The Character of God's Word
Written by: MacArthur Jr., John Posted on: 04/10/2003
Category: Christian Living
"The Character of God's Word"
We, as I said earlier, are going to embark this morning on a study of how to study the Bible, how to get the most out of your
Bible. And to begin with, I want to ask you to turn to an Old Testament passage which will be a launch point for us,
Jeremiah chapter 8...Jeremiah chapter 8 and verse 9. In the ministry of Jeremiah, one of the unhappiest assignments that he
had as a prophet was to speak against the leaders of his nation who had misled the people. The prophets had failed, the
priests had failed. The scribes had failed. The wise men of the nation had failed in leading them to the truth of God and to
righteousness. And I suppose in a sense in Jeremiah 8:9 there's a summation of the tragedy of inept leadership.
Verse 9 says, "The wise men are put to shame. They are dismayed and caught. Behold, they have rejected the word of the
Lord and what kind of wisdom do they have?" What Jeremiah is saying here is you can take all of your leaders, all of the
educators, all of the experts on law and ethics and morality, all of those responsible to teach you divine truth and put them
into one category and the category is the category of folly because if they had rejected the word of the Lord, what kind of
wisdom do they have? The implication is they don't have any. Wisdom comes from God and it comes through His Word.
And apart from His Word there is no real spiritual wisdom. When the leaders of a nation, even the nation Israel, reject the
word of the Lord there is no wisdom.
Last summer when I was invited over to New Zealand, I had the opportunity to speak to the New Zealand Parliament in the
Parliament House. It was a very interesting and wonderful opportunity and they asked me to address this subject. This was
the requested subject by the New Zealand Parliament...what happens to a nation that abandons the Bible as an authority or
as its authority? They had watched because they know the history of the United States. They had watched the decline of the
Scriptures and the Bible in the public realm in our nation and they could see it coming in their own nation, a nation basically
established by immigrant people who came from the United Kingdom bringing Christian principles and biblical truth. And
they're following the same basic path we're following and they wanted to know what's it like when we give up the Bible as
our authority. And the answer is right here in Jeremiah 8:9, what wisdom do they have? What they are left to is voting on
morality, polls, opinion polls, call up 800 lines, 900 lines and give your opinion of this and your opinion of that so we can
form our morality.
Wisdom with regard to spiritual life, time and eternity is all found in the Word of God. The Bible is the source, and the only
source of divine wisdom. And it is a tragic thing to realize that the Bible is under assault from so many, many angles. There
are the rationalists with their anti-miracle humanistic atheism who want to deny the existence of God. And if they tolerate
God, God is nothing more than Einstein's God who is some kind of impersonal, non-personal force. There are the
existentialists who have an anti-reality mentality who say that you basic can create your own reality, you can concoct your
own reality, you can form your own reality, and I'm glad for you, whatever your reality is. And then you have the onslaught
of not only rationalism and existentialism but egoism which is an anti- authority mentality that says nobody is going to tell me
what to believe, nobody is going to tell me what's right and wrong, nobody is going to tell me how to behave, I'm going to
determine that for myself. Then you have the relationalistic mind set that basically says what is most important is ego
fulfillment, personal fulfillment, solving my personal problems, self-esteem, feeling good about myself. That too is anti-truth,
that too is anti-standard, anti-absolute.
Then you have the ritualistic approach which is an anti- knowledge form of religion where religion is not a matter of truth or
theology or doctrine, but simply a matter of ritual and routine. Then you have theological liberalism which is anti- Bible,
anti-inspiration. Then you have mysticism which is anti- intellectual which just says you sort of feel God and you sort of
know He's there and feel somehow the movements of God and you feel the truth.
All of those things contribute in our culture to an anti- authority mentality which contributes to an anti-Bible mentality. The
Scripture is depreciated by rationalism, existentialism, egoism, relationalism, ritualism, liberalism, mysticism, probably a few
other isms as well. These are the things that are being elevated today. The human glory is on the main forefront, letting man
be everything he thinks he wants to be to fulfill himself. That is dominating. There is no authority outside man. Government
itself is having a hard time exercising authority because it has given to people so much personal freedom. This approach to
religion...the approach to religion that comes in this environment is an existential kind of mystical approach where you're
allowed to believe whatever feels good for you, whatever you think God is doing is, no doubt, what He is really doing,
whatever you think He's saying is surely what He's really saying. All of these things attack the singular, clear authority of the
Word of God.
