Twelve Bible Dialogues
A Review of Twelve Basic Bible Doctrines
Harold P. Barker, with O. Lambert, C. A.
Miller, P. Brown,
Questions by W. E. Powell; Answers by H. P. Barker
IN our previous dialogues we have spoken of many wonderful things that are found in the Bible. On this occasion we are to speak of the Bible itself, and the claim that it has upon our obedience. I trust that as a result our reverence for God’s holy Book may be increased, and a desire for a deeper acquaintance with its teachings may be implanted in our hearts.
What makes the Bible different from every other book?
The Bible comes to us with a claim that no other book in the world, worthy of serious attention, makes. I need not refer to the Koran, nor to the sacred books of the Hindoos and other Oriental nations, nor to the silly talk of Mormons and others. Inspiration may be claimed for them by their adherents, but no one here would be disposed to attach any weight to such a pretension.
Setting aside these products of fanaticism and paganism, if we compare the Bible with other good and useful books, we find that it stands upon immeasurably higher ground than even the best of them. Books written by devoted men of God are helpful and profitable to read, and their writers may have had the assistance of the Holy Spirit as they penned their words. But, for all that, the words of such books are the words of their writers, not the very words of God. With the Bible it is different. Its words are divinely given. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16). That is, the Bible was written, not through good and holy thoughts being suggested by God’s Spirit to the writers (such as may happen nowadays), but by the very words being divinely inspired so as to preclude the possibility of mistake or imperfection. The Holy Scriptures, as given at first, are like their Divine Author —perfect. This is the truth for which, by the grace of God, I desire to stand.
How can you prove that the Bible is inspired?
The Christian who knows and loves his Bible will find in its wonderful excellencies, and in the way it speaks to his heart and affects his conscience, a sufficient proof of its divine origin.
If you stood in the street yonder to-morrow at midday, you would need no man to prove to you that the sun shone. You would feel its warmth, and that would suffice for you. Nor, if you received a sharp cut from a razor, would you need further proof that its edge was keen. In like manner, when one’s heart is warmed through reading this blessed Book, as only divine love can warm it; and when the conscience is affected, as only the voice of divine authority can affect it — one has proof of the inspiration of Scripture.
External evidences are poor things to rest one’s faith upon. Yet in the case of the Bible they are by no means lacking.
The marvellous and detailed fulfilment of its prophecies; the perfect harmony between its various parts, indited as they were under varying circumstances and at different epochs; the utter failure of its critics to substantiate their charges of imperfection; the impossibility of the human mind, trained and cultured through it be, to fathom and exhaust its teachings —all these, and many other facts, testify to the divine authorship of the Bible.
How does the divine inspiration of the Bible accord with the fact that its various parts were written by men?
Men were used to inscribe the words, and for this purpose writers were selected whose character, position, or history suited them in a special way to communicate the revelation given to them. But the words by means of which they made their respective communications were just as truly the words of God Himself as if His own finger had penned them.
Let me illustrate what I mean. When Moses was summoned to the mountain-top he received the law engraved upon two tables of stone, “written with the finger of God” (Exod. 31:18). Without employing any human instrument whatever, God Himself had written the words. “And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables” (Exod. 32:16).
But when Moses came down from the mount and found the people shouting and dancing in honour of a calf of gold, in a fit of righteous anger he shattered the divinely given tablets into fragments.
Upon this, Moses was again called to the mountain-summit that the tablets might be renewed. But in this case Moses was to prepare the materials (Exod. 34:1), and though God again undertook to write His words upon them, it was with the hand of Moses He would write them. “The Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words” (v. 27). Yet, though the hand of Moses, on this occasion, penned the words, they were just as truly the words of God Himself as when His own finger had written them; so Moses could say, “These are the words which the Lord hath commanded” (Exod. 35:1).
This will help us to understand how words, written upon humanly manufactured materials, by the fingers of men, may yet be the very sayings of God. Such are the words of the Bible.
If you will turn to Acts 1:16, you will see that the words of Scripture are thus described. The apostle Peter, quoting from the Old Testament, calls the quotation a scripture “which the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of David, spake.” So also, in Acts 28:25, Paul exclaims, “Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the Prophet.”
Some people claim to have found contradictions and mistakes in the Bible. What do you say to that?
It is generally easy to prove that the mistakes exist in the minds of the critics, and not in the Bible. Take, for instance, the alleged discrepancy between the teaching of Paul and that of James on the subject of justification. The one says we are justified by faith, the other that we are justified by works. But on examination we find that the justification of which Paul speaks is justification in the sight of God; whereas James treats of justification before men, a totally different thing. Thus the accusation of error recoils upon the critic’s head, and he is found guilty of superficiality and lack of discernment.
Take another example. In Matthew’s Gospel the so-called “Sermon on the Mount” is said to be delivered upon a mountain, where the Lord Jesus sat and taught His disciples. “But,” says the critic, “in Luke’s Gospel this same sermon is said to have been delivered while our Lord stood, and that, too, not on a mountain, but in the plain” (Luke 6:17). And this instance is brought forward as a conclusive proof of one gospel writer contradicting another!
I should have thought that it is a conclusive proof of nothing but the blindness of the would-be Bible critic. For even supposing that the sermon recorded by Matthew and that given by Luke were exactly the same, word for word (which they are far from being), it does not follow that there is any contradiction between the two accounts. Wherever the Lord went, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, He had the same message to proclaim, and would very probably enunciate the same truths, in the same or similar terms, in different localities. What is there to prevent our believing that on one occasion the Lord uttered the words in Matthew seated upon a mountain-side, and upon another occasion the words in Luke standing in the plain? This appears to have been the case.
