This is the second in a series of posts detailing each of our beliefs about the Bible expressed on the Our Beliefs page.
[We believe that] God preserves his words perpetually to all generations, for ever.
In part 1, we discussed the topic of inspiration. We now turn to the topic of preservation, to consider how the words that God originally inspired relate to what is contained in our Bibles today. Have God’s words been preserved?
While many are quick to accept that the scriptures were originally given by inspiration, some are not willing to believe that God’s words have been perfectly preserved in their inspired form in any extant copies. The inspiration, they say, was only of the “original autographs”. They argue that, while God may have inspired the writing of the originals, he did not inspire them to be copied, nor did he preserve his inspired words when copies were made.
The Copying of the Scriptures #
However, it is not man which first had the idea of copying the scriptures. Rather, it was commanded by God:
Deuteronomy 17:18-20 And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.
When the Israelites came into the promised land, if they made one of themselves king, the king was commanded to make a copy of the book of the law for himself, to read all his days. God was clearly attributing all of the authority of the original to the personal copy which the king was to faithfully make.
This is the origination of the concept of personal copies of scripture. At the time, most people could not afford to have a copy of scripture made, or may not have been educated enough to read one. That is why it was so important for the priests to read and teach the law to the people. But the king was not to be solely under the authority of a teaching priest, he was to copy out and read the law for himself.
The Eternal Preservation of the Scriptures #
So we see that God commanded scripture to be copied. And this is certainly necessary, not only for its distribution, but also for its preservation. Even when made of the highest quality materials, manuscripts do not not last forever, especially when in regular use. And God certainly expected the words he commanded to last forever:
Deuteronomy 12:28 Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the LORD thy God.
Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
1 Chronicles 16:15 Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations;
Isaiah 40:8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
Isaiah 59:21 As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.
Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
The words God has given are clearly to be passed down to successive generations, forever. They will not, and cannot, pass away.
The concept that God could possibly have inspired men to record his words, and yet might not preserve them, is absurd. Preservation is the very reason he commanded his words to be written in the first place:
Isaiah 30:8 Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:
God commanded his words to be written so that they could be preserved for ever. And the reason they must be preserved is because they are so important. They testify to the truth which God has revealed:
John 5:38-39 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
Behold the importance of the scriptures! Because the Jewish leaders did not have God’s word in them, they rejected their Messiah. God’s word should have been abiding in them, because God’s word is meant to be an abiding word:
1 Peter 1:23-25 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. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
God’s word is not a one-time event. It is a living, abiding thing. It is living and abiding on this earth now, and will endure for ever. Can one be more clear? God’s word is preserved, it is alive, it abides, it is incorruptible—and it cannot be broken:
John 10:34-35 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
Jesus clearly taught that scripture is perfectly trustworthy, and this is manifested in his regular quoting of scripture. It is so perfectly preserved by God, that it simply cannot be broken. And why should we expect otherwise? God’s word is so important to our life here on earth, that it is foolish to suggest that God would allow it to be altered in the minutest detail.
In the thousands of cross-references in scripture, there is never a single instance of anyone questioning the validity, accuracy, and authority of the word of God. Christ and the apostles quoted scripture incessantly, with never even a hint that they did not trust every single word.
How easily do we forget that when Paul wrote that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” in 1 Timothy 3:16, he was writing hundreds of years after the last Old Testament books were written, when none of the so-called “original autographs” would have been in existence. Timothy, to whom he wrote, was born to a Greek father among the Gentiles in Derbe, far from the seat of the Jewish religion at Jerusalem. So even if any of the originals were still around at that time, Timothy would never have seen them. Yet just one verse prior, Paul said this:
2 Timothy 3:15-17 And that 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. 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, throughly furnished unto all good works.
It is clear that Paul considered the faithfully made copies of the scriptures from which Timothy learned as a child to be just as holy as when the words were originally inspired by God. Indeed, he said “all scripture is given by inspiration of God,” not “was given by inspiration of God.” Because the copy contains the very same words that God originally gave, it is the very words that he inspired. It is what God gave by inspiration. It is given by inspiration of God.
Preservation of the Godly #
Apparently, many have forgotten the importance of the preservation of God’s word. God’s word is so vital to us, it is of utmost importance that it be preserved.
[We believe that] through the ministries of his word he also preserves a godly seed on the earth, to all generations.
Psalm 12 explains this beautifully:
Psalms 12 To the chief Musician upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David. Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.
David cries out to God because the godly and faithful are so few.
They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.
Instead of godliness and faithfulness, impurity of speech plagues the human race.
The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?
The Lord will hear his cry and remedy the evil.
For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.
God will arise and save the poor and needy. His method:
The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
The solution to man’s impure talk against the godly and needy, is God’s own pure words.
Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
This is not a temporary fix. God keeps and preserves his word for this generation, and the next generation, and the next generation, for ever.
The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.
When vile man and his words are exalted, wickedness is rife. But God’s words will preserve a godly and faithful people to every generation.
(For an in-depth look at Psalm 12 that covers most of the material in this series of posts and a whole lot more, you can listen to this series of messages on Psalms.)
The implications are clear: God will preserve his words in purity, because this is his means of preserving a godly seed on the earth. If his words are not preserved, then the faithful cannot be preserved. If those words are not preserved, then the Bible cannot be true, because in it God promised that he would preserve his words, and through his words, his people.
This naturally leads us to ask where those words are preserved today, and that will be the topic of part three of this series.