Sermon – “The Unity of Scripture”

Sermon for Sunday, December 20th, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Old Testament reading:

[Isa 45:14-17 ESV] 14 Thus says the LORD: “The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush, and the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over to you and be yours; they shall follow you; they shall come over in chains and bow down to you. They will plead with you, saying: ‘Surely God is in you, and there is no other, no god besides him.'” 15 Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior. 16 All of them are put to shame and confounded; the makers of idols go in confusion together. 17 But Israel is saved by the LORD with everlasting salvation; you shall not be put to shame or confounded to all eternity.

New Testament reading:

[Act 2:22-24 ESV] 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know– 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Gospel reading:

[Luk 19:1-10 ESV] 1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

 

INTRODUCTION

We’ve reached the end our countdown.

The Five Books of Moses

The Four Gospels

The Three Parts of the Old Testament

and

The Two Testaments

Now, we come to The Unity of the Scriptures. And all throughout this series I have mentioned aspects of that unity. The New Testament quotes the Old. And the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New. The whispers have becomes shouts, and it all is focused on Jesus and the message of salvation in Him.

But today I want to focus a bit more specifically on this topic of the Unity of the Scriptures, as we look at the big picture.

And there is this excellent on this subject in a 100 year old book in my collection. [“A Syllabus of Systematic Theology,” by David S. Clark (p. 35)] And the author, speaking of the amazing unity of the Scriptures, says it better than I probably can. So I’ll read this quote. He says:

“Here is a book [the Bible] written by about thirty different men, of different grades and stations, kinds, statesmen, scribes, nomads, scholar, peasant, herdsmen, fruit vender, warriors, chiefs, fishermen, publican, tradesmen, physician, schoolman, etc. They lived at different times over a space of 1500 years and most of them never saw each other nor communicated with each other, with no possibility of collusions, and yet they have produced a harmonious whole. Their style and minds differ, their tastes and customs have no similarity, but they keep in unison in this greater work, like a great choir under one leader. They write one story, they have one goal, they supplement each other, and carry through the same scheme or plan to its appropriate end. They give one account of God, one account of the human race, one account of the human heart, one account of sin, one account of the way of salvation, one account of the destiny of the world and of men, one account of human duty and obligation”

In summary, despite the various persons and times in which the Bible was written, it displays an amazing unity.

I. AN AMAZING UNITY

This amazing unity is not a feature you find in other so-called religious books.

A Christian author says of the Islamic Koran that

“The Koran, for instance, is a miscellany of disjointed pieces, out of which it is impossible to extract any order, progress, or arrangement. The 114 Suras or chapters of which it is composed are arranged chiefly according to length—the longer in general preceding the shorter. It is not otherwise with the Zoroastrian and Buddhist Scriptures. These are equally destitute of beginning, middle or end. They are, for the most part, collections of heterogeneous materials, loosely placed together.” Excerpt From: Daniel Fuller. “The Unity of the Bible.”

But it is not just that the texts of false religions are disjointed, it is that they are disjoined DESPITE having merely one, or two, or three authors! One might think that a single author could produce a work that has greater unity, while dozens of authors would be unlikely to produce anything with uniformity. But we have the Bible with its amazing unity even though there are thirty or forty authors.

I’ve studied the history of the Mormons, or Ladder-Day Saints. And their holy book, the Book of Mormon, was written by just a few men. The origins are somewhat shrouded in history. But it is likely that in fact, an old Congregationalist minister by the name of Solomon Spalding wrote much of the book entirely intending for it to be a fictional story about pre-historic America. Then, when he died, his manuscript was found by a colleague of Joseph Smith named Sidney Rigdon. And Rigdon brought the manuscript back to Joseph Smith who then modified it for religious purpose, declared himself a prophet, and took dozens of wives.

Yet, despite the Book of Mormon having just a small cadre of authors, it is replete with errors and internal contradictions. Some of accurately likened the Book of Mormon to a volume of “fan fiction” where true stories from other works are remade for new purposes, usually entertainment.

II. THE CONSENT OF THE PARTS

Unlike the pretended Scriptures of the world’s religions, the Bible has a “consent of the parts.”

This is what the Westminster Confession terms it. There is unity in that there is a “consent of the parts.”

The Bible is consistent. We do not have one Biblical writer telling us one thing and another Biblical writers telling us something entirely different or at odds with the first. But these men, though separated by time and space, still write of the same God and the same plan of salvation. And they never correct one another or refute one another. They recognize each other as prophets of God, and the words written to be the very Word of God, not to be contested or challenged.

