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Critical Truths About The Scriptures Everyone Should Know Introduction This message is entitled "Critical Truths About the Scriptures Everyone Should Know." These critical truths will be taught through an historical drama told from the Old Testament. The main characters of our historical drama are little known or not known at all. Allow me to introduce them to you. First, there is the prophet Jeremiah. He is sometimes called “the weeping prophet” because of his tears that he shed over the city of Jerusalem and its citizens. As a prophet of God, Jeremiah experienced very little in worldly success. He had few followers. He was rarely heeded. He was certainly no Billy Graham! Another character in this drama is Jeremiah's faithful assistant and scribe, a man named Baruch. I will have a little more to say about him in the coming pages. A third character is King Jehoiakim. He was an evil king of Jerusalem, but a son of good and godly king Josiah. He reigned as king over Jerusalem for about 11 years. Our drama takes place over the course of 9-23 months (Jer 36:1, 9), from 605-604 BC. Finally, there is Michaiah, the son of Gemariah. He is a good man from a good family who is well known and respected amongst the leaders of Jerusalem. While there are also several minor characters, it is the interaction between the four main characters that provide us the great truths of the story. But alas! There is One more main character, who cannot be left out: God Himself! As this history plays out, what comes to the forefront are Critical Truths About the Scriptures That Everyone Should Know. Our drama takes place in Jeremiah 36. Jer 36:1-4 -- And it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that this word came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin. Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah: and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book. Let’s notice first The Critical Truth of Its Composition Jer 36:1-4 Method The opening verses in this passage importantly illustrate the method God used to compose the Bible for us. The Bible teaches that It is inspired and that Its inspiration is verbal and plenary. Let's take a closer look at those three important words (verbal, plenary inspiration). Inspiration The word “inspiration” comes from a Greek word that means “God breathed.” While a poet like Shakespeare may claim inspiration for his works that come from an active imagination or a powerful set of experiences, the Bible teaches of Itself that Its inspiration comes from God, and not any of the earthly writers that God used to give us His word. The classic text in the Bible about its own inspiration is found in the New Testament. 2Tim 3:16 -- All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: Inspiration. God-breathed. All scripture is breathed out by God. Notice these phrases from Jer 36:1-4: “this word came unto Jeremiah from the LORD,” “I have spoken unto thee,” “I spake unto thee,” “the words of the LORD, which he had spoken.” Jeremiah is careful to point out that these words were inspired by God. Verbal Inspiration It is also important to note that the Bible teaches that the very words themselves are from God, and not just the concepts, topics, or doctrines. God did not just have Jeremiah write any old sentiment about these events: He actually told him what words to use. The very words of the Bible are God’s words. “Verbal Inspiration” refers to the very words themselves being inspired by God. Plenary Inspiration Verse two mentions “all the words.” That is important, because the Bible also teaches plenary inspiration. The word plenary means “full” or “complete.” Jeremiah held nothing back, nor did he add to any of God’s words. He said “...all the words...” and implying “only the words” that God had said. Verbal, plenary inspiration. All three of those words are important. They describe the type of inspiration the Bible assigns to Itself. Verbal - referring to the words, not just the topics Plenary - all of it Inspiration - God-breathed, and not from any imagination of man An Illustration of Verbal, Plenary Inspiration in this Story Notice verse 4. How did Baruch write the words of Jeremiah? Jeremiah spoke, Baruch wrote! Baruch wrote what Jeremiah said. He wrote all of what Jeremiah said. He wrote only what Jeremiah said! That is the perfect illustration of verbal, plenary inspiration! What Baruch did for Jeremiah is exactly what all of the human writers of Scripture did for God Himself! How did Jeremiah get his words from God? Sometimes God spoke audibly so that Jeremiah could hear. Other times, God spoke to his mind, so he knew exactly what God wanted. Yet still other times, God superintended that the vocabulary, experiences and memories of Jeremiah (and the rest of His penmen) were such that the exact words chosen by Jeremiah (and the rest of His penmen) were exactly the words that God wanted written. Whatever method