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The Bible Is Without Error

Tom Pennington Matthew 5:18


This morning I want us to go back to the series we're in the middle of this summer, and that is looking at those truths that used to be foundational in the life of the church and in the life of individual Christians, but truths that have been largely forgotten by today's church; nevertheless, truths to which you and I must hold fast.

And, today we come to one of those truths pertaining to the Scripture. It won't come as a surprise to you when I say that, throughout our culture, the Bible is under attack - its truthfulness, its veracity. There are many places I could go to give you an example of that - in fact, they are almost beyond number - but let me give you one specific example.

There's a man by the name of Bart Ehrman, who is a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, who now teaches at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. He once claimed to be a, believer, a follower of Jesus Christ, but he is now an apostate, utterly rejecting all the truths he once claimed. This is what he writes about the Bible, and by the way, his- materials are everywhere because unbelievers love it when one of our own walks away and repudiates the faith.

Here's what he writes about the Bible:

"The Bible is filled with discrepancies, many of them irreconcilable contradictions. The historical narratives of the Old Testament are filled with legendary fabrications, and the book of Acts in the New Testament contains historically unreliable information about the life and teachings of Paul. Many of the books of the New Testament are written not by the apostles, but by later writers claiming to be apostles."

And he goes on with this long list of claims, about the Bible's untrustworthiness. Of course, most of these, all of these really, are old, tired arguments, sort of the repackaged liberalism of the last 200 years, objections that have been more than answered by minds far brighter than his or mine.

But when I read a quote like that, I'm reminded that we expect pagans to treat the Bible like that. However, sadly, even among those who claim to be Christians, the Bible sometimes fares little better. And the attack that comes against the Bible ordinarily, from those who profess Christ, is an attack against its inerrancy, an attack against the fact that the Bible is without error. If you want to read a history of the 20th century battle over inerrancy in evangelicalism, I highly recommend to you a book by Harold Lindsell called "The Battle for the Bible." It was written in the mid-1970's. It describes the battle that was raging then.

Really, for the first time, evangelicals were undermining the integrity of the Scriptures, and the battle was centered at Fuller Theological Seminary in Los Angeles. Lindsell describes in that book that, that the real battle for the Bible came from those who were wavering on the issue of inerrancy and who began to make this deadly distinction. They said, "The Bible is infallible, it is without error in its doctrine and ethics. What it teaches about Christ or salvation it's infallible.

"But," they said, "the Bible is not inerrant, it is not without error, in matters like history, cosmology, and science." In fact, "the Bible writers," they said, "were, were ordinary men, men locked in their times who, saw the world through the mindset of their age and who had wrong views about many of these issues - flawed perspectives of science."

To respond to this attack on the Scripture, a group of evangelical leaders of that time created the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. And out of that council came the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. By the way, there are only a handful, maybe two, of those who were involved that council who survived to today and one of them is my dear friend and mentor, John MacArthur. But the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy really silenced most of evangelicals' critics because the church spoke with such a singular voice on this issue.

However, it's important to realize that, tragically, it didn't entirely go away. This issue, this attack on the Scripture, is still alive and well even in the middle of evangelicalism - and I think it will become the defining issue of this generation. If you're 30 or under, be prepared. This will be the battle that you will have to fight for Jesus Christ.

And if you think that's overstating, I just want you to think about things the Bible teaches that professing evangelicals have come to doubt or to deny. Today, professing Christians doubt the literal 6-day creation of the universe. They doubt, now, whether there is a historical person named Adam. They doubt whether there was a literal - or even, deny - that there was a literal worldwide flood. And, they seriously question the Bible's statements on the issues of our times such as homosexuality, gender identity, the role of women in marriage and in the church - just to name a couple examples.

What I want you to see is that clearly, one of the truths that used to be foundationally believed by the church - that used to be at the bedrock of our faith - is a truth that today's church has largely denied; and yet, it is a truth to which you and I much hold fast. And that truth is this, The Bible Is Without Error.

So, we need to examine this truth together, and I want to do it under two headings. First of all, I want us to deal with the meaning of inerrancy, and secondly, the arguments for inerrancy. So, let's begin with the meaning of inerrancy. It's important that we understand what we're talking about.

