Belief of Our Fathers: The Bible (Chapter 4)
May 1, 2019
This continues a study on the beliefs of our forefathers, based largely on the Dordrecht Confession of Faith from 1632. This section tells about Bibliology, or the study of the Bible. The article has been edited for space.
To read other chapters in this series on the Beliefs of our Forefathers, click below:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16–17)
God revealed Himself and made His Word known to us by giving us the Holy Scriptures. He let us know what He wanted us to know.
The Bible is God-breathed, meaning that it was given to us by God. What was written was intended by God to be written. None of the Bible was merely made up by man. All scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16).
Every part of the Bible is from God. We do not decide which parts to follow and which to ignore. All sixty-six books were given to us by the inspiration and will of God. Every original word in the Bible is inspired by God and was written as intended and directed by God.
The Scriptures as given to us by God are free from error. God made no mistakes with any of the words given to us in the Bible. We can trust the entire Bible, as it comes from God, who is Truth.
What God has given to us in the Bible is sufficient. We do not know or understand everything about God and eternity, but God has told us all that we need to know in order to know the way of salvation and to follow Jesus in living a holy life. One day we will see the things of God more clearly, but what God has revealed to us in His Word is all that we need in order to learn of Him, to live for Him, and to love Him in this life.
The Scriptures are from God Himself and are to be taken as they are—the actual Word of God—as if God were speaking directly and individually to each of us, with the full weight and power of God Himself. God is able to preserve His Word for us down through the ages, and He has done so. Despite many attempts to destroy the Word of God, it lives and abides forever. God has protected and maintained His Word for us. It has not changed. What God told Moses thousands of years ago is preserved for us in the Bible. Thousands of ancient biblical manuscripts have been found and confirm that what was recorded in the ancient biblical writings remains the same as what we have in the Bible today.
What Many Anabaptists Believe
While the Dordrecht Confession of Faith does not contain a specific section explaining the importance of the Scriptures, sections can be found throughout the Confession alluding to the reliance upon the Scriptures as the basis of belief. Phrases such as “according to the holy Scriptures,” “We furthermore believe and confess with the Scriptures,” “as the Scripture says,” and “according to Scripture” are common in the Confession.
Martyrs Mirror is another important Anabaptist writing, providing much Anabaptist history, especially in regard to the many who suffered for their faith. The book contains many different Anabaptist confessions of faith explaining Anabaptist beliefs. One such confession can be found a few hundred pages into the book, and is simply titled “Confession of Faith according to the Holy Word of God.” This confession is described as “a certain Confession of Faith, which very probably was once contained in the history of the pious Anabaptist Martyrs and is declared to have been the summary of their faith.” It is thought to have originated around the year 1600. Article XI of this Confession contains the following points:
The Bible Is the Written Word of God
The Old Testament includes the five books of Moses and “also all kings, priests, and prophets, who prophesied and spoke, through the Spirit of God, among this people, Israel.”
The Old Testament is historical and also spiritual and brings us to a better hope—to Christ. “The Levitical priesthood, ceremonies, and sacrifices, the land of Canaan, kings, the city of Jerusalem, and the Temple . . . pointed and led to Christ Jesus.”
“The old law was an intolerable yoke of bondage, which brought condemnation upon all who did not continue in, and perform all that is written in the book of the law.”
The Bible Is the Word of Reconciliation and Grace
The Bible can lead us to a loving relationship with God through His grace:
“Christ Jesus came, who is the end and the fulfilling of the old law.” Jesus is the “author of the new law, of perfect liberty, and the real, true light, to which all the dark shadows pointed.”
Jesus was “sent from God, with full power in heaven and on earth and is the one who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.”
Jesus “made a new covenant . . . and has invited thereto all the Gentiles and nations of the earth” so that “by obedience through grace, they may now become fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.”
This is the “word of reconciliation, by which Almighty God, through His Spirit, works faith, regeneration, and all the good fruits . . . in men; in which word of the New Testament are proclaimed to us full grace and peace, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, together with all things, that pertain unto life and godliness, yea, all the counsel of God.”
Holy Scriptures Regulate and Measure Faith
All believing children of the New Testament must “regulate and conduct themselves in all matters relating to the faith; in accordance with which, finally, an eternal judgment will be held.”
“This New and everlasting Covenant, which is confirmed with the precious death and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ,” may “not be changed, or anything taken from or added to it . . . according to one’s own individual opinions.”
“All Christians are in duty bound to bow their whole heart, mind, and soul under the obedience of Christ and the mind of the Holy Spirit expressed in the holy Scriptures, and to regulate and measure their whole faith and conversation according to” what is contained therein.
Man Lives by Every Word of the Bible
The Old Testament is to be explained by and shown to agree with the New Testament and must be taught among the people of God, including the law of Moses and the grace of God.
“All Christians must . . . regulate and conduct themselves only in accordance with this blessed Gospel of Christ.”
“As the outward man lives outwardly by the nourishment of bread; so the inward man of the soul lives by every word proceeding from the mouth of the Lord.”
