I am currently reading “A Quest for Godliness” by J.I. Packer. In this book Packer tells of the Puritans and their great significance and inestimable contribution to our understanding of the Christian faith.
I am reading through “Part II” titled “Puritans and the Bible”. I would like to put in a few posts the thoughts I have gleaned from the chapters in this section. I believe Packer begins his practical application of the Puritans with their understanding of the Bible because this is the foundation that we must begin with if we are ever to understand God and ourselves aright. A proper estimation of God’s word and it’s application to our minds and hearts is what will bring about true and genuine change and authentic honor of God.
Let me use an analogy:
When I worked construction, the most important step in building the house was to start from a SQUARE corner. If you squared your corners correctly then the rest of your house would continue correctly. If you are off by even a fraction of an inch in the Squaring process, it would reveal itself time and time again, causing for great frustration and reworking of endless pieces of wood. The windows and doors would not fit, the stairs would not align correctly, and worst of all, the roof would be cock-eyed, and portions of the house may not even be covered. A literal nightmare.
I’m sure we have all heard much of a proper foundation, but in building a house from the ground up, there is no greater parable than to see the effects firsthand. You literally ‘pay’ for it down the road.
So, in that vein, I believe Packer begins with the Puritan’s understanding of God’s word.
The first thing we must learn is The Power of God’s Word.
We must of necessity see and know that God’s word is POWERFUL.
There are several ways we can know this:
1) First and Foremost – The bible is God’s very words.
God has spoken and revealed himself in creation and the known world (Romans 1:18ff) but these do not contain God’s actual voice. God has spoken clearly and definitively to his prophets and apostles and commissioned them to record his words (1 Peter 1:21). What we have in the bible is the actually recording of God’s speaking. God has declared in many different ways his estimation of mankind and what he has done and is doing to provide salvation.
To ask for God to speak directly to us is a gross dishonor to the words that he has already declared. When we open our bibles, we are opening God’s mind. He has revealed himself completely, though not exhaustively, in these pages.
The longing of men to hear the voice of God is satiated in the words of Scripture. If we desire to hear him speak, we need to go no further – He has declared Himself. We need not, indeed, cannot, look any where else to hear God’s final voice in this life. He may send visions, dreams and impressions, but they will all be in accordance and submitted to scripture, otherwise they are impostors and must be jettisoned.
The almighty God, the sovereign ruler of the universe, by whom all things were created, and in whom all things exist, has spoken. We have his very words recorded for us and are available to us to listen to at any time.
2) Being God’s very words, they carry his divine authority.
Packer states, “The Scriptures carry God’s authority because, quite simply, he wrote them: they are his utterances, his own written word.“
The desire of man’s heart is to be directed. We often look to our own mind and desires which are foul in their intentions of leading – always tainted, if not explicitly, with sin and lust.
God’s word has declared what our direction is to be and what we are to follow. As Packer stated, we are bound to obey the bible by the very fact that it is God’s word.
3) Christ submitted himself to the divine authority in Scripture.
A) Jesus said, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” (John 5:46)
Jesus never contradicted or juxtaposed himself to Scripture. To believe Scripture is to believe in Christ. Jesus certainly placed himself above the bible (cf. Matt 5:21 ff) in that he is it’s author, but never repudiated it.
Jesus always saw himself as its fulfillment. John 5:39 says “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” This high reverence by Jesus himself for the scriptures ought to give us recourse in our consideration of the bible. The bible is the very thing (and only definitive thing) that reveals him. We cannot know Christ any other way but by the bible. We are wanderers in a desert apart from the bible.
Christ always held his authority consistent to Scriptures. To pretend that we may know Christ but be ignorant of the bible is the grossest error we may ever commit. Though knowledge of Christ may be small and infantile that saves a man, a true knowledge of Christ increases only as we know the Scriptures. Our ignorance of the bible is the doom of our faith.
We need go no further. We have God revealed to us in the bible. His power is made manifest wherever his word is preached. When our bibles sit on our shelves untouched for extended periods, we divorce ourselves from the source of power for life. Should we want and seek for the power of God in us, we must direct our minds and hearts to his word, for it is there that God speaks – truly speaks – to us.
Do you long to hear God speak? Open your bible and hear Him speak. He is there to be heard.