Date: October 9, 1930?
Thy Word is truth. – John 17:17
CAN an enlightened, modern American mind still believe in the Bible? Can we still hold that Scripture is what it claims to be, namely, the inerrant, complete, and inspired revelation of God to mankind; or must we join the increasing ranks of those who reject the Bible as a disappointing relic of a superstitious age, now happily removed by the tremendous conquests of human learning? Is the holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, upon which hundreds of millions of human beings down through the ages have based their hope for time and for eternity, still the power of God unto salvation, or is it simply tradition? Is the Bible merely human, or is it gloriously divine?
In answering this alternative (which, I pause to remind you, is the basic issue in the religious battle now being waged in our country), we declare our conviction that the Bible is the Word of Truth and Power. We believe that this position, far from being mere sentimentality, is based upon the most conclusive evidence and that the case of the Scriptures in our modern day rests upon reasons so convincing and considerations so forceful that, unless the investigator is hopelessly biased and permanently prejudiced, he must come to the realization that the Bible today is what it professes to be, namely, the power of God unto salvation, earth’s highest truth, heaven’s perfect verity.
THE SCRIPTURES CLAIM TO BE THE TRUTH.
There is, first of all, the testimony of the Bible concerning itself, certainly the most direct and definite evidence. Here we are confronted with the unavoidable fact that the Holy Scriptures, as no other book, claim to be the literal Word of God,—“Thy Word,” as Jesus calls it in our text, taken from the sacred intimacies of His high-priestly prayer. We are assured that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God”; we read in thousands of passages, “Thus saith the Lord”; we find Holy Writ again and again called “the Word of God”; in short, thousands of Bible statements definitely and repeatedly claim that, unlike the 12,000,000 books which men are said to have written of and by themselves, this Book, “the one Book,” as Sir Walter Scott called it on his death-bed, is of divine origin, with every word inspired by the love of God, every warning written by the command of God, and every promise preserved by the grace of God.
But this claim is not merely an idle or fanatical boast; the Word of God demonstrates its divine origin by an examination of its contents. It is the “truth.” I must pass by tonight the evidence for the absolute truth of the Scriptures, not only in spiritual matters, but also in history, geography, the sciences, and other branches of learning. Because these utterances come from God, they, too, must be infallible and raised up above the possibility of correction; for the Bible not only contains the truth, as our Lord Himself tells us tonight,—it is the truth. When in more than four hundred passages He, the faultless Teacher of mankind, either quotes, or refers to, the Scriptures of His day as infallible and authoritative, who is there, with a full knowledge of what Jesus Christ means to the world and to the individual, who can believe that in more than four hundred instances our Lord has made a vain and misleading appeal? Or who is there that can hear Him promise that “one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law till all be fulfilled” without realizing that Jesus believed what we believe, namely, that the Scriptures, being God-breathed, verbally inspired, cannot successfully be charged with error?
THE SCRIPTURES COME FROM THE TRUTH.
But we insist that the Bible comes from God and that it is divinely true because it contains and reveals that stupendous truth which God alone knows and which men, with the limits and restrictions of their intellect, can never know or understand of themselves. For thousands of years men who knew not this Word have groped in tragic blindness, not knowing a definite and positive answer to the fundamental questions of life, involving God and man, life and death, salvation and perdition. They have given their choicest brain power, they have sacrificed their most precious possessions, in the attempt to satisfy a holy God, to find a positive solution to the depressing question of sin, which all the world recognizes, and its punishment, which all the world fears. Yet all that human ingenuity could suggest in such superhuman issues was a maze of conflicting speculations, each one more hopeless, more depressing, than the other.
Now, here is a Book that helps us in all these human uncertainties. We yearn to know who God is. Now, if God does not offer this revelation Himself, in His own Word, who will or who can, when the altars to the unknown god that have been erected, not only on Mars Hill, but also throughout the entire Christless world, stand as a symbol of humanity’s abysmal ignorance? Even if the cold and calculating processes of reason can demonstrate the existence of a God, it requires the revelation from God Himself in the Bible to present to us that sublime conception of the divine Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We ask again, “Whence came man?” But again, if God does not give us the definite answer to this question, for which, in the very nature of the case, there can be no human solution, where else can we find it? Certainly not in the scientific textbooks of today, which will be worth only their weight in paper tomorrow, nor in any of the conflicting arrays of theories which make man a glorified animal or a puppet in the hands of a cruel fate. Only in the record of divine truth can we find the authoritative statement of Him who made man that you and I have been placed into the world by the master hand of Him in whose perfect image of holiness the human race was created. When we realize that this holiness has been lost, and when the ravages of sin rise up as horrible, accusing specters, we inquire further under the lashing scourge of our conscience, “Can God, perfect, holy, just, forgive the long catalog of sin and wrong abounding in every life?” Now, we cannot find an answer to that universal question in the highest achievements of human wisdom; for does not even Socrates admit, “It may be that the gods can forgive sin; but how I cannot tell”? But we can find in God’s Book what even the largest libraries and the most voluminous speculations of men cannot offer, that is, the Christ of the ages, the very literal fulfillment of those golden promises that leads men, beyond all the glitter and glamour of a tinseled and tarnished world, out to the radiant love of Him who hung on the cross, brings them down to their knees in grief and repentance before that overpowering spectacle of love, and makes them cry out with hearts that have been filled to overflowing with gratitude, “O my Savior, Thou hast suffered for me, Thou hast died for me; but, praise God, Thou art risen again for me to make me Thine, to strengthen me by Thy Spirit, so that I may overcome the forces of sin and hell and face eternity with the triumphant cry of victory, ‘I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.’”
