To Backsliders

Streha

(Original version by Charles Spurgeon. Adapted and modernized from his 10/7/1855 sermon preached at New Park Street Chapel titled “Conversion”)

 

Poor backslider, you were once a Christian. Do you hope that you were? “No,” you say, “I believe I deceived myself and others. I was no child of God.” Well, if you did, let me tell you, that if you will acknowledge that, God will forgive you. Suppose you did deceive the church—you are not the first that did it. There are some members in even the strongest churches, I fear, who have done so, and they have not been found out. I tell you your case is not hopeless. That is not the unpardonable sin. Some who have even tried to deceive those elected by God have been delivered, and my Master says he is able to save to the uttermost (and you have not gone beyond the…

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Is Your Bible Trustworthy?

by Chad Graham

“Charles Spurgeon was right when he said: “it behoves all who love the Lord Jesus and his gospel to keep close together, and make common cause against deadly error”.[1] Many are familiar with the famous motto of Rupertus Meldenius now adopted by many denominations, including the Evangelical Free Church of Canada: “In Essentials Unity; In Non-Essentials Charity; In All Things Jesus Christ”. There are many debates in the Church, which have to do with people’s interpretations of particular doctrines. There will always be diversity on some issues, and sometimes believers must agree to disagree on the non-essentials. But there is a foundation upon which they must agree, if they will be able to agree to disagree! Because of its foundational nature, inerrancy is the real issue upon which the unity and vitality of the Church will live or die, and so one’s view of the “trustworthiness of Scripture” became the watershed doctrine of the historic evangelicalism from the Reformation to the present.

What does Inerrancy mean? Feinberg defines the doctrine in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology:

“the view that when all the facts become known, they will demonstrate that the Bible in its original autographs and correctly interpreted is entirely true and never false in what it affirms, whether that relates to doctrine or ethics or to the social, physical, or life sciences”.[2]

This definition guards against knee jerk assumptions and sophistry by giving a balanced but grounded definition. It is only “when all the facts become  known” and when considering “the original autographs” and when “correctly interpreted” that the believer may be confident of the trustworthiness of something the Bible “affirms”. Hard work and careful scholarship are needed: “Do your best” Paul instructs Timothy, “to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV). The “word of truth” or “trustworthy word” yields its truth only to the “worker” who has “done [his or her] best” to “rightly” handle the Scripture.

The Reformation confessions clearly view the Scripture as the criterion of all truth, and as “the very word of God”. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy has a detailed definition of the word. Perhaps it can best be summarized by the following: “Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches….Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching”.[3]

Rene Pache declares that verbal, plenary inspiration is the historic doctrine of the Church and this doctrine “implies that in drawing up the original manuscripts the sacred authors were guided in such a way that they transmitted perfectly, without error, the exact message which God desired to communicate to men”. Thus the Scriptures are infallible, and if “infallible it cannot err; and if it is inerrant, this is because it contains no mistakes”.[4] Perhaps most poignant as a summary is Harold Lindsell’s definition: “the Bible is completely trustworthy”.[5]

So is the Bible trustworthy? The Scriptures claim from beginning to end to be the “very words of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). From God’s direct command to Moses to “write these words down” (Exodus 34:27), to the many instructions similar, such as that to Jeremiah: “The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Go and speak… This is what the LORD says” (Jeremiah 2:1-2), God makes plain that the Scriptures are full of his words. Several passages confirm that “every word” is his. “All Scripture” the Bible claims, “is God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) and “prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21 NIV)

There are many arguments which could be raised in order to demonstrate that the Bible is a Divine work. However, I like Spurgeon’s summary:

