Up to now, we’ve followed Piper as he’s examined the Bible’s claim for itself that it’s the true and trustworthy word of God. But is that claim true?
This book is also available to be read free online at http://www.desiringgod.org/books/peculiar-glory.
VERBALLY INSPIRED, INFALLIBLE, WITHOUT ERROR
Is the Bible that? And, therefore, should we bring our lives into line with what it teaches? Piper answers both with a resounding YES.
THE MOST URGENT QUESTION
How do we know this? That’s an urgent question, because “the Bible teaches . . . the way to escape the wrath of God and enter into eternal life and . . . [it] shapes the way we live in this life” (Piper, p. 128). It doesn’t teach merely job training skills or money management. It deals with eternal issues.
THE PLACE OF HISTORICAL REASONING
Piper recalls the season in his life he spent studying the historical reasoning of scholars. What do they teach about how we can know the Bible is the true word of God? But then he realized most people won’t have the training or time to study such arguments in support of the faith.
Yet, “the Bible assumes there is a basis for firm and justified knowledge that what it teaches is true. For example . . .
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may KNOW that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
“If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will KNOW whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority” (John 7:17).
THE INSUFFICIENCY OF HISTORICAL REASONING
“If historical reasoning is the only way by which men can attain faith, then faith becomes the possibility for only the few who can think historically, and faith for the common man is possible only if he is willing to commit himself to the authority of a priesthood of historians” (Daniel Fuller, Professor Emeritus of Fuller Theological Seminary).
NON-HISTORIANS ARE NOT EXPECTED TO LEAP INTO THE DARK
Is there another way for “ordinary” people to have firm knowledge that the Bible is true apart from scholarly, historical training? Jonathan Edwards (17th century Puritan theologian) maintains that people can have “a certainty of divine things” founded on “real evidence” and “good reason” (Piper, p. 134)—yet apart from historical, scholarly reasoning.
SCRIPTURE ENCOURAGES US TO HAVE GOOD GROUNDS OF FAITH
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1).
“As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,’ he said” (Acts 17:2,3).
Piper concludes that Paul thought that reasoning and explaining were proper ways to lead people to a well-grounded faith. Reasoning and explaining shouldn’t replace faith, but serve as a foundation for faith.
THE OBJECT OF FAITH IS MORE THAN FACTS
Piper: “ . . . the nature of the object of faith dictates the nature of the ‘real evidence’ for its reality.” For example, if the object of faith is honey, the nature of the real evidence would be taste.
According to Jonathan Edwards, “ . . . the object of true saving conviction is ‘the great things of the gospel’” (Piper, p. 137). But (and this is crucial), for Edwards “the object of our faith is not merely the factuality of the gospel, but also ‘the holy beauty and [loveliness] that is in divine things’” (Piper, p. 137). “Holy beauty and loveliness” in “divine things” constitute the nature of faith’s object.
THE KNOWN DETERMINES THE WAY OF KNOWING
“ , , , the nature of what we need to know determines how we can know it. If the glory of God in the gospel is what we must know . . . then the eyes to see this glory are not merely the eyes of our head, but ‘the eyes of our heart’” (Ephesians1:18) (Piper, p. 138).
Well-grounded faith, then, is not only reasonable, but spiritual—that is, enabled by the Holy Spirit. We need what Peter experienced . . .
“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven’” (Matthew 16:16,17).
THE BIBLICAL TEXT THAT TURNED THE LIGHTS ON (FOR PIPER)
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:3-6).
The mark of the unbeliever is blindness to “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ”. He may know the facts of the gospel, but he cannot see the glory. So we need spiritual intervention to see the gospel’s glory.
FAITH ARISES FROM SEEING WHAT IS REALLY THERE
The glory of Christ in the gospel is not subjective (we bring glory to it), but objective (it is really there).
“Edwards asks, ‘What is the basis for firm and justified knowledge of the truth of the gospel?’ He answers, ‘The glory of God’s moral perfections’ shining truly and objectively ‘in the face of Jesus Christ’ in the gospel—’the doctrines there taught, the word there spoken, and the divine counsels, acts and works there revealed’” (Piper, p. 142).
THE BEAUTY OF CHRIST PROCLAIMED
What is the “glory of God’s moral perfections shining in the face of Jesus Christ?” Piper answers . . .
The glory that the disciples saw in Jesus, and that we see when he is faithfully portrayed, was the moral beauty of a man whose food was to do the will of his Father in heaven (John 4:34). He never desired to seek his own glory at anyone’s innocent expense, but always sought his Father’s glory, even to the point of death . . . It is this beautiful, self-emptying allegiance of Jesus to the Father’s glory that stamps him as true and confirms our faith (p. 143).
THE BEAUTY OF CHRIST EMBODIED
The one who proclaims the beauty of Christ embodies the beauty of Christ. He surrenders his freedom and becomes a slave to serve others . . .
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (Philippians 2:5).
LIBERATION FROM THE DEVIL’S BLINDNESS BY GOD AND MAN
“For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).
“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘ Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4-6).
Piper asserts that verse 5, sandwiched between 4 and 6 reveals that people come to a well-grounded, saving knowledge of the truth “by a combination of human communication and divine illumination of God’s glory” (p. 145).
The unbeliever is ignorant of the truth because he is demonically, spiritually blind. By God’s grace he “comes to his senses” and sees the truth.
FROM THE GOSPEL TO THE SCRIPTURES
Piper explains that his reference to “the gospel” is just a “shorthand way” of speaking of all Scripture. “The path we have been describing toward a well-grounded conviction of the truth of the gospel is the same path that leads to a well-grounded conviction of the truth of the Scriptures” (p. 147).
THE SAME GLORY
2 Corinthians, then, reveals that the presence or absence of saving faith depends on spiritual blindness or sight. This, then, is the “good reason” or “just ground” for authentic faith in the gospel/Scriptures.
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Thus, coming to the Scriptures, whether to listen or read, we’re dependent on God the Holy Spirit. Intellect and scholarly knowledge alone won’t convince anyone the Bible is the true Word of God. Nor will it give us a reverent heart to humbly receive the words as God’s. This explains why many intelligent, well-educated people can read it and dismiss it. It also explains why ordinary people like us “get it”.
It’s all of grace.
The skeptic may argue, “That’s a convenient argument. You claim you have special insight because God gave it to you! If that’s the case, why you and not me?”
Our only response is to bow before God’s sovereignty. And to thank him for the gracious gift of the Holy Spirit who opens our eyes to see the words on the page of the Book as God’s words to us.