In John Pollock’s biography of Billy Graham, Graham asks . . .
“Must an intellectually honest man know everything about the Bible’s origins before he could use it? Were theological professors the only ones qualified to speak of religion, or might a simple American, or an ignorant jungle villager, or even a child, lead another to Christ?” (Piper, p. 181).
SHARING BILLY GRAHAM’S BURDEN
Piper has argued that “God is not honored, and the soul is not saved, by so-called faith that has no good evidence or solid ground” (p. 182).
How can the average Christian, without scholarly training, have that good evidence and solid ground? “We can know the Bible is the word of God by ‘the internal testimony of the Spirit’” (p. 182).
Two key things brought John Calvin to faith. “I at length perceived, as if light had broken in upon me, in what a sty of error I had wallowed.” The other key was humility. “God, by a sudden conversion, subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame” (Piper, p. 184). So his conversion introduced him to the Spirit’s work, which, of course, transcends the work of humans.
THE INTERNAL TESTIMONY OF THE SPIRIT, NOT THE TESTIMONY OF THE CHURCH
The Roman Catholic Church claimed Christians were dependent on the church. Calvin called that a “most pernicious error” and explained, “Scripture exhibits fully as clear evidence of its own truth as white and black things do of their color or sweet and bitter things do of their taste” (Piper, p, 184).
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Scripture itself gave Calvin a saving knowledge of God. And the Spirit awakens the sinner, as if from the dead, to see God’s reality in Scripture, which confirms Scripture as God’s word.
Digging deeper, Calvin writes . . .
“Therefore illumined by [the Spirit’s] power, we believe neither by our own nor by anyone else’s judgment that Scripture is from God; but above human judgment we affirm with utter certainty (just as if we were gazing upon the majesty of God himself) that it has flowed to us from the very mouth of God by the ministry of men” (Piper, p. 186).
THE WITNESS IS NOT ADDED TO SCRIPTURE
The testimony of the Spirit doesn’t provide additional information, but opens the human heart to see God’s majesty in the Scriptures.
The Westminster Confession puts it this way . . .
“The . . . incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection [of the Scriptures], are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts” (Piper, p.188).
THE TESTIMONY IS THAT GOD GAVE US LIFE
“This is the one who came by water and blood–Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son . . . And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:6-11).
Piper explains the apostle’s last sentence: “I take this to mean that God testifies to us of his reality and the reality of his Son and his word by giving us life from the dead so that we come alive to his majesty and see him for who he is in his word. In that instant of coming to life, we do not reason from premises to conclusions; we see light because we are awake—alive from the dead—and there is no prior human judgment that persuades us we are alive and awake and seeing. God’s testimony to his word is life from the dead that immediately sees” (p. 189).
Lazarus, called from the tomb by Christ’s word, didn’t need reasoning to convince him. He knew he was alive!
BY THE TESTIMONY WE SEE WHAT IS REALLY THERE
We’re all blinded to Christ’s glory in the gospel. To see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4), we need 2 Corinthians 4:6—“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
THE SPIRIT GIVES LIFE
Piper writes, “ . . . the testimony of the Spirit is the work of the Spirit to give us new life and, with this life, eyes to see what is really there in the self-attesting divine glories of Scripture . . . “ (p. 191).
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This means every time we see God’s glory in Christ in the Scripture, we participate in a supernatural event! Our coming to faith and “seeing” God in the Bible is but the first time.
But what of those days when Scripture is dull and dry to us? When it feels as if we’re just “putting in time” to check off today’s reading? Sometimes the text’s difficulty makes it “dry”. Sometimes (like reading Leviticus) no application leaps to mind.
Maybe, though, there’s a lesson here. Maybe, instead of assuming the Holy Spirit will show us God’s glory in his Word, we should pause first to pray that he will.
O Father, thank you for awakening me to your glories in the gospel. Remind me that’s what your Book contains–your glories. Keep me from presuming to be able to see them on my own. Remind me that I still don’t see as clearly as I one day will. So when I open your Word, move me to humbly pray for the Spirit to open the eyes of my heart, that I might see there your glories and be transformed. In Jesus’ name, Amen.