“Therefore, the Word of God must be purely and sincerely preached, heard, received, and kept, by all believers.”
You can see the great importance placed on the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God, to be taught, read, believed, and lived by all who profess to follow Jesus.
What the Scriptures Teach
All thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and all twenty-seven books of the New Testament are inspired by God and remain God’s Word for us today.
The Jews had the Scriptures in their common Hebrew language, with some portions in Daniel and Ezra written in Aramaic (an ancient Middle Eastern language). The first translation of the Old Testament was in Greek (called the Septuagint) around 300 BC, because many of the Jewish people could no longer read Hebrew. The New Testament was originally written in common, everyday Greek, and then in AD 382, a church leader and teacher named Jerome began translating the entire Bible into Latin, which was the language of ordinary Christians of the Roman Empire,. This gave the early church the Scriptures in their common languages of Greek or Latin.
God intended for us to have the Bible in our own common language. If our common language is German, then we would read the Bible in German. If the language we read best is English, then we should read the Bible in English. Why would God want us to read the Bible in a language we don’t understand well?
People who were used by God in the Bible believed that the Word of God was true. From Moses to David to Isaiah to Jesus to the apostles, they believed the Bible to be from God and that it was the source of truth and final authority on matters of faith and doctrine.
Moses said, Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it (Deuteronomy 4:5).
In Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, David repeatedly wrote of his love for the Word of God and how it applied to his life. In Psalm 19:7-10, we see another example, where David wrote:
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Isaiah wrote, Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read (Isaiah 34:16). Later he said, The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever (Isaiah 40:8).
The prophet Jeremiah recorded: Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? (Jeremiah 23:29).
Jesus Himself told religious leaders, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God (Matthew 22:29). He told His own disciples, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me (Luke 24:44).
Search the scriptures, Jesus said, for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me (John 5:39).
The Jews in Berea would not even believe their religious teachers—even the apostle Paul—unless they were convinced that he taught the Scriptures correctly. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so (Acts 17:11).
The apostle Paul wrote much about the importance and necessity of the Word of God, including that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).
Paul knew that the Bible was not a mere human book, but it was the Word of God. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
Paul also told us that studying the Bible is part of being a good follower of Jesus. Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
Paul reminded Timothy that the Scriptures are able to teach us about salvation. From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 3:15).
The writer to the Hebrews tells us that the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
Peter wrote that we should desire to know the Word of God so we can grow as believers. As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby (1 Peter 2:2).
Peter also wrote about the role of the Bible in the new birth. Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for ever (1 Peter 1:23-25).
This famous summary of what the Bible ought to mean to each of us was written by Paul: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Many more examples could also have been given from both the Old and New Testaments that not only show the importance of the Word of God in the lives of the biblical authors, but also show the significance that God’s Word ought to have in our own lives. While Christians ought to meet with other believers, and church leaders should be good and godly men, notice that these verses do not tell us to rely upon religion, church, or even church leaders. Rather, we are to go to the Bible and study God’s Word. The Bible is to be the final authority in our lives.
God’s ways are best and right. Either we accept His Word or we reject it. There can be no middle ground. Either the Bible is from God or it is not. Either it is all true or we cannot rely on any of it. As believers, we know God’s Word is true − all true. It is His Word revealed to us . All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. The Scriptures, as given by God, are without error. The Word of God is what it claims to be—the Word of God—and as such, it comes with the authority of God Himself. No mere man can rightly declare God or His Word to be wrong. The sixty-six books of the Bible contain all we need to know in order to live this life and prepare for the next. God has preserved His Word for us, and we can know with certainty that what was written thousands of years ago is the same as what we have in the Bible today.
It is amazing how often people doubt the truth of the Bible or deny its historical accuracy, only to see the Bible proven right again and again through archaeological, historical, or scientific evidence. For instance, prior to the late nineteenth century, nothing was known about the Hittites except for what was in the Bible. This led many Bible critics to claim that the biblical authors invented the Hittites. Based on this mistaken belief, they suggested it was proof that the Bible was not true.
Then in 1876, a British scholar named A. H. Sayce found inscriptions (writings) carved on rocks in Turkey, which he suspected might be evidence of the Hittite nation. Ten years later, more clay tablets were discovered in Turkey. German cuneiform (writing) expert Hugo Winckler investigated the tablets and began his own excavation at the site in 1906. He found five temples, a citadel, a record of a treaty between Ramesses II and the Hittite king, and more. The discovery also confirmed other biblical facts. Such evidence as this should not surprise Christians, because we who accept the Bible by faith know that it is true and that it can never be proven to be wrong, for it is from God.
Anabaptists, along with most Protestants, believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. They respect the Bible as a special book from God. Sadly, though, many don’t read it, or if they do, they do not read it in their common language. Even though Jesus says to search the Scriptures, even though He said the religious leaders were wrong because they did not know the Scriptures or the power of God, and even though the Bible tells of the wisdom of the Berean Jews for making sure that what they were being taught was actually from the Bible, many people today still rely mainly upon church teachings without studying the Scriptures on their own. They know what they believe, but they don’t verify it. They can repeat what they were taught, but they cannot show others what the Bible actually says about those beliefs. They rely more upon men for their beliefs than on the pure Word of God.
