October 2002, Volume IX,
The Origin of Scripture (2)
In the previous article on God’s hammer, we considered the
fact of the divine origin of the Bible: "the prophecy came not in old time
by the will of man" but by the will of God. This time we will study the means
God used to write His Word: "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the
Holy Ghost" (II Peter 1:21).
God’s will determined what was written in Scripture and with
what words it was written. But since the Bible didn’t fall from heaven and since
Scripture says that Isaiah, David, etc., wrote the words of the Bible, we must
consider the God-given role of the divine penmen, the "holy men of God [who]
spake [and wrote] as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." The word "moved" is a
very strong one. It means, literally, that they wrote not merely as they were
guided or directed or led but as they were "borne" by the Holy Spirit.
This Greek word is used of Paul’s ship driven by the wind (Acts 27:15, 17). That
these men were borne by the Holy Ghost means that the Holy Ghost took them up,
as it were, and empowered them to write God’s word so that they wrote exactly
what God intended them to write.
God’s sovereign control of the writers did not negate their
personality or make them robots. Nor does it imply that Paul could have written
Revelation or that John could have written Acts. Rather God prepared the men
beforehand to write what He willed. The divine penmen are called "holy men" not
so much to indicate their personal sanctity but to indicate that these men were
set apart and equipped for their role of writing particular books of the Word of
God. God in His eternal decree and sovereign providence prepared the various men
to write the Scriptures. For example, God decreed that Jeremiah be a priest born
at Anathoth with a religious upbringing and a particular literary style and
emotional life. God ordained that he would be single, that he would have a
friend, Baruch, and that he would live to see the desolation of Jerusalem. Thus
God prepared Jeremiah to write His Word in such a way that the word choice,
sentence structure, etc., fits with the style of Jeremiah. In fact, God used all
His penmen to write particular books in accordance with the particular style He
gave them in His eternal decree and providence. Clearly, the production of the
Holy Scriptures is a great wonder: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom
and knowledge of God!" (Rom. 11:33).
In your believing Bible study, you must be absolutely certain
that the Bible is God’s Word. Make this truth a first principle in understanding
the Holy Scriptures: "Knowing this first, that ... the prophecy came not
in old time by the will of man: but holy men spake as they were moved by the
Holy Ghost" (II Peter 1:20-21). Rev. Stewart
Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead,
nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord
(Lev. 19:28). They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall
they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh
The question which accompanied these texts reads: "Recently I
was asked if it was OK for believers to have themselves tattooed. I was told by
some believers that there is nothing in Scripture about this. What about these
texts in Leviticus [above]? Further, the believer’s body is the temple of the
Holy Ghost and we as believers are indeed priests: a royal priesthood and a
peculiar people (I Peter 2:5-9). Am I right in this matter, or is there a better
answer?" In my judgment the questioner is absolutely right in this matter. The
whole subject is so important that it deserves more explanation.
The first point which needs emphasis is that many of the laws
given to Israel were to forbid Israel to adopt the customs of the heathen
nations who formerly lived in the land of Canaan, and some of whom continued to
live in close proximity to God’s chosen people (Judg. 2:1-5; 3:1-2). Repeatedly
in the law God warned Israel against adopting practices common among the heathen
nations. Most of these practices which Israel was forbidden to adopt were
closely associated with and connected to heathen religions. This is evident from
the text itself which forbad cuttings in the flesh "for the dead" (Lev. 19:28).
But this is also evident from times of apostasy in Israel where these practices
were, to Israel’s shame, practiced (I Kings 18:28).
The nation of Israel was God’s chosen people, the church of
the Old Dispensation, the nation which received God’s revelation of His truth
and covenant, and the people from whom Christ was born according to the flesh
(Rom. 9:4-5). Because they were God’s people, they were commanded to live in
spiritual separation from the wicked nations that surrounded them. They were to
dwell alone, spiritually isolated from the wicked (Deut. 33:26-29). They were
called to serve the living God and not idols. And they were called to serve
their God in their whole life and by all they did – in distinction from the
heathen whose idolatry touched on every part of their wicked life.
This is called the doctrine of the antithesis, and it
is outlined in the New Testament for the New Testament church: "Be ye not
unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath
righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth
with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye
are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and
walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people ... Having
therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all
filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (II
Cor. 6:14-16; 7:1).
It could be argued, I suppose, that the OT laws are all
fulfilled in Christ, and that, therefore, Leviticus 19:28 is also fulfilled. But
is this argument valid? While we would certainly never deny that Christ has
fulfilled the law for His church, it remains a fact that the question of the
relevancy of an OT law depends on the reason why it was given. It is clear that
it was given to distinguish God’s people from the world. This reason remains
relevant today, and thus the point which the law makes—to live in spiritual
separation from the world—remains relevant. In my judgment, it cannot be argued
that tattoos and body piercing can be used to glorify God in our calling to live
lives of service to Jesus Christ. Why? The motive for tattoos and body piercing
is very clear: to imitate the current fashions and customs of the wicked world
in which we live.
