Introduction: Not only is the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture a foundational doctrine for Bible-believing Christians, so also is the doctrine of the preservation of Scripture. Paul wrote to Timothy, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16) What is the difference between inspiration and preservation?
- "Inspiration of God" means "God-breathed," thus the inspiration of Scripture is Scripture breathed-out by God. We believe in plenary, verbal inspiration of Scripture. This is what 2 Timothy 3:16 teaches.
* Plenary = full or all
* Verbal = word-for-word
* Inspiration of God = breathed-out by God
- Preservation means, in this context, that God has divinely and miraculously preserved, throughout every generation, what He originally inspired. Though God uses men to preach and write His Word, preservation does not have anything to do with man's ability or inability.
- The clearest illustration I can give you, showing the difference between inspiration and preservation, is this: "Brother ___________, please write down exactly what I tell you to write down." This is inspiration, because he has written down word-for-word what I have asked him to write. "Now, Brother ___________, copy word-for-word what Brother ___________ has written down." "Brother ___________, take both pieces of paper and read them back to me, and tell me the difference." Of course there is none, but only one is inspired, and the other one is an exact copy and both have equal authority. This is inspiration versus preservation.
However, preservation is not dependent upon man's ability to copy God's Word from one generation to the next. God promised that He Himself would preserve It, and this is what we are going to look at in this study. Let me give you some facts concerning the preservation of God's holy Word.
1. God is true, and men are liars. - Romans 3:4
"God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged."
- Preservation of Scripture must be taught in light of what God says about it, not what man thinks about it.
- Men may tell us that God has not preserved His Word and that we have no pure Word of God yet even today.
- Men say that the preserved Word of God surely exists somewhere, but no one knows where It is.
- The record shows that God always tells the truth and that man was born with a lying tongue. When we have to choose whom to believe, God or man, our choice should be a simple one. Let God be true and every man a lair!
- God is true, and His Word is truth, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." (John 17:17)
- God's Word is pure. It has passed the tests of time:
* Psalm 12:6, "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times."
* Psalm 119:140, "Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it."
* Proverbs 30:5, "Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him."
2. Does the Bible teach the preservation of Scripture clearly?
- The answer is "yes." God is true, and all men are liars, so let's look at what God says about the preservation of His Word.
* Psalm 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."
* Psalm 119:160, "Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever."
* Ecclesiastes 3:14, "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him."
* Isaiah 40:8, "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever."
* 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."
* Luke 16:17, "And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail."
* 1 Peter 1:23-25, "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."
- The Scriptures plainly state that God Himself has taken the responsibility of preserving His Word to every generation. He inspired His Word once but has promised to preserve His Word forever. Psalm 12:7 states, "Thou shalt keep them [God's Words], O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever." Psalm 119:89 says, "For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven."
3. Every Word of God is important.
- There are four references to "every Word" of God:
* Deuteronomy 8:3, "...that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live."
* Matthew 4:4, "...Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
* Luke 4:4, "...It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God."
* Proverbs 30:5, "Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him."
- Though the thoughts of God are important, His thoughts are expressed through His Word.
- If we are going to live by every Word of God, we must make sure that we have an every-Word Bible. For example, the King James Bible is a direct translation of Scripture from the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. In It, you will find a word-for-word translation. On the other hand, the New International Version is called a dynamic equivalent and not a translation at all. A dynamic equivalent combines many Greek and Hebrew texts together, and from them, exhibits a thought, i.e., a paraphrase, rather than a word-for-word translation.
* The American Standard Version is a translation; however, it is a translation of a different set of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts than those from which the King James Bible was translated. The two sets of manuscripts differ greatly.
* The set of manuscripts, from which we translate the King James Bible, is the set of manuscripts regarded and proven to be the preserved Word of God through all these centuries. The other set of manuscripts was discovered more recently and contradicts the received manuscripts from which the King James Bible is translated. Things that are different cannot be the same!
