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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15


What Baptists Believe

 O. C. S. Wallace, 1913


OF THE SCRIPTURES


We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction:


1. that it has God for its author, salvation for its end;


2 Tim. 3: 17. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profit able for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (Also 2 Pet. l:21; 2 Sam. 23:2; Acts 1:16; 3:21; John 10:35; Luke16:29-31; Ps. 119:111; Rom. 3:1,2.)


2. and truth without any mixture of error, for its matter;


2 Tim. 3:15. Able to make thee wise unto salvation. (Also 1 Pet. 1:10-12; Acts 1:14; Rom. 1:15: Mark 15:15; John 5:38,39.)  


3. that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us;


Pro. 30:5, 6. Every word of God is pure . . . Add thou not Unto his words. lest lie reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. (Also John 17:17; Rev. 22:18,19; Rom. 3:4.)


4. and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union;


Rom. 2:12. As many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law. John 12:47, 48. If any man hear my words. . .the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. (Also 1 Cor. 4:3,4; Luke 10:10-16; 12:47. 48.)


5. and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds; and


Phil. 3:16. Let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. (Also Eph. 4:3-6; Phil. 2:1, 2; l Cor. 1:10; 1 Pet. 4: 11.)


6. opinions should be tried


1 John 4:1. Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God. Isa. 8:20. To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. 1 Thess. 5:21. Prove all things. 2 Cor. 13:5. Prove your own selves. (Also Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:6; Jude 3; Eph. 6:17; Ps. 119:59, 60; Phil. 1;9-11).



1. The Latin word scribo means I write.


From this comes the word scriptura, meaning that which has been written. In a broad sense anything which has been written may be called “scripture.” But among Christians the word “scripture” or “scriptures” has specific meaning. It refers to the writings which are contained in the Bible. These writings are called the Sacred Scriptures, or the Holy Scriptures, to indicate that the message contained in them is a message concerning sacred or holy things. This distinguishes them from all other writings.


2. The complete collection of the Sacred Scriptures is called the Bible.


The Greek word bib- lion means a little book. The plural of this is biblia, meaning little books. Our Scriptures are composed of 66 little books, 39 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New Testament, and welded together as one book. These 66 books may be referred to as the Little Books. Put into Greek this would be the Biblia. From this comes the word Bible. For the same reason that the Scriptures are called the Holy Scriptures the Bible is called the Holy Bible.


3. We have the Bible because we have God.


If there were no living God, or if God paid no attention to men, there would be no Bible. It is because God is living and personal and interested in men that He gave us the Bible. After He had made the world He kept His heart close to the hearts of men. Whenever they cried out in pain, perplexity or sorrow He heard their cry and understood what it meant. The burdens that oppressed the people oppressed Him. He knew what would enable them to find the way of safety and blessedness. If they were to be saved from evil and sin and destruction, they must know many things which at the beginning they did not know.


4. Many things that people needed to know they could not learn by themselves.


They could learn a great deal by experience. They could learn a great deal by study; they could learn about soil and seeds, water and fruits, trees and metals, fish and cattle, foods and poisons, forces and natural laws, the motions of the stars and the workings of the human mind; but there were things deeper and finer than these that they could not learn. They could not learn about the nature of God and His will, nor about His purposes of grace, nor about redemption and forgiveness in Christ Jesus, nor about the future life. The common people could not learn these things by themselves. Nor could the wisest people. Some one outside of themselves must teach them. In all the universe there was only One who could teach them adequately. That One was God.


5. God can teach men in different ways.


He can teach by object lessons without words. This He has done from the beginning. Of this method of teaching the psalmist speaks in the nineteenth psalm, and Paul in the first chapter of Romans. The forces of nature and the powers and characteristics of the human mind have been object lessons always. These were enough to lead men to recognize the presence of God in the universe and to understand that He was a God of wisdom and power.


In all ages and lands men who were earnest and profound thinkers whether they were shepherds studying the stars as they guarded their flocks, or sages and seers endowed with all the learning of their generation, have learned something of the works and character of God as they communed with nature and reasoned upon the things which they saw and felt.


6. Men needed to know more than they could learn from object lessons without words.


As long as they had no knowledge beyond this they stumbled and hurt themselves. Therefore God spoke to them by words. He gave commands. He spoke promises. He pointed out dangers and showed the way of good. He spoke thus to Adam, Noah, Abram and many others. Sometimes the word which He spoke related only to the welfare of the individual.


More often His word summoned the person to whom He spoke to do something that would bring blessing to others. When He commanded Abram to depart from his people and to make his home in a new country, the divine purpose explored the coming centuries with the intention of blessing unborn multitudes. Thus the word spoken to an individual had meaning for all who should come after, though as instruction it was addressed to one man only.


7. In the process of time God enlarged the scope of His revelations.


He spoke not only to some one man concerning what He required of that man, but also concerning what He required certain other men to do. For example, He gave messages to Moses and Elijah and John the Baptist for the men of their generations. These messages were to be delivered in person and by the spoken word.


Moses must speak to men in Egypt and the wilderness, Elijah to men in northern Palestine, John the Baptist to men in southern Palestine. In all this God was not commanding these men to write Scripture, though subsequent to the event the record of what was commanded and done became Scripture.


8. God at length gave men messages which were intended for mankind in general and for the ages to come.


Some of these messages were contained in the history of His dealings with the ancient Hebrews. Others were direct revelations of eternal truth as related to Himself and to mankind. That these messages might reach those for whom they were intended it was necessary that they should be written. Every form of message intended for people whom the messenger could not meet face to face must be written.