God chose to use, every word and all the words of our Bible are God’s words. Purpose The Purpose of Coming Judgment Jeremiah was ministering in dark days indeed! The mighty army of the empire of Babylon was either on its way to lay siege to the city of Jerusalem, or perhaps the Babylonian army was already there. [Historical Note: this would be the attack on Jerusalem that eventually sent Daniel and his three Hebrew friends to Babylon.] Either way, the certainty of God’s judgment upon the nation of Judah was obvious for all who would look. The Bible is no different today, for it has a message of certain judgment for all who would hear its words. The Bible says that Rom 3:23 -- For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. There is no uncertainty nor ambiguity there. Or how about John 3:18 -- He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Frightful words indeed are these: “condemned already.” Condemnation is not just a future certainty, it is a present certainty for those who do not believe “in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” In Jeremiah's day, there was a group composed of many religious leaders who did not believe that God's judgment was coming. They completely rejected His message of coming judgment, and were declaring no coming judgment for God’s people even while Nebuchadnezzar was leading his troops into the hills of Judea. Coming judgment was certain and evident, but ignored. God’s coming judgment is just as certain today as it was in Jeremiah’s day. But how do people respond? “I don’t believe that.” “I have plenty of time.” “Not today: maybe later.” There are a lot of ways people ignore the truth of coming judgment. But any of these reactions are simply a rejection of this truth: one of the purposes of God’s inspired words is to warn us of coming judgment. The Purpose of Possible Forgiveness But while God’s judgment is certain, God’s purpose of an inspired word is also to show us the possibility of forgiveness. Notice again that possibility found in verse 3, “that they may return every man from his evil way” and “forgive their iniquity and their sin.” Those who would respond in repentance and faith would find spiritual forgiveness for their sins. John 3:16 is sometimes described as "The Gospel in a Nutshell." John 3:16 -- For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Is it the most famous verse in the Bible? Probably. Is it the most important verse in the Bible? Again, probably. No other verse so succinctly captures the glory of the gospel in so few words! The righteous Old Testament person would look forward to the coming of Jesus on the cross to pay for his sin. The righteous New Testament person is saved the same way, except that we look backward to the coming of Jesus on the cross to pay for our sin. It is faith in Christ's finished work on the cross that allows God's grace of forgiveness to go to work on our behalf. And whosoever exercises faith in Christ has everlasting life. The method of God's inspiration of the Bible is inspiration. The purpose of God's inspiration of the Bible is salvation. It is critical for us to grasp this composition of God's word. The Critical Truth of Its Proclamation Jer 36:5-10 One Denied Jeremiah was not a coward. Throughout his book, he is portrayed as a faithful spokesman for God. He is never popular; he is never accepted; he is never heeded; he is frequently maligned; yet he is faithful to proclaim all of God's truth of the impending judgment. So when we are told in v5 that he is unable to go to the house of the Lord to proclaim this particular message, we have to be content with not knowing the reason. We should not guess cowardice! He was simply denied by God to go. One Sent Jeremiah sent Baruch to proclaim the new message of God. He did so faithfully and accurately. Take note that he simply read Jeremiah's (God's!) message to the people. That way he would not make any mistakes. One Sent Again Nearly a year passes from v8 to v9 (again, compare Jer 36:1 with Jer 36:9). It would appear Jeremiah is still unable to present this message publicly. Now an official fast has been declared (probably because of the Babylonian troops just outside the walls of Jerusalem, laying siege to the City of God), and Baruch is still Jeremiah's spokesman to deliver this message. Baruch again reads the words, accurately proclaiming God's message to these people. The Babylonian army has surrounded Jerusalem, and cut off all of her supplies from the outside world. It would be a dark time indeed; and a time when it would have been absolutely critical for God's words to be faithfully proclaimed. One Still Sent In the New Testament era, God raised up a very small group of men to be His apostles. These men fulfilled a specific set of requirements (that we are unable to fulfill today), were called by God, and sent as His representatives to carry the message of the Bible to others. I remember hearing a sermon where the preacher held up a