This article first appeared in the special Reformation issue of the October 15, 1993 Standard Bearer, and was written by Rev. Jason Kortering, PRC minister laboring in Singapore at the time.
The Profit of Our Inspired Bible
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. II Timothy 3:16, 17
A perfect man of God, a perfect woman of God!
Furnished unto all good works.
Does not your soul cry out for that spiritual condition? Victory over all the appetites of the flesh. Satan and his hordes, vanquished forever. We become so complete in our salvation that we fulfill exactly the purpose that God had in sending Jesus to die for us.
Yes, to be the perfect man of God, thoroughly furnished unto all good works, we must ultimately wait until we open our eyes in glory. Then every tear shall we wiped from our eyes, the former things shall pass away, and we shall be complete. That will not only be true for us individually, it will be true for all of us who make up the perfect church. In some ways this is best of all. Sometimes our greatest hurt is the way we treat each other in the church. Ah, what a day, when doctrinal controversy will be a thing of the past, for we will all profess unity in the truth. Our tongues will be sanctified to speak the truth in love. We will get along with each other perfectly. We will fully appreciate God's work in each saint.
Thoroughly furnished unto all good works!
The more we practice this now, the closer we are to heaven already in this life. As Christians we become perfect now, by being equipped, that is, thoroughly furnished, unto all good works. The very purpose of God in saving us is that we may perform good works (Eph. 2:8-10). Think that through a for moment: we become complete Christians when we are rich in all good works. Thus it is in our personal life, in our home and family life, in our dealing with our neighbors, yes, also in the church of Jesus Christ.
The purpose of the Holy Bible is to accomplish this. It is our God-given equipment that enables us to walk in all good works.
Does your Bible show it? How many Bibles have you worn out in your lifetime? Do you have your own personal Bible which you take with you to the society meeting or Bible study? Is it-with you when you worship on the Lord's Day? Do you have the same Bible at family worship and for your own quiet time with your Lord? Is your present Bible well marked, noted with points that have been made in sermons or Bible studies, thoughts which came to you when you reflected in the inner closet?
One of the first things our missionaries learn to appreciate is that outside the sphere of our churches the above things are true, while within our churches and families it is rare. This ought not to be. One of the best things we could do as churches is throw out the "pew Bible." Our personal Bibles should be working Bibles; and they won't become that, as long as we have school Bibles, church Bibles, society Bibles. How many Bibles presented to our children at school graduation get worn out? We can learn something from others. This is one thing we ought to learn.
The proper use of our Bibles affords spiritual change in our lives. We are told that the Bible "is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." Doctrine is, literally, teaching. The Word of God forms the basis of our faith, what we believe and hold for truth. Righteousness is our legal standing before God, we are viewed as conforming to God's divine law. Such proper standing before God's law involves two things: reproof - it points out sin and error by calling us to repentance; and correction - it directs us in the right way, the way of obedience, of sanctification. The sum total of such activity is called in verse 15, "wise unto salvation."
The process whereby we take hold of the Word of God is described in verse 14: "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned." The assumption is that someone taught him. Further, in verse 16 we read of "instruction in righteousness" - literally, training, which implies repeated lessons. This comes in many ways. Paul mentions particularly to Timothy that it started for him when he was young and his mother and grandmother taught him. The influence of a Christian home in our youth is inestimable. The reading of God's Word and Bible stories to our children is so important. We teach our growing children to have a "quiet time" with God each day by being an example to them ourselves. More and more we learn to appreciate the preaching of the gospel and the loving care of the Christian church through her officebearers and fellow members. In the center of all this activity is the Word of God.
And no wonder!
The Bible is God's message to us. It is His clear instruction on all aspects of Christian belief. We hold for truth what God Himself declares to be truth. Our Christian life is not a novelty invented by austere Puritans or liberating Germans. The Bible sets forth God's unchangeable law and purpose for our serving Him. Good works are clearly defined in His Word. He determines good and evil.
The Bible is nothing to play with. It carries the stamp of divine authority. One cannot read the imprecatory Psalms or the warning of the prophets without bowing in humble awe before the "Thus saith Jehovah." He whose eyes are as flaming fire, who melted the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into an inferno of fire and brimstone, calls everyone of us to account. The lie originates in His adversary. Sin carries an awful smell in His holy nostrils. Can we read His Word and actually think that we will decide what parts of it are human and what are divine? O presumptuous fools who tread on His holy ground with such fatal pride. Rather, we bow in humble gratitude, for His revelation is reliable. Rather would I place the care of my immortal soul in the hands of Him who inhabiteth eternity, than in the wisdom of the fool, be he the scholarly professor, the intelligent guru, or the all-wise philosopher.