In line with the fact that our Confession of Faith tells us that there is a “consent of the parts” we should strive to understand that consent. If we find ourselves confused about how some particular verse fits with another — that is, if we think we see some contradiction — we are to stop, and to realize that the error must be in our own thinking, because there are no contradictions in God’s word. He is not the author of the confusion. Then, if we think we have found a contradiction, we must work harder to compare Scripture with Scripture and correct our view. I say all of this because there is an all to frequent tendency even in the Reformed and Presbyterian churches to declare that there Biblical verses at odds with one another. But this is not what we confess. We confess the “consent of the parts.”

This is noted in the Confession as one of the evidences of the truthfulness of the Bible. The evidences include “the heavenliness of the matter,” “the majesty of the style,” and “the consent of the parts.”

But with great wisdom the Confession says says that our full persuasion and assurance of the truth of the Scriptures is due to the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

You are convinced of the truth of the Scriptures not because you have analyzed every possible connection between the verses and declared it to be without error. But rather you (and I) are convinced of the truth of the Scriptures because the Holy Spirit works in us to have faith in God’s word.

III. THE UNITED THEME

So we have an amazing unity in the Scriptures evidenced in its “consent of the parts.” But there is also a “consent of the whole” or a “United Theme.”

There is in indeed a United Theme throughout the Scriptures.

God had a definite plan. And it is not a “Plan B.” The Bible tells us of God’s plan, which He had from eternity past.

The definite plan of God is the United Theme of the Scriptures. And that definite plan is salvation in Jesus Christ.

We here of this definite plain Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost in the book of Acts:

[Act 2:22-24 ESV] 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know– 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

And Luke tells us later in the book of Acts:

[Act 4:27-28 ESV] 27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

And Paul, as recorded in the same book says:

[Act 26:22-23 ESV] 22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

This is the plan from the beginning. It is a definite plan, predestined to take place, that the Christ MUST suffer!

Because God loves His people.

The types and shadows are fulfilled in Jesus Christ whose purpose is to “come and save that which was lost.” (Matthew 18:11 KJV)

Jesus didn’t come to Earth to be a nice guy, or even primarily to be a good example or to teach others, but, as Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 1:15 – Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

As as Luke tells us in Luke 19:10 – “For the son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus himself said:
John 12:47b – “I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.”

This is always the unified theme of the Scripture. Christ’s purpose is always stated as coming to save. Jesus’ name in Hebrew (Yeshua) actually means “he rescues” or “he delivers” or “he saves.” So those signs on the highway that say “Jesus saves” are saying “He who saves, saves!” Indeed, and only in Jesus Christ is their salvation.

This salvation is uniformly “of God.” It is not of anything we do. And thus, even faith, is a gift “of God.” Salvation is entirely “of God.”

Faith is not a condition that we must fulfill for salvation, but is a gift from God who has saved those whom he gives the gift of faith to. Thus no one can boast saying “I believe.” But rather, boast in the Lord, saying “He has given me faith so that I know salvation in Jesus Christ.”

CONCLUSION

Because of the Unity of the Scriptures, the more you read the more connections you will see and the more glorious the teachings are found to be.

A friend of mine is a fan of international soccer (Futball). And I can hardly imagine something that I am less interested in watching. But, I’ve realized I don’t know the story. I don’t know about the players like my friend does. I don’t know about the history of the teams and their rivalries. Nor do I know about the fans and their traditions. Now, presumably, it becomes much more interesting when you know more about the game. And this is the same for many activities; hobbies, interests that you have that you never imagined that you would get involved in, but then you find a greater depth bringing out greater interest. Something that you never thought would interest you becomes your passion.

Because of the Unity of Scriptures, when we read the Bible and gain a greater depth of understanding, we find more connections there and find greater and greater interest in it. If the Scriptures were merely a jumble of sayings or were disconnected writings, we would find much less benefit in reading them. But, as it is, there is a unity of the Scriptures, and as we read more we become students of the Scriptures; passionate fans of the Word of God. And we might even wear a t-shirt with a verse on it rather than one with a sports team logo on it; though I myself prefer to have as few emblems on my clothing as possible.

I want to call you then to make Scripture reading a practice in your life. Find one (or more) of these that works well for you:

1) Morning reading, right when you wake up

2) Reading the Bible at the dinner table

3) Spending a good part of Sunday afternoon in the word

Some of us are getting closer to finishing the Bible-in-a-year plan. If you didn’t do that plan this year, maybe it could be your new year’s resolution for next year.

We must read (or hear) the Bible to grow in our knowledge of the Faith and to see the connections therein.

St. Augustine heard a voice as of a child who said “Tolle lege” — take up and read — and he picked up a Bible and read from the book of the Romans “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” And he converted to the faith, growing daily through reading the word of God and finding in the Unity of the Scriptures the union with Jesus Christ. It is for that, that we pray. May we be united with the Lord, in death so as in eternal life. It is in his name we pray, Amen.