Now the word inerrancy comes from the English word inerrant. You recognize the word err in that word. It means, without error. So when we say the Scripture is inerrant, then, we meant that the Bible is completely without any error whatsoever.

Here are a couple of definitions of inerrancy, the first from our own doctrinal statement here at Countryside Bible Church. It reads this way, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, such that God superintended human authors with their own experience, personality, methods, and style," so, don't miss the flow here. "God superintended human authors to produce the very words of Scripture which is, in fact, the Word of God, without error, in the original writings."

Robert Reymond, in his Systematic Theology, puts it this way, "The Bible does not err in any of its affirmations, whether those affirmations be the spheres of spiritual realities or morals, history, or science, and is therefore incapable of teaching error."

Now notice that those definitions cover a couple of important points. First of all, when we talk about inerrancy, we're talking about "without error in the original autographs," in the scroll or the parchment on which Moses originally wrote, or on which Paul originally wrote. When they penned those words, it was without error. Now that's an important distinction because, obviously, copies were made, and while those copies were meticulously made, we don't have any of the originals, but we have meticulous copies that have been made from meticulous copies. Why? Because God said, "Don't add anything to My Word or take anything away from My Word."

So that, what you have in the text of your Bible, you have absolute certainty that 99% of it is exactly what was in the original. There's 1% of variance that scholars have to deal with, but here's what you should be encouraged by. That 1% of variation, not one major doctrine of Scripture is affected by it. And, in a good translation like the New American Standard or the English Standard Version which most of us use here, one of those two, you will have marginal references which include those variants. So, that means, between the text itself and between the notes in the margin, you have absolute certainty that this is what God gave through those men. But I'm not really dealing with preservation this morning so I'm not going to go any further there. But we're talking about "without error in the original autographs."

We're also talking about, and this is really important, not only is it without error in its doctrine and its ethics, but it is without error whenever it speaks, about whatever it speaks. Now obviously, the Bible uses figures of speech. It's uh, it's uh, got a lot of poetry in it, so you'll have expressions like the "four corners of the earth." Any good literature has poetic expressions - that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about, when the Bible speaks definitively to an issue of the natural world, it is without error - including the social, physical, and life sciences. This is what inerrancy means. It is without error in everything to which it speaks.

Now, let's then consider secondly, very briefly that first point, we understand what it means. But let's consider the arguments for inerrancy, and this is where I really want to spend our time. How do we know this is true?

Well, there are three primary lines of argument for biblical inerrancy. The first primary line of argument is what we'll call the "historical argument." This is an argument that says, "inerrancy is what the church of Jesus Christ has historically believed about the Bible." Gregg Allison, in his book "Historical Theology," which is nothing more than looking at the history of theological debates through the history of the church, writes this:

"The church has historically acknowledged that Scripture, in its original manuscripts, and properly interpreted, is completely true and without any error in everything that it affirms, whether that has to do with doctrine, moral conduct, or matters of history, cosmology, geography, and the like. Over time, the church has expressed this conviction by applying a number of terms to the Bible such as truthful, inerrant, and infallible. No matter what term you use," [here's the key I want you to get,] "the church, from its outset, was united in its belief that the Word of God is true and contains no error."

From the very beginning, what I'm teaching you this morning is what the church of Jesus Christ has taught - it's what it's believed. Let me just give you a few examples. Examples could be multiplied, but here are just a few.

Let's go to the early church fathers. Clement of Rome writes, "You have searched the Scriptures, which are true. You know that nothing unrighteous or counterfeit is written in them."

Irenaeus writes, "The Scriptures are indeed perfect."

Tertullian, "The statements of Holy Scripture will never be discordant with truth."

Athanasius, "It is the opinion of some that the Scriptures do not agree, or the God who gave them is false. But there is no disagreement at all, far from it. Neither can the Father, who is truth, lie, for it is impossible that God should lie."

Augustine, "I have learned to ascribe to those books of canonical rank, and only to them, such reverence and honor, that I firmly believe," listen to this, "that no single error, due to the author, is found in any one of them."

