Archives For Westminster Standards

Previously, I answered questions several question from Elaine about heaven. Yesterday, Elaine let me know that she is wondering how we know the Bible and God is real and not just realistic fiction.

Dear Elaine,

The question you discussed with your dad – –  regarding how we know the Bible is God’s Word – – is a beautiful question. It is such an excellent question that in the Westminster Confession of Faith (approved in 1647) your question is answered in the fifth statement.

By the way, don’t ever let anyone tell you that every question is a good question. There are many terrible questions. I have asked some of them myself! One of these days, you will ask me a bad question, and I will say, “What an awful question!”

But this time you have not just asked a good question. You have asked one of the great questions the Church of Jesus Christ has ever considered. I am so proud of you and thankful for you.

Now you need to think really hard about the answer. It’s a grownup question and it deserves a grownup answer. So get rid of your cat for a few moments and think.

The answer given in the Westminster standards as to how we know the Bible is God’s Word is a “wordy” answer – – MAYBE JUST SKIP THE NEXT PARAGRAPH AND LET ME BREAK IT DOWN INTO 6 REASONS — or, if your dad reads the paragraph aloud to you, plug your ears until he is done and wait for my explanation. It will make sense when you hear how I break it up into bite size pieces. Here is what they said in 1647:

  1. We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

As I said, this answer is much easier to understand if we just break it up into parts. The confession says that we know the Bible is God’s Word because:

(1) the testimony of the church  – Men and women for 2,000 years in the church have agreed that this is God’s special message to us. This is not the most important reason we believe the Bible is God’s Word. But it is a great help! Maybe watch this video about how excited people are to get Bibles.

(2) And the heavenliness of the matter – The Bible speaks directly to some of the most important questions we can ever consider. If you read other ancient books they do not deal with life’s big questions with anything close to the wisdom of the Bible. Scripture answers our questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? What happens after we die? (And we have way more copies of the Bible than of any other ancient document!) By the way,  the Bible answers other questions that aren’t so tremendously important, but still they  mean a lot to you. For instance, “Where do cats come from?”

(3) the majesty of the style – The style of the Bible is so beautiful. Have your mom or dad read John 14:1-6 from the King James version. Or read Hebrews 1:1-4 from the King James. You will need helping understanding those passages, but just in hearing the beauty of the style one begins to understand this is no ordinary book. I know your grandfather well Elaine. And if you read John 14:1-6 to him right now, he would get tears in his eyes. And the reason he would be emotional is because the Bible speaks so majestically to the questions that are so important. Or try this. Read Isaiah 9:6-7. This passage was written 700 years before Jesus. And the passage is so completely beautiful that it inspired one of the greatest works of music ever! When Handel’s Messiah was performed in front of Queen Victoria she was supposed to remain seated while everyone else stood. Queens didn’t have to stand up. But when this great work of music was performed – – and the reason it was written is because the Bible is so majestic – – she stood up. Today people all over the world stand when Handel’s Messiah is performed. And they stand up because they agree with Queen Victoria that the music and message are unspeakably beautiful.

(4) the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole – Even though the Bible was written across 1,500 years, it all is woven together into one beautiful message: From Moses (whose sister hid him in a basket, just like you would hide your little brother James) to the Apostle John who was so very close to the Lord Jesus. You know the story of the book of Ruth. By itself, Ruth is one of the most beautiful stories that was ever written. But then we see that Ruth’s baby Obed was the grandfather of King David – – and from the grandchildren of David (who was 1,000 years before Jesus!) we have Jesus. No one could make that up! (Tell your mom to read this post. She will like it).  Some day you and I will meet Ruth – – we really will – – and we will be able to talk to her about her baby –which will seem a little silly because Obed is all grown up. I suspect you and I will agree that Ruth is even more beautiful than we expected. But we will all be worshiping Jesus. (Your mom will also like this post).

(5) the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvationThe Bible tells us how we can be sure that we have eternal life and that we will be together with God’s people on the new earth for all of eternity. Don’t forget that the Red Brick’s are meeting at the 5th Tree on the Right side. If you read this post, you will be reminded about what we mean by the gospel and you will also see a picture of another little girl from church standing next to you dressed like a cat!

(6) our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts – BUT MOST OF ALL – – when we read the Bible the Holy Spirit assures our hearts that the Bible is God’s Word. Said another way, the Bible is self-authenticating – – Scripture shows us that it is God’s Word. This is important because if you believed in the Bible solely based on what your pastor or parents said, then they would be the authority.  The Bible is final authority. And we have assurance this is so because the Holy Spirit works in our hearts so that we are persuaded.

Some day, rather soon, I suspect, you will meet someone who will tell you that he does not believe the Bible is really God’s Word. Ask him, “Well, have your read the Bible?” Then say, “Why don’t you pray Psalm 119:18 and then read the Gospel of John? After reading it, tell me what you think.”  If the person who says he doesn’t believe the Bible is God’s Word refuses to prayerfully read the Bible, then you know they don’t want to believe it is God’s Word. (See also: Because the Bible is what it is, it can do what it does!)

You and I can be sure – – along with other Christians for 2,000 years – – that the Bible is God’s word to us. We have a message not from outer space, but from “beyond space!”

One of the greatest privileges of my life is to be your pastor!





What is God?

Chris —  August 29, 2011

Westminster Question #4. What is God?

God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

First, sinning without intent is preferred to consciously doing the wrong thing.  All sins are equally wrong, but all sins are not equally bad.  A lustful thought is as wrong as adultery.  Certainly adultery is worse.

Having said that, whether or not sin is wrong is a matter of how it accords with God.  Neither people nor their intent define morality.  God defines right and wrong.

Consider the concise definition of sin in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q. 14 – What is sin?

A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of the law of God.

So, we can sin by not doing what we ought (sins of omission) or by doing the wrong thing (commission).  Either sort of sin can be unintentional.  The question is not whether we meant to do it, but, rather, how it accords with the character of God.

Hence, we must know the Word of God!  Psalm 119:9, “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By living according to the Word of God.”