Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Preservation: The texts No. 2

Verses relevant to discussing the doctrine of preservation of Scripture

Psalm 78:5-7 For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:

The context refers to the scriptures, the law. The law was a written testimony that was established in Jacob/Israel. The law was established for the purpose of teaching the present and future generations. If so, then there is some form of preservation rooted in the establishment of it. God has an interest in preserving it that they “might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.” Preservation is a necessary consequence of the purpose of the establishment of this testimony.

Psalm 119
Psalm 119:89 For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.
Psalm 119:152 Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever.
Psalm 119:160 Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.

The written word of God is in view throughout the 119th Psalm, even if it includes broader themes. The 89th stanza of the song praises God’s word as eternal and immutable.  In his journal article The Preservation of Scripture W. W. Combs says Psalm 119:89 “has no direct application to the doctrine of preservation.” It seems that he and others fear this might lead to “the idea of an archetypal Bible in heaven.” While the verse does not mention the written word, it nevertheless establishes the durability, immutability and trustworthiness of God’s word, of which we would expect no less when it is written. In contrast to his view on verse 89, Combs thinks Psalm 119:152 “appears to be a fairly direct promise of preservation” and Psalm 119:160 “strongly impl[ies] a doctrine of preservation.” Of verse 152 Combs writes:
“The context (vv. 145–52) makes clear reference to God’s written revelation in the Torah. The Psalmist says he will observe the Lord’s ‘statutes’ (v. 145) and keep his ‘testimonies’ (v. 146). He waits for His ‘words’ (v. 147) and meditates in His ‘word’ (v. 148) and asks to be revived according to the LORD’s “ordinances” (v. 149). The Psalmist observes that the wicked do not obey His ‘law’ (v. 150). Finally, he concludes in verses 151–52, ‘You are near, O LORD, And all Your commandments are truth. Of old I have known from Your testimonies that You have founded them forever.’ These ‘testimonies,’ have been ‘founded forever,’ meaning, as the NIV puts its, ‘you established them to last forever.’...since the Psalmist would have come to know these ‘testimonies’ from the written Torah, probably through his own reading, it is difficult to imagine that he could divorce their being ‘founded,’ established, or caused to ‘last forever’ apart from a preserved written form, the written form from which he was reading.” And of verse 160 he says, “As in verse 152, the Psalmist is reflecting on God’s Word in the written Torah, which he sees as both dependable and imperishable.”
Isaiah 30:8 Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:

The context here is clearly a written word, a prophecy of Isaiah that is written as a standing testimony against the rebellious ones who will not hear the word of the Lord. There is preservation for the future – “the time to come.” And it is written!

On this passage Matthew Henry comments, “ a book, to be preserved for posterity, in perpetuam rei memoriam—for a standing testimony against this wicked generation; let it remain not only to the next succeeding ages, but for ever and ever, while the world stands; and so it shall, for the book of the scriptures no doubt, shall continue, and be read, to the end of time.” The Pulpit Commentary says, “...the meaning undoubtedly is that consigning the prophecy to a ‘book’ would make an appeal to it possible in perpetuum. The perpetuity of the written Word is assumed as certain.”

Isaiah 34:16 - Seek ye out of the book of the LORD, and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered them.

Here is another text that is dealing with the written word – a book, or scroll, if you prefer. The prophecy of Isaiah is written down. It can be referred to see what was written has not failed but rather came to pass as God said. John Gill says that “it seems best to understand it of this book of the prophecy of Isaiah; which being sought to, and read at the time when these predictions will be fulfilled, it will be easily seen, by comparing events with prophecies, how everything will be exactly accomplished; from whence may be concluded, this book being called the book of the Lord, that it was written by divine inspiration, as all other parts of the Bible are...” The text supports both inspiration and preservation. The Bible believer must admit to the preservation of the prophecy of Isaiah taught in this text.

Luke 24:27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. (Cf. verses 44 and 45: And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures)

The scriptures are mentioned 3 times in Luke 24. This is the written word, which could be read and searched (Cf. Mark 12:10; John 5:29). It is not that the written text was in front of them at this moment. Jesus spoke the scripture to them. Nevertheless this record indicates that the written word of the Old Testament in its 3 divisions (see v. 44), with its teachings on the Messiah, were both preserved and accessible at the time of Jesus’s resurrection. This speaks directly to the preservation of the Old Testament. It indicates the work of God in preserving it. It is consistent, yea crucial, for God to also preserve the writings of the New Covenant, which speaks better things than the Old – which give not only the prophecies of the Messiah, but his fulfillment of those prophecies!

John 10:34-36 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?

In stating “the scripture cannot be broken” Jesus points to the scriptures (here the Old Testament) as a final authoritative appeal to truth. What the scriptures say cannot be dismissed (broken = loosed, in the sense of breaking free of something binding; cf. John 1:27 and John 11:44). Jesus uses this scripture as sound argument against their accusing him of blasphemy. “If he called them gods (which he did in Psalms 82:6) and if the scripture cannot be broken (which you profess to believe, and which is true), then this conclusion follows...” Though not a direct statement about preservation, the plain implication is that the Old Testament scriptures which they have (preserved down to them) is God’s word and authoritative. Compare, for example, John 5:39, to see that the writings available them are trustworthy, sufficient, and searchable for them to find Christ.

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