Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
Faith Is a Gift From God
For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. 1 Thessalonians 2:13NKJV
Question 4 of the Larger Catechism asks, “How doth it appear that the Scriptures are the word of God?” The first part of the answer reads, “The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the word of God, by their majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation.”
Last week we examined this first part of the Catechism’s answer where we saw that the Bible is proven to be the inerrant, infallible, and perfect word of God. However, there is one final sentence in the answer, at which we did not look: “But the Spirit of God, bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very word of God.” At this point the man who is not familiar with the teaching of Scripture cries out, “Why? Why, if the Bible proves itself to be the word of God (which it does), does it take the Holy Spirit to persuade man of this proven fact?” The simple answer is that mankind is not an unbiased audience. Fallen man does not think and act according to what is demonstrably true, but according to what keeps him from seeing and admitting the radical extent of his fallen-ness. Thus, while the Scriptures abundantly prove themselves to be God’s infallible word, fallen man remains unpersuaded.
Often we see crimes, tragedies, diseases, maladies, and afflictions in our world around us and the solution put forward by many experts boils down to some form of “Education is the answer!” Their position is that if we can just educate people with regard to what causes pain and suffering in our world, people will make the choice that avoids pain and suffering. This is the crowd that believes teaching safe sex to teenagers will lead them to avoid teen pregnancy and STDs. Their way of thinking leads to programs handing out clean needles to drug users to stem the spread of certain diseases. Their programs do not work because the reason teens have unprotected sex and the reason drug addicts use dirty needles is not because they do not know any better. It is because they love the pleasures of sin more than anything else, even more than their own safety! So do all fallen human beings apart from the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts to cause us to love righteousness more than sin. Yet, our enlightened world would rather believe that if people merely knew better they would not do what is evil or harmful. Our enlightened world does not admit the reality of sin: that man is fallen and delights in wickedness.
It is this reality of sin in our hearts that keeps most unconverted people from even acknowledging that the Scriptures are what they so thoroughly prove themselves to be: the very word of God. And even among those who do acknowledge the veracity of the Scriptures, only the Christian is fully persuaded – that is, persuaded even in his heart – so that he not only knows but loves the fact that the Bible is the word of God. This is why Paul, in the verses at the head of this article, thanked God that the Thessalonians received and welcomed the word of God as the word of God, because Paul knew that apart from the supernatural work of God in their hearts they never would have done it. If you are a believer today, thank God that by His Spirit He opened your eyes, and even now continues to keep them open to the Bible – His perfect word – which by that same Spirit continues to effectively work in you who believe.