But let's move from the early church fathers to, to our spiritual heritage, The Reformation.

Listen to John Calvin, "We owe to the Scripture the same reverence as we owe God, since it has its only source in Him and has nothing of human origin mixed with it."

Martin Luther, "Everyone indeed knows that, at times, they," that is, the early church fathers, "have erred as men will. Therefore, I am ready to trust them only when they prove their opinions from Scripture," and then he adds this, "which has never erred." In fact, Luther says Scripture cannot err.

The Divines, who put together the Westminster Confession - and by the way, the Baptist Confession says the same thing - they call the Scripture, "The only infallible rule of faith in practice." It is an infallible rule.

In fact, let me put it this way: from the very beginning of church history, the church has understood the absolutely devastating results, if there is just one mistake in the Bible. Have you ever thought about this? If there's just one mistake in the Bible, what happens? Well, let's let [pause] a man who wrote in the 400's A.D. speak to this issue. His name is Augustine - listen to what Augustine writes:

"It seems to me that most disastrous consequences must follow upon our believing that anything false is found in the sacred books. That is to say, that the men by whom the Scriptures have been given to us and committed to writing did put down in these books anything false. For if you once admit into such a high sanctuary of authority one false statement, there will not be left a single sentence of those books which, if appearing to anyone difficult in practice or hard to believe, may not by the same fatal rule be explained away."

You hear what he says? He says, listen, if any part of Scripture is in error, then any other part of Scripture may be in error. And, what people will do when they come across something that's hard to practice, or hard to believe, they'll just say, "oh that's an error too." Boy, do we see that happening today.

Now, I've quoted a number of our reformed brothers. But, it's true on the other side of the aisle as well. Listen to John Wesley. John Wesley says,

"The Scripture, therefore, is a rule sufficient in itself, and was by men divinely inspired, delivered to the world." Now listen - if there be mistakes in the Bible, there may well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth." [audible voice from audience]

The truth is, it was not until the 17th and 18th centuries that anyone who claimed to be, who was in the church and connected to the church of Jesus Christ, denied the inerrancy of Scripture, or even seriously questioned it. It wasn't until the Enlightenment and its rationalism that that began to happen. There was consensus, there was unanimity. So, how did all of the great minds of the history of the church come to understand that the Bible is without error? And the answer is, from the Scripture itself.

There is some benefit to the historical argument, but let's look at where we really focus, and that is the "biblical argument" - the biblical argument for inerrancy. And I want to start by looking at the claims of the Scripture about itself. Scripture claims to be without error. Again, we could take the rest of the morning going through the references; let me just give you a few samples. Second Samuel 7:28: "Now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are truth." [In other words, whenever God speaks, the words that come from God are truth. If the Bible is God's Word, then it is, in fact, true.] Psalm 12:6: "The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times." [You see the picture? The picture is, God's Word is so pure, it's like metal run seven times through a furnace. All of the dross, all of the impurity, all of the error is gone - there is none.]

Psalm 119:160, "The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting." Now that is a remarkable verse, because he makes two separate points. First of all, it is a claim for the truthfulness of what the entire Scripture teaches: "The sum of Your word is truth." All of Scripture is truth. And then he says, "and every statement is true."

In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul says to his young son in the faith, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who doesn't need to be ashamed." As you're, as you're handling and teaching, he says, "accurately handling," and he doesn't say "the Bible," that's what he means. What does he call it? "Accurately handling the Word," collective, meaning the whole Bible, "the Word of truth." And of course, the definitive text, 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is inspired by God."

The Greek word is literally, "breathed out." Think of what that says. All Scripture is [blowing air sound] breathed out by God. In other words, it is the product of the breath of God. What you hold in your hand is as truly spoken by God, that it can be said to be the product of His breath, in the same way that the words I'm speaking are the product of my breath. All Scripture is [blowing air sound] spoken by God. It's breathed out by God. It's formed by His mouth.

Now, if all Scripture is from the breath of God, then it must be without error because God cannot lie. So, the claims of Scripture, that, those are just a few examples - there are many others. But let's turn and look at another aspect of the biblical argument, and that is, the direct statements of our Lord. Let me give you a couple of examples, and then we'll look at one together.

