In 2000, the individuals who were on the committee of updating the BFM were facing many serious problems from non-Christians and Christians alike. Some were saying things such as, “the Bible isn’t authoritative” or “the Bible isn’t completely true”. Even Christians questioned key aspects of Scripture because certain words and stories did not mesh very well with their opinion or interpretation of Jesus Christ or God. Because of these discrepancies, a clear statement needed to be made to the 2000 BFM. What is the Baptist Faith and Message, you might ask? Is it perfect? Is it infallible? Can we revise it? I will begin tonight by reading what what the 1963 committee had to state regarding the BFM.
That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body. They are not intended to add anything to the simple conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament. That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time. That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience. That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life. We have adopted the BFM in order to have a confession of our faith that the rest of the world can look at and see where we stand! This confession also stands as a place that we can hold ourselves accountable doctrine wise.
With that said, if you look in your copy of the BFM to article I, we will look at what the BFM has to say about Scripture.
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.
Beneath this passage, the committee noted many passages of Scripture that led them to adopt this. I want to spend some time tonight reading Scripture as we talk about how important Scripture is to our faith!
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. 10 They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
These Scripture passages show us much about what the foundation of Scripture is - the Words of God. We are going to look at four key things that the Bible is.
1st it is a divine-human book.
The Bible is a divine-human book
The Bible is a divine-human book
The Bible is the inspired revelation of God. We see this very clearly in the opening sentence of the BFM passage on Scripture as they say, “The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man”. Revelation and Inspiration are key words found throughout Scripture. shows us that all Scripture is inspired by God. What a wonderful truth that we can have confidence in our copy of God’s Word because it is inspired by the creator of the universe Himself. The Greek word for “inspired” is “theopneustos”. This is a compound word that comes from “theos” - God, and “pneo” - break. If you have ever heard that Scripture is “God-breathed”, this is where that expression comes from! Scripture is not simply something that God wrote and threw down from heaven, though, as we know that there is a human element to Scripture as well! In we see that the Holy Spirit directed and led the men to write what God would have them write. One of the pushbacks that non-Christians give to the Bible is that it was “a book written by men 2,000 years ago”. This is a true statement, however they do not understand that even though it was written by men, they were led by the Holy Spirit. Because of this fact, the contents of Scripture are not simply their thoughts but they are from God. Think of an instrument such as a trumpet. You have the musician who holds the trumpet and he uses a mouthpiece to make beautiful music come alive through his instrument. Have you ever tried to play an instrument without a mouthpiece? You can make noise come out of the instrument, however the mouthpiece is used because it is simply easier to make music. The authors of our Bible are similar to a mouthpiece in an instrument. They are not the person who is blowing air through the horn. It is not their thoughts or actions, they are simply delivering the air from the person (God) to the instrument (or in our case, the paper).
The Bible is a purposive book
The Bible is a purposive book
There is an end goal of the Bible. We see from Genesis to Revelation that there is coming a messiah who will bring Salvation to mankind. The BFM states that the Bible has, “Salvation for its end.” Because the Bible speaks of the messiah who will bring about salvation for mankind, the Bible testifies of the story of Jesus Christ and how His life and death, burial, resurrection gives hope to humanity. He is the agent of salvation. We looked in in January and saw that His sacrifice once and for all perfects those who are being sanctified. This is the purpose of Scripture - to point to Jesus. This is something that we are called to do in our lives as well! “all Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is himself the focus of divine revelation.” We can think of difficult passages in scripture, right? The conquest of Canaan and the destruction that followed in the wake of Israel. Abraham being asked by God Himself to offer his son Isaac as an offering (something that pagans did routinely). These stories and many others were simply thrown out for some individuals (whether they be pastors, scholars or teachers) because they did not align with their interpretation of Jesus and God. What the BFM 2000 did was to say affirmatively “NO” to these people! The Bible is accurate, truthful and you can’t pick and choose some stories and books to use to align with how you view God to be. We all know people who do this, do we not? Christians and non-Christians alike love to have a “hobby-horse” passage or book that they come back to during a specific situation or conversation. It can be very easy to neglect God’s power and holiness whenever we see Jesus Christ healing people and breaking bread with sinners. However, if we backtrack to , we see Isaiah fall on his knees because it is impossible to stand as a sinner before a Holy and Just God. We cannot have a false view of Jesus Christ. We cannot only believe the things about Scripture that we want to believe because it is a purposive book. The book speaks of Jesus Christ being the savior of mankind. Praise God for this purpose that is found from until .
