Books and THE Book
September 21st, 1980 @ 10:50 AM
2 Timothy 4:13
BOOKS AND THE BOOK
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 4:13
9-21-80 10:50 a.m.
And this is the first message in the series on bibliology, and it is entitled Books and THE Book. The background, the source, of the title is in 2 Timothy 4:13. Paul, from the Mamertine dungeon in Rome, just before he is beheaded is writing to Timothy, his son in the ministry, who is pastor of the church at Ephesus across the Mediterranean in the Roman province of Asia.
And writing to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:13, he says: “The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.” Mala, that is a Greek adverb meaning very, and the superlative form of it is málista —especially, above all, particularly, especially—when you come bring ta biblia, “the books.”
Those are the scrolls that are made out of papyri. Our word paper comes from that, from the papyrus plant, flattened out, woven together; papyri, the books. They were doubtless Talmudic and rabbinical commentaries and discussions, bring ta biblia, “the books,” but especially the membrana—membrana. Our word “membranes” comes from it, “…but especially the membrana.” That’s a Latin word, and it means parchments—writing on skins of animals, usually sheep skin: writing on sheep skin. “Bring ta biblia” —the books, the commentaries, the rabbinical discussions—”but málista, above all, especially the membrana, the membrane, the Bible.”
These great classical effusions of the Greco-Roman world were usually written on something substantial such as parchment, and the Word of God was written on parchments. So that gave rise to the subject, Books and The Book; all of the books of the world and the Bible.
In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes and the twelfth verse, the wisest of all the men who ever lived said, “Of making books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh” [Ecclesiastes 12:12].
He wrote that in a day when books were laboriously wrought by writing on scrolls, all of it by hand. And if he thought there was a proliferation and a multiplication of books when he lived about 950 BC, if he thought that then, think what he would say now in the printing press making these volumes by the thousands and the millions, so much so that there’s no man ever that lives who even knows all of the knowledge in his one division of science, such as a chemist. A chemist cannot know everything that is published now about chemistry.
The only way the world moves today in its vast, vast illimitable store of knowledge is because of the modern computer. They can place that knowledge in these computers and bring it to mind and at their fingertips.
The vast multiplication of books today is almost incalculable and immeasurable. But out of all of them—the millions, and the millions, and the millions of books and the hundreds of thousands of them that are being constantly published by these unending publishing houses—there is still one Book!
Books, ta biblia and the membrana, the Book; and that’s the subject this morning. Why the Book? I have, as time will permit, three reasons why it is unique, set apart—the great unlike and incomparable.
Number one: only here, just here are to be found the answers to the questions that we want to know. Only here the true revelation of the knowledge that is desperately needed by us in our souls, just here; only here can I find the knowledge that really matters in human life, in no other place but here.
Where did I come from and the whole universe that I see created around me? Where did it come from? Where did I come from? Again, what is the meaning of my existence? Does it have any reason or purpose or destiny? Is my life like an autumnal leaf that falls to the ground? Millions of those leaves fell last autumn, other millions are beginning to fall now. Is my life any different from one of those leaves falling to the ground? Does existence have any meaning, any purpose, any destiny, does it? Or again, where am I going beyond the grave? Into the darkness of the eternity that is yet to come, is there a light that shines? Is there a life beyond the dark river?
Plato, I suppose the most incomparable mind outside of the Scriptures, Plato pathetically and pointedly cried saying, “Oh, that there were some sure word that like a raft could bear us across the seas to that unknown shore.” Is there such a word? That is why I think you find an explanation for the kind of a revelation you have in the Bible.
All of these modern things that science has discovered in our generation, God knew them from the beginning. The secrets of the atoms, of the stars, of physics, of chemistry, all of that was known to God. He made it; He created it. But it wasn’t vital that the Lord reveal it to us. We could learn those things in their day and in their time, but it was all important and vital that God show us Himself—reveal His truth to us; show us how to live, how to die—to give us assurance as we face the eternity that is yet to come, and that is the Book!
What a compass is to a mariner, what the radar screen is to an airplane pilot, what a blueprint is to a builder, the Book is to us in our lives. As Isaiah wrote in the thirtieth chapter of his prophecy: Thine ears shall hear a voice behind thee saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it” [Isaiah 30:21]. Thus it is that God speaks to us. There is purpose; there is reason; there is a godly plan for each one of our lives, and the Lord speaks to us in His Holy Scriptures [Matthew 4:4; Romans 12:2].
