My motive for taking up this book is in response to a challenge presented by my son who asked, quite reasonably, why he should accept the Bible as inspired by God in its entirety. For him, the gospels are fine – but what about Paul’s letters? What about the Old Testament? On what grounds are these portions to be regarded at the same level of inspiration as the gospels?
The question is real for me too. Rather than scratch around for pat answers, I’d like to read Packer’s case for the reliability of Scripture and come to some conclusions for myself – a conviction held personally is so much stronger than the abstract! God has Spoken is now 40 years old and, while the author has revised much of it, the introduction remains the 1979 original.
These posts are neither book review nor study; I will simply dip into one or two themes per chapter.
Packer begins with joy: “I hold the heady doctrine that no pleasures are so frequent or intense as those of the grateful, devoted, single-minded, whole-hearted, self-denying Christian.” This theme has some congruence with John Piper’s ‘Christian hedonism,’ though Packer’s focus is squarely on Scripture. Enjoyment is a by-product. “Pleasure-seeking, as we learn by experience, is a barren business; happiness is never found till we have the grace to stop looking for it…”
Bible study is enjoyed best when its goal is not ourselves. The Berean Jews received the word with eagerness; like the Emmaus disciples their joy came from discovering Christ in Scripture. “What brings joy is finding God’s way, God’s grace and God’s fellowship through the Bible, even though again and again what the Bible says … knocks us flat.” The joy of Bible study is not the fun of trivial pursuit; it is the “deep contentment that comes of communing with the living Lord into whose presence the Bible takes us.”
Packer makes a point of distinguishing between the book and its message. The text itself is not necessary for salvation, but there is great benefit to reading Scripture for oneself: “Rightly are Bible reading and Bible-based meditation seen as prime means of grace. Not only is Scripture the fountain-head for knowledge of God, Christ and salvation, but it presents this knowledge in an incomparably vivid, powerful and evocative way.”
Fountain-head… I love that. As people track a river to its source, so we look to Scripture as the spring of divine revelation. Is it the only spring? Sure, the heavens are telling the glories of God – but they don’t declare saving knowledge. They don’t tell of Christ, and they don’t tell of the precious relationship God wants for us.
The written Word of the Lord leads us to the living Lord of the Word.JI Packer
“Scripture, which on the face of it is human witness to God, a compendium of 66 items put together over more than a millenium, proves itself to be God’s authentic word by mediating God’s presence, power and personal address to us in and by its record of men’s knowledge of Him long ago.” In this record we encounter not only our own personal problem, but its resolution in the reality of Christ. This is the culmination of the first chapter, that all Scripture points to him.
How do I come to the Bible? If the exercise is academic, I will be disappointed. There is another Way.