penny and said something to the effect that "this penny represents the New Testament apostles then and us today. It is one cent. They were each one sent. And today, each of us are one sent to represent Christ." While the specific office of New Testament apostle has closed (because we cannot meet all of the requirements to become an apostle), truly we are all "one still sent" by the Savior to proclaim these critical truths of the Bible to a lost and dying world. The Critical Truth of Its Reception Jer 36:11-18 We Are Personally Responsible to Accept God’s Word by Faith Baruch read Jeremiah's message in the Temple (v10). He read it "in the ears of all the people." That suggests a crowd. And in this crowd, a man named Michaiah (v11) is singled out in the story. Why? He believed what Baruch read from Jeremiah. Michaiah reminds us that even in a crowd, individual hearers are called to be responsible for the message of God. While God's message can be proclaimed universally, it must be received personally. We Are Personally Responsible for the Truth that We Hear I love this. Michaiah hears God's words, and he immediately acts upon them. He gathers a small group of what I have referred to as "minor characters" to hear what Baruch was reading from Jeremiah. They have gathered in "the scribe's chamber" of "the king's house." While the group is small, they are obviously influential men. Based on other sections of Jeremiah, those in spiritual leadership of the people in Jerusalem were telling the citizenry not to fear the Babylonian army outside of its city walls. They were telling the people that God was about to grant a miraculous deliverance. They were telling the people that they were all fine. They were telling the people that God was not angry with them over their sin; that, in fact, they were not sinners! Michaiah has heard the truth that judgment was coming unless God's people repented of their sins (v2-3, 7). He has believed the truth and recognizes it must be acted upon. He gathers a small group of "movers and shakers" that must hear this word. He has become personally responsible for the truth that he has heard. He is acting on it! In the New Testament, James likens the Bible to a mirror. James 1:22-25 -- But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. Truth learned should be truth acted upon. Just like you wash the smudges off of your face once you see them, you act on God's truths once you hear them. Micahaiah did, and so should we. We Are Personally Responsible to Pass On What We Know After this group has heard from Michaiah, they call for Baruch (v14) and he comes and verifies the message (v15). And now they all decide that the king needs to hear these words. Did you see the flow of information? Jeremiah receives the words from God. Baruch faithfully records them, and delivers the message publicly. Micahaiah hears these words and passes them on to his small but influential group of friends. And now, after having confirmation from Baruch, this group decides that Jehoiakim the king needs to hear the message. Consider 1 Peter 3:15 -- But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Or 2Tim 2:2 -- And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Christians are personally responsible to pass on what we know to be true. The Critical Truths of Its Rejection Jer 36:19-26 At this point in our drama, Michaiah's small group of influencers tell Baruch (and Jeremiah) to hide (v19). The reason becomes clear. King Jehoiakim is about to reject this word from God. Michaiah's group fears for the lives of Baruch and Jeremiah. It turns out they were right (v26). The king is convinced to read the message from Baruch. He does so in his winterhouse (v22). What a cozy picture is presented for the reader! The king is in his easy chair, sitting by the fire, listening as one of his attendants (Jehudi - v21, ff.) reads to him from Jeremiah's writings. Jehudi would read a little bit of the message to the king, and then pass the written message itself to him for personal examination. And then the unthinkable happened. There in that fabulously cozy scene, Jehoiakim unsheathed his small penknife, and literally cut Jeremiah's message into itty-bitty little pieces. Those pieces were then tossed right into the fire. Two of Michaiah's influencers (minor characters Elnathan and Delaiah - v25) try to stop the king from this sacrilegious action. But the king will have none of that. He was rejecting God's words, and wanted to make it quite evident by destroying God's words. You and I may not go to the same extreme in rejecting God's word in our life as taking our Bible and tossing it into the fire. But do we reject it? Four Ways we can reject the Word of God We can reject its divine authorship, placing it simply on the level with the finest literature of history. You see, I do not have to agree with the philosophy of Shakespeare or Hawthorne! If I reject God's authorship of the Bible, it can be fine moral teachings, but not