Examples and Illustrations
When Dr. Pollich of Mellerstadt heard Martin Luther lecture at the University of Wittenberg, he said, “That monk will confound all the learned doctors, propound a new doctrine, and reform the whole Roman church, for he studies the writings of the prophets and evangelists.” He said, “He relies on the Word of Jesus Christ, and no one can subvert that, either with philosophy or with sophistry [deception].” May we, also, rely upon the Word of God.
Martin Luther said, “For some years now, I have read through the Bible twice every year. If you picture the Bible to be a mighty tree and every word a little branch, I have shaken every one of these branches because I wanted to know what it was and what it meant.” Luther believed in living according to the Bible, saying, “You may as well quit reading and hearing the Word of God, and give it to the devil, if you do not desire to live according to it.” Let us also read the Bible daily and search the Scriptures for wisdom and truth.
Famous British preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “I have heard of two Roman Catholics, a man and his wife, who acquired a copy of the Scriptures, of which they had never seen one before. The man began to read it, and one night, as he sat beside the fire with the open book, he said, ‘Wife, if this book is right, we are wrong.’ He continued reading, and a few days after this, he said, ‘Wife, if this book is right, we are lost.’ More eager now than ever, to see what the Word of the Lord was, he studied the book, until one night he joyfully exclaimed, “Wife, if this book is true, we are saved.’”
“The same Word that showed them they were undone [lost], revealed also the gospel of salvation. This is the glory of the Word of God; it is against us until we are led out of our sins, and then we find that death becomes the gate of life to our souls, and the Word of God is on our side. The same Word that reveals the terrors of the Lord also says, ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.’”
How much time does it take to read from Genesis to Revelation? If you read the Bible at normal speed (slow enough to be heard and understood), the reading time would be seventy-one hours. If you break that down into minutes and divide it into 365 days, you could read the entire Bible, cover to cover, in only twelve minutes a day. Is this really too much time to spend reading about God?
Catherine Booth, wife of the founder of the Salvation Army, had read the entire Bible through eight times by the age of twelve. Have you read it through even once?
Mary Jones was born in Wales in 1784. Her father told her Bible stories, and she longed to read the Bible. Her family was too poor to buy a Bible, and Mary could not read. A farmer’s wife who lived two miles away told Mary that when she learned to read, she could come to their house and read their Bible. When a neighborhood school opened, Mary attended, and by the age of ten, she had learned how to read. She then walked the two miles to the neighbor’s house to read their Bible, memorizing entire chapters at a time. Every Saturday she walked the two miles just to read the Bible, and for the next six years, Mary saved money by doing jobs for neighbors.
When she was sixteen years old, Mary heard about Pastor Charles in the town of Bala—about twenty-five miles away. He had Bibles for sale. She took her money and walked the twenty-five miles barefoot so she wouldn’t ruin her one pair of shoes. When she found the pastor, he told her he had sold most of the Bibles, and the remaining few had been promised to others. The Welsh Bible Society that had printed them had no plans to print more, but when he heard her story, he gave her his last copy, which he had reserved for someone else.
Her story inspired many, and with the help of Pastor Charles, the British and Foreign Bible Society soon formed to help provide more Bibles. Does the Bible mean as much to you as it did to Mary Jones?
- W. Tozer once said, “The Bible is the easiest book in the world to understand for the spiritual mind, but one of the hardest for the carnal mind.” Let us seek God and ask Him to teach us the truth of His Word, and let us read it daily.
Father, thank you for giving us Your Word—not only the written Word that we call the Bible, but the Word made flesh who dwelt among us and died for us—Jesus Christ Your Son, the Lamb of God. May we not only talk about the Bible, but help us to love, learn, and live your Word. May we take Your Word as our final authority as You continue to change our hearts and conform us to the image of Your Son, Jesus Christ, through the power of Your Holy Spirit.
Help us not to follow religion or make excuses, but to go to You and ask You to open the eyes of our understanding and make sure that what we believe is not the mere doctrine or rules of man, but that we believe Your Holy Word. Remind us that if leaders teach things contrary to the Bible, then they are wrong, but Your Word is true and faithful forever.
Teach us to follow Jesus and to live as He lived, telling others about Him and doing what is right in Your eyes only. Many good, religious people do not know Your Holy Word. May our hearts be truly changed, may we really be born again as Jesus explained, and may we live and love according to the precious Word of God. Thank You for the Bible. Thank you for Jesus. In His name, amen.
Do your beliefs line up with our Anabaptist forefathers?
In this 160-page book, What Do the Amish Believe?, nine authors took the time to go back and study the original beliefs of our forefathers and compare what they believed to what many of us believe today.
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To read other chapters in this series on the Beliefs of our Forefathers, click below:
Chapter Four: The Bible
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