Thomas Allen Robertson
In writing to the young preacher Timothy the apostle Paul exhorted him saying,
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:14-17).
This passage clearly states that the scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation. Yet, many read the Bible and do not learn what to do to be saved because they fail to come to an understanding of the will of the Lord. That there are so many different denominations in the world all teaching different plans of salvation, plans for worshiping God and rules for living before God is a sad proof of the fact that not all men read the Bible and then come to the same understanding of what they read. But that does not change the fact that the Bible is able to make man wise unto salvation.
The Point of Difference Over the Bible
One of the more obvious facts of our nature is that our acceptance of any truth is determined by our attitude toward it. The minds of some men in the denominational world are so set that they are not open to discover any new truth in the word of God, or to come to a better understanding of facts they already know. Many are like the old man was about the fish story. He said, “I wouldn’t believe that if I knew it was true.”
But since the division and difference that is in the religious world is very real, we as professing Christians are obligated to look into it and see just what is the point of difference. And as we begin to look into the matter one of the first things we learn is that the religious groups of today are fairly well agreed on the things that are in the Bible and the points of difference and division are on things not in the Bible. For example; We agree that Nicodemus came to Christ by night (John 3:2). But we may differ as to why he came by night for the Bible does not say. We agree that immersion is acceptable baptism (Rom. 6:4). But we differ over sprinkling and pouring because the Bible says nothing about them. Once more, we agree that it is right for the disciples of Christ to be called, and to call themselves, Christians (Acts 11:26). But we differ when other names not found in the word of God are used.
As we mentioned, our acceptance of any truth depends on our attitude toward it. Hence, differences often grow out of differing attitudes toward the Bible rather than out of different interpretations of the Bible itself. The man who regards the Bible as complete and infallible admitting of no private interpretation, as the Bible claims in 2 Peter 1:20-21, will have an entirely different attitude toward it than the man who regards the Book as only a fragmentary history, or in some other way.
The Roman Catholic Attitude Toward the Bible
1. The basic attitude of the Catholic Church toward the Bible is that it is not sufficient as a rule of faith and practice. “The Bible itself teaches that the Bible does not contain all that our Lord did and (consequently) taught…Since the Bible is incomplete, it needs something else to supplement it; i.e., the spoken or historically recorded word which we call Tradition” (Catholic Religion Proved by Protestant Bible, pp. 14, 15, Catholic Truth Society of Oregon).
2. A secondary attitude of the Catholic Church toward the Bible is that the Bible cannot be correctly understood except by the interpretation of the Catholic Church through her priest. “The Bible teaches that individuals are not of themselves competent to interpret the scriptures…The Bible teaches who are the official interpreters of God’s law and God’s word…As in our country the official interpreter of the Constitution and the Laws is the Supreme Court and the Judges, so in the church the official interpreter of God’s law and Christ’s teaching is the head of the church, aided at times by his assistants” (Ibid. pp. 15, 16).
3. A third attitude of the Catholic Church toward the Bible is that when the Pope speaks “ex cathedra” (from the chair) he has authority to change, modify or suspend any particular teaching of the Bible. Also, that he has authority to enact, decree, and bind on the church any new law not contained in the Bible. These last two points are confirmed by the withholding of the chalice from the laity, and the decree passed November 1, 1950 making it a matter of faith that Mary had bodily passed to heaven. Previous to that time it had not been a matter of faith that all Catholics had to believe.
Thus, we see that in the Catholic Church the Bible is third down the line in matters of authority. The Bible is authority if it has not been suspended or superceded by the Pope, or if it has not been modified by tradition.
The Modernist’s Attitude Toward the Bible
If one were to ask the average modernist if he believed the Bible is inspired he would probably go away with a wrong conception of the modernist’s attitude toward the Bible. Because the modernist will say boldly, “I believe the Bible is inspired.” (Incidentally, he will also say he believes that Christ was the Son of God on the earth). And unless you ask him how he believes the Bible is inspired you will not get the truth of his attitude. When questioned further on this point the average modernist will tell one that he believes the Bible is “inspired of God” in the same way that any great piece of literature is inspired—Shakespeare for instance. If pushed far enough the modernist will tell how he believes the Bible is filled with erroneous and contradictory statements of man’s search for God. In other words, the Bible is not God’s revelation to man but a history of man’s search after God.
The Denominational Attitude Toward the Bible
As we look at the denominational world as a whole we find that with almost one voice they say, “We believe the Bible is inspired of God, and is an infallible rule of faith and practice.” That sounds good but they go on to say, “The Bible is correctly interpreted by our creeds, and anything contradicting them is necessarily false.” To illustrate this we have this question as posed in one of the leading creeds of our day, “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the confession of faith of this church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?” (Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., p. 382, Par. XII, Question 2). If one looks further into the matter he will find that they do not believe that strict observance of Bible teaching is necessary to the eternal salvation of the individual. This is often expressed in the idea that all that matters is just so a man is honest and sincere and gives his heart to God.
The Proper Attitude Toward the Bible
The proper attitude toward the Bible is that it is inspired of God and that it alone will be my rule of faith and practice. While the Bible does not claim to contain every word ever spoken by Christ and the apostles (if it did it would be very repetitious because the same words were spoken over and over to different audiences). It does claim to contain the entire system of faith necessary to the salvation of the soul of man. Jude said the faith had been delivered (Jude 3)—that it existed in a body of facts to be believed and commands to be obeyed. Paul said that the scriptures were able to make us wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15). Again, he told Timothy to study to show himself approved unto God rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Peter said that God had “given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3).
Not only did the apostles recognize the written word as sufficient to save man, and a standard to be adhered to, they warned against any departure therefrom or addition thereto. Paul said,
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 (Gal. 1:8-9).
Peter said, “Moreover I will I endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance” (2 Pet. 1:15). John said,
Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds (2 John 9-11).
Thus we see that in the Bible the Bible is regarded as an all sufficient rule of faith and practice. There is therefore no room for a “living magisteria,” continuous revelations, or creeds written and devised by men. If a man made creed contains more than is in the Bible, it contains too much. If it contains less than is in the Bible, it does not contain enough. And if they are the same as the Bible, they are not necessary. What men need to do is to reject all modern day authority and enactments of men and turn to the Bible and follow it exactly and completely and be saved thereby.
Salvation As Set Forth In The Bible
The New Testament is able to make man wise unto salvation and the way set forth there is simple—so simple that a man cannot err therein without help. The New Testament establishes that in order to be saved one must believe in God (John 14:1; Heb. 11:6). Believing in God one must believe in Christ as His Son (John 14:1; John 8:24). Believing in Christ one must repent of his sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30). Having thus changed his mind to serve God, one must then confess faith in Christ before men. (Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:10). Having made the good confession one then must be baptized into Christ thus being cleansed from all past sin (Mark 16:16 Rom. 6:3-7; Gal. 3:26-27). For when one gets into Christ he is a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). Having been baptized into Christ one must then live a godly life working out his salvation with fear and trembling (Matt. 28:20; Phil. 2:12; 2 Pet. 1:5-11). Friends why not obey the gospel of Christ and then live by the word of God and you shall be saved throughout all eternity. The Bible only makes Christians only.