By Olen Holderby
Many years ago I took a few notes from a presentation of N.B. Hardeman (to the best of my recollection it was he) on the above subject. Those notes form the basis of this article. I felt then, and I feel now, that the points made needed to be repeated over and over. To me, the need appears to be more urgent now than in days gone by. In any case, dear reader, I solicit your attention and honest consideration of these things.
Nature tells everyone, but fools, that God exists (Psa.14:1; 19:1-3). An observation of the natural world about us reveals something of the nature of God. It can be seen that God has intelligence, power, love and choice (free-will); these at-tributes can be identified from the arrangement of his creation, both as to being and function.
Man was created in the image of God (Gen.1:26-27); thus, man has the same traits of intelligence, power, love, and choice (free-will). The difference between God and man in these is to be found in the fact that man is limited in every one of them; while God is unlimited in every one of them. The creature cannot be greater than the Creator (Rom.9:20). The Creator has made provisions so that man may further and more wisely develop these characteristics.
In order for the creature (man) to know the Creator’s (God’s) plan or way for him, God must tell him. God did just that (2 Tim.3:16-17). God gave the Scriptures to educate and guide man in the way that he would have him go. These Scriptures were to be profitable to man for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. They were all-sufficient to make the man of God complete for every good work to which his Creator assigned him.
And, man is told, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Through these Scriptures man can learn where he came from, what he is doing here, and where he is going. It should be remembered that these Scriptures can be understood (Eph. 5:17; 3:4). Jesus thought that they could be understood (Jn. 8:31-32); and when he gave the “great commission,” he implies that every creature could understand the gospel (Mk.16:15-16). God is not responsible for those who are too lazy or too indifferent to apply themselves to know the teaching of the Scripture. This is God’s revelation to man! God created man; therefore, God well knew the needs of man. God was quite capable (all-wise) of giving a revelation which man could understand; and, he did give (his justice and mercy) a gospel that man could understand. It does take man’s effort, however! What, then, can we know about God’s way?
God’s way is the “one and only” way. This fact is not taught by many today; it is not believed or taught even by some of our own brethren. Through the prophet God said, I will give them, “one way”; and, he would do that for their good forever (Jer.32: 39). Jesus said, “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:14). Did you get the singular “gate” and “way”? And, again, a careful reading of John 14:6 will show that, if there is to be more than one way, there will have to be more than one Lord. Our thinking, sometimes, just does not agree with the thinking of our Creator (Isa. 55:8-9). “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). If man could have designed a suitable way, at any time, God wasted his time; and, the very fact that God did design a way implies that man could not do so. Do you believe that God’s way is the one and only way?
God’s one and only way is the way of revelation — a revelation way. “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal.1:11-12). There can be no doubt about it; whatever Paul had to say in the gospel, he received it by revelation of Jesus Christ. Paul makes the same points in Ephesians 3:3-5, only more extensively. Here he states twice (v. 3,5) that the apostolic message was a revealed message. Further, he shows (v. 4) that by reading what they have to say we can understand this revelation. The quibbles about not understanding is just someone wanting some one else to think that he cannot understand the Scripture, or so it seems to me. God either gave a revelation which
I can understand, or he made my salvation depend upon the understanding of others. Can you believe that?
The revelation itself plainly warns as to the consequences of a perversion of or a departure from the revelation (Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Jn.9). Such perversion or departure clearly separates us from God. There appears to have always been efforts to pervert the gospel; but the last few years has seen a flood of such efforts, especially efforts that would justify immorality whether intended or not! When Jesus said, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20), he was speaking of the standard of life. Brethren and friends, we need to raise our standard, instead of lowering it. Whether the standard sounds “too hard” or “too easy,” it must be presented plainly and without efforts to cushion it for anyone. And, it must be respected, by all, in the same way (Phil. 1:27; Jude 3).
In the context of the above thoughts, all of us need to take a new look at the subject of “liberalism.” What is the difference in an individual being liberal in reference to the organization or work of the church and another individual being liberal in morals? If one is soul-destructive, so is the other; and, if one is acceptable to God, so is the other. If not, why not? We all need to learn the needed lesson of being guided solely by God’s one and only way of revelation. Do you believe that God’s one and only way is the way of revelation?