The Bible is a truthful book
The Bible is a truthful book
The BFM 2000 states that “All Scripture is totally true and trustworthy.” There are some “Christian” scholars out there who deny the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible. Infallibility simply means the inability to be wrong while inerrancy means without error. These are two very key attributes to our understanding of Scripture. Some people will say that there are errors within Scripture or that because it was written by men that it cannot be trusted. Yet these are the same people who trust historians from this exact same timeframe. The beautiful thing about Scripture being inerrant and infallible is that not only are we confident in things like Jesus’ life and death but we are also confident in the other facts stated in scripture about things like dates and events (the flood). Now, I want to make a point that the Bible is not a science textbook nor is it a history book. Some people say that we should not know science or history because the Bible is all the science and history we need. That is a very uneducated thing to say and unfortunately, this opinion has been voiced by many people over the years. Because the Bible is truthful, though, we can be confident in what the Bible says about things like history and science are in fact true. I will say that there can be numerical disputes because of the translation process between Greek/Hebrew and English. One example would be the number of Israelites in Egypt during the Exodus. Our English translation says that there were 600,000 fighting men. This would indicate that there were around 2 or 2.5 million Israelites total. The Israelites left Egypt (most likely) around 1400 BC. If there were 2.5 million Israelites in Egypt at this time, it would mean that Egypt would have had 4-5 million people living in a very small space. It also wouldn’t make sense that the spies sent into the promised land would be so frightened because of the power of the people in the promised land would be superior to their own army if they had 600,000 fighting men. The debate over the word “eleph” has caused some discussion and debate over the years regarding the Exodus account. Sometimes eleph means “thousand” (which is what our English translation goes with) while other times eleph means “clan” or “unit”. If eleph, in the Hebrew, was intended to mean “clan” then the total number of Israelites would be in the range of 24,000-40,000 and the number of fighting men would be closer to 7,000 instead of 600,000. This solves some of the questions regarding Israel being afraid of the nations in the Promised Land and marching around Jericho as often as they did. Does this mean that the Bible has an error? No. It simply means that the word used in Hebrew has multiple English meanings and we see that the word means different things throughout Scripture. Because of that, the English scribes went with “thousand” rather than some of the alternatives available. This does not change the Bible. It is still God breathed and truthful. Regardless of the actual meaning, we can have confidence that the Holy Spirit inspired the author and that the words are truthful, it is simply extremely difficult to copy from one ancient language to a current one due to words meaning different things and having various meanings throughout Scripture.
There are 2 major arguments that support the truthfulness of Scripture: First, God is not a God of error. Have you ever heard someone say, “could God ever create a rock too big for Him to move?” People, especially philosophers, love to think about things such as this in order to try and trap God into a box. The fact of the matter is that God is not a God of error. In Him there is order, structure and truth! Error is incompatible with His nature. The next time you think that you are going through a difficult situation or that God has made a mistake in the way that you are wired, you must remind yourself that God cannot make mistakes. It follows that everything has a purpose, including your life and the situation you find yourself in. The second argument is that Jesus Himself treated Scripture as truthful and trustworthy! Jesus referenced the Old Testament numerous times during His earthly ministry and affirmed stories and people such as Adam, Noah and Jonah. These same individuals are thought to be simply a myth or “example” to more liberal scholars. Jesus accepted these individuals for who the Scripture said they were. We should adopt a similar approach whenever we read stories in the Old or New Testaments that might seem too far “out there”. If Jesus treated it as truthful and God is not a God of error, it follows logically that Scripture is truthful and we should treat it as so.
