Having introduced this topic, and having explained the Scriptural arguments given for KJV Onlyism, I now turn to the Bible for a postitive presentation of the Scriptural support for my position.
Scripture is our final authority and Its teachings shape our conclusions and assumptions about everything. We don’t sit in judgment over God’s Word, picking and choosing what we will believe and obey, and what we won’t. We also don’t grovel at the feet of anyone else, accepting their judgment or authority completely. We are called to follow the noble Bereans who “searched the scriptures daily”, to see “whether those things [that they were being taught by Paul] were so” (Acts 17:11).
This post will focus on inspiration and preservation (in part). Later posts will continue with Scripture’s teaching on preservation, then accessibility, canonization, authority, and other points. But first, I will begin with a brief word about interpretation.
The way one interprets the Bible is very important. Both sides in this debate affirm that we must approach the text and listen to it communicate literally, grammatically and with respect to its historical context. I will do my best to look at each text in its context. It is hard for anyone, though, to approach Scripture from a neutral and non-biased standpoint. Therefore we must rely on the Holy Spirit all the more for help in understanding the Bible. Related to this point is the importance of not bringing assumptions to the text. We must listen to what the text says, and not assume certain words or phrases have our current 21st century connotation.
2 Tim. 3:16 teaches that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God”. Or, as the ESV translates it “all scripture is breathed out by God”. Inspiration properly, then refers to the initial time of the writing of those scriptures. At that time the very words were perfectly breathed out by God through the instrumentation of “holy men of God” who were “moved” or “carried along” by the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Pet. 1:21). Both sides in the KJV only debate agree that inspiration was perfect and complete, and both sides for the most part, allow for stylistic differences between the human instruments whom God used for inspiration. Also both sides see inspiration (i.e. the fact that the words are God’s very words) in the sense of a quality which is inherent in all faithful copies and translations of faithful copies of the original Scriptures. (The word “scripture” means “writing” and likely applies to copies of the originals even in the context of 2 Tim. 2). Since both sides basically agree on this point, I’ll stop for now, and go on to preservation.
It is on this point that most of the controversy lies with respect to the Bible and the KJVO debate. I will attempt to be thorough and clear in conveying my understanding of Scripture on this point, but I do not want to needlessly bog down this series into a complex, overly technical discussion.
In all seriousness, then, one of the important points to stress before looking at the individual texts on this issue, is the role of assumptions and faulty interpretation. In any serious debate, understanding the issue at hand and not coloring it with previous assumptions is very vital. And a faulty interpretation can make someone think they are proving their point, when in fact they are not. This is a pitfall for anyone in the debate, so I will try to take pains to be clear and demonstrate how I am concluding as I do, while at the same time, striving to be brief.
“Word of God”
One of the phrases which is central to a study of Scripture’s teaching on preservation is “word of God”. A typical American evangelical Christian is apt to almost always think this phrase refers to the Bible. But we must put ourselves into the historical and literary context of the Biblical authors to understand what they mean by “word of God”. Before I delve into this further, it might help to remind yourself that very very few people in Bible days owned a copy of “the Word”. Often the local synagogue or the place where the prophet taught held a copy of portions of the Bible. Most often people would hear the Bible read aloud to them.
In the Old Testament, one finds countless instances of the following phrases “the word of the Lord came to _______” or “Thus says the word of the Lord……” or “______spoke according to the word of the Lord……”. All of these examples are situations, where a prophet received a message from God and spoke that message orally. The message was heard not read. Later many of these prophecies were recorded and so sometimes in the OT, the phrase “word of God” or “word of the Lord” refers to the written scriptures. Most of the time, though, other terms are used for scripture: “the Law”, “testimonies”, “statutes”, “the book of the Law”, “judgments”, etc.
When we come to the New Testament, we find a similar usage of the term. It most often refers to the oral message of the Gospel. It can also refer to the body of truths which make up the Gospel. Consider the following phrases from the book of Acts:
“the word of God increased” 6:7
“received the word of God” 8:14; 11:1
“the word of God grew and multiplied” 12:24
“almost the whole city [came] together to hear the word of God” 13:44
“the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region” 13:49
“It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you” 13:46
“all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus” 19:10
“So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed” 19:20
[See also Rom. 10:8, 1 Cor. 14:36 and 1 Thess. 2:3 for more examples.]
A very instructive passage concerning this is Acts 10:36-44.
“The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ…that word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power…and we are witnesses of all things which he did…whom they slew and hanged on a tree: him God raised up the third day,…and he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead….to him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
Peter here uses “word” as a synonym to “gospel message”. Then all who heard the “word” (ie. the gospel which Peter was then proclaiming) received the Holy Spirit, indicating they were saved.
There is another sense for “word of God” in the Bible. It is sometimes use to refer to God’s sovereign commands. For instance Heb. 11:3 teaches that “the worlds were framed by the word of God”, and Heb. 1:3 says that Jesus is “upholding all things by the word of his power….” See also, Ps. 33:9.
All this is not to say that the phrase “word of God” never means scripture. Sometimes it does. What is clear, however, is that we must pay close attention to the context of verses used to support a doctrine of preservation and make sure the context indicates scripture rather than an oral message or the gospel. A final note on this point, the Greek word most often used for “word” can often mean “speech” or “message”, see 2 Cor. 1:18 and Acts 28:25 as examples. [For more on this issue of the meaning of the phrase “word of God” see this article by Dr. William Combs.]
Unfortunately, I’ve run out of space and time for continuing with this post. The next post in the series will hopefully cover most of the passages which touch on the doctrine of preservation.
Click here for all posts in this series.