* The truth is, the more recently discovered manuscripts, often termed as the oldest and best manuscripts, leave many Scriptures out. Sometimes, it's only a word; other times, it is entire verses and even complete passages. For example, the Revised Standard Version begins John 8 with verse 12 instead of verse 1. It also leaves out verse 53 of John 7. The RSV also removes completely Mark 16:9-20. In addition to these major passages, the RSV has completely excluded Matthew 12:47; 17:21; 18:11; 21:44; 23:14; Mark 7:16; 9:44; 9:46; 11:26; 15:28; Luke 17:36; 22:20; 23:17; 24:12; 24:40; John 5:4; Acts 8:37; 15:34; 24:7; 28:29; Romans 16:24; and most of 1 John 5:7. The NIV does much the same thing. At least the New American Standard Version includes these verses but prints them in italics indicating they have no manuscript authority. How sad!
- We are commanded to live by "every Word" of God. How can we live by every Word if we cannot read every Word in our Bibles? By the way, are there any major doctrines affected by excluding these passages of Scripture? Let's see.
* "Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them. Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen." (Mark 16:9-20)
* "And every man went unto his own house. Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." (John 7:53-8:11)
* "Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee." (Matthew 12:47)
* "Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." (Matthew 17:21)
* "For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost." (Matthew 18:11)
* "And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." (Matthew 21:44)
* "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation." (Matthew 23:14)
* "If any man have ears to hear, let him hear." (Mark 7:16)
* "Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." (Mark 9:44 & 46)
* "But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses." (Mark 11:26)
* "And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors." (Mark 15:28)
* "Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left." (Luke 17:36)
* "Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you." (Luke 22:20)
* "For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast." (Luke 23:17)
* "Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass." (Luke 24:12)
* "And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet." (Luke 24:40)
* "For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had." (John 5:4)
* "And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." (Acts 8:37)
* "Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still." (Acts 15:34)
* "But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands." (Acts 24:7)
* "And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves." (Acts 28:29)
* "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen." (Romans 16:24)
* "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." (1 John 5:7)
- Anyone, who can read, can clearly see that the meaning of Scripture is affected when these verses are excluded. Christians, who use these other versions of Scripture, cannot live by every Word of God, because they do not contain every Word of God.
4. What should our conduct be concerning the preserved Words of God?
- There are a few passages of Scripture that tell us how to treat God's Words.
* Deuteronomy 4:2, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you."
* Deuteronomy 12:32, "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it."
* Revelation 22:18-19, "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."
* Galatians 1:8-9, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."
- To put it plainly, we should not tamper with, change, add to, delete from, or disregard in any way the Word of God.
5. How does God regard His Own Word?
- As truth; "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." (John 17:17)
- As effectual; "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe." (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
- As exalted; "I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name." (Psalm 138:2)
- As eternal; "For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven." (Psalm 119:89)
Conclusion: That Book you hold right there in your hands is the Word of God. It is perfectly infallible in Its inspiration and preservation.
It is called the Word, the Word of God, the Word of Christ, the Word of truth, the holy Scriptures, the Scripture of truth, the Law of the Lord, the Sword of the Spirit, and the Oracles of God.
It is pure, true, perfect, precious, quick, and powerful. It was written for our instruction and intended for our use.
The Word of God is regenerating, quickening, illuminating, able to convert the soul, able to make the simple wise, sanctifying, faith-producing, hope-producing, obedience producing, able to cleanse the heart, able to cleanse the way, able to keep us from a destructive path, admonishing, comforting, and heart-rejoicing.
It should be our standard and should be believed, appealed to, read, known, received, searched daily, memorized, taught to children and to all, spoken of continually, not handled deceitfully, and should be obeyed.
As a Christian, you should love It exceedingly, delight in It, regard It as sweet, esteem It above all things, long after It, stand in awe of It, keep It in remembrance, hide It in our hearts, hope in It, meditate in It, rejoice in It, trust in It, obey It, and speak of It.
Proverbs 30:5-6 warn us that if we change His Words, He will reprove us and prove that we are liars.