Paul had just lambasted the Jews for their hypocrisy and heresy. He knew, from experience, how they highly esteemed their ancestry, and their rites and ceremonies. But for the most part, when it came to spiritual realities they were empty husks. “Ye CANNOT serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.” And once again God was in the process of consumption.
But in the light of that, does it mean that there were no advantages to being a Jew? There were, and have always been, blessings and advantages to being members of God’s chosen nation. And the first of them all was their possession of the oracles of God. Perhaps among the Greeks, the word “oracle” might have had superstitious importance, but as Paul was using the word, it didn’t. The only thing that he was saying was that to Israel was given the revelation of God – the Word of God.
And in Paul’s day that made Israel very, very special. But today that significance has dissolved away to a great degree. There is not a person in North America, today, who doesn’t have the opportunity to possess more of the Word of God than the Jews had in Paul’s day. That doesn’t mean that the same privilege is to be found universally around the world, but in the area of revelation there is no advantage at all to being a Jew – at least in this country. In many Muslim, Hindu and atheistic countries the Bible is rare, but not so in this country.
What a blessing it is to own a copy of the Word of the Lord. What a blessing is deliberately neglected and avoided by so many of our neighbors, because they have turned their backs on the revelation which God has so graciously given to us. What a terrible criminal act has been committed against us by those who have corrupted the Word of God with their various perversions. What treason it is for churches to neglect the thorough and systematic teaching of the Bible.
This afternoon, I would like to take Paul’s thought and use it to publicly praise God for His Word. Baptists are sometimes said be guilty of “Bibliolatry” – that we worship the Bible. The accusation is laid at our feet because we love the Word of the Lord, but it’s an unjust accusation. We are like Paul here – we are simply acknowledging that the oracles of God are among the chiefest of God’s blessings. The Bible is a joy and rejoicing to our hearts, because the Lord of Hosts has been gracious toward us. We love the Word of the God because we love the Lord. We love the voice of the God who loves us, and we yearn to hear it.
I would like to simply lift my voice in thanksgiving and praise this afternoon. And I’d like you to join me in that praise. Over the years I have been given hundreds of books, and I’ve tired to express my thanks for them all. But the book which has been of the greatest value to me has undoubtedly been my Bible. So I praise the Lord for His great gift.
Permit me to point out five characteristics that are praiseworthy about this Book. But I’d like to turn them all backwards and inside out, as I think that you’ll see. I don’t know where I found this outline, but I have had it a along time, and it certainly didn’t originate with me, but I pray that the Lord will use it once again.
The Bible is a book without a name; IT IS NAMELESS.
I know that on the cover of most Bibles we can read the words “Holy Bible.” I certainly have no quarrel with that, and I wouldn’t change a syllable. Most people understand the word “holy,” but is the meaning of “Bible?” It’s like “oracles” of God – “logion” (log’-ee-on) is one term which simply means – “word” – “word of God.” The word “Bible” – a different word, was kidnaped from the Greek language and simply means “book.” “Biblos” is the first word of the Greek New Testament – “The Book of the Generation of Jesus Christ.” Jerome called the Bible: “Bibliotheca Divina” – “The Divine Library.” This book is “THE Book” of all books ever written and published.
But why doesn’t this Book have a name like other books have? Well, I don’t have the definitive answer, but I think it is because it doesn’t need one. It doesn’t need to be distinguished from other books by some special name. I have just published my fifth book, and one of my final tasks was to come up with a catchy title. Ultimately I settled on “Grace, to the Third and Fourth Generation.” It needed a title to set it apart from the millions of other, better books. But the Bible is distinguished by its contents, its Author, its purpose and it’s accomplishments. All other books need titles to distinguish them from the first and foremost of all books.
Years ago, when I was working at the Mall, there was a huge three-ring binder on the file cabinet in my office. And there was another just like it in the Maintenance office and another in the Manager’s office. I was in the Maintenance room one day after we had hired a new supervisor for that department, I saw a note on that three-ringed binder that read: “Clancy, this is your Bible.” The word “Bible” always catches attention, especially in a secular context like that. It suggests that this book is important; it may be fundamental. I looked at the first page of that so-called “Bible.” The actual title of that massive publication was: “Operations Manual, Silver Lake Mall.” That may be the book on Mall procedure and management, but it’s not the Bible. Oh, and by the way, it was in a loose-leaf binder, because it was changed from time to time. The corporate headquarters periodically decided that certain things could be improved or clarified. But God’s Bible never changes. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but (God’s) words shall (never) pass away.”