How do you know that God wrote the book? That is just what I shall not try to prove to you. I could if I pleased, demonstrate it, for there are arguments enough, there are reasons enough, did I care to occupy your time to-night in bringing them before you; but I shall do no such thing. I might tell you, if I pleased, that the grandeur of the style is above that of an mortal writing, and that all the poets who have ever existed could not, with all their works united, give us such sublime poetry and such mighty language as is to be found in the Scriptures. I might insist upon it, that the subjects of which it treats are beyond the human intellect; that man could never have invented the grand doctrines of a Trinity in the Godhead; man could not have told us anything of the creation of the universe; he could never have been the author of the majestic idea of Providence—that all things are ordered according to the will of one great Supreme Being, and work together for good. I might enlarge upon its honesty, since it tells the faults of its writers; its unity, since it never belies itself; its master simplicity, that he who runs may read it; and I might mention a hundred more things, which would all prove, to a demonstration, that the book is of God. But I come not here to prove it. I am a Christian minister, and you are Christians, or profess to be so.[6]

Now God is completely and explicitly trustworthy. Plato, the Philosopher of Western thought, attributes to God perfect goodness, “he is the highest and most perfect being”.[7] It is impossible to imagine the “highest and most perfect being” as a deceitful and corrupt being. The Bible professes that God is “the truth” (John 14:6) and Psalm 119:160 declares that all his “words are true”. The Christian belief in Inerrancyis fundamentally the belief that God is trustworthy. Your Bible is trustworthy, if its author is trustworthy, and 1 Corinthians 1:9 affirms that the highest and most perfect being “is faithful”.

Up next, we will survey just how this has been “the real issue” or “the watershed doctrine” setting evangelical believers apart from other forms of Christian religion, especially since the Reformation. Previous posts include: “Is the evangelical doctrine of inerrancy in error?” (link) and “Inerrancy, what is it?” (link).”


[1] C.H. Spurgeon The Sword and the Trowel Annual Volume 1887, preface http://www.spurgeon.org/s_and_t/dg00.htm

[2] P D Feinberg, “Bible, Inerrancy and Infallibility of” Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Theology sec. ed., Editor Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic), 156

[3] Carl F. H. Henry in God, Revelation and Authority, vol. 4 (Waco, Tx.: Word Books, 1979), 211.

[4] Rene Pache The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture  (Chicago, IL: Moddy Press, 1980), 120

[5] Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible (Grand Rapids; MI: Zondervan, 1976), 12

[6] C.H. Spurgeon “The Bible” http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0015.htm

[7] “Western Concepts of God” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://www.iep.utm.edu/god-west/

-Chad Graham, http://wagraham.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/is-your-bible-trustworthy/

Spurgeon: Be Bible Readers

“Most people treat the Bible very politely. They have a small pocket volume, neatly bound;…when they get home, they lay it up in a drawer till next Sunday morning; then it comes out again for a little bit of a treat, and goes to chapel; that is all the poor Bible gets in the way of an airing. That is your style of entertaining this heavenly messenger. There is enough dust on some of your Bibles to write ‘damnation’ with your fingers. There are some of you who have not turned over your Bibles for a long, long while, and what think you? I tell you blunt words, but true words. What will God say at last? When you shall come before him, he shall say, “Did you read my Bible?” “No.” “I wrote you a letter of mercy; did you read it?” “No.” ”Rebel! I have sent thee a letter inviting thee to me; didst thou ever read it?” “Lord, I never broke the seal; I kept it shut up.” ”Wretch!” says God, “then, thou deservest hell, if I sent thee a loving epistle, and thou wouldst not even break the seal; what shall I do unto thee?” Oh, let it not be so with you. Be Bible-readers; be Bible-searchers.”

