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The Word of God神の御言葉

The Word of God has been something of a theme to begin the new year. No one would doubt or argue the importance of the Word. So, for it to take precedence as the first and foremost topic of 2017 is both appropriate and necessary.

Two weeks ago, Pastor Andrew shared about the ministry of the Word. I felt it would be good to further delve into the topic, especially in giving the Word its due honor and reverence.
I think the church knows the power of the Word: 
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

I think the church also knows the purpose of the Word: 
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
And there are many other Scriptures that highlight the beauty and value of the Word that the church also knows:
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105)

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matthew 24:35)
But somewhere between the passing of generations and traditions, I believe that the church has kind of forgotten the honor and reverence for the Word of God.
Did you know that in more traditional circles, the congregation stands for every Scripture reading? That we’re not supposed to throw, sit on, or casually dispose of the Bible? Or that ancient Jewish scribes followed very strict rules and standards in copying and rewriting the Word?
These are not mindless traditions or superstitious practices. The common reasoning that they all share is that the Word is to be treated with honor and reverence—that it’s to be treated with great care—because it’s God’s Holy Word.

And not only is it God’s Holy Word, it should also be treated as God Himself. Consider the famous words to open the Gospel of John:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
まだこの世界に何もない時から、御言葉は神と共におられました。御言葉は、いつの時代にも生きておられます。御言葉は神だからです。(ヨハネの福音書1:1)The Bible describes the Word as being Jesus Himself. I know that this is a difficult concept to understand, but it’s in keeping with this mysterious yet mind-blowing concept that God came to dwell with us in the form of a human being, in the same way that God chose words, written and spoken language, as the means to communicate to and with us.

I remember one time, soon after I became Christian, that I was participating in a Bible study, and we were looking at the passage of Elisha the prophet. There’s one part where a bunch of children make fun of Elisha and his bald head, and Elisha in turn curses them. Then God sends some bears to attack and kill the children.
I found great humor in the passage and shared with the group hoping that they would laugh with me. I was then corrected by my Bible study leader, who taught me that we don’t read the Bible just to try to find funny things in it. In essence, my Bible study leader taught me that day to honor and revere God’s Word.
Yes, it’s perfectly fine to enjoy the subtle humor in parts of the Bible, because there are some. But that wasn’t what I was guilty of. What I was wrong in doing was deliberately trying to get a laugh out of the group, and thereby making light of a rather serious Biblical example.
The moral of my story is this. Laugh and enjoy the Bible in all its sincerity and wonderful contents. But don’t dishonor God’s Word for the sake of a joke or a simple laugh. It’s God’s Holy Word. It is to be treated with honor and reverence.
I also want to mention today the importance of what we believe about God’s Word, because it’s connected with how we treat it. For example, if we have just a casual belief about the Bible, we’re also going to treat it casually. But if we believe the Bible to be holy and inspired, or as one of the earlier passages mentioned the word “God-breathed,” then we’re also going to treat it as holy.
I’m going to talk about two terms that have been extensively discussed in Christian theological circles, and these are important terms to help us further establish the honor and reverence that’s due God’s Word.

One term is “inerrancy,” and in it, there are several views. I will present three main different views, but I will also explain why I personally like one of them the best.

The first view is that the Bible is not “inerrant,” that is, that the Bible contains mistakes as far back as to the original writings. This view hinges on the ultra realistic notion that human beings are prone to making mistakes, including the original authors of the books of the Bible.
The second view is that the Bible is completely “inerrant,” that is, that the Bible contains absolutely no mistakes whatsoever. This view aligns with the ultra conservative ideal that God’s Word cannot contain even one single mistake, because God is perfect, and his Word is also perfect.

The third view is that the original manuscripts of the Bible are “inerrant,” that is, that when the original authors wrote, they were “inspired” by the Holy Spirit to write with Godly wisdom and without any errors. But this view also acknowledges that since the original manuscripts, there have been writing and copying errors in its subsequent copies, the same errors that we see in the copies of our Bibles today.


Which view do you think I hold? I hold to the third view, which also happens to be the most common and popular view among Christians. And there’s good reason why that is.

The first view lacks faith in the power of the Holy Spirit and makes the Bible a completely human concoction. With this view, it’s difficult to treat the Bible as holy and worthy of honor and reverence.
The second view sits in denial of the slight differences contained in thousands of manuscripts that exist today. There are many versions of fragments of ancient manuscripts which contain differences in words, sentences, and sometimes paragraphs.
The third view places faith in the power of the Holy Spirit in transmitting God’s Word to his people with absolute accuracy, while still allowing for an explanation for the inconsistencies among the different manuscripts. And I’m comforted to know that none of the inconsistencies, though they exist, is major enough to overturn fundamental truths of our faith.
With this view, it helps me hold the Bible to the highest of holy standards. I believe it was originally given to us in “inspired” and pure form, and that faithful Christians who came before us made the most diligent effort to pass on God’s Word, where it remains in our hands today with 99% accuracy. It was passed down to us with the utmost care of honor and reverence, and it gives me reason to continue to treat God’s Word in the same way.

The other term I want to share with you today is “infallibility,” and in this, there isn’t too much disagreement. Most Christians far and wide would strongly agree that the Bible is “infallible,” that is:
What the Bible says regarding matters of life, faith, and Christian practice is wholly useful and true. The Bible is completely trustworthy as a guide to salvation and the life of faith and will not fail to accomplish its purpose.

I think this definition is pretty concise and self-explanatory. Simply put, it means that the Bible is the ultimate resource for living your life, because it’s God’s Word, so you can trust it.

“Infallibility” focuses a lot more on the power and purpose of the Word of God rather than on its content or typological accuracy. In one sense, they should be looked at together—“inerrancy” and “infallibility”—and rightfully so, due to their obvious connections.

One main connection is that the issue of “infallibility” must also be viewed with faith. It takes faith to believe that the Bible is accurate, and it takes faith to believe that the contents of the Bible are good for us.

And if we can believe that God’s Word is accurate and good, then we can also believe that God’s Word is holy and to be treated with honor and reverence. That’s my prayer for us, that we would be a people and a church who treat God’s Word with the utmost care, respect, honor, and reverence.
Can we all stand and read this final passage?
As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 18:30)