First of all, Matthew 4:4 - you remember in the temptations of Christ, each time He quoted from the book of Deuteronomy. And in Matthew 4:4, He quotes to say this: "'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on-'" what? "'Every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." That's a reference to the Scripture. They are words, and each individually is a word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

In John 10:35, Jesus said, "The Scripture cannot be broken." The word broken is "luó" - it has the, the idea in context of, "it can't be repealed, it can't be abolished, it can't be annulled." The Scripture can't be broken. And last week, we looked at John 17:17 where Jesus prays, "Sanctify them by means of the truth;" and then He makes this statement: "Your Word," meaning the Scripture, "is," what? "Truth." "Your Word is truth."

But perhaps nowhere else is what Jesus taught about the Scripture clearer then in Matthew 5, where I invite you to turn with me. Matthew 5, I want you to see what our Lord had to say. Matthew 5:17. As He launches into the heart of His Sermon on the Mount discourse, this is what He says: "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. "The Law and the Prophets" was shorthand in the first century for the Law, meaning the first five books of Moses, and the Prophets, the rest of the Old Testament.

If I had time, I could show you and prove to you that, in the first century during the time of Christ, the 39 books that we call the Old Testament, the content of those 39 books - it was divided differently - but the content of those 39 books was already considered to be the Word of God, the inspired Scripture. And Jesus, throughout His ministry, including here in this passage, unequivocally identifies that content that we call the "Old Testament" as God's very words to us. You have it on the authority of Christ that what you call the Old Testament is, in fact, the very Word of God.

Now, notice what He says in verse 17. He says, "I didn't come to abolish the Old Testament. Instead," He says, "I came to fulfill the Old Testament." There's a whole message there. In fact, I preached a whole message on that verse. But, let me just explain it to you briefly. Jesus is saying, when He says "I fulfilled it," He means that He explained it in His teaching, which is exactly what He does here in the Sermon on the Mount. He means that He obeyed it in His life perfectly - He fulfilled it in that sense - and He also embodied all that the Old Testament pointed to in His person. He fulfilled it in every sense.

But, I want you to look at verse 18, because here's Jesus' view of the Scripture: "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." Now that is a remarkable verse, and a remarkable affirmation. Jesus affirms here in the strongest possible terms His confidence, first of all, in the Scripture's permanent authority.

He says, "Until heaven and earth pass away." Now, that is a proverbial statement that really means, "Never! Not going to happen!" He's not saying that, when He destroys the universe and remakes it, God's Word goes away. That's not what He's saying. He's saying, proverbially speaking, it is never going to happen. It's easier for the universe to go out of existence by itself than for God's Word to fail. It's permanent, unchanging, unwavering, eternal. As the psalmist puts it, "forever settled in heaven."

Jesus also, here, affirms His confidence in the Scripture's verbal inspiration. Look at verse 18 again, "Not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law." We've already seen that Scripture is the product of the breath of God. But, not only are the thoughts of Scripture the product of God's mind, but He is also the source of the very words themselves. That's what we mean when we speak of verbal inspiration - verbal meaning down to the words, the words themselves are breathed out by God.

But Jesus goes even further here. Let me read it to you - this is how it reads literally from the Greek text. Now, it's awkward because it's a different word order, because Jesus wants to make an, a point, an emphasis. But, see if you can follow. This is how the Greek text reads, "One iota, or one little horn, no not at all shall pass away." Let me read that again. "One iota, or one little horn, no not at all shall pass away."

Now, let's unpack that. First of all, the iota is the smallest Greek letter. Since Jesus is here talking about the Old Testament, He probably intends it to refer to the smallest Hebrew letter, which is yod. It is the equivalent to our English letter "y." And the Hebrew letter He's talking about looks a lot like our apostrophe. In fact, I think you can see the Hebrew word for God, "Elohim," and I have outlined that little apostrophe letter, the yod, that Jesus is talking about here. It's the smallest of the Hebrew letters.