-C.H. Spurgeon, http://www.chspurgeonquotes.com/be-bible-readers/

The Doctrine of the Sprinkling of Blood

“If ever there should come a wretched day when all our pulpits shall be full of modern thought, and the old doctrine of substitutionary sacrifice shall be exploded, then will there remain no word of comfort for the guilty or hope for the despairing. Hushed will be for ever those silver notes which now console the living, and cheer the dying; a dumb spirit will possess this sullen world, and no voice of joy will break the blank silence of despair. The gospel speaks through the propitiation for sin, and if that be denied, it speaketh no more. those who preach not the atonement exhibit a dumb and dummy gospel; a mouth it hath, but speaketh not; they that make it are like unto their idol…

Would you have me silence the doctrine of the blood of sprinkling? Would any one of you attempt so horrible a deed? Shall we be censured if we continually proclaim the heaven-sent message of the blood of Jesus? Shall we speak with bated breath because some affected person shudders at the sound of the word ‘blood‘? or some ‘cultured’ individual rebels at the old-fashioned thought of sacrifice? Nay, verily, we will sooner have our tongue cut out than cease to speak of the precious blood of Jesus Christ.”

-C.H. Spurgeon, ‘The Blood of sprinkling (part I)’, Sermon no. 1888 in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons Preached and Revised by C.H. Spurgeon during the Year 1886, vol. 32 (London: Passmore & Alabaster), pp. 121-132 (p. 129), italics original.

Ye Are Christ’s

Ye are Christ’s.” You are His by donation, for the Father gave you to the Son; His by His bloody purchase, for He counted down the price for your redemption; His by dedication, for you have consecrated yourself to Him; His by relation, for you are named by his name, and made one of His brethren and joint-heirs. Labour practically to show the world that you are the servant, the friend, the bride of Jesus. When tempted to sin, reply, “I cannot do this great wickedness, for I am Christ’s.” Immortal principles forbid the friend of Christ to sin. When wealth is before you to be won by sin, say that you are Christ’s, and touch it not. Are you exposed to difficulties and dangers? Stand fast in the evil day, remembering that you are Christ’s. Are you placed where others are sitting down idly, doing nothing? Rise to the work with all your powers; and when the sweat stands upon your brow, and you are tempted to loiter, cry, “No, I cannot stop, for I am Christ’s. If I were not purchased by blood, I might be like Issachar, crouching between two burdens; but I am Christ’s, and cannot loiter.” When the siren song of pleasure would tempt you from the path of right, reply, “Thy music cannot charm me; I am Christ’s.” When the cause of God invites thee, give thy goods and thyself away, for thou art Christ’s. Never belie thy profession. Be thou ever one of those whose manners are Christian, whose speech is like the Nazarene, whose conduct and conversation are so redolent of heaven, that all who see you may know that you are the Saviour’s, recognizing in you His features of love and His countenance of holiness. “I am a Roman!” was of old a reason for integrity; far more, then, let it be your argument for holiness, “I am Christ’s!”

-C. H. Spurgeon, “Ye are Christ’s.”—1 Corinthians 3:23.

Spurgeon’s One Qualm with Pilgrim’s Progress

Charles Spurgeon loved John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. He first read the book as a young boy, and he began his commentary on the classic with these words:

“Next to the Bible, the book I value most is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. I believe I have read it through at least a hundred times. It is a volume of which I never seem to tire; and the secret of its freshness is that it is so largely compiled from the Scriptures.”

As Spurgeon said elsewhere, he loved Bunyan because Bunyan bled Bible.

But he did have one qualm with the great book:

“I am a great lover of John Bunyan, but I do not believe him infallible; and the other day I met with a story about him which I think a very good one.

There was a young man, in Edinburgh, who wished to be a missionary. He was a wise young man; he thought—”If I am to be a missionary, there is no need for me to transport myself far away from home; I may as well be a missionary in Edinburgh.” . . .

Well, this young man started, and determined to speak to the first person he met. He met one of those old fishwives; those of us who have seen them can never forget them, they are extraordinary women indeed. So, stepping up to her, he said, “Here you are, coming along with your burden on your back; let me ask you if you have got another burden, a spiritual burden.”

