“One of the great gifts of Scripture is that it creates for us categories of thought that help us grasp more truth” (Piper, p. 152). That statement prepares us for this chapter as we follow John Piper in answering the question, “Is the Bible true and the standard by which all other claims to truth should be measured?” In this chapter, Piper argues that Scripture possesses a divine glory which authenticates it as God’s word.
Piper’s aim in this chapter: “to shed as much light on the process of divine illumination as I can by means of four analogies . . . In other words, I am asking, what is it like to experience the miracle of 2 Corinthians 4:6?” (Piper, p. 152).
For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
#1–THE RATIONAL SOUL AND THE WORD OF GOD
The physical human body— the movement of all its part and its speech from vocal chords and brain, etc.—convinces us that it’s not just a physical body. Behind it lies a rational soul.
So it is, Piper argues (with a too-long-to-insert-here quote from Jonathan Edwards), with the Scripture. It is analogous to the physical body. Behind it (or better, in profound union with it) is a divine mind.
“The union in both cases is so profound that when we see the acting human body as we ought, and we see the meaning of the Scriptures as we ought, there is no conscious inferring. There is immediate light. This is a rational person, not just a body. This is the word of God, not just of man” (Piper, p. 154).
#2–THE PAINTER AND THE GOD WHO SPEAKS
Consider the analogy between knowing God is the author of Scripture and knowing “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” was painted by Rembrandt. (Inserted because I think it’s powerful.)
Cover Rembrandt’s painting with paper leaving only a pinhole, and you couldn’t identity him as the painter. So with Scripture. Just a letter or even single word here and there wouldn’t identify God as author.
The glory of God to be seen there lies in Scripture’s meaning. And to grasp that meaning and see that glory requires a sufficient account of Scripture. How much? That depends, first, on which part of the Book one looks at. Job, with its lengthy dialogues, requires a much broader view then, say, the Gospel of John or Romans.
Second, it depends on the reader’s familiarity with the Bible. The glory in the Scriptures transforms the reader’s heart and mind. The more glory, the more transformation. The more transformation, the more that glory is seen. “Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
THE LIGHT OF GOD BRINGS ALL TRUTH TO LIGHT
This analogy springs from Psalm 36:9 (“in your light do we see light”) and from C.S. Lewis’ famous quote: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else” (p. 158).
Ordinarily, when we want to evaluate some claim to truth, we try to make sense out of it based on all our experience. Does it line up with what we already know to be true? “But what happens when we encounter a claim that says, ‘I am the Standard, the Arbiter, the Truth’? . . . When the ultimate Measure of all reality speaks, you don’t subject this Measure to the measure of your mind or your experience of the world . . . When the ultimate Standard of all truth and beauty appears, he is not put in the dock to be judged by the prior perceptions of truth and beauty that we bring to the courtroom . . . The eternal, absolute original is seen as true and beautiful not because he coheres with what we know but because all the truth and beauty we know coheres in him . . . He does not make sense, and thus have plausibility in the light of this world. He brings sense to the world” (Piper, p. 158,159).
When God’s Son came into the world, the “original, the source, became part of the stream of creation that flows from him . . . He is really creature, and really Creator . . . we know him to be true, not because our light shows him to be so, but because his divine light shines with its own, all-enlightening, all-explaining glory” (Piper, p. 160).
It’s the same with the Scriptures “which are organically related to the incarnate Word” (Piper, p.160). Herman Bavink (19th century Dutch Reformed theologian) said, “[Scripture] is the product of God’s incarnation in Christ and in a sense its continuation” (p. 160). Piper adds, “Thus we know the Scriptures to be true, not because our light shows them to be so, but because that divine light shines with its own unique, all-enlightening, all-explaining glory” (p. 160).
WHAT DID PETER SEE THAT JUDAS DID NOT?
How did Peter see Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God?” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus explained . . .
“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). All genuine followers of Jesus experienced the same: “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God . . . ” (Luke 8:10).
This is how anyone comes to know Christ’s truth and beauty.
At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:25-27).
In this analogy, Judas represents people who come to the Scriptures with mind and heart completely out of tune with their meaning that they can’t hear them for what they are. Peter represents people who come with mind and heart humbled by the Holy Spirit and “open to the beauty and truth of God’s glory shining through the meaning of the text” (Piper, p. 164).
THE SCRIPTURES REVEAL THE GLORY
These four analogies illustrate how the Scriptures are seen to be God’s word by revealing his glory. “As the gospel carries in it a real, objective, self-authenticating divine glory, so . . . the Scriptures . . . evidence their own divine authority” (Piper, p. 165).
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Father in heaven, even though we believe the Scriptures are true (and our faith is being reinforced by this study), we sometimes read without being captivated by your truth, beauty and glory revealed there. Sometimes the words are dull and drab. Please awaken the Holy Spirit within us to open the eyes of our heart. We don’t want to just read words or commands or doctrine. Open our spiritual eyes, so that in the meaning of your words we see your beauty and your glory. And so may we love your Scriptures and love you as the greatest treasure in the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.