Jehoiakim’s Penknife

By P. J. Casebolt

Now the king sat in the winter house in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the hearth burning be-fore him. And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth (Jer. 36:22, 23).

God’s word had been revealed through Jeremiah the prophet “against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations” (Jer. 36:2). These words had been written in a book by Baruch the scribe, read “in the ears of all the people” (v. 10), before the princes (v. 15), and finally before the king. The authenticity of this revelation had been well con-firmed and acknowledged. Even after Jehoiakim cut out and burned all of the first book, all of the former words were written again, “and there were added besides unto them many like words” (v. 32). Even the penknives and fires of kings cannot make void the word of God.

Atheists, infidels, and other enemies of the truth have made concentrated efforts to keep all of God’s word out of the ears and hands of the people. Even God’s own people have attempted to discredit or destroy those portions of truth which expose and rebuke their errors. Whether we attempt to destroy the entire text of the Bible at one cutting and burning, or whether we do it piece-meal, “here a little, and there a little” (cf. Isa. 28:10), the end result is still the same.

After leaders of the Reformation had made a successful effort to get the Bible out of the prison bars of Catholicism and back into the hands and vernacular of the people, some of those very same liberators of the printed text borrowed Jehoiakim’s penknife and began cutting on the word of God. That penknife has been used by practically every religious group, and it is still being passed around to-day. When others aren’t using it, God’s own people take turns using it.

Martin Luther excised the entire epistle of James because the text of James 2 did not conform to his doctrine of justification by “faith only.” Luther’s zeal to expose the corrupt works or indulgences of Catholicism caused him to reject even the works of God as “spurious.” The “new hermeneutics” had begun.

Because the text of Mark 16:9-20 was not included in some earlier Greek manuscripts, some have tried to exploit this omission in their efforts to eliminate baptism as being essential to salvation. What James 2:24 did to Luther’s doctrine of faith only, Mark 16:16 did to the enemies of baptism. But as with the subject of faith and works, there are many other passages of Scripture be-sides Mark 16:16 which confirm the importance of baptism with respect to salvation.

In an effort to justify the practice of ordaining women preachers in the Lord’s church, one champion of that practice told me that Paul was a “prejudiced old bachelor that didn’t like women,” and therefore anything he wrote was suspect. Well, that position would eliminate 13 or 14 books of the New Testament, and would probably brand Christ as a “prejudiced old bachelor.”

I hadn’t been preaching long before I experienced my first “baptism” with the marriage, divorce, and remarriage question. Older preachers told me that the question surfaced “about every 20 years or so,” brethren would eventually return to the language of Matthew 19:9, and things would settle down for another 20 years. Since that time, I have decided that a new generation comes along about every 20 years, somebody or somebody’s children get involved in an unscriptural marriage, and new positions on the subject are invented to justify the existing practice.

In this first encounter of mine circa 1950, an influential and respected preacher in the Ohio Valley changed his position on marriage/divorce, preached a special sermon in a meeting at Parkersburg, West Virginia, and concluded that there was no cause for divorce or remarriage. His reasoning was that Matthew 19:9 belonged to the law of Moses, as did everything else in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The next day, I went to his study and reasoned with him about that portion of these epistles which we call the Great Commission. Should we leave this out of our preaching? He conceded that he and others may encounter some “in-consistencies” with this new position, but those would have to be worked out.

This preacher was much older and more experienced than was I, but I wanted to know the truth, and what I should do. Some were influenced by his teaching, some “came out of the closet” who already held that position, but in fairness to this preacher and his memory (he still lives the last I heard), he renounced his newly acquired doctrine and short foraywith Jehoiakim’s penknife, and returned to Matthew 19:9 as the pivotal passage on marriage, divorce, and remarriage.

My last encounter with Jehoiakim’s penknife came as I was trying to reason with a brother about the function of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as members of the Godhead (1 John 5:7, 8). I do not know where this brother got his information, but his understanding was that this passage of Scripture was not inspired. If this is true, what about Mat-thew 28:18-20, and the charge of Jesus to baptize “them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (v. 19)? Or, when Paul (that “prejudiced old bachelor”), tells us that “the unity of the Spirit” includes “one Spirit,” “one Lord,” and “one God and Father” (Eph. 4:1-6), is this passage also uninspired? Why must we feel called upon to use Jehoiakim’s penknife in order to advocate some position with reference to the Godhead? Since some brethren have already cut out Matthew-John to justify some position on divorce, Paul’s epistles have been assigned to the ramblings of a prejudiced old bachelor that didn’t like women, and the rest of the Bible has been cut out by some-one else, that only leaves me, 1 John, so I think that I will hold onto it for awhile.

If we attempt to understand and apply a passage of Scripture while at the same time acknowledging that it is inspired, that is one thing; to reject the inspiration of the Bible in order to defend some doctrine or practice of human origin is another thing entirely.

Jehoiakim has long since departed this world, but his penknife was not interred with his bones.

Guardian of Truth XLI: 21 p. 22-23
November 6, 1997