Here then are four stages of revelation:

(1) teaching by object lessons without words;

(2) direct instruction to men concerning what they themselves must do;

(3) messages sent by word of mouth to others;

(4) revelations written down to be read by succeeding ages.


9. The men to whom God gave the messages which He required put into permanent form by writing were selected with care.


They were selected because of their fitness to do the thing which He wanted done. There was a fitness of character, of intellect, of attainment and of the age and place in which they lived. A man who is to write a message must know how to use a pen: God selected men who could write. A man who is to write a message must know how to use the language of the people for whom the message is intended: God selected Isaiah to write in Hebrew to those who knew Hebrew and Paul to write in Greek to those who knew Greek.


A man who is to write a message must have qualities of intellect which qualify him to give adequate expression to the ideas which God wants him to express: God selects a stick for such uses as sticks are intended for, and men for tasks requiring the exercise of human powers; when He wants His message carried to men in the form of a psalm He selects a poet like David to write psalms; when He wants a terse and graphic story of the life of His Son He selects a man like Mark to write it; when He wants a mighty argument like the epistle to the Romans written He selects a reasoner like Paul to write it.


A man who is to write a certain message must have a certain relation to the age to which God intends that particular revelation to be made; Moses, for example, wrote messages in his day for which the world had never before been ready; Jeremiah wrote messages which would not have been understood in the time of Moses; and Paul in his day wrote messages which would have bewildered men if they had been written a hundred years earlier. All these written messages took their place in their appointed time and became part of the Scripture of the people of the ages following.


10. These men whom God selected because of their fitness for the task He wanted them to do, were not left to themselves.


They needed something more than natural endowments and the influence of their age. They needed special illumination and guidance. This special qualification was given directly from God. His Spirit acted continually upon the spirit of the man whom He had selected to write. This gave spiritual energy as he wrote. It also prevented him from introducing errors which would have misrepresented the thought of God.


Because the Spirit of God joined in the work of producing Scripture this great variety of little books, written by men of various ages, circumstances and attainments, reveals divine unity of purpose and message, makes the Bible trust worthy as a sufficient and perfect guide in things relating to God.


11. The Bible was not given to teach men things which they were capable of learning by themselves.


It was not given to teach men where the continents and oceans are, where the mountains and valleys lie, where the rivers have their sources, which of the stars are planets and which are suns, to what uses the forces of nature may be put, what are the highest forms of poetry, what history was made by the ancient nations, nor the other myriads of things which men have been learning during the passing of the centuries.


The special help of God was not needed at any of these points. But if men were ignorant of the way of righteousness and of salvation in Christ, there would be no cure for their sickness and no supply for their need.


12. The message of the Bible is a message concerning eternal life.


Eternal life means much more than future life. The Bible is not simply a book of the future life, but of that eternal life which Jesus Christ offered men, that life which becomes the present possession of those who believe on Him, and which has present quality and present relationships as well as the promise of continuance beyond these earthly years in greater perfection amidst heavenly relationships.


Whatever has moral or spiritual quality or bearing is related to eternal life. For everything of this kind the revelation of God has meaning. The Bible therefore while a full and sufficient revelation concerning the way of eternal life, is not, and was not meant to be, a full and sufficient revelation concerning sheep-raising or horticulture or chemistry or biology or geology or telegraphy or tailoring.


13. When the writers of Scripture were writing down God’s message concerning eternal life, they wrote as men chosen of God.


They made such use of their knowledge of nature, people and forms of literary expression current in their day as was natural and fitting. They wrote of natural phenomena as the men of their day conceived of natural phenomena: had they written of natural phenomena in the terms which a modern biologist, geologist, chemist or physicist would use, the people would have been as much bewildered as if they had written in English to men who understood only Hebrew.


They wrote records of the history of people, a part of God’s revelation being in the progressive history of his ancient people; but the history is incidental to the main purpose of revealing God in His relation to men and of setting forth Jesus Christ as the complete manifestation of God and fulfillment of the prophecies and types of all the history leading up to Him. There is poetry in the Bible as well as history, and poetry of a singularly noble quality; but the Bible was not given as a book of poetry just as it was not given as a book of history or of science or of psychology.


If when Jesus was feeding the five thousand some cynic had said, in loud and confident tones, that rubies and diamonds were more beautiful than fragments of broken bread, the hungry multitudes would have gone on eating. What Jesus was giving them was bread for their hunger, not jewels for ornament. Always when helping men he did what they needed.


If men had needed that the Bible, besides being God’s great religious message to the world, should give a detailed and exact statement of the geologic and biologic changes up to date, the Bible would not have been lacking at that point. But it was not necessary. Whatever is found in the Scriptures other than the religious message is only incidental, and may be fragmentary. It is the religious message which is there in fullness and completeness; for it was to give this message that the Bible was written.


14. The revelation of God to men was completed in Jesus Christ.


The history, the prophecies and the sacrificial types recorded in the Scriptures before he was born looked forward to him. In his person as Son of God and Saviour of men all religious teaching culminated. All that was written concerning his ministry and the ministry of the men who in the generation following him made his teachings known to the world, looked back to him.


As the revelation of God culminated in him, when these records had been written other writings were not needed. The message was complete, and the Bible stood forth as “a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds and opinions should be tried,’’ to this day the one ‘‘true center of Christian union.”