THE SCRIPTURES PROVE TO BE THE TRUTH.
With this divine and superhuman truth comes the evidence of a divine and superhuman power. Men like to call Christianity and the Bible a failure. The fact of the matter is that, while everything else has failed, while all the processes which human ingenuity has advanced for the improvement of the world have turned out to be only pitiful and disappointing subterfuges, while educationalism, intellectualism, fraternalism, the study and application of the sciences, legislation, and theories of political economy as well as other similar methods and agencies have left the human heart unchanged and have done little or nothing to raise the moral tone of humanity, the invincible, everlastingly victorious force of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the one transforming power in the history of the world that has tamed the wild passions of men, subdued their self-centered greed, and given them an outlook on life which has perpetuated the ideals of the Master in the practical forms of institutions of charity, enterprises for the alleviation of suffering, work for the restitution of the downtrodden multitudes that have fallen by the wayside and lie hopeless and helpless in the slimy gutter of life. Babylonia, Greece, Rome, each in turn built up a civilization stupendous in proportions and lavish in wealth; but the fundamental conceptions of merciful charity and a sympathetic regard for the needs of one’s fellow-men—all this was quite foreign to their culture and quite unknown in their grandeur. And if you want to visualize the pervading power of the Gospel, picture to yourself the madhouse into which this country would degenerate if every trace of the influence of the Bible would be removed.
What was it that transformed some of the South Sea Islands and changed them from cesspools of cannibalism and heathen hideousness into garden spots of the world? What was it that wrought such a fundamental change in the life and habits of the people of Tierra del Fuego, who, when Charles Darwin visited them on his scientific journey around the world, were found to be so depraved and degenerate that they could hardly be classed as human beings, but who through the efforts of Christian missionaries became so utterly transformed that the so-called Father of Evolution gave the most eloquent possible tribute in the form of a subsidy to the Patagonian Mission? What is it that shook the stolid Eskimos of the frozen North, dwarfed in body and in soul, as they tried to kill their intrepid Christian missionary, Hans Egede, poison his dogs, and destroy his food caches, but who learned to substitute truth and love and justice for falsehood and hatred and murder? How can these things be, we inquire? And once again plain common sense, without making any higher appeal, tells us that these twice-born men have not found this newness of life because of any delusion or fairy-tale, but because of the miracle-working truth of God. That is the power that our own America needs. No truer word has ever been uttered by human lips than this warning of Daniel Webster, “If we continue in the teachings of the Bible, our country will continue to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its teachings, then no one can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all of our profound glory in obscurity.”
But the greatest demonstration of the power of the Gospel, overshadowing all this, and the clearest proof of its divine nature is shown to us in its influence upon the souls of men. I challenge any system of human invention, any modern and enlightened conception of religion that sets the Bible aside, to give to mankind a definite and satisfying answer to the supreme issue of life, “What must I do to be saved?” When the destiny of our immortal soul hangs in the balance; when a ruined life totters on and on, goaded ceaselessly by the ruthless demands of an aroused conscience; when a sin-born mortal stands before the yawning abyss which ultimately confronts every one of us, where is the truth, the light, and the hope that definitely gives him the power to face these veiled uncertainties confidently and unflinchingly? Death-bed confessions of unbelief and the moanings and cries of despair of infidels and skeptics in their dying hours reveal to us that this power cannot be found in any branch of human attainment, even in its highest form. It cannot be found in the modernistic creed which is being proclaimed in Christ-denying churches, where the great questions of sin and salvation are answered with a suave question-mark or with a polite denial of the Bible. But it can be found and will be found as long as men trustingly raise up their eyes to the hills of divine truth in God’s Word.
The power of this Word is operative whenever and wherever it is read and heard and believed. Let the host of modern infidels reject the Bible by rehashing the threadbare arguments advanced by unbelief since the Savior’s day, we have evidence of its truth. If this Word has come down through the centuries, triumphing over organized opposition and mobilized wealth, then we can gain renewed assurance through the conviction that, if the treasuries of heathen empires, the tortures of royal fiends, and the efforts of giants of human intellect have utterly failed in halting the march of progress of this deathless truth, so that today the Holy Scriptures are annually distributed in more than 36,000,000 copies, then the puny efforts of modern minds to revive this old opposition will be doomed to even more dismal failure. Let us not worry about the Bible. Its divine truth is amply able to safeguard its continued existence; for here is God’s promise, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Word shall not pass away.”
So I ask you tonight to take this truth, to read it, to study it now, and you will find between the covers of your Bible the divine cure-all for the ills and woes, the problems and anxieties, that may crowd themselves into your life. If you are out of work; if you have faced disappointment upon disappointment; if you have trouble and misunderstanding in your family; if you are weakened by sickness and disease; if you have not a friend in the world nor a penny in your pocket, find help and cheer by reading what this Book tells to those who believe it, “All things work together for good to them that love God.” Hear the word of comfort Christ has given those who believe in Him for times of distress and tribulation: “I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh away from you.” “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.” “And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” If you look down deeper into the recesses of your heart and find enthroned there the idols of money and pleasure and impurity and selfishness and greed, and you hear the warning of the Judge of eternity, “He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption,” and the terror of judgment strikes your heart, then, by the grace of God’s Holy Spirit, come with a contrite heart to the truth of this priceless volume and learn to know that there is one—and only one—“Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,” “who gave Himself a ransom for all.” Hear His pledge, given through the mouth of His prophet, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Here, in this ageless, priceless, deathless volume, you have the answer to every question, the solution to every problem that may arise in your life; for the Gospel of Jesus Christ is still “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” Amen.
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.