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David's Deliberations . . .

Heed the Words

7 February 2021

There are many professing to be Christians who do not believe that the words of the Bible are inspired by God. A recent survey revealed that less than half of those in the denominations believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God. Many see the Bible as collection of writings by God-fearing men (at most only partially inspired by God) meant to guide us with ideas, suggestions, and broad concepts presented in allegory, metaphor, and other literary devises. This is a sad, troubled state (as evinced by the division, confusion, and diversity in the denominations).

Are the words of the Bible true? Do those words have meaning? If only some of the words are inspired, then which ones? If the words were written by men moved by the Holy Spirit, are they not God's words? Do we not depend on the Bible's words for the concepts and commands that God wants us to know and do?

In the Old Testament, Moses says he wrote the words of the Lord (Exodus 24:3-7) which included more than just the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 34:27; Numbers 33:2). God commanded Jeremiah to "write all the words which I have spoken to you in a book" (Jeremiah 30:1-2; 36:1-5). Notice that God did not command Jeremiah to write the concepts, ideas, or general feelings; he said "write all the words." Ezra was described as "the priest, the scribe, learned in the words of the commandments of the LORD and His statutes" (Ezra 7:11). Ezra knew the words, not just the general ideas expressed in God's commands. In fact, more than two thousand times in the Old Testament we read phrases like, "Thus saith the Lord," or "the Lord has spoken," or "the Lord bears witness," emphasizing the very words that the Lord speaks.

Jesus heavily emphasized the "words." He said, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, "man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." He also said that "until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matthew 5:18), and "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away" (Matthew 24:35). Notice He said "my words" not my ideas, feelings, concepts, allegories, or metaphors.

The apostle Paul, in his teaching place emphasis on the "words" he and other inspired teachers used to communicate God's will. He said "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit..." (1 Corinthians 2:12-13). Later, he wrote (by inspiration): "Retain the standard ("hold the pattern," ASV) of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 1:13). Peter urged that we "should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles" (2 Peter 3:2).

In Revelation 1:3 a blessing is pronounced on the one who "reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near." Later on, John records what the angel says in regard to what John had written (by inspiration): "These are true words of God" (Revelation 19:9). Finally (in Revelation 22:18-19), John wrote, "I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book."

While God does use allegory, metaphor, and other figurative language to communicate His will to us in the pages of the Bible, we see that the words, and not simply the thoughts, ideas, and concepts were written by men guided by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we would do well to study the words, and the immediate and overall context in which we find them, remembering that the words of Jesus will judge us in the last day (John 12:47-48). Heed (that is, believe, obey, and live by) the words of the Bible to be able to truly enjoy this life and the one to come.

—David Carl Swanson