Now you say...why are you bringing this up on a series about studying the Bible? Because I've learned one thing through the
years, and it's been reiterated to me again and again and again. The diligence with which you approach the study of Scripture
which is so critical to the blessing of your life, so critical to your joy, so critical to your usefulness, so critical to the glory of
God, the diligence with which you approach this critical study of Scripture is directly correlated to your view of
Scripture...directly. If you have a weak view of Scripture, I promise you you will have a weak interest in it. It is the
seriousness with which you hold this document that is the initial compelling matter to motivate you in its study.
People ask me often how it is that I can structure my life to spend so much time in the Scripture? How is it that I can
discipline myself, they often say, to give so much time to the study of the Word of God, including all the preaching and
teaching that I do, all the writing of books, writing of a study Bible, and that really is a fair question and I understand why
they ask the question. But may I, and may perhaps surprise you by saying this, the difficult thing for me is not to get the
discipline up to study the Bible, the trouble for me is to have the discipline to stop and to attend to other things that need to
be attended to.
You say, "Why is that?" Because I understand what this document is, because of the value I place upon it, the weight I place
upon it in my life and in your life I am compelled to it. In fact I wrote a little set of notes, just explanatory notes in the front of
the study Bible and you can read them when you get one, but it says...I can't remember exactly what I said, but something
along the line of the fact that the difficulty for me was not getting up every day and spending the necessary time to write all
these notes and to dig into the Word of God, the difficulty for me was not getting to it, the difficulty for me was leaving it.
The challenge for me is to leave it because I hold it in such great esteem because I understand its riches and its treasures.
And as the psalmist said, "It is more precious than gold and sweeter than honey from the honeycomb." It is your view of
Scripture that is the foundation of everything in terms of addressing Scripture with great diligence and care. And so, as we
begin to talk about how to get the most out of your Bible and how to study the Bible effectively, we have to start with
making sure you understand what this is...the treasure that you hold in your hand.
Now obviously no society can survive without the application of the truth of Scripture, as no individual can survive without
the application of the truth of Scripture. Right is not determined by a popularity contest, and it's not determined by a poll, it's
determined by what God has said. And God has spoken in the moral and ethical and spiritual realm with very clear terms.
No society will survive abandonment of the Bible as its standard. And ours won't anymore than any other. Our society will
continue to disintegrate into unbridled iniquity at a rapid rate until and if, and unless I should say, there is a return to the
Word of God. It's inevitable.
The Bible claims some amazing things for itself. I'm going to give you seven of them. These are things the Bible claims for
itself and this will help you foundationally to understand what you're dealing with. You have in your hand one book and yet
divided into two testaments, the first testament divided into 39 separate books, the second into 27, one called the Old
Testament, one called the New Testament. You're familiar with that. You're familiar with Genesis to Revelation and places in
between. But do you understand this document's supernatural character? This is not a human book, though it was written
over a period of about 1500 to 1800 years and there were over 40 different men whose actual pen was placed on the
parchment to write down the words, it is singularly authored by God and those men who wrote these various books at
various times in various places wrote under the direct inspiration of the Spirit of God who was conveying to them the
revelation of God from His mind to that pen so that what was produced was the very word of the living God. This is not a
human document, this is a supernatural book.
And it makes some supernatural claims. First of all, it claims for itself to be infallible...infallible. That is to say that everything
that it affirms is absolutely true. If it says something about capital punishment, and it does, then what it says is true. If it says
something about sodomy and homosexuality, what is says is absolutely true. If it says something about marriage and divorce,
what it says is absolutely true. If it says something about worship, that is absolutely true. If it says something Jesus Christ,
that is true. If it says something about the nature of man, what it says is absolutely true. If it says something about the history
of Tyre or Sidon or the history of Babylon, or if it says something about the future of a coming Babylon, or a beast or an
Antichrist, if it says something about a man named Peter, or a man named David, or a man named Paul, or if it says
something about a man named Adam who had wife named Eve and they had some children named Cain and Abel and Seth,
and it says something about a garden, everything it says is absolutely true. It is infallible. And, of course, that's the testimony
it gives for itself summed up in Psalm 19, "The law of the Lord is perfect...the law of the Lord is perfect." It contains no flaw.