Now I didn't go through and count them personally, but those who have tell me that there are 66,000 yods in the Old Testament, 66,000. Now, you wouldn't think that missing one would be that big a deal, right? But Jesus says, "Not one of those 66,000." [pause]

Now, He also says, notice, "Not one stroke." Now the Greek word translated "stroke," as you heard me a moment ago, is literally "little horn." It refers to the pen stroke that distinguishes one letter from another. For example, think about English. In English, all that distinguishes a capital "O" from a capital "Q" is that little pen stroke at the lower end of the "Q." The same thing is true with Hebrew letters. For example, if you compare the Hebrew equivalent to our letter "B," "bet," with the Hebrew equivalent of our letter "K," "kaf," they look almost the same except for a little stroke of the pen that distinguishes them.

Same thing is true if you look at the Hebrew letter "dalet," our "D," the equivalent to our letter "D," and the Hebrew letter "R," which is "resh." When you look at those two letters, you can see that they're almost identical except for that tiny little stroke of the pen that distinguishes them.

So, do you see what Jesus is saying here? He is making a remarkable claim. He's saying the Scripture is breathed out by God, not only down to its individual words, and even to its smallest letters, but even to the smallest pen strokes. As one writer put it, "Jesus here declares that the Scriptures are letter-perfect."

Jesus affirms, as well, the Bible's plenary inspiration - not only verbal, every word, but plenary. Notice, again, verse 18, "Not the smallest letter or stroke, not one, shall pass from the Law until all is fulfilled." [In theological terms, "plenary" simply means "all." Not only is each individual stroke, each individual letter, and each individual word of Scripture {breathing out sound} breathed out by God, but all of it in its entirety is breathed out by God.] That's "plenary."

Jesus then goes on to affirm what we're dealing with this morning, by implication, Scripture's complete inerrancy. Notice, again, what He says in verse 18, "For truly I say to you." [In other words, here's one of Jesus' solemn statements.] "For [Amen] … I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." The Greek word "accomplished" means "to happen, to come to pass."

Jesus says, the universe might as well be destroyed before anything written in Scripture fails to happen. He's emphasizing the utter trustworthiness, the truthfulness, the certainty of the Scripture. Whatever it says is so true, that it is bound to happen. Now, folks, what I want you to see is this is what Jesus believed about the Scripture. If you're going to be His follower, it's what you have to believe as well.

In fact, Jesus goes on in verses 19 and 20 to say,

"There are going to be true followers of Mine who somehow diminish some part of My Word." [And, you know what He says about them? They, if they're true Christians, they will be least in the Kingdom of Heaven.] "If they minimize My Word in the least, they will be least in the Kingdom of Heaven."

He takes it very seriously. You need to believe what Jesus believes about the Scripture. Folks, you can have confidence of the Scriptures that you hold in your hand. It is completely trustworthy in every detail. Jesus talked about the Old Testament, and in John 17, He talked about His words that He'd given to the disciples that they would then write, and He preauthenticated the New Testament by choosing the men that would write it. So, they entirety of Scripture. This is how Jesus saw it, it's how you must see it. We have it on the authority of our Lord Himself that it's trustworthy.

There's a third argument for the trustworthiness and inerrancy of Scripture. Not only a historical argument, a biblical argument, but the third argument is the "internal argument, or the testimony of the Spirit." Now, you know what, I can give you a lot of quotes from church history that convince you that what I'm teaching is what the church has always believed. I can also take you to passages and show you what I've just shown you. But ultimately, the reason that you will believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God is because God Himself will confirm it to you, and He will do so through what theologians call "the inner witness" or "testimony of the Spirit."

I'm just finishing up a book, the newest book by John Piper which I highly recommend to you. It's a classic entitled A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness. You can read more about this issue there. But, let me just give you a summary.

Here's what the Confessions, again, both the Westminster and Baptist Confessions, say about this,

"We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church to a high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture." [That's what I did, the historical argument. It's like, wow, yeah, that's great, that could happen.] "And the heavenness of the matter, what it contains, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole which is to give all glory to God, and full discovery, the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof," [those are all arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God. Okay, all those are valid arguments. However,] "Yet," [watch this carefully,] "notwithstanding our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority of Scripture," [it's not from those things.] "It's from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness," [and this is key,] "by and with the Word in our hearts."

