Thursday, March 30, 2017

WCF LC Commentary

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Westminster Larger Catechism # 3

Q3: What is the word of God?

A3: The holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the word of God,[1] the only rule of faith and obedience.[2]

What a fantastic statement the Divines have made here. The right understanding of this verse explains the entire system of Reformed theology. One cannot but admire the simplicity of the statement. It’s simplicity causes it to rise above the prose of others then and through the ages. Yet the simple fact remains within these twenty-one words rests the TULIP, the Reformed Principle of Worship, our heritage, our hope, and our destiny.

The absence of adjectives proclaims the truth louder than a volume of man’s rhetoric. Here is God’s word. Though the last seven words are part of the core doctrine of the Reformed faith, the truth is, if one understands what the Divines have said in the first fourteen words, the latter are not needed. How often do we hear men speak of the infallible word of God? When was the last time you had a serious debate without someone describing the Bible as an inerrant word? These comments from well meaning saints pale in the face of the simple statement of the Westminster Divines, “are the word of God.”

Accept this truth, and it needs no man to prop it up, it stands because God said so. What trust in the sovereignty of God! Dare any define the Reformed faith without first laying the foundation of God’s sovereignty for it to rest upon? With sovereignty as its foundation and Scripture as the guy lines, the reformed faith dares to soar to heights of piety and worship only glimpsed by the most blessed ones prior to the birth of the reformation. From its lofty heights it dared to stare into the eyes of the potentate of the world and proclaim “Thus saith the Lord God.” From this height, high not on new wine but the Spirit of God the standard of all true worship of God was established upon the unmovable word of God. Yet even as the Word an extension of God’s sovereignty became a part of the foundation, as it continued to stabilize and support this rebirth of the Gospel story in one of the darkest days of the church since Christ proclaimed her birth and set her to work in the world, it also spread its glorious light before these chosen of God. Thus were they enabled to partake of the glory of this God of the Bible and willingly march to the stake and lovingly embrace the flames. What poet, what orator among men could inspire man’s heart to embrace the unseen, as brazenly as if it were past history? “Are the Word of God,” was, is, and shall until that faithful day, be the rallying cry of the Reformed church as she marches forth to battle for her Lord.

How weak we moderns are compared to these martyrs of the past, who knew they had God’s sure word before them. Yet, we quibble over words, and it is the rare man indeed who doesn’t need the scholars and wisdom of this world to prove this is God’s Word, who also need the constant reminder that this is not only God’s word, but that it is infallible, it is inerrant, it will endure forever as if the Word of God could have ever been less than this and so much more.

Our fathers understood the Gospel of John and the Divine Logos, God’s Word become flesh. They understood how the Bible being God’s Word was in this sense God and could not be parted from His Holy Spirit. The Word was reverenced (not worshiped), respected, loved, and then studied, for here was the wisdom man had sought since his expulsion from the garden so long ago. Here was the power needed to conquer this life, to over come death. Such wisdom couldn’t be obtained from all the prophets of the world past, present, and future combined. Such power couldn’t be obtained by holding sway over all the armies of the earth. This book graciously given to man from the very hand of God, was no mere written record, but the God breathed Word of God in the flesh, continuously watched over, protected and illuminated by the Holy Spirit. Can we wonder then that the writings of Calvin haven’t been surpassed among men? Can we begin to see how the Puritans could devote so much time, energy, and prayer into the development of their creeds? It was a time when piety wasn’t a bad word used to heap coals upon the heads of foes, but a way of life. A time when God had spoken to His people, and they heard His voice and answered with their lives. It was a period when the Reformed Principle of Worship wasn’t a cute phrase to prove who was the most righteous, but was the rule of the Bible in the life of God’s church. Our forefathers understood that God had spoken and there was no option that would please God, other than complete obedience to His Holy Word.

The Reformed Principle of Worship (RPW), you will hear it discussed sometimes, but so seldom understood. Here as we lay the foundation for the doctrine of the Scriptures, the RPW was birthed. First it meant that Worship, Doctrine, and Polity to please God, must be revealed in the Bible, and thus directed by God. Any other method, was to offer “strange fire” and invite the wrath of God, not His eternal blessings. However, our forefathers were no slackers either, for the Bible condemned such. They realized the Christian faith was not passive, it demanded action. Thereby, they took the RPW home from the church with them and applied it to this life of Christian action by the constant application of three other principles incorporated into the RPW. Namely concerning the Bible they asked, “What does it say? What does it mean? What am I going to do about it?” With prayer, fasting, and study of the Word of God, they then dared face death and proclaim to all this great truth, the Bible is God’s Word. We need such understanding and faith today. God has not changed, His word still stands despite all the efforts of man to destroy or corrupt it. God has never asked anything from us He did not first give us. Let us pray then for God to raise up the next generation of Puritans, willing to die because they have God’s Word. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

by Dr. Chuck Baynard

[1] All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Timothy 3:16 AV)

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. {in old time: or, at any time} (2 Peter 1:19-21 AV)

[2] And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; (Ephesians 2:20 AV)

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. {out of the book…: or, from the tree of life} (Revelation 22:18-19 AV)

To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. {no…: Heb. no morning} (Isaiah 8:20 AV)

Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. (Luke 16:29-31 AV)

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9 AV)

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Timothy 3:15-16 AV)

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