It’s a remarkable thing to me when I study the Bible and I run across a statistic like this. The phrase the Lord said, “thus saith the Lord”—God speaks the Word of the Lord—that kind of a phrase is used more than two thousand five hundred times in the Bible.
You look at that a minute. God speaks directly to us in His Holy Word. The truth of God is objective, outside of ourselves—it is objective, it is propositional truth, that is, it is not subjective—it is not the introverted, psychological speculations of man.
God speaks and His objective truth is declared to us in the Book. The mighty weight and meaning of the Word of God in that revelation is all important, and all significant, and all vital to us in our lives.
In the one hundred nineteenth Psalm, verse 89, the psalmist singer says, “For ever, O God, Thy word is fixed in heaven” [Psalm 119:89]. But I’m not in heaven. I’m down here walking on this terrestrial globe, and something has to be done if God makes known to me the word that He has established forever in heaven, and the bringing down of that word of God in heaven is in the Book!
Paul writes it like this in Romans chapter 10, verses 6, 7, 8, and 9. He says: “Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend up into heaven, to bring it down to us.” Paul says, “For the word is nigh thee. It is in thine heart; that is, the word of faith, which we preach, namely . . .” [Romans 10:6-8], and then he tells us how to be saved [Romans 10:9-13]. As Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 2, verse 13:
We thank God without ceasing, because, when you received the word of God which you heard of us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
[1 Thessalonians 2:13]
That word in heaven is brought down to us and given to us in this earth in the Book! That’s why the early Christian preachers in those first Christian centuries, that’s why they always stood before their people and preached with the Book in their hand.
Now, what do you mean by that, pastor, “With the Book in their hand?”
Well, heretofore, in all of the centuries and ages past—in all of them—a book was a scroll. And as you read the scroll, you turned those rods, and you turned the rods, and you read as the rods turned the long manuscript.
But those Christian preachers, preaching the Book, didn’t have time to carry around a wheelbarrow full of manuscripts, and when they picked out the right scroll—a Isaiah, or Moses, or the Psalm—they didn’t have time to turn those rods and find the passage. So what they did was, they took the scrolls and cut them up into leaves and bound them at the back. And that’s the first time the world ever saw what we call a book! Heretofore through all of the ages and centuries they were scrolls that you turned. But those first Christian preachers, announcing the good news of the evangel of Christ, cut up those leaves and bound them at the back in what you call a book.
And wherever they went, they stood with a Book in their hand, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ. This is unique, I say—alone, and separate, and apart—because it reveals to us the answers to the questions that really, actually, vitally, we want to know: books and the Book.
Second: only here will you find the full revelation of Christ, the Word of God, the glorious Redeemer, Savior of the world, only in the Book. It’s a remarkable thing to me when I read ancient history and think of the beautiful, marvelous, incomparable life of our Lord, and yet, there are only three references to Him in secular literature in the first 150 years AD.
One: in about 80 to 90 AD, Josephus in his Antiquities wrote a little paragraph about the Christ, and I suppose the whole academic, scholastic world thinks it is spurious—it isn’t genuine. Well, that’s one, a little paragraph, a little thing referring to Christ.
Second: in Tacitus in about 100 AD, there is one sentence about the Lord. Tacitus in his Annals felt compelled to explain who the Christians were, because in his history of Nero, when Nero burned Rome, he laid the blame of it on the Christians. So Tacitus says these Christians were named for a malefactor, a felon that was crucified under Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judea, and that’s all.
Now: in 150 AD, Suetonius, another Latin historian, says the same thing. Telling about Nero, he took one sentence to describe where these Christians got their name: from a Christ who was a felon, and a malefactor, and an evildoer, who was crucified by Pontius Pilate in Judea. Now that’s all, that’s the whole spectrum and gamut of the story of Christ in secular literature.
This Book, the Book, reveals our Lord in a marvelous and incomparable presentation: He lives on its pages. Look at this: Erasmus, the great Greek scholar, published the first Greek New Testament. It is called the Textus Receptus. It’s the basis of the translation of the King James Version, out of which I preach.
Now when Erasmus published his first Greek New Testament in 1516, these are the words that he wrote in the preface, quote:
These holy pages will summon up the living image of His mind. They will give you Christ Himself talking, healing, dying, rising, the whole Christ in a word. They will give Him to you in an intimacy so close that He would be less visible to you if He stood before your very eyes.