The Bible is an authoritative book
The Bible is an authoritative book
In American society, the highest human authority when it comes to the legal system is the Supreme Court. These individuals interpret the Constitution and make various decisions on cases according to how they understand the Constitution. These individuals are perfect and they make mistakes. The Constitution is not perfect by any means. Because of this, the highest authority in America is by nature flawed. Regardless of how hard we try to do “right”, we cannot help the fact that eventually we will make mistakes. The Bible is completely different, though. The BFM states that, “The Bible reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore, is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.” The supreme standard by which human conduct should be tried. As Christians we know that there are some things that our country says are ok yet we know that they are not ok. One example would be to cheat on exam in order to succeed in a class. The world might say that it is ok to do this because of extenuating circumstances and because you need to get a good grade on the test in order to get into college and get a degree. It is easy for the world to rationalize this in order to justify cheating. It is also “ok” in some states to perform an abortion on a child mere weeks before it would naturally exit the womb. As Christians we know that this cannot be true because our supreme authority is not the supreme court but the Bible. Does that give us a reason to disobey laws such as speeding and to live a reckless lifestyle? No. We are called to obey our government and laws, however whenever a conflict rises between what our society says is ok and what Scripture says is ok, we must obey Scripture each and every time. Some people elevate things like logic and reason above Scripture. Other Christian groups place things like sacraments and ecclesiology above Scripture. Do not fall victim to these teachings! We see that it is not the church that birthed Scripture but Scripture is God breathed. For a born-again Christian and follower of Jesus Christ, we must make sure that the inspired Word of God is the final authority in all matters. This requires us to actually know what the Bible says, though. Often times people will make a claim that is in Scripture but they will rip it out of context in order to support an earthly movement (such as Social Justice or Feminism). We must do due justice to know our Bible’s and to see what Scripture says about these hot topic issues. Does this mean that we know everything? No. Does it mean that we seek out the truth of Scripture in order to figure out what the correct Christian response should be? Yes!
We will never be able to say that we walked with Jesus Christ as His disciples did. We will never be able to say that we saw the 10 commandments come down Mt. Sinai with Moses. We will never be able to say that we saw Jesus ascend back into heaven. What we can say is that we have our copy of God’s Word that is fully inspired and authoritative. Scripture is God-breathed and we can have confidence that it is truthful, without error and our guide book for anything we experience in life. We know that there are many different translations out there. Many people use the King James Version. Others prefer translations such as the New International Version or the English Standard Version. There are many different reasons why there are so many translations of Scripture, but what we must know is that no translation is “perfect”. We do not have an original copy of the entire Bible. We have many copies of various portions of Scripture, however we lack a complete original copy. Because of that, each translation interprets these original portions slightly differently. Some are more “word by word” whereas others are more “thought by thought”. Personally, I prefer the English Standard Version and the New American Standard Bible because they are among the most accurate versions out there and easier to read/understand than other translations out there. The chart on the screen shows some of the distinctions between translations of Scripture. The reason that I point this out is that it can be easy for us to get into a “faction” (as we talked about last week as a work of the flesh) simply because we think that one translation is perfect or better than others. We can certainly have preferences and there are some translations that are more accurate when compared to the original Greek/Hebrew language than other translations. With that said, though, there can be great benefit from examining different translations in order to get a better idea of what the text is saying. We have confidence that Scripture is God-breathed and that it is authoritative. It is our standard and perfect/without error. As Baptists, this must be our belief because it Scripture is not authoritative and if it does contain error then our hope in Christ would be compromised. The moment you say that Scripture contains errors, you open the door for your entire faith to be false.