The necessity of the Scriptures

November 20, 2013 | Pr. Finny Samuel |

Why was the scripture necessary? While God could've revealed His truth to man orally, why did He facilitate a written revelation?

The Holy Bible is the way God made a statement to humanity about its fallen state and the way of redemption from that state.  This statement by God was a necessary, sufficient, rational, and authoritative mode of communication to generations after generations. The innate behavior of the fallen man to distort an oral comprehension of the divine truth necessitated a written revelation to teach the human generations about the depth of the sacred word of God.

The topic of necessity of the inscribed Word of God is, unfortunately, a topic that is discussed rarely. Many theologians talk about the necessity of the divine revelation, but that topic is different from the necessity of Scriptures because not all revelations are inscribed. The written word of God does not comprise the totality of divine revelations (John. 20:30). It is important, however, for a Bible student to understand the necessity of the scriptural form of the Word of God.

Definition of Necessity

The dictionary defines Necessity as “the fact of being required or indispensable” which implies that it is the situation that is bound by some constrained circumstances. Necessities are distinguished from wants because a deficiency would cause a clear negative outcome.

In his epistle, Jude says (verse 3) “It was needful (necessary) to exhort you” to contend earnestly — It means otherwise our contention will only hurt our cause, if not destroy, our soul. The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature defines the Greek word Jude used for "necessity" in this verse as "compulsion of any kind, outer or inner, brought about by the nature of things, a divine dispensation, some hoped-for advantage, custom, duty, etc.”

Since necessity is bound by constraints, it is very important to understand which constraints lead to the necessity of the Scriptures. The inadequacy which leads to the necessity of meeting the need for instruction in godly living is the self-helpless condition of mankind created in his fall. God is not otherwise compelled or obligated to provide the revelation of eternal salvation. Thus, the necessity of Scripture is a moral necessity of man and not a natural necessity.

God the creator, in his sovereignty, willingly chose to inscribe His Word for man to know God’s saving grace. Man can thus find the only way for his redemption from the otherwise unavoidable fate of eternal death since Man is unable to communicate to or comprehend God otherwise.

Necessity due to the Presence of the Image of God in Man

Lewis Sperry Chafer suggests in his "Systematic Theology" that one of the factors for the necessity of the Scripture is the fact that man is made in God's own image. The image of God in mankind endows man the capacity to commune with God and in due time God's disclosure about the divine truths would allow the man to exercise the competency to respond to God's path for eternal Salvation. Rene Pache also suggests that since man is created in His image, it makes mankind the unique creatures that can love and glorify God and respond to Him.

By virtue of the personhood of God in man, God wishes that man to know Him and have an interpersonal relationship. Proverbs 8.31 suggests that God does delight in the fellowship with mankind. The unique power of Speech to humans facilitates Him to have this personal relationship with God and unless God speaks back to man, this interaction is incomplete. The written word of God is one way that God speaks consistently across the generations of mankind.

Necessity due to the incomprehensibility of God

It is obvious that the finite nature of Man makes it impossible to comprehend the nature of infinite God. Isaiah 55:9 proves this. If the limited mind of man is to conceive the perfection of God, it must come about by God's revelation himself. Hence, as Rom 1:19-21, 1:28 say, despite His incomprehensibility, God is knowable to both believer and unbeliever alike, even though the levels of this knowledge differs drastically. The semantic range of the knowledge levels used in the scriptures can be divided into 4

  • General Knowledge: Superficial or Surface Knowledge - E.g. Level of knowledge of Unbelievers and demons about God. (Rom 1:21, Mark 1:34) Level of knowledge of the priest about the disciple in John 18:15.
  • Intimate Knowledge: Involved Knowledge of Level of Knowledge by Association - E.g. Christ never knew the wicked (Matt 7:23), “the world does not know us” (1 John 3:1), “Adam knew his wife again” (Gen 4:25, NKJV).
  • Saving Knowledge: The level of knowledge by which people know Jesus as their Savior and Lord (John 17:3).
  • Perfect Knowledge: The level of knowledge the three persons of God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) possess about each other.  (Matt 11:27). The level of knowledge Jesus had about Judas and other men (John 13:11, John 2:24).