Erasmus says that on these holy and heavenly pages you will see Jesus our Lord more fully and gloriously and completely than if He stood before your very eyes: the Book, the revelation of our Lord. You see, He is identified with His Word. In the Bible, the spoken Word, and the written Word, and the incarnate Word are all the same. They’re referred to alike as “the Word.”
In John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
In Revelation 19:11-13:
I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was [called] Faithful and True.
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns.
He was dressed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.
All three are the Word, and Jesus lives in the Book, the Word. For me spiritually to know the Word is to know Christ. To obey the Word is to obey Christ. To preach the Word is to preach Christ. If I impugn or dishonor the Word, I disgrace and dishonor my Lord. But if I magnify the written Word, I glorify the incarnate Word. It is unique; it is the Book! And the whole sum and substance of the Book reveals His redemptive mission. That’s the Book. I can say it is divided into three great parts: the first part announces His coming— “He is coming” [Genesis-Malachi]; the middle part describes “He is here” [Matthew-John]; and the last part, the apostolic part, “He is coming again” [Acts-Revelation].
That’s the Book: the prophets, the announcement, “He is coming.” The Gospels look at Him in all of His beauty and glory: “He is here.” And the apostles: “He is coming again.” That’s the Book, and the unfolding of that redemptive story is the unfolding of the purpose of God; His redemptive love for us in Christ Jesus, the Word of God [John 3:16-17].
In the beginning, in the garden of Eden, the Seed of the woman—not of the man—the Seed of the woman shall crush Satan’s head [Genesis 3:15]. In the days of the Deluge, the Seed is preserved when Noah found grace in His sight [Genesis 6:7-8]. In the days of universal idolatry, the Seed is promised to Abraham through whom all the families of the world will be blessed [Genesis 22:18]. And that same promise of the Coming One is given to Isaac [Genesis 26:4], then to Jacob, whose name is Israel [Genesis 35:11-12].
And to David, he shall have a Son to sit upon his throne forever and ever [2 Samuel 7:12]. And the psalmist singer sings about Him, “Thou will not leave His soul to see corruption” [Psalm 16:10]. He shall be raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7]. And the prophets describe the Holy One of Israel:
He shall grow up before Him as a root out of dry ground, as a tender plant: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men: a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:
yet we beheld Him smitten and afflicted, and we hid our faces from Him. Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows . . . All we like sheep have gone astray; turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all . . . Thou shalt see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied; and by His knowledge shall many be redeemed.
Ah, that is what the prophet said!
And when He came the Gospel writer said, “These things are written, that you might believe that He is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life in His name” [John 20:31]. And the apostles preached:
We are ambassadors from the courts of heaven, beseeching you that you be reconciled to God. For God hath made Him to be sin for us, Him who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
[2 Corinthians 5:20-21]
And the glorious apocalyptic announcement, the unveiling of the coming of our Lord, and the glory of His person:
I heard an angel sweeping across the expanse of heaven saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever.
And I heard ten thousand times ten thousand of angels, and thousands of thousands saying: Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and glory, and honor . . . and He shall reign forever and ever and ever…Amen! Amen!
That is the Book!
The world story is His story. That’s why, when I read these German rationalists, and these higher critics, and they take that Holy Word and they say, “This, that’s a forgery.” Then they turn to the next one, and they say, “This, that’s fakery.” Then they say, “This, that’s fraudulent,” and then they say, “This, that’s spurious.” And the whole Book they cut in pieces like Jehoiakim cut it with a penknife and burned it in a fire [Jeremiah 36:23]. That’s what they do.
But what I can’t understand is this: woven throughout the Bible in every syllable and sentence, in every verse and paragraph, in every chapter, woven throughout the Bible—interwoven in it, a part of the warp and woof of the Scriptures—is this plan of redemption, this story of our redeeming Lord. Now what I can’t understand, if it’s forgery here, and spurious there, and it’s fakery yonder, and it’s fraudulent there, where did that come from? How was it that in fraudulence and in spuriousness there is found this scarlet thread that binds us to the heart and the throne of God? I don’t understand them, and they couldn’t explain it themselves. The reason is obvious. The Holy Spirit wrote the Book [2 Peter 1:20-21], and His story of redemption and salvation is found in every part of it. That’s God! I must hasten.