This is what Jesus described in John 10:27, when He said, "My sheep hear My voice." He wasn't talking about God, you know, Jesus calling in some ridiculous book, okay, other than the Bible. He's talking about the Word of God as the Lord speaks in His Word.

Here's how Wayne Grudem puts it, "Those who are Christ's sheep hear the words of their Great Shepherd as they read the words of Scripture, and they are convinced that these words are, in fact, the words of their Lord." In other words, there is a self-evident truth that the Bible is God's Word that the Spirit enables us to see.

Now I know, if you're thinking with me, you're sitting there thinking, wait a minute, Tom. If the Bible is obviously God's Word, then why don't all people acknowledge it to be God's Word? And the answer is, because of the darkness of the fallen human heart, and because of the absence of the Spirit. In other words, the problem isn't with the Scripture, but with their capacity to receive it.

When I was growing up, I remember - I'm about to date myself here, but that's okay, I just told you I've been married for 30 years so I'm not giving away any secrets. But, when I was growing up, I remember when we got our first television. It's when they were new, and families were just getting them and, we got this little box, very small, black and white, set it there on the shelf. And, the only antenna that it had were two screws on the back. And you were to attach to those two screws this thing that was effectually called "rabbit ears."

Essentially, they were these two long, metal antennas that stuck up like this from a little central box and you attached it to the screws on the back of the set. And, if you wanted to pick up the signal coming through the air, then you had to adjust those antennae's - and, we lived out in the country and, a long way from where the signal originated, and we just had this little bitty set, and this little tiny set of rabbit ears. And so, it was always fuzzing out, getting those lines across it.

And I was the youngest of ten. I had four older brothers and so, invariably, I was the rabbit ear tuner. All my family called me Tommy. "Oh, Tommy, go adjust those ears." And so, I'm up there, you know, "Oh, no, move that one a little more that way," and I would adjust it, and, then finally the signal would come clear. They'd say, "Okay, it's great." And I'd move my hands away, and the signal would go bad again. And so, it wasn't uncommon, if we were right in the middle of a really important football game to say, "Just stand there and hold it."

Now, the problem wasn't with the TV station's signal. My neighbors seemed to get it just fine - they had larger sets with bigger antennas. The problem was with our TV set's antenna. In the same way, folks, what I want you to understand, is there's nothing wrong with the signal the Bible transmits. The problem lies in the receiver, the human heart.

First Corinthians 2:14 says, "A natural man," that is an unregenerate person "does not accept the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot," "dunamai," he doesn't have the capacity to understand them. I'm not talking about, to understand sort of the logical flow of the argument. I mean, to understand them in a life-changing, saving way, "because they're spiritually appraised."

You see, because sin distorts reality, most people don't recognize the Bible for what it really is. So, the Holy Spirit has to overcome the effects of sin, the blindness of the human heart, and persuade the sinner that the Bible is, indeed, God's Word, and that its claims are true. This is exactly what the Scriptures teach.

Turn to 2 Corinthians 3, 2 Corinthians 3. Paul talks about the fact that the Old Testament and the truth of what it teaches is hidden from unbelievers. He says that, verse 14, the Jews of his time, their minds are hardened. And there's this veil, they can't see the truth in the Scripture. But that veil is removed in Christ, verse 14. Verse 15, a veil lies over their heart, but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

Now, with that background, go down to verse 3 of chapter 4. "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing." [Well, how did that happen? How is it that they can't see the truth of Scripture? They can't see what it teaches, they can't understand the gospel as it's preached or as they read it in Scripture?]

Well, verse 4, "In whose case, the god of [literally] this [age,] …" [this is Satan - interesting title for him, he's called the god who rules over the age. That is, the current set of values and mindsets of the age in which we live, the world system that he's created. He blinds people through false religion and through the mindset of the age. And he does so,] verse 4, "so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

When Paul preached it, or when they read it in the Scripture, they just didn't see it. They couldn't see and understand that it's God truth and what God's truth is. Verse 5, Paul says, I preach it, I preach Christ Jesus is Lord, and I model it, I embody it "as your [servant] … for Jesus' sake."

