The Unique Character Of The Bible’s Teaching
By Arthur W. Pink (1886 – 1952)
The Scriptures contain their own evidence that they are Divinely inspired. Every page of Holy Writ is stamped with Jehovah’s autograph. The uniqueness of its teachings demonstrates the uniqueness of its Source. The teachings of the Scriptures about God Himself, about man, about the world, about sin, about eternal punishment, about salvation, about the Lord Jesus Christ, are proof that the Bible is not the product of any man or any number of men, but is in truth a revelation from God.
Take its teachings about God Himself. What does the Bible teach us about God? It declares that He is Eternal: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God” (Psa. 90:2).
It reveals the fact that He is Infinite: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee” (1 Kgs. 8:27). Vast as we know the universe to be, it has its bounds; but we must go beyond them to conceive of God.
It makes mention of His Sovereignty: “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (Isa. 46:9-10).
It affirms that He is Omnipotent: “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for Me?” (Jer. 32:27).
It intimates that He is Omniscient: “Great is our Lord, and of great power: His understanding is infinite” (Psa. 147:5).
It teaches that He is Omnipresent: “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord” (Jer. 23:24).
It declares that He is Immutable: “The same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Heb. 13:8). Yea, that with Him “is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (Jas. 1:17).
It reveals that He is “The Judge of all the earth” (Gen. 18:25) and that every one shall yet have to “give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12).
It announces that He is inflexibly just in all His dealings so that He can by no means clear the guilty (Num. 14:18); that all will be judged “according to their works” (Rev. 20:12), and that they shall reap whatsoever they have sown (Gal. 6:7).
It reveals the fact that He is absolutely holy, dwelling in light inaccessible. So holy that even the seraphim have to veil their faces in His presence (Isa. 6:2). So holy that the heavens are not clean in His sight (Job 15:15). So holy that the best of men when face to face with their Maker, have to cry, “I abhor myself” (Job 42:6); “Woe is me! For I am undone” (Isa. 6:5).
Such a delineation of Deity is as far beyond man’s conception as the heavens are above the earth. No man, and no number of men, ever invented such a God as this. Ransack the libraries of the ancient, examine the musings of the mystics, study the religions of the heathen and nothing will be found which can for a moment be compared with the sublime and exalted description of God’s character which is furnished by the Bible.
The teachings of the Bible about man are unique. Unlike all other books in the world, the Bible condemns man and all his doings. It never eulogizes his wisdom, nor praises his achievements. On the contrary, it declares that “every man at his best state is altogether vanity” (Psa. 39:5). Instead of teaching that man is a noble character, evolving heavenwards, it tells him that all his righteousnesses (his best works) are as “filthy rags,” that he is a lost sinner, incapable of bettering his condition; that he is deserving only of Hell.
The picture which the Scriptures give of man is deeply humiliating and entirely different from all which are drawn by human pencils. The Word of God describes the state of the natural man in the following language: “There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:10-18).
Instead of making Satan the source of all the black crimes of which we are guilty, the Bible declares, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23). Such a conception of man – so different from man’s own ideas, and so humiliating to his proud heart – never could have emanated from man himself. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9) is a concept that never originated in any human mind.
About the World…
The teachings of the Bible about the world are unique. In nothing perhaps are the teachings of Scripture and the writings of man at such variance as they are at this point. Using the term as meaning the world-system in contradistinction to the earth, what is the direction of man’s thoughts concerning the same? Man thinks highly of the world, for he regards it as his world. It is that which his labors have produced and he looks upon it with satisfaction and pride. He boasts that “the world is growing better.” He declares that the world is becoming more civilized and more humanized. Man’s thoughts upon this subject have been well summarized by the poet in the familiar language – “God is in heaven: All’s well with the world.” But what saith the Scriptures? Upon this subject, too, we discover that God’s thoughts are very different from ours. The Bible uniformly condemns the world and speaks of it as a thing of evil. We shall not attempt to quote every passage which does this, but shall merely single out a few specimen Scriptures.
“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19). This passage teaches that the world hates both Christ and His followers.
“The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Cor. 3:19). Certainly no uninspired pen wrote these words.
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4). Here again we learn that the world is an evil thing, condemned by God, and to be shunned by His children.
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16). Here we have a definition of the world: it is all that is opposed to the Father – opposed in its principles and philosophy, its maxims and methods, its aims and ambitions, its trend and its end.
“And the whole world lieth in the evil one” (1 John 5:19, R.V.). Here we learn why it is that the world hates Christ and His followers; why its wisdom is foolishness with God; why it is condemned by God and must be shunned by His children – it is under the dominion of that old serpent, the devil, whom Scripture specifically denominates “the prince of this world.”