There are two movements in western Christian nations today
which go hand in hand. On the one hand, efforts are being made to erase all
references to Christianity from national life; on the other hand there is a
return to paganism. C. S. Lewis even argues that the entire feminist movement
and especially the reference to God as "she" are a return to pagan notions of
feminine deities. When people tattoo themselves and pierce their bodies they are
reverting to pagan practices—even as pagan religions are becoming increasingly
popular. "Christian" countries are becoming pagan once again. Tattooing and body
piercing are defiant gestures against the true God and are indicative of a
return to paganism.
As Christians, our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost
(I Cor. 6:19-20). This gives further Biblical support to the Christian
opposition to tattooing and body piercing. The argument is this. Because our
bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost, our bodies also belong to Christ. God
saves our bodies as well as our souls. In question and answer 1 of the
Heidelberg Catechism, the believer confesses that "with body and soul" he
belongs to his faithful Saviour. Christ died to save our bodies. He will save
them fully and perfectly in the resurrection of the body in the day of His
We love our bodies, not as narcissistic body worshipers, but
as those redeemed in body and soul. We love our bodies for God’s sake, because
they are loved by God, redeemed in the cross, and destined to be raised. Because
of this, we treat our bodies with respect and are very careful what we do with
our bodies. The believer respects the human body as a creation of God, saved in
the blood of Christ. He cares for the body; does not unnecessarily endanger it;
treats it with respect; and, when death comes, carefully buries the body in the
earth in the hope of the resurrection. Body piercing and tattooing is, in
reality, a thumbing of the nose at God by doing to our bodies what we want and
by refusing to acknowledge that they are God’s. Prof. Hanko
Several readers have inquired about the propriety of using
the title "Reverend" of ministers. One cited Psalm 111:9 which says of God:
"holy and reverend is his name." There are two reasons why this verse cannot be
used against calling ministers "Reverend." First, if "reverend" cannot be
applied to man in any sense, neither can "holy," for the text says, "holy
and reverend is his name." But we know that Christians are frequently
called saints (lit. "holy ones") in the Bible (Col. 1:2). Second, the Hebrew
word translated "reverend" is used of people fearing a man: "all the people
greatly feared [i.e., revered] the Lord and
Samuel" (I Sam. 12:18; cf. Prov. 24:21).
Another reader asks, "Does the title Rev. mean a revered
person or a reverent person?" Although a minister must be reverent (i.e. "show
reverence" to God), the title "Reverend" indicates that he is a revered person,
one "deserving reverence" of man.
The Scriptures tell us that the ascended Christ gives pastors
and teachers to His church (Eph. 4:11; Jer. 3:15) as His ambassadors (II Cor.
5:20), to be His watchmen (Eze. 3:17) and angels (i.e., messengers) of God (Rev.
2:1) ordained (I Tim. 4:14) to this special "office" (I Tim. 3:1). Under Christ,
ministers (and ruling elders) administer the keys of the kingdom of heaven
(Matt. 16:19; 18:18). Think of the importance of the office of minister! For
"how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rom. 10:14).
Thus a faithful minister is worthy of reverence. We must not
only "obey" and "submit" to (teaching and ruling) elders (Heb. 13:17), but we
must also "hold such in reputation" (Phil. 2:29), reckon them "worthy of double
honour" (I Tim. 5:17) and "esteem them very highly in love" (I Thess. 5:13).
God has created a world in which those in places of authority
in family, church, state and business are to be honoured (cf. fifth
commandment). Children, wives, citizens and employees are to reverence their
parents, husbands, civil rulers and employers respectively (Heb. 12:9; Eph.
5:33; Rom. 13:7; I Peter 2:18). Thus we give people their titles: Father, Prof.,
your Majesty, Prime Minister, Sir, Detective Inspector, Dr., etc. In a similar
way, we believe it entirely appropriate to refer to the minister of God’s Word
as "Reverend." Since Scripture does not say that we must
address ministers as "Rev." or "Pastor" or "Mr.," those who prefer not to use
these titles are free not to use them, provided they understand that God has
ordained ministers (and ruling elders and deacons) in his church and that these
men must be "esteem[ed] ... very highly in love for their work’s sake" (I
Thess. 5:13). And remember, in honouring church office-bearers, we honour
Christ, the head of the church. Rev. Stewart
would like to receive the Covenant Reformed News free by e-mail
each month (and/or by post, if you are in the UK), please contact
Rev. Stewart and we will gladly send it to you.