Years ago, when I still owned a rifle, I bought a copy of a book called: “The Hunter’s Bible.” I’ve seen copies of “bibles” for dozens of other special interest groups. And they’ve all had qualifying words added to their titles: “The Hunter’s Bible” or “The Fisherman’s Bible.” But this Bible, the TRUE Bible, needs no adjective to explain whose Bible it is and what Bible it is. And rarely will you hear me call this book “The HOLY Bible.” For me that is a given; its a predetermined conclusion – it is God’s Word, so of course it is holy.
God’s Word is “THE” Book, the only one that any soul ever needs.
And I say “ANY soul,” because this is a Book without a Country; IT IS COUNTRY-LESS.
It has appeal to Americans, Canadians, Latin Americans, Philippinos, Chinese, Russians, and Africans. And this is true, because it is divinely used to dig deeper than any surface skin or secular culture. “It is piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit” – right down where all men are exactly alike.
When missionaries were translating and printing the Book of Luke for Tahitians, the native printers kept stopping the presses in order to read the pages. After long delays and the printing was completed, the natives demanded the Word before it could be bound. Reluctantly the missionaries gave in, thinking that their work probably would be destroyed. Then people themselves used the skins of animals to preserve and protect God’s Word. The Word of God reached the hearts of the Tahitians. Jacob Chamberlain, was a missionary in India. At one new mission point he began to teach the Book of Romans. After several lessons, the most intelligent man in his first class, a Brahman, said to the missionary. “That book was written by a Hindu. It describes us exactly.” The Bible is a book without a country.
Missionary E.W. Burt was a pioneer Baptist in Shantung province in China. As he pushed his way further into an area he’d never visited before, he expected to find heathenism of the most degrading variety, but instead he found a chapel filled with people ready to hear the Gospel. Three years before, one of their people had been given a Bible in Chinese, and he had taken it home, stirring the hearts of his neighbors. The Bible is book for the Chinese. James Barton gave a Turkish Mohammedan a Bible on the condition that he read it. A year later he saw the man again and asked him if he had read it. “Yes, I have read it four times, and it gets hold of me every time – right here” as he pointed to his heart.
Most religious books are provincial – regional. They appeal to a certain people in a certain place. A perfect example is the Quran, which has had little appeal in North America until one of their missionaries interprets it. But the true Scripture appeals to people everywhere, with or without explanation.
This doesn’t mean that it’s not filled with Palestinian geography and ancient history. It is helpful to know and to study that geography and history. But what provincial restrictions are there in John 3:16, Psalm 23 or Romans 10:13 – “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” God’s word says that any repentant believer, from any country or tribe of people, is a citizen of Heaven.
Pick up the Bible and let it pour it’s universal contents into your soul.
The Bible is also a stationless Book – a classless – a CASTELESS BOOK.
There is ready material here for every group or kind of people in the world. It deals with woman’s issues, teenage problems, the highly educated, the lowly educated, the uneducated. It speaks to the poor and downtrodden, and lifts them up. It has a word of exhortation to the rich and to powerful – to bring them down. It is water for a thirsty soul and food for the spiritual starving.
What I am saying is that the Bible has a message for you, no matter who you are. It has a message for the relatively sinful and the horribly sinful. For the disgustingly sinful there is a Gospel of forgiveness and hope. For the proud and self-righteous there is a message of condemnation and restoration. For the Christian, who has already started down the narrow path that leadeth into Heaven, the Word is a “lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.”
David Raimes went AWOL from Marines in 1972. When Raimes reached Boston, he began selling drugs, stealing cars and using stolen credit cards. He was a lecherous womanizer; throwing women away like trash when someone else appealed to him. Finally he was caught and convicted of being an accessory to murder. He was sentenced to 20 years in Walpole State Prison in Massachusetts. At one point, through some infractions of Prison rules, Raimes was sentenced to 15 days in isolation. The only thing that he could take with him was a Bible, if he wanted one. Just for fun, he took it and began laughingly to read it. But by the end of the first day, things were reversed – it was reading and exposing him. On the 14th day of his solitary confinement, he was trusting Christ as Lord and Saviour. The message of God’s Book reaches Kings, like Agrippa, and Governors, like Sergius Paulus. It smites criminals and Philippian jailors alike.
