exclusive authority (The Bible claims it is God speaking to us). The Bible itself claims it is
the supernatural Word of God. Even though it was written by men, the ultimate Author is God. Some 3,800 times it says, “God said,” or “Thus says the Lord,” in the Bible. Meaning that if we believe or disbelieve the Bible is to believe or disbelieve God. Now, I recognize just because the Bible says it is God’s Word doesn’t make it so. But God always backs up what He says. The evidence for the supernatural authority of the Bible being God’s Word is abundant.
It can be seen in its incredible unity. The Bible is not just a book, but a library of 66 books written by over 40 different authors from every walk of life from kings, cupbearers, to fruit-pickers. It was composed over a span of some 1,600 years and on three different continents: Africa, Asia, and Europe. It was written in three different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Its unity is further seen in its incredible clarity and harmony on the most controversial topics ever known to man. One of the most debated topics of all time is who is God? Yet the Bible speaks with unbroken truth and harmony of who God is. The does the same thing with topics like what is the nature and purpose of man, what is sin, what happens when we die, and how can we be saved. God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection(Psalm 18:30).
It can be seen in its amazing prophecies. By one count, about 27 percent of the Bible is predictive (Payne, J. B., The Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, Baker Pub. Group, 1980, p. 675). This means that, when written, over one fourth of the Bible—more than one in four verses—was prophetic. Professor and theologian J. Barton Payne lists 1,817 prophecies in the Bible (ibid., p. 674). There are some 332 prophecies given in the OT of Jesus first advent. All 332 were fulfilled exactly as God said they would be. At least one half of all biblical predictions have already been fulfilled precisely as God had declared. Because of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling these prophecies, we can be assured that He will fulfill the rest of the prophecies in Scripture as well. I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure (Isaiah 46:9-10).
It can be seen in its indestructability. Nations, kings, rulers, and tyrants have tried to destroy God’s Word. They’ve tried to burn it, outlaw it, imprison it, and destroy it but have always failed. Today, the Bible is the most published book in the world. Daily circulation of the Bible is numbered at 32,876 copies. That is, one Bible is printed every second in the world. The Bible has been translated into 2036 languages and dialects. It is the anvil that has worn out the hammers of persecution. 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).
We could go on to archeology, history, and others. But one of the most significant examples of evidence of the Bible’s authority are the countless changed lives throughout history and around the world. The first great truth of God’s Word is its authority.
- Its absolute necessity (Without the Bible we would not know the Gospel). If we did not have
the Bible, we would not have the Gospel. It’s that simple. Paul writes in Romans 10, For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, “LORD, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ(Romans 10:13-17). Paul reminds young Timothy of 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). The Bible tells us that eternal salvation can only come through belief in Jesus Christ. There is no other way. Years ago one of my professors, Dr. Carl Laney, invited a group of us students over to his home to celebrate the end of a long semester. While we were sitting in the living room, Dr. Laney asked a question that I’ll never forget. “What would your life be like if you’d not trusted Christ?” He asked. If Jesus hadn’t come into this world to die for sinners, what would your life be like? The Bible is absolutely necessary because without it we would not know the Gospel.
- Its comprehensive clarity (The truths of the Bible are given in such a way as to be understood by anyone sincerely seeking God). Some say the Bible is impossible to
understand. But is it? I admit there are some parts of the Bible that are difficult, but that does not mean they are impossible. You don’t need to be a Bible scholar to understand God’s Word. The Bible teaches that understanding God’s Word has more to do with our moral and spiritual life than it does our intellectual. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians,But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means(1 Corinthians 2:14). This passage is true about many of us. Before we came to Christ, we couldn’t understand the Bible at all. But when we did, suddenly the Bible began to make sense. Pastor Danny spoke to this last week reminding us that when we come to Christ, we have a hunger for His Word. When God gives you a hunger for His word, He gives you the ability to understand it as well. This is what Paul means by receiving truths from God’s spirit. Part of the inner work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is He illumines, that is, He opens our eyes to understand God’s Word.
One of the best things you can do before read God’s Word is ask Him to open your eyes to understand it. Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law(Psalm 119:18, NAS). But don’t expect God to honor your prayer if you’re entertaining sin in your life. Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit (Romans 8:5, NLT). The truths of the Bible are given in such a way as to be understood by anyone sincerely seeking God.
- Its complete sufficiency (The Bible is enough). One of the common questions people have
is, are there missing books of Bible? Or, are there books in the Bible that shouldn’t be there? The best Person to ask this question is Jesus. He gives us an answer in Luke 11:51. Speaking of all the God’s prophets that had been put to death by God’s enemies, Jesus makes a sweeping statement, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah. This was a way of saying from the book of Genesis to the last book in the Jewish OT. He was saying there are 39 books in which He refers to them all as God’s Word. The Apostle Paul believed the same. In 2 Timothy he writes: All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work(2 Timothy 3:16). All Scripture directly refers to the OT, but indirectly refers to the 27 books of the NT. The Apostles knew what they were writing in the NT was Scripture as well. Peter says what Paul was writing was Scripture in 2 Peter 3:15-16. Paul says Luke was writing Scripture (1 Tim. 5:18). Jesus promised this when He said the Holy Spirit would bring to remembrance all that He taught (John 14:26). 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.
The greater danger we face today is not wondering if God’s Word is enough. It’s not knowing enough of God’s Word. We allow our personal experiences, our feelings, or the voices of others to take the place of God’s Word. You may be struggling to trust God in His Word right now. Let me encourage you, it’s not the struggle that is the real battle, but your simple choice whether to trust God and follow His Word or not. Trusting God is always about our choice, not about our circumstances. Peter reminds us God allows trials in our lives. These trials will show that your faith is genuine (1 Peter 1:7).
- Its certain efficacy (God will accomplish all that He says He will). Lately I’ve found myself in
good company in the Bible. The other day I was reading about Abraham’s life. God made a promise to Abraham that one day he’d have a son. When God made that promise, Abraham was 75 years old, not exactly a spring chicken. Abraham waited year in and year out twenty-five long years for the son God promised. Finally, when Abraham was 99, God told him the very next year he would have his son. Abraham’s response caught my attention. He fell on his face and laughed before God (Gen. 17:17). I’ll be candid with you. There are promises in God’s Word that make my head spin with wonder. Is Heaven really going to be the Heaven God says it will be? Are all of God’s promises to believers really true?
Do you ever have questions like that? It’s not that I don’t believe God’s promises, I just don’t know how God is going to pull them all off. But I’ve come to realize it doesn’t matter whether I comprehend how God is going to work them all out. I don’t need to struggle. In my uncertainty, I can rest in the certainty of God’s Word. Again, God reminds us in His Word, 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 am convinced the world is desperately hungry for a message of hope. They’re looking for an authoritative Voice to make sense of our broken world. That Voice is God’s Word. I want to challenge you to spend time with God in His Word.
Shortly before God launched Billy Graham’s ministry of world-wide evangelism, Billy wrestled with doubts about the Scriptures. Recalling those days of struggle, he wrote, “I believe it is not possible to understand everything in the Bible intellectually. One day some years ago I decided to accept the Scriptures by faith. There were problems I could not reason through. When I accepted the Bible as the authoritative Word of God – by faith – I found that it became a flame in my hand. The flame began to melt away unbelief in the hearts of many people and move them to decide for Christ.”
Maybe God is waiting for us to do the same. Maybe He’s waiting for us as believers to fully accept the Word of God by faith. Maybe what’s holding you back in your relationship with God is you haven’t fully accepted God’s Word by faith.