The prophet said it is like silver tested seven times in a furnace, all that could be imagined to be of dross is burned away and
it is absolutely purely true. Everything it says historically is true. Everything it says prophetically is true. Everything it says
spiritually is true. Everything it gives us in terms of direction in life is absolutely true. It is infallible. That is why it has always
been called the standard for life for faith and practice.
Two, it is inerrant. Now we're moving away from the content that it affirms to the specific words. When I say it is inerrant I
mean that the Bible in its original autograph, that is to say in the very document written by the inspired writer was without
error. Now you've got to know that's a challenge, to write anything without error is a challenge. Sometimes people come up
to me and said..."Have you seen this part of your book, there are a lot of errors on this page? How did those get in there?" I
don't know whether I made those errors, whether whoever put it in the computer made those errors, whether whoever was
the proof reader made those errors, whether somebody was correcting something else and typed in an error where there
wasn't one, I don't know. But I know one thing, it is near impossible to write something without error and especially going
through this study Bible. I'm telling you, you can't even imagine the proof reading nightmare of 25,000 footnotes,
semi-colons, colons, brackets, apostrophes, quotation marks, making sure they're in and out of the right parenthesis, making
sure that there is standardization in everything that you do, and this vast volume of say almost 2500 pages of material...it's
been proof read, I suppose, by now twelve times and it's being proof read another five or six times by professional people
somewhere in Atlanta who are proof reading everything with a fine tooth comb, and even they can't get everything. And
when we check what they've done, we find errors. It's very difficult.
But when the Word of God was written it was written without error as the Spirit of God superintended it. Proverbs 30
verses 5 and 6, "Every word of God is pure." Every word of God is pure. "Add thou not unto His words lest He reprove
thee and thou be found a liar." You know, the scribes in the early years at the time of Ezra and before were so devoted to
not putting an error in the Scriptures that they would copy the Scriptures with such fastidiousness it's just beyond belief.
Some scribes, you'll find this hard to believe, would write one letter, take a bath, change their clothes, get a new pen, write
another letter, take a bath, change their clothes, get a pen, write another letter. They didn't get a lot done but what they got
done was correct. There was this tremendous fastidiousness to this completion of the inerrant text and its preservation.
That's why the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is so important because we had scrolls say from the eight or ninth century
A.D. and we were basing much on those copies, copies and copies and copies, you know, the Bible has been copied and
copied. The original autographs don't exist anymore, or if they do we don't know where they are. So copies were made and
copies were made.
People would say, "Well surely there are many, many changes, many, many mistakes that have come in." And then we found
the Dead Sea Scrolls which were somewhere around 450 years before Christ, B.C., and they verified with exact accuracy
the current manuscripts that are being used for the translations of the Bible. And we saw that not only were they
inerrant...were the originals inerrant but the superintending work of the Holy Spirit as well as the careful diligence of the
scribes had preserved that Scripture through all those centuries. In its origins it is inerrant, and that's why it says also in
Proverbs 30 verse 6 you're not to add to it lest you be reproved and found a liar, it is inerrant. In fact, in Revelation it tells us
you're not to add anything to it or shall be added to you the plagues that are written in this book, you're not to take anything
away from it or your name will be taken out of the Book of Life. This is an inerrant Scripture.
Thirdly, it is complete...it is complete. That is to say this is all God wanted to inspire, this is it. From Genesis to Revelation,
all these 66 books, sums it up. Deuteronomy 4:2, "You shall not add to the Word which I am commanding you, nor take
away from it." That's very similar to Revelation 22. And Jude 3 says it became the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
The content once for all delivered to the saints. The canon of Scripture, called a canon because that's the word for standard,
a word for a reed which was used as a measuring rod. And this is the standard. It is the standard, it is complete. Nothing
needs to be added. When John wrote Revelation in 96 A.D. on the island of Patmos was God was revealing it to him, it was
30 years after most of the completion of the New Testament and this was the final, this was the end, this was the last bit of
revelation called the book of Revelation to close out the canon of Scripture which had begun with Genesis. It is
comprehensive and complete. Everything necessary for life and godliness and spiritual knowledge is in here. This is a
complete Scripture, does not need Science and Health and Key to the Scriptures. Does not need the Book of Mormon and
the Doctrines and the Covenants. Does not need the writings of Madame Levansky(?), Judge Rutherford, Annie Besant(?),
or anybody else. This is the complete Word of God, there is no more inspired revelation beyond this. This is God's
once-for-all-delivered-to-the-saints faith. And all Scripture is inspired by God, right? According to 2 Timothy chapter 3 and
verse 16. Second Peter 1:21, "Holy men were moved by the Spirit of God as they wrote this," and it is not of any private
origin, it came from God. It is infallible, inerrant and complete.