“What!” she asked; “do you mean that burden in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress? Because, if you do, young man, I got rid of that many years ago, probably before you were born. But I went a better way to work than the pilgrim did. The evangelist that John Bunyan talks about was one of your parsons that do not preach the gospel; for he said, ‘Keep that light in thine eye, and run to the wicket-gate.’ Why—man alive!—that was not the place for him to run to. He should have said, ‘Do you see that cross? Run there at once!’ But, instead of that, he sent the poor pilgrim to the wicket-gate first; and much good he got by going there! He got tumbling into the slough, and was like to have been killed by it.”

“But did not you,” the young man asked, “go through any slough of Despond?”

“Yes, I did; but I found it a great deal easier going through with my burden off than with it on my back.”

The old woman was quite right. John Bunyan put the getting rid of the burden too far off from the commencement of the pilgrimage. If he meant to show what usually happens, he was right; but if he meant to show what ought to have happened, he was wrong.

We must not say to the sinner, “Now, sinner, if thou wilt besaved, go to the baptismal pool; go to the wicket-gate; go to the church; do this or that.”

No, the cross should be right in front of the wicket-gate; and we should say to the sinner, “Throw thyself down there, and thou art safe; but thou are not safe till thou canst cast off thy burden, and lie at the foot of the cross, and find peace in Jesus.””

-Charles Spurgeon, The Dumb Become Singers, 1912,

As quoted at: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/10/11/spurgeons-one-qualm-with-pilgrims-progress/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+between2worlds+%28Between+Two+Worlds%29

Angels Watch With Wonder

“God hath manifested His love in the death of Christ in a way which much have astonished every inhabitant of heaven, and ought to ravish every native of this lower globe.”

-C. H. Spurgeon, “The Blood of the Testament: A Sermon Published on March 14, 1912,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 26:629

“The Angels watched God decisively judge so many of their kind at the beginning for their rebellion. Now they see God extend His judgment to His own Son so that He might deluge generations of rebels with mercy and grace and total forgiveness. It’s inconceivable, but it’s real.”

-Rick Holland, Uneclipsing the Son, 22

Christ our Despot

“Every true Christian pronounces this phrase, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ with the emphasis of undeservedness. We desire that Christ Jesus should be our Lord in everything and the Lord over every part of our being….He who truly loves Jesus, and who knows that he is one of those who are redeemed by him, says with all his heart that Jesus is Lord, his absolute Sovereign, his Despot, if that word be used in the sense of Christ having unlimited monarchy an supreme sway over our soul. Yea, O ‘Jesus our Lord,’ thou shalt be the autocrat, imperial Master of our heart, and of the whole dominion of our manhood!”

-Charles Spurgeon, “Jesus our Lord,” Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1977), 48:558. Italics original.

Obedience Equals Piety

“Make no reserve, exercise no choice but obey his command. When you know what he commands, do not hesitate, question, or try to avoid it, but ‘do it’: do it at once, do it heartily, do it cheerfully, do it to the full. It is but a little thing that, as our Lord has bought us with the price of his own blood, we should be his servants. The apostles frequently call themselves the bond-slaves of Christ. Where our [King James] Version softly puts it ‘servant’ it really is ‘bond-slave.’ The early saints delighted to count themselves Christ’s absolute property, bought by him, owned by him, and wholly at his disposal. Paul even went as far as to rejoice that he had the marks of his Master’s brand on him, and he cries, ‘Let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.’ There was the end of all debate: he was the Lord’s, and the marks of the scourges, the rods, and the stones were the broad-arrow of the King which marked Paul’s body as property of Jesus the Lord. Now if the saints of old time gloried in obeying Christ, I pray that you and I, forgetting the sect to which we may belong, or even the nation of which we form a part, may feel that our first object in life is to obey our Lord and not to follow a human leader, or to promote a religious or political party. This one thing we mean to do, and so follow the advice of Solomon as he says, ‘Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.’ Beloved, let us endeavor to be obedient in the minute as well as in the greater matters, for it is in details that true obedience is best seen.”

-Charles Spurgeon, Eyes Right, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1981), 19:356-57.