Yes, our children can read and understand. Their implicit faith is held before us by our Master, "Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3).
The traditions of men cannot compare. Men err; but God's Word is free from human error and conveys truth from beginning to end.
He who has the Word of God is equipped, having been furnished for every good work.
The lessons of history teach this to us. No wonder Satan's attack is upon the Word of God. Yes, he attacks it in many ways, none more effective than simply getting us to abandon the proper use of our Bibles. Why did the prophet Hosea cry out, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6)? Why? Because the people rejected knowledge. There were times when the Word of God was scarce, but that was God's judgment upon the people for rejecting His prophets. The height of apostasy is for the church either to forbid God's people God's Word or to corrupt what Word they have. Hence the Reformation was a time of re-forming, for the old was beyond saving. And for the faithful who pay attention to God's Word, Satan has his subtle and not so subtle ways to attack the Word of God itself or those who are determined to declare it. If the blood of translators and publishers cannot stop the distribution, the devil quietly gets the job done by higher criticism and corrupt translations. He never stops, for our enemy knows the battle of faith is over the Word of God.
Why is that Word so special? Why is it so effective in the lives of God's people, and why does it consequently draw like a lightening rod the sparks of hostility from the enemy of the church?
The answer is in this passage as well, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God." The Scriptures which are referred to here are first of all the Old Testament writings which Timothy had learned from a child. In addition to them, the "all" refers to those New Testament writings which were already available to the church. Some of these writings were copies of the original manuscripts; some were translations from copies, for in all likelihood Timothy's mother used the Greek version of the Old Testament as well. Paul isn't interested in getting into the issue whether the autographa were inspired, whether copies are inspired, whether translations are inspired. He simply says, and that through the Holy Spirit, that all the Scriptures, no matter which ones Timothy used and which ones were in use in the early church, came by inspiration. The original ones were uniquely inspired, but since the copies and translations have come from that original, we can say we have an inspired Bible. This does not negate necessary and careful textual criticism and examination of translations. It rather establishes our faith and certainty that when we do the above prayerfully and carefully, we do have the Word of God.
Inspiration is the key. We saved the best for last.
The Holy Bible is God-breathed. Yes, many times God breathed in the realm of His creation. The Spirit, whose very Name means "Breath," brooded upon the face of the deep in the creative act of God. God breathed into Adam's nostrils and Adam became a living soul. All things are also sustained by God's breath. The great work of re-creation is a mighty breath of the Holy Spirit. We sing, "Breathe on me, Breath of God." The work of inspiration is another aspect of this Work of the Holy Spirit. Our Bible did not come by the will of men, not even the cooperative act of God and man. It came by the mighty will and work of God Himself. Just as He planned history from eternity, He planned all 66 books of the Bible and the place each would have in the finished canon. He saw to it that each writer would have the exact character and quality to write what portion was his. He moved them to desire to write and to take up the task, which could not have been an easy one. At the right time and place, God gave them revelation or enabled them to make perfect use of pre-existing information and guided their hand to write perfectly. The miracle is that each wrote in his own personal style and vocabulary, yet each wrote exactly as God wanted him to write. The end product was free from human error and possessed the stamp of God Himself. Eventually the church was guidedby the same Author to select the 66 books, so that we have a complete and finished revelation of God which we call the Bible.
Amazing, yet not beyond imagination, for God is an Amazing God. All His works force us to say, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him and through him and to him are all things: to whom be glory forever, Amen" (Rom. 11:33-36).
What a blessing it is to observe the precious work of God in the Reformation of the mid-sixteenth century.
There was a time when the church service and the Bible were in a foreign language, unintelligible to the common people. Living in Singapore we can identify with such difficulties. What a blessing to possess a Bible, to be able to read it and grow by it, to enjoy the lively preaching of God's Word which expounds its truth and applies its principles.
Change has taken place.
Not easily, for the pages of this history are written in the blood of the martyrs.
God has seen fit to continue to equip us with the Word, so necessary to be properly furnished in order that we may be rich in good works.
Not the heretic, nor the sword, is our greatest enemy today.
It is plain old dust! And it is everywhere.
May we who read, beware.
Rev Jason Kortering (Wife: Jeannette)
Ordained: September 1960
Pastorates: Hull, IA - 1960; Hope, Walker, MI - 1966; Hull, IA - 1970; Hope, Redlands, CA - 1976; Loveland, CO - 1979; Grandville, MI - 1984; Minister-on-Loan (Hope PRC, Walker, MI), Singapore - 1992
Emeritus: 2002Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Rev._Jason_Kortering
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