So far from it being an
instance of imperfection
in the Bible, it is another example of its wonderful and detailed
For in Matthew the Lord is presented as the long-looked-for Messiah of
But in Luke He is presented as the Son of Man, come down in heavenly grace to meet the need of sinful men. The burden of the gospel message in Luke is not so much “Come unto Me,” as “I have come to you.” “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost.” Hence His descent to the plain to utter the sermon is the incident selected for portrayal by the pen of Luke, in beautiful harmony with the purport of his gospel.
So much for the critics.
A microscopist, or chemist, however skilful, can never satisfy his hunger by the dissection or analysis of the plate of food that is before him. Nor shall we, if we sit in the critic’s chair, thrive by our study of God’s Word. In a humble, childlike spirit we should feed on what God has given for the nourishment of our souls, and leave faultfinding to those who wish to remain lean and famished all their days.
Are there not many things in the Bible very hard for young Christians to understand?
Yes, undoubtedly; but, on the other hand, there is much that the simplest believer can understand and upon which he can feed. There is a story told of an old lady who likened the reading of the Bible to eating a plate of fish. “When I come to a bone,” she said, “I am not troubled because I can’t digest it. I just lay it on one side, and go on eating that part of the fish which I can manage. And when I read the Word of God, if I come across anything that is beyond my poor comprehension, I do not worry over it, I just leave it till such time as the Lord may please to give me better understanding, and, meanwhile, I turn my attention to the abundance of precious truth which is simple enough for me to understand, and I get many a good meal for my soul from it.”
That old lady was wise, and I should advise all young Christians to read their Bibles on the same principle. What they find difficult to understand they may leave for future consideration, or they may seek the help of some spiritually minded Christian who is more advanced in the things of God than themselves.
Is there not a danger of young Christians wrongly interpreting the Bible, and thus doing themselves spiritual damage?
There is not only a danger, but a certainty, of our wrongly interpreting Scripture if we trust to our own understanding in the study of it. There is only one Person on earth that can rightly interpret to our souls the blessed teaching of God’s Word. I refer to the Holy Ghost. But He is here, amongst other reasons, for the express purpose of illuminating our souls with the knowledge of the truth. It was He who, in the first instance, indited the words of the Bible, and He can make their meaning plain to us. He is the Divine Interpreter of the Divine Book.
Thank God, we are not left to private judgment for the interpretation of Scripture, nor are we dependent upon the decisions of learned doctors, or the pronouncements of any self-constituted human authority, papal or otherwise. We have the Holy Ghost Himself to be our Teacher and Guide. He who reads his Bible in simple and earnest dependence upon His teaching will not be disappointed. He will be kept from many an error, and be fed with the finest of wheat.
If a young Christian were to say, “I would like to study my Bible, but I don’t know how to begin,” how would you advise him?
That is a rather difficult question to answer, for so much depends upon the degree of familiarity which one has with the Scriptures.
One might begin by studying the wonderful parables given to us in Luke’s Gospel, which set forth in so striking a manner the grace of God. Such parables, I mean, as the prodigal son, the great supper, and the good Samaritan.
Then, too, one might search the Scriptures to find what they say as to any particular subject that may be exercising one’s mind.
But I would particularly recommend all young Christians to read over for themselves the portions of Scripture that come before us in our public meetings, those from which the Gospel is set forth, or which may be chosen as the subject of a Bible-reading or an address. Such portions are often selected with special reference to the spiritual needs of young believers, and should be studied in private after being considered at the meeting.
Are there any non-essentials in the Bible?
It seems hardly likely that God would have gone to the trouble of making a revelation to us of things which we may regard with indifference.
We too often resemble the old astronomers who regarded the earth as the centre of the universe, and reasoned accordingly. We are apt to regard ourselves as the central figure of God’s wonderful plan, and to reckon anything of which we do not see the immediate bearing upon our own blessing to be a “non-essential.” But this is a grievously selfish way of looking at the matter. The fact is that it is Christ who is the central object of all God’s purposes and plans, and what is revealed is in view of His glory. We may not see how any particular truth affects us, but if it is in any way connected with the glory of Christ, can any loyal heart call it a “non-essential”?
We may be sure, then, that everything in the Bible is essential—essential to Christ’s glory and the completeness of God’s revelation, and if we attempt to dispense with any part of it we shall be losers in consequence.
Would you advise an unconverted man to read the Bible?
Certainly, for its words are words of life. I do not mean by this that a man can be saved through Bible-reading. One may read through the Bible and be able to repeat chapter after chapter of it by heart, and yet remain unsaved.
But numberless instances are on record of souls to whom the voice of God has come in quickening power through the page of Scripture. Some passage is brought home to the conscience by the Holy Spirit, and is thus the means of awakening and blessing. Even infidels, studying the Bible with a view to finding fault with it, have been aroused and led to Christ through what they have found therein; heathens, in localities where the living voice of the preacher has never been heard, have obtained copies of God’s Word, and found life and blessing in Christ through its means.
Are you in favor of teaching the Bible to children?
Most decidedly. Christian parents neglect a most important duty if they do not endeavour to store the minds of their little ones with the truths of God’s Word. It is true that for those truths to be effectual there must be a work of the Holy Spirit in the soul; but if the mind is stored with Scripture while young, there is material that the Holy Spirit can use at any subsequent time. How many there are who, during mature life, have had some passage of Scripture which they learned in the days of their childhood brought powerfully before their souls in such a way that conversion has been the result! So that even if we have to wait many days, or years, for the seed to spring up, it is well to sow it in the minds of our children. We may be sure that if we do not instil into their minds the teaching of God’s Book, Satan will be ready enough to take advantage and plant his evil thoughts there. By all means, then, teach your children, and let them be taught, the truths of God’s holy Word.
Twelve Bible Dialogues -
Harold P. Barker et al.
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