The teachings of the Bible about sin are unique. The Bible, unlike every other book, strips man of all excuse and emphasizes his culpability. In the Bible sin is never palliated or extenuated, but from first to last the Holy Scriptures insist upon its enormity and heinousness. The Word of God declares that “sin is very grievous” (Gen. 18:20) and that our sins provoke God to anger (1 Kgs. 16:2). It speaks of the “deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13) and insists that sin is “exceedingly sinful” (Rom. 7:13). It declares that all sin is sin against God (Psa. 51:4) and against His Christ (1 Cor. 8:12). It regards our sins as being “as scarlet” and “red like crimson” (Isa. 1:18). It declares that sin is more than an act, it is an attitude. It affirms that sin is more than a non-compliance with God’s law – it is rebellion against the One who gave the law. It teaches that “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4, R.V.), which means that sin is spiritual anarchy, open defiance against the Almighty. Moreover, it singles out no particular class; it condemns all alike. It announces that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” that “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:23, 10).
Did man ever write such an indictment against himself? What human mind ever invented such a description of sin as that discovered in the Bible? Whoever would have imagined that sin was such a vile and dreadful thing in the sight of God that nothing but the precious blood of His own beloved Son could make an atonement for it!
About Eternal Punishment…
The teaching of the Bible about the punishment of sin is unique. A defective view of sin necessarily leads to an inadequate conception of what is due sin. Minimize the gravity and enormity of sin and you must proportionately reduce the sentence which it deserves. Many are crying out today against the justice of the eternal punishment of sin. They complain that the penalty does not fit the crime. They argue that it is unrighteous for a sinner to suffer eternally in consequence of a short life span of wrong-doing. But even in this world it is not the length of time which it takes to commit the crime which determines the severity of the sentence. Many a man has suffered a life term of imprisonment for a crime which required only a few minutes for its perpetration.
Apart, however, from this consideration, eternal punishment is just if sin be looked at from God’s viewpoint. But this is just what the majority of men refuse to do. They look at sin and its deserts solely from the human side. One reason why the Bible was written was to correct our ideas and views about sin, to teach us what an unspeakably awful and vile thing it is, to show us sin as God sees it. For one single sin, Adam and Eve were banished from Eden. For one single sin, Canaan and all his posterity were cursed. For a single sin, Korah and his company went down alive into the pit. For one single sin, Moses was debarred from entering the Promised Land. For a single sin, Achan and his family were stoned to death. For a single sin, Elisha’s servant was smitten with leprosy. For a single sin, Ananias and Sapphira were cut off out of the land of the living. Why? To teach us what an infinite evil it is to revolt against the thrice holy God. We repeat, that did men but see the terribleness of sin – did they but see that it was sin that put to a shameful death the Lord of Glory – then they would realize that nothing short of eternal punishment would meet the demands which justice has upon sinners.
But the great majority of men do not see the meetness or justice of eternal punishment; on the contrary, they cry out against it. In lands which were not illumined by the Old Testament Scriptures, where there existed any belief in a future life, it was held that at death the wicked either passed through some temporary suffering for remedial and purifying purpose or else they were annihilated. Even in Christendom, where the Word of God has held a prominent and public place for centuries, the great bulk of the people do not believe in eternal punishment. They argue that God is too merciful and kind to ban one of His own creatures to endless misery. Yea, not a few of the Lord’s own people are afraid to take the solemn teachings of the Scriptures on this subject at their face value. It is therefore evident that had the Bible been written by uninspired men; had it been a mere human composition, it certainly would not have taught the eternal and conscious torment of all who die out of Christ. The fact that the Bible does so teach is conclusive proof that it was written by men who spake not of themselves, but as they were “moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21).
The teachings of God’s Word upon eternal punishment are as clear and explicit as they are solemn and awful. They declare that the doom of the Christ rejecter is a conscious, never-ending, indescribable torment. The Bible depicts the place of punishment as a realm where the “worm dieth not” and “the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). It speaks of it as a lake of fire and brimstone (Rev. 20:10), where even a drop of water is denied the agonized sufferer (Luke 16:24-26). It declares that “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night” (Rev. 14:11). It represents the world of the lost as a scene into which penetrates no light – “the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 1:13) – a doom alleviated by no ray of hope. In short, the portion of the lost will be unbearable, yet it will have to be borne, and borne forever. What mortal mind conceived of such a fate? Such a conception is too repugnant and repulsive to the human heart to have had its birth on the earth.
The teachings of the Bible about salvation from sin are unique. Man’s thoughts about salvation, like every other subject which engages his mind are defective and deficient. Hence the force of the admonition – “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts” (Isa. 55:7).
