Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Scriptures are for All People

For centuries, the hundreds of thousands who attended a Christian church were under the understanding, whether implicit or explicit in the way that the entrenched Roman institution ran things, that the Bible was for the clergy (or some of them) but not for the masses (no pun intended). As much as Roman Catholics or Roman Catholic historians may well dispute this assertion, from what I’ve read of history and understand about some of the reformation martyrs, I disagree with their assertions. all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:” (Philippians 1:1)

The word "saints," άγίοις (hagiois), means those who are holy, or those who are devoted or consecrated to God. The similar Hebrew word in the Old Testament was used to describe the priests, the tabernacle, the utensils used for temple service, the garments of the priests, and anything else that was specially “set apart” for the Lord. “The radical idea then, as applied to Christians, is, that "they are separated from other men, and other objects and pursuits, and consecrated to the service of God."1

It is also important to note that a saint is not a Christian who has attained a higher level temporal holiness than the average believer. Again, the Roman Catholic and other Eastern Orthodox Churches have perverted the truth that all believers are, in fact, saints in contrast to what the Bible says.
“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” (1 Peter 2:9)

This sickening elevating of various saints over and above other believers has led to the belief (among others) that St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things. Don’t be worried, though, according to the Roman Catholic Encyclopedia, he is also the patron saint of at least 10 different things which may include pregnant women, donkeys, and horses.2

One of the many real problems with this elevation and veneration of particular saints is that the diligent Catholic can or should pray to St. Anthony to help you find something that is lost. Why pray to a man when we can go right directly to God and seek His assistance? Further more, we are only to pray to God and to God alone. The Roman Catholic answer to this objection is that praying to St. Anthony would be like praying with your friend at church. It is fine to ask them to pray for you, so why not ask someone who is closer to God than you are? The answer to that objection is that you can pray and request the prayers of other believers, but not of those who are not currently living on the earth. Saul met with the witch of Endor and they used wicked and evil practices to contact Samuel, and this type of activity has always been an abomination before God.

So, in short, there are no classes of believers. There is no business class, first class, and chartered-private jet classes of passengers on their way to heaven. All believers have the same standing as saints before God. All believers have been imputed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ so that all believers might become the righteousness of God in Him. (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21)

Furthermore, this letter is addressed to the saints, “including the overseers and deacons.” Paul’s letter was not only addressed to the various elders in Philippi, but it was addressed to all of the believers there. Why is this important? For centuries generations of the church attending masses were under the explicit understanding that they were not to read the Bible and that it was for the clergy alone. Wycliff, Tyndale, Luther, and others understood that the Bible was for all people and should be available in their own common language, and how were they received by the established religious system? All of these men were declared as heretics and persecuted based upon the doctrines that they found as explicit teachings in Scripture that were contrary to the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings. John Wycliff’s bones were dug up after his death and burned. William Tyndale was convicted of heresy and ordered to be burned at the stake. Mercifully, if murder can be merciful, Tyndale was strangled to death before his dead body was burned. Martin Luther was chased and a wanted man for most of his adult life.

The great and glorious truth of the fact that the Bible is for all believers is something to be fought for and, if necessary, to die for in order to preserve for future generations. Why? To answer this question, let me describe for you what the Bible is, what the Scriptures are, in its own words.
  • It is Pure – “Every word of God is pure, it is a shield to those who take refuge in it.” (Proverbs 30:5)
  • It is Truth – “Sanctify them in the truth, your Word is truth.” (John 17:17)
  • It is Living – “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
  • It is Divine Power – “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
  • It is Divine Revelation – “16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” (Romans 1:16-17)
  • It is of Divine Inspiration – “16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

  • It is a Light – “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalms 119:105)

It is the culmination of the revelation of God to mankind for all time: thousands of years of progressive revelation written by dozens of human authors with one message pointing to one Man, the God Man Jesus Christ, for the glory of God the Father. It is also the means proclaiming the way of salvation for all who would believe. The Word of God has been delivered to the masses by means of the martyr’s blood, from Able through Rami Ayyad. Who is Rami Ayyad?
“Rami Ayyad (30), the manager of the only Christian bookstore in Gaza, was killed by unknown assailants on October 6. At approximately 4:30 p.m. Ayyad was abducted as he closed up The Teacher's Bookshop, which is owned by the Palestinian Bible Society. Shortly afterwards, his family received a telephone call from him saying that he had been kidnapped and that he would be returned home late that evening. The following day, Ayyad's body was found near the bookstore at approximately 6:25 a.m. He had been shot in the head and stabbed multiple times.

Ayyad is survived by a pregnant wife and two young sons.”3

Again, what is the Bible? It is the culmination of the revelation of God to mankind for all time: thousands of years of progressive revelation written by dozens of human authors with one message pointing to one Man, the God Man Jesus Christ, for the glory of God the Father. It is also the means proclaiming the way of salvation for all who would believe. The Word of God has been delivered to the masses by means of the martyr’s blood, from Able through Rami Ayyad. The message it contains, delivered to you and me, cost God’s own Son to endure mocking, humiliation, torture, and ultimately it cost Him His very life. And it costs you and me, a few mere dollars.

The end of this story for many individuals, if not most, in at least the Western church today is not so sweet or glorious at all. It was Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, who articulated the problem best when he said, “There is enough dust on some of your Bible's to write damnation with your fingers.”4 I understand if the unbelieving masses, who make no substantial claim to faith that would stand up to any investigation into their lives, never pick up a Bible to read it. It makes sense, these people are not saved and so it is foolishness to them! (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18) But how many people who attend Bible-believing churches are guilty of this same thing? How many haven’t cracked open a Bible, humbly searching and seeking the only source of Truth that we have, in days, weeks, or longer?

I’m not saying that it is always easy to read the Bible and study it for it’s depths of Truth. But the Bible is for us, and therefore we have the responsibility to be faithful and diligent to read and apply what God has graciously provided for us. One of my favorite modern evangelists, Ray Comfort, coined the phrase, “No Bible, no breakfast.” It is his way of making a covenant that he will not feed his body until he feeds his soul. I am not advocating a literalistic application of this saying for everyone, but I would say that we should make this kind of a resolution and intend to keep it every day. Whether we choose to not go to sleep, eat lunch, watch TV, or do anything else that we normally do on a daily basis without consuming the Word first, we must make consuming Scripture a priority.

One other reason why it is imperative that we read and know the Bible is that we are told so often in the Scriptures that man, in and of himself, is sinful, blind to God’s will, and able to be led astray from the truth. If our hearts are deceitful and wicked (cf. Jeremiah 17:9) and we’re able to be led astray, we need the Word to cut through all of that deceit and to show and judge our hearts true intentions and thoughts (Hebrews 4:12). Once our false understandings are exposed to the light, the Bible, through the power of the Holy Spirit’s working in us, can correct our understanding and cause our feelings and our thoughts to be more in line with God.

1 (from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)


3 Voice of the Martyr’s

4 C.H. Spurgeon

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