Since knowledge by natural revelation lacks the efficacy of special revelation, God provided the scripted Word of God as and a surer and more direct means or assistance to discover the divine knowledge for those whom he has ever been pleased to instruct effectually.

Necessity due to the complexity of divine truth

The incomprehensibility of God was applicable to Adam even before his fall from Grace. If humanity needed impartation of knowledge before his fall, how much would he need that after the fall that caused his whole being to be dark? The fall of Adam greatly increased the complexity of God to mankind, though God has never changed. In order to safeguard against the man’s memory loss about the Word of God, the revealed and written scripture is much helpful so that it can be consulted whenever doubt or confusion arises. Since the complexity of the sacred truth has been augmented due to the man’s fall the necessity of a written scripture arises to help the man to keep on the track regardless of his human weakness.

Necessity due to the fall of Man

Due to the total depravity happened at the fall of man, God chose to provide a path of redemption and reconciliation for man in order to restore fellowship between God and humankind. The necessity of the scripture is due to the fact that God appointed so and the man was unable to comprehend the general or natural revelation due to his sin. According to Calvin and Abraham Kuyper, since fallen man tends to forget, make errors and fictions, neglect, and presume the general revelation, the scriptural revelation was put in place to prevent the manipulation of divine truth by human thought and speech.  Kuyper assumes that the 4 characteristics of durability, catholicity, fixedness, and purity of written word are significant in establishing the postulates of the necessity of scriptures.

Since fallen human could corrupt the revelation of God by falsehood due to malfunction of memory, observation, or reasoning, and intentional and unintentional suppression of facts which arises out of the innate antagonism of the sinful nature of man against God, preservation of special revelation is one of the main reasons for inscription.

Deut. 17:18 instructs a King of Israel to create a copy of the Law for himself which suggests that the inscribed word of God is also intended for a group, personal or private meditation, and studying of the instructions from God.

In Isaiah 30:8,  we read that God instructed the prophet to write the Word of God so that it would serve as a witness in the time to come. Hence public attestation is another reason for inscribed Scriptures. The book of Habakkuk also suggests this (Hab. 2:2).

In Jeremiah 36:5-7,  we can see that Scriptures helped in the conveying of God's Word of God even when the prophet himself could not proclaim it.  Both Old Testament saints and New Testament Church are required to read Scriptures publicly (Deut 31:11, 1 Thess. 5:27, Col 4:16, 1 Tim. 4:13, Rev. 1:11) to witness the Word of God. This exposition provides the foundation for knowing and living the will of God.

While written Word of God bears witness to unbelievers and pagans, (Deut 31:19, 2 Kings. 22:16; 2 Chr. 34:24, Jer. 51:59-64) for believers, it serves as the means of restoration in faith, help to be rooted in faith, to know the will of God, assisting to lead a spiritual life, and to remind to obey the God (Neh. 8:8; Ps 119:169, 1 Cor. 14:37; Eph 5:17, 1 Tim. 3:14-15, Ezek. 43:11, Rev 1.:3). Thus, the written revelation serves as a testimony against those who disobey the revealed will of God and as a testimony on behalf of those who obey His Word.

Necessity due to the work of God

God is active and working in the world through the Word by whom everything was created, who spoke to Abraham, Moses, and other prophets, who was embodied in Jesus Christ, who was and is preached by apostles and many evangelists. In Exodus 34:27 it is shown that God uses His word to promulgate the covenant relationship He made with His chosen people. God also uses His Word to confirm its trustworthiness in Isaiah 34:16. In New Testament, both Son and the Father do this several times (Matt 12:3, 5; 19:4; 21:16, 42; 22:31; Mark 2:25; 12:10, 26; Luke 6:3, Rev 21:5). God also works in man to convert him to faith through the Word of God. (Ps 19:7, 2 Timothy 3:15, Rom 16:26; 1 Pet 1:23)

Thus we see that although God was not obligated to do so, due to his very nature it was a moral necessity to make a written the Word of God since the fallen man is unable to understand the truth and tends to corrupt it due to his fallen nature. Therefore, His Word needs to be heard, read, and understood. Without Scripture, humans are left without the means by which God has chosen to work.

References
  • TGSAT Dr Johnson Philip and Dr Saneesh Cherian
  • The Necessity of Scriptures by William D. Barrick
  • John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes (Jude)

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