In the first place, left to himself, man fails to realize his need of salvation. In the pride of his heart he imagines that he is sufficient in himself, and through the darkening of his understanding by sin he fails to comprehend his ruined and lost condition. Like the self-righteous Pharisee, he thanks God that he is not as other men, that he is morally the superior of the savage or the criminal, and refuses to believe that so far as his standing before God is concerned there is “no difference.” It is not until the Holy Spirit deals with him that man is constrained to cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
In the second place, man is ignorant of the way of salvation. Even when man has been brought to the place where he recognizes that he is not prepared to meet God, and that if he died in his present state he would be eternally lost – even then he has no right conception of the remedy. Being ignorant of God’s righteousness he goes about to establish his own righteousness. He supposes that he must make some personal reparation for his past wrong-doings, that he must work for his salvation, do something to merit the esteem of God, and thus win heaven as a reward. The highest concept of man’s mind is that of merit. To him salvation is a wage to be earned, a crown to be coveted, a prize to be won. The proof of this is to be seen in the fact that even when pardon and life are presented as a free gift, the universal tendency, at first, is to regard it as being “too good to be true.” Yet, such is the plain teaching of God’s Word – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). And again – “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5).
If it is true that man left to himself would never have fully realized his need of salvation, and would never have discovered that it was by grace through faith and not of works, how much less would the human mind have been capable of rising to the level of what God’s Word teaches about the nature of salvation and the glorious and marvelous destiny of the saved! Who would have thought that the Maker and Ruler of the universe should lay hold of poor, fallen, depraved men and women and lifting them out of the miry clay should make them His own sons and daughters, and should seat them at His own table! Who would ever have suggested that those who deserve naught but everlasting shame and contempt, should be made “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ”! (Rom. 8:17). Who would have dreamed that beggars should be lifted from the dunghill of sin and made to sit together with Christ in heavenly places! Who would have imagined that the corrupted offspring of disobedient Adam should be exalted to a position higher than that occupied by the unfallen angels! Who would have dared to affirm that one day we shall be “made like Christ” and “be for ever with the Lord”! Such concepts were as far beyond the reach of the highest human intellect as they were of the rudest savage. “But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:9-10).
Again we ask, what human intellect could have devised a means whereby God could be just and yet merciful, merciful and yet just? What mortal mind would ever have dreamed of a free and full salvation, bestowed on hell-deserving sinners, “without money and without price”! (Isa. 55:1). And what flight of carnal imagination would ever have conceived of the Son of God Himself being “made sin” for us and dying the Just for the unjust?
About the Savior…
The teaching of the Bible concerning the Savior of sinners is unique. The description which the Scriptures furnish of the Person, the character, and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ is without anything that approaches a parallel in the whole realm of literature. It is easier to suppose that man could create a world than to believe he invented the character of our adorable Redeemer. Given a work of art that is beautiful, symmetrical, original, and we know it must be the product of a master artist. None but the Holy Spirit could have produced the peerless portrait of the Lord Jesus which we find in the Gospels.
In Christ all excellencies combine. Here is one of the many respects in which He differs from all other Bible characters. In each of the great heroes of Scripture some trait stands out with peculiar distinctness – Noah, faithful testimony; Abraham, faith in God; Isaac, submission to his father; Joseph, love for his brethren; Moses, unselfishness and meekness; Joshua, courage and leadership; Job, fortitude and patience; Daniel, fidelity to God; Paul, zeal in service; John, spiritual discernment – but in the Lord Jesus every grace is found. Moreover, in Him all these perfections were properly posed and balanced. He was meek yet regal; He was gentle yet fearless; He was compassionate yet just; He was submissive yet authoritative; He was Divine yet human; add to these, the fact that He was absolutely “without sin” and His uniqueness becomes apparent. Nowhere in all the writings of antiquity is there to be found the presentation of such a peerless and wondrous character.
Not only is the portrayal of Christ’s character without any rival, but the teaching of the Bible concerning His Person and work is also utterly incredible on any other basis save that they are part of a Divine revelation. Who would have dared to imagine the Creator and Upholder of the universe taking upon Himself the form of a servant and being made in the likeness of men? Who would have conceived the idea of the Lord of Glory being born in a manger? Who would have dreamed of the Object of angelic worship becoming so poor that He had not where to lay His head? Who would have declared that the One before whom the seraphim veil their faces should be led as a lamb to the slaughter, should have suffered His own blessed face to be defiled with the vile spittle of man, and should permit the creatures of His hand to scourge and buffet Him? Whoever would have conceived of Emmanuel becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross!
– Adapted from The Divine Inspiration of the Bible by Arthur W. Pink.