God’s one and only way of revelation is one of inspiration. For the Old Testament, Peter argues that “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). Paul affirms the same for the New Testament, “It is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Eph. 3:5). It is not only the ideas that are inspired, but the very words. Jesus promised the apostles that the Holy Spirit would teach them all things, bring to their remembrance the things he had said to them, and would guide them into all truth (Jn. 14:26; 16:13). Now, “Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual words” (1 Cor. 2:13). Paul then proceeds to limit us to “that which is written” (1 Cor. 4:6). This is verbal inspiration! Ideas are important, but it takes words to express those ideas. Inspiration chose just the right words to have the writers say exactly what God wanted said. This is also affirmed in a passage which we already mentioned — 2 Timothy 3:16-17. A world or a people without revelation is lost! However, a world or a people that reject revelation is just as lost. Do you believe that God’s one and only way of revelation is one of inspiration — a revealed way?
God’s one and only way of revelation and inspiration is one of confirmation. That is, it is a proven way; proven by God. After the ascension of Jesus, those who went everywhere preaching were “confirming the word with signs following” (Mk. 16:20). These were the signs of an apostle (2 Cor. 12:12) that were used for this confirmation (proof). These words of salvation were, “first spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will” (Heb. 2:3-4). John tells us that the miracles of Jesus were performed and recorded as evidence that Jesus was who he claimed to be — the Son of God (Jn. 20:30-31). Herein is the difference between the gospel and the message of men — the gospel was confirmed by God to be right; then, the blood of his Son gave the gospel its eternal weight (Mat. 26:28). The Psalmist expressed it like this, “For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven” (Psa. 119:89). Do you believe that God’s one and only way of revelation and inspiration is also one of confirmation — has been proven by God to be right?
Some final points relating to God’s way. Anyone believing the above four points concerning God’s way, will be willing to accept whatever that revelation says on any subject. How may I know a thing is right? If it comes from heaven (God), it is right. That has always been the dividing line between right and wrong, between truth and error (Matt. 16:13-17; 21:23-25). However, how may I know if a thing is from God? The simple answer is — if it is in the written word, I know it is from God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Rom. 1:17; Jn. 5:39; Rom. 10:1-3). This is a fact not accepted by a great many people today. When all is said and done, I still have no way on the face of this earth to know whether a thing is from God or not except to find it in the written word. If it is there, I know it is from him! If it is not there, it is not from him!
This revelation is God’s final message to man; it was to be preached until the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). Prophets, angels, or servants could not be trusted with this final message; only his Son was up to the task (Heb. 1:1-2a). He was the Word made flesh (Jn. 1:14), and to see him was to see the Father (Jn. 14:9). He shed the form of deity and took on the form of a servant (Phil. 2:6-7); yet, all the fullness of the Godhead, bodily, was in him (Col. 2:9). Think of this exalted Being, the Son of God Most High, taking upon himself the dirty and filthy task of cleansing you and me from our sins. This is the one whom God sent to deliver this revelation to man; he is the spokesman through whom God speaks to man, and no other. Don’t you think it is time that we all listen? What he had to say has now been written down and proven to be right (Heb. 2:3-4) by those who personally heard him. John simply said, “We are of God: he that knowth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 Jn. 4:6). Jesus had earlier said to his disciples, “He that heareth you heareth me” (Lk. 10:14). Then there is the question Jesus offered in Luke 6:46, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” He has the words of eternal life (Jn. 6:66-68); and, we have no right to question his way for us (Rom. 9:20-21). There is no appeal from his word, it is forever settled in heaven (Psa. 119:89). We may reject or ignore God’s revelation. We may pervert or depart from it; and, we may do any or all these things in this life — we are creatures of choice. However, we cannot change the fact that we shall be judged by him and his word shall be the standard of that judgment (Jn. 12:48; Rom. 2:16).
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 2, p. 22
January 21, 1993