Fourth, it is authoritative...it is authoritative. That is to say that when it speaks you better listen. It is not a book of
suggestions. It is not a book to be put alongside other books. It is not a book to be compared with the writings of Confucius
or Buddha or somebody else, Muhammad. It is not a book to be compared with the writings of other ethicists through the
years. It is not a book to be compared with other religious musings and writings or put beside Aristotle and Plato, or the
writings of some other philosopher. It alone is authoritative. Isaiah 1:2 says, "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the
Lord hath spoken." You better listen, God has spoken. Psalm 119:89, "Forever, O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven."
Forever, O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven. This is an authoritative book. It comes as commands, as we noted in
Fifthly, it is sufficient...it is sufficient. It is all God wanted to say. It is all God said by way of revelation through inspiration.
And it is all we need. Again, back to 2 Timothy 3, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for instruction, for
correction, for reproof, for training in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good
works." It is sufficient. Nothing more is needed for spiritual life than this word.
Now we need to understand this Word and many books help us to understand it, but all spiritual truth necessary for life and
godliness is found in this book. Sometimes I hear people say, "Well, there are people who have such severe psychological
problems they can't start the sanctification process until they get some psychological help." That's folly. The Bible does not
wait for human wisdom to jump start it. It is sufficient that the man of God may be perfect, completely furnished for all good
Sixth, it is effective...it is effective. In other words, it is powerful but effective sort of is a little more direct. What do I mean
by that? I mean it impacts lives. It accomplishes divine purpose. Isaiah 55:11 and 12, "So shall My Word be that goes forth.
It shall not return unto Me void but shall accomplish what I please." The word never returns void, it always accomplishes the
purpose for which God sends it. Throughout Scripture God says I will accomplish all My good purpose. Who is going to
stop Me? Who is going to prevent Me from fulfilling My Word? In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, "Heaven and earth
will pass away but Thy Word will not pass away." Jesus came even Himself to say I have come to fulfill the Word, not to set
it aside. It is effective. Wherever it goes it penetrates powerfully. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the
dividing asunder of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow as a discerner the thoughts and intents of the heart. It just penetrates
the heart. It cuts deep. It is effective. To some it is a saver of life to life, to others a saver of death to death. But it comes
with power, it achieves God's purpose sometimes for grace and sometimes for judgment. What God says will come to pass.
His Word will always be fulfilled.
Finally, it is determinative. It is infallible, inerrant, complete, authoritative, sufficient, effective and determinative. What do I
mean by that? It is the Word of God that separates men and women. It is the Word of God that becomes the dividing line
between those who are in the Kingdom of God and those who are out of it. It is the Word of God that distinguishes between
the saved and the lost. It is the Word of God that distinguishes between those who will go to heaven and those who will
spend eternity in hell. It is the Word of God that separates those who are God's children from those who are Satan's
children. The Word of God is the determining factor.
You say, "What do you mean?" Listen to the words of Jesus. John 8:47. "He that is of God hears God's words. You
therefore hear them not because you are not of God." Indifference to the Bible is a dead giveaway. Diffidence toward
scriptural truth is a dead giveaway that one does not belong to God. If you belong to God you hear God's Word. Jesus put
it this way, "My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me." It is natural for a human being to seek oxygen. It is natural for a
new creation in Christ to seek truth, the truth of God. A person may claim to be a Christian but if they have no interest in
Scripture you have a right to question the claim because attitude toward the Word of God is a determinative reality. This is
God's Word. In the Old Testament alone there are over two thousand claims made by the Scripture that say this is the
Word of God. And the New Testament adds to that, this is God's Word. As such, it is the determining factor. If you hear
God's Word, you belong to Him. If you don't hear His Word, you don't
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