But that isn't enough. Something else has to happen. Verse 6, "For God, who said, 'Light shall shine out of darkness,'" [what's he talking about? He's talking about creation.] When God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. [He says, the same God who had to do that is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.]

You see what Paul is saying? He's saying, the same God who had to command, "Let there be light," and there was light in a physical world, must in the same way declare on the individual human soul, blinded by darkness, unable to see the truth, unable to comprehend it, that same God through His Spirit has to say, "Let there be light." That light comes to the soul by beholding the truth, specifically the truth about Jesus and, the glory of God in the gospel.

This is the internal testimony of the Spirit and, by the way, this is something that happens without a chain of arguments. Nothing wrong with a chain of arguments, but this happens without a chain of arguments. It's like tasting honey and knowing it's sweet. It's like seeing light and knowing it's not darkness. You, recognize it as true. There's an immediate, direct apprehension - this inward testimony of the Spirit to the truthfulness and perfection of God's Word - don't confuse it with illumination, it's not illumination. And it's not new revelation, it's not like God's telling you something He hasn't said before.

So, how does this work? Well, understand this, the conviction that the Scripture is the very Word of God doesn't come - this is really important - apart from or in addition to the words of Scripture. In other words, as Wayne Grudem puts it,

"it's not like, one day, the Holy Spirit comes. You're sitting there readying your Bible and the Holy Spirit whispers in your ear, "'You see that Bible sitting there in front of you on the desk? That's God's Word.'"

That's not how it works. Why would that be a problem? Because then, that whispered message becomes the ultimate authority. Instead, the Holy Spirit uses the actual words of Scripture. As you read, you recognize through the glory and majesty of the truth, this just has to be God's truth - through the work of the Spirit.

Berkhof puts it this way:

"The testimony of the Holy Spirit is simply the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the sinner, by which He removes the blindness of sin, so that the previously blind man, who had no eyes for the sublime character of the Word of God, now clearly sees and appreciates the marks of its divine nature and receives immediate certainty respecting the divine origin of Scripture."

This is how it works. So, in the end, the Scripture is self-authenticating through the work of the Holy Spirit. Beloved, hold fast to the truth that the Bible is without error.

How did you learn that? How do you know that?

Well, you know it from the testimony of church history.

You know it from the testimony of the Scripture about itself.

You know it from the testimony of our Lord.

You know it from the internal witness of the Spirit of God. Hold fast.

Now this again drives us to humility and to gratitude, because you understand what happens here? The reason you sit here this morning and you care about anything I'm saying, the reason you care what this book says, the reason it matters to you is not because you were smarter than all the people around you. It's because, one day, into the darkness of your soul, our gracious redeeming God said, "Let there be light" and you saw it, you understood - this is the truth, this is God, this is His Word, this is His communication to me - and you began to understand it through the illuminating work of the Spirit.

He removed the veil of your heart and let you see the truth of His Word. He showed you the glory of Christ in the gospel, and He gave you the faith to believe. What an amazing, redeeming God we have. There is a Redeemer.

That's what we celebrate in the Lords' table. That same grace and glory of God in Christ and in the gospel. Prepare your heart as the men come.

Our Father, we're so grateful that You opened our eyes. That You, who commanded the light to shine in the darkness of the world as You made it, that You commanded the light to shine in our souls. By Your Spirit, You helped us to see the truth of Your Word, to see that it is truth, that it's without error, that it's Your own Word. Lord, we're so grateful.

And now, as we celebrate the fact that You opened our eyes to the gospel, we come asking for You to cleanse our hearts. Lord, You have forgiven us in Christ. You've given us justification and yet, we sin against You as our Father.

And so, we come to You not as our Judge, for we have been forever justified, but we come to You as our Father, seeking Your forgiveness. Father, cleanse us. We each individually confess our sins to You. Lord, the last thing we want to do is to hold onto some sin in our life for which Christ died, and whose death we commemorate in the Lord's table. Don't let us trample His sacrifice in that way.

And so, forgive us, cleanse us, and allow us to take of this in a way that honors and pleases You.

We pray in Jesus' Name, Amen.