One other out of forty others that I could name—I just need somebody with patience to listen to me—why the uniqueness of this Book, the Book? A third: alone here will you find that phenomenon that we find prophecy, the unveiling, the unfolding of the future. The Greek word is apocalypse, revelation.
There are many religions in the world, both dead and a few that still live. And so many of them have religious books—the Bhagavad-Gita, the Vedic hymns, the sayings of Confucius, the writings of Mahavira; the Koran of the Islamic world—but in no religious book in existence do you find the phenomenon of prophecy, what the future holds. And the reason why you don’t find it in Mahavira or Gautama Buddha or Mohammed is very obvious. They don’t know the future, and did try to unfold it, it would be obvious; their abysmal and inexcusable ignorance.
But the God who wrote this Book sees the end from the beginning, and tomorrow is as today before His omnipotent sight. And in this Book you have, thousands and thousands of years before it comes to pass, the exact prophecy in minute detail; what God shall do in these centuries yet to come. And that’s why it is so meaningful for us today.
We live in awesome times, confusing times, disastrous times. We live daily in fear that any time somebody who hates us might rain livid death from the skies upon us.
And what of the future? We would be of all men, lost, lost, were it not that in the Book there is revealed to us a great elective plan and purpose of God. Nothing happens adventitiously, without meaning and purpose: God’s directive omnipotence is guiding the destiny of the nations.
And in this Book we read what it is God purposes in the Middle East. In this Book we read of the rise of Russia. In this Book we read of the Western Confederacy to which we in America belong. In this Book we read about the Jew and his destiny and the church and its glory. All of it in this Book; God has a purpose in it all.
“The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower” [“Olney Hymn 35” 1779, William Cowper]. There is a great purpose toward which all history is ultimately moving. “Count Down,” as one volume has it, “to Armageddon.” And to conclude, as we face this inevitable future, it is this Book with its holy promises and its comforting words that sustain us in that ultimate and final hour.
Did you ever hear of a man, I mean in the history of the world, did you ever hear of a man dying—facing that inevitable world to come—and on his death bed he cried saying, “Bring me my book of anthropology, and open it, and read to me again how we descended from apes, and anthropoids, and marsupials, read it to me again! I’m facing that great eternal unknown; tell me how we’re descended from apes! Read it to me.” Did you ever hear that in your life?
Did you ever in your life hear of a man anywhere in history, as he lay dying, saying, “Bring me my book of chemistry and read to me again all of those formulae that make up these chemical analysis, or bring me my book of physics, or bring me my book of economics, and read to me these great theories and speculations of men!” I never heard of it in my life.
I tell you what I have heard: world without end have I heard of those God‑sainted people who, facing the ultimate and final end, say, “Bring me that blessed, old Book filled with the promises of God, and read to me once again of that beautiful land that is fairer than day.”
I hear that all the time. One of the most moving things in literature, when Sir Walter Scott lay dying, he said to his son-in-law, Lockhart, “Bring me the Book.”
And Lockhart said, “Father, the library has thousands of books. What book?”
And Sir Walter Scott said, “Son, there’s just one Book, bring me the Book!”
And Lockhart brought to the great Scottish bard and novelist the Bible, and he died with this Book in his hands.
“There’s just one Book!” cried the dying sage;
“Read me the old, old story.”
And the winged words that can never age,
Wafted his soul to glory.
[Author and work unknown]
There’s just one Book, God’s Book, and it charts the way from this life to
the life to come; from this world to our heavenly home. May we stand together?
Our dear Lord, what a comfort to know that when we hold this Book in our hands, and when we read on its sacred pages about Thee, we are looking upon the very face of our Savior. This is His life and love speaking, walking, talking, inviting, loving, dying, rising, interceding, and some glorious and consummating day, coming again. O Lord, that we might treasure its words, accept its Savior, listen to His voice, make Him Lord of our lives, our hope in this world and the world to come.
And while our people wait this moment in quiet prayer, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you: “Today, pastor, I’ve decided for God. And we’re on the way.” In the balcony round, down one of the stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, the Spirit has spoken to my heart today, I’m accepting Jesus as my Savior,” or “I’m putting my life in this dear church,” or “I’m coming to be baptized,” or as the Spirit shall press the appeal on your heart, make that decision now, and in a moment when we sing, make that first step, and may angels attend you in the way.
So bless the appeal, our Lord, with the gracious harvest, in Thy saving name, amen. While we wait, while we pray, while we sing, “Here I am, pastor, I’m on the way.”