The Bible cuts across all human lines, and its very nature pleads: “read me, read me.”
And the Oracles of God are TIMELESS as well.
The Bible is timeless as far history is concerned, beginning at the beginning and ending at uncompletable. As best sellers, some books have had their day and then lost them. The Bible is said to be the very best selling book of all the best sellers. In quantity sold the Bible should not be compared to any other book; there is no comparison. Its time is still now and always will be now; it sells and sells and will sell until that day in which the written word is swallowed up by the glorious presence of the living Word.
As a miracle of God, the Bible has been preserved timelessly. Popes and princes have periodically done what they could to root out this leaven – this true leaven. They have burned its pages, its copies, its penmen, and its possessors. But for every copy lost, there have been a hundred more produced. There once was a day in England, when people relinquished their Bibles to the government and the state church for money, which they then used to print more copies of the Bible than they gave up. “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but word of our God shall stand forever.” “The Word of the Lord enduerth for ever.” “For ever O, Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.”
You might as well learn the message of God’s book today and save your life and soul. Because you will eventually learn it, although perhaps after the time of possible salvation. “The dead small and great shall stand before God, and the books shall be opened.” There is a very good likelihood that one of the books opened shall be the Word God.The influence of the Bible is timeless; that is – it is eternal.
And one more thing, The Book of God is PRICELESS.
David the Psalmist said, “The Law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.” “It is sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.” The Bible is priceless because it is the only book ever written by God Himself. The autograph of famous people can bring a lot of money to collectors. A signed first edition of some great books can be almost priceless. But who is more famous and more important than the Lord Himself. I believe that the Bible is God’s entirely, with every word inspired by the Holy Spirit – the third person of the Trinity. Some people have “Dalmatian versions of the Bible” with the inspiration of God coming out only in spots. I pity those people, for they can never know for sure what is God’s and what man’s. But I know what is the revelation of God to me: It is this entire book. And it is entirely trustworthy because it is entirely inerrant. As helpful as the knowledge of Greek and Hebrew might be in understanding the Bible, God has preserved His Word in the King James Bible and proven that to be true. This is a priceless book, because, among other things, it is trustworthy.
And it is priceless because the Bible contains a river of blood from the wounded side of Christ. God’s Word has two or three themes which can be seen interwoven from Genesis to Revelation. One is the majesty and holiness of God, and certainly another is the operation of grace in salvation. “In (Christ the Son of God) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” “It is the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, which cleanseth us from our sin.” “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Where every social improvement and act of man eventually fails, the blood of Christ eternally prevails. The blood of Christ is like a crimson thread that runs from Genesis 3 to the end of Revelation.
Again, where do we find the cup that holds that blood? It is not some silver or golden challis held in priestly hands. I Peter 1:18 – “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
No one can throw aside God’s word and honestly claim to be a child of that same God. It is only though Christ that we can come unto the Father. And it is only through the Bible that we can know and trust Christ. Without faith it is impossible to please God, and “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”
Just as Paul exalts the oracles of God, I lift up the Bible before you. I exhort you to throw down any and all other literature – if those books draw your eyes from the Lord. In the pages of God’s Word we see the Son of that same God – high and lifted up. “Oh, worship the king all glorious above…. In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail: Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end! Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer and Friend.”
John Burton died in 1822. Before his passing he wrote one of the hymns which is now in our song book. “Holy Bible, book Divine, Precious treasure, thou art mine; Mine to tell me whence I came; Mine to teach me what I am. Mine to chide me when I rove, Mine to shew a Saviour’s love; Mine art thou to guide my feet; Mine to judge, condemn, acquit. Mine to comfort in distress, If the Holy Spirit bless; Mine to shew by living faith, Man can triumph over death. Mine to tell of joys to come, And the rebel sinner’s doom; Holy Bible, book Divine, Precious treasure, thou art mine.”