necessarily fine moral teachings for me. We can reject the Word of God by ignoring it in our life. Just like those famous three monkeys, we can choose to "see no truth, hear no truth, speak no truth"!! We can reject it by never using it, even if we say that we love it. How much better is a person with a brand new copy of a Bible that is 25 years old, then a man who has never owned a copy? We can reject it by “amen”ing the preacher on Sunday but living like the devil the rest of the week! May we never be guilty of passively cutting the Bible up and then tossing it out of our lives! The Critical Truth of Its Preservation Jer 36:27-32 Jehoiakim has cut up and burned God's Word. Now it is gone, never to return; or is it? Is it that easy to rid the world of the Word of God? God Promised To Preserve the Book of Jeremiah As it turns out, while Jehoiakim destroyed the original and only manuscript of Jeremiah's message, God saw to it to reproduce it. God told Jeremiah to Jer 36:28 -- Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned. So Jer 36:32 -- Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words. The process was exactly the same. God told Jeremiah the words. Jeremiah spoke them to Baruch. Baruch wrote them down in the scroll. All of them. Every single one of them. So that when Jeremiah and Baruch were finished, they had completed an exact replica of the original message. Except God was not yet finished with the Book of Jeremiah. As you can tell by casually flipping through a few more pages of your Bible, Jeremiah's book does not end at chapter 36. There are still 16 more chapters to go! So not only did Jehoiakim not destroy Jeremiah's past work, he could not stop Jeremiah's future work. God preserved the Book of Jeremiah. God Has Promised To Preserve The Entire Bible It is not just the Book of Jeremiah that God has preserved. He has preserved the entire Bible. I know that because He has promised to preserve the entire Bible. Note these key verses: Psalms 12:6-7 -- The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. Isaiah 40:8 -- The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. Psalms 119:89-90 -- For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth. Matthew 5:18 -- For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Matthew 24:35 -- Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. 1 Peter 1:25 -- But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. You may ask, "Does God really preserve His word miraculously?" Have I got a story to tell you! In 1526, William Tyndale produced the first English translation of the Bible to be printed on a printing press. This new version was hated by the Roman Catholic Church and in particularly by the Bishop of London. The Bishop wanted to kill Tyndale and destroy his Bible. A man named John Packington, who knew the Bishop and his hatred of the Tyndale translation, but who was also secretly a friend of Tyndale, went to the Bishop of London and told him he knew how to get all of Tyndale’s Bibles. The Bishop told him to get them and that he would gladly pay whatever they cost. The Bishop of London promised to buy them with the intention of burning them at Paul’s Cross Cathedral in London. Packington then went to Tyndale and told him of the deal he had made with the Bishop. Tyndale responded by saying that he knew the Bishop would burn his Bibles. However, printing the Bibles had left Tyndale deeply indebted. He desperately needed money. Tyndale decided to sell the Bibles to the Bishop of London. He saw this as a blessing from God. Why? First, he would have the opportunity to correct translation errors before these faulty texts were delivered to the public. In other words, it was part of the process of God preserving His words, and letting the devil pay to erase a poor translation. Secondly, when the people of England saw the Bishop of London burning the Word of God they would become enraged. That would further ingratiate Tyndale to the people of England. Finally, Tyndale could use the money to not only pay his way out of debt, but also fund the printing of a larger production run of Bibles. In fact, Tyndale would print three times more Bibles than he sold to the Bishop! Some time later, when some of Tyndale’s associates were arrested and asked where they received the money to print their Bibles, they answered that the money came from the Bishop of London. Talk about the providence and preservation of God! Conclusion The Bible is God's Word. As such, it is critical that we understand these truths about it. Never forget these critical truths about the Bible: Its Composition: It is Inspired by God; It is His words, not man's words. Its Proclamation: It is to be proclaimed by His people. Its Reception: It should be heard, believed, and acted upon. Its Rejection: Some will not believe it, and seek to do away with it in their lives. Its Preservation: God has promised to preserve His written word forever. What will you do with these truths?