Believing that the Scriptures are the infallible Word of God, given by divine inspiration, one must come to the conclusion that they alone serve as the sole standard for what is truth. For something to be true it must have its basis and its source in God’s Word. When we speak of the organism of the truth, then we refer to doctrines or dogmas which are elicited out of that Word of God by the Church. The Church then develops and organizes those truths into a systematic form.
At present it is our purpose to show that the truth which proceeds out of the Word of God and is defined by the church is an organic unity. At a later date we shall attempt to show that the organic unity of the truth as it is adopted by churches or denominations has important practical implications as to the life and walk of the individual and of the church or denomination which holds to that body of truth. Also we shall carefully examine the spectrum of churches as they range from the true church to the false church. This examination of churches is possible because this organic unity of the truth serves as the basis and the heart of the church.
To discuss the idea of the organic unity of the truth we must know what an organism is. An organism is a unity which, in contrast to a mechanism which has no life, lives. Our physical bodies are living organisms. The Church, as the Body of Christ, is also an organism. According to I Cor. 12:12-27 the Church is made up of many members, yet there is but one body. The same is true of the organism of the truth. It is made up of many members, which are all inter-related one to another, so that all together they make up one living body of truth. Now then how does that come about?
To the church and to the individuals within the church God has given His infallible Word, the holy Scriptures. The canon of Scripture is closed. No longer can anyone add to or take away from the Scriptures. For the child of God to learn the will of God, to learn what is true, he must turn to God’s Word. Out of and on the basis of the Word of God, the Church develops the truth. This is possible because the Scriptures are the revelation of God or, to put it more precisely, they are the fulness of the revelation of God. It is incorrect to say that the Scriptures contain the fulness of God. That cannot be, for the Scriptures are a creature of God and no creature can contain the fulness of God. To say that they do not contain the fulness of God does not mean that they are incomplete. They are complete, lacking nothing, and that is true because the Scriptures are the fulness of the REVELATION of God. Therefore the whole of God is revealed. Yet there are infinite depths to God which are not known here on this earth. We can see the whole God, but only in a glass darkly. Therefore because Scripture does contain the fulness of the revelation of God, all of the individual truths or dogmas find their basis or source in it. Every dogma or doctrine exists in seed-form in the Bible. Just as the whole oak tree is contained in the acorn, so all truth is in the Word of God.
The truth of the Word of God reflects itself on the consciousness of the church. Faith as it is given to God’s people by grace is the bond which unites them to Christ. That bond is a bond which is worked by God in such a way that it is a CONSCIOUS bond. Because faith carries with it the idea of consciousness, the child of God is very much aware of that fact that he is bound to Christ. Therefore he is able to know with his intellect that truth of the Word of God.
That faith is worked by the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Christ. In the church and in the individuals within that church the Spirit has dwelt since Pentecost. The Spirit leads and guides the church into all the truth because He is the Spirit of truth. He is the Spirit of Him Who is the way, the truth and the life. Therefore it can be said that the church does not determine what the Scriptures say, but the church says what Scripture and the Spirit have taught her to say. That Spirit opens to the children of God the whole body of the beautiful truths of the Word of God.
The appropriation and the systematization of the truth as it is revealed to the church by the Spirit is not piecemeal. The Holy Spirit gives to each individual child of God and to the entire church from Pentecost on the whole truth. It was a spontaneous appropriation of the truth. The New Testament church, immediately at the outset, had for itself the whole truth. However, that spontaneous appropriation of the whole truth was also only a principle appropriation of the truth. For example, the New Testament church knew about Jesus, but if you would ask them whether Christ had two natures in one Person, they would not have known of what you were talking. If you would question them concerning the Deity of the Third Person of the Trinity, the early church would have not known of what you were talking, though they certainly would have confessed that God is God. They had a grasp of only the beginning principle of all the truth and did not know all the implications and developments of that truth. Nonetheless it cannot be denied that the church has always possessed the whole truth: The New Testament church itself was like a sapling as it just began to grow. It could not be called a weed or a blade of grass; it was a tree. But it certainly is not like that great tree it will be in a hundred years. Just as the church was beginning its development, so was the truth. The truth is a living organism given spontaneously to the church, but yet it is only a principle of what it would be in time.
The development of those dogmas and doctrines took place under certain circumstances. The first necessary circumstance for the truth to be developed is under the incentive and guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is not enough to have just the Bible. It is also necessary to have the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit as He dwells within the church. “In the end, only the Holy Spirit from heaven above can create listeners and pupils who accept this doctrine and believe that the Word is God, that God’s Son is the Word, and that the Word became flesh, that He is also the Light who can illumine all men who come into the world and that without this light all is darkness.”(l) . The promise of the Holy Spirit means that when the church humbly allows the Spirit to guide her accurately in the truth, this guidance of the Spirit is always in connection with the Scriptures.
Secondly, the development of dogmas takes place because of the thirst of the regenerated heart for the knowledge of God in Christ. The regenerated heart possesses the principle of eternal life and therefore it longs for more of that eternal life. It expresses that longing in a thirsting for knowledge of God, Whom to know is life eternal. Also, the regenerated heart is filled with a love of God. One who loves another wants to know all he can about that person. So with the child of God: he wants to know all he can about God. There is always a thirst and a longing which leads the child of God into the truth.
Thirdly, the development of the truth takes place in the sphere of and by the mutual operation of believers. The communion of saints is essential because only within the sphere of the communion of saints is the Word of God preached. It is through the preaching principally that the church is gathered and that the church proclaims the truth. It is the preaching which stimulates and arouses the faith of the child of God. Because the church itself is an organism in which the Spirit of Christ dwells, the appropriation of the truth by the church is a mutual endeavor in which all the saints cooperate, each contributing something.
Fourthly, the development and appropriation of the truth takes place because of the logicalness of the human mind. The human mind tends to systematize the truths of Scripture to understand them better. The child of God is a rational-moral creature, possessing the ability to reason. This does not mean that reason reigns supreme, for we are referring to the believer as he has the Holy Spirit and is regenerated and as he dwells within the sphere of the communion of saints. This systematization of Scripture is necessary because Scripture is not systematized, for it is the record of the historical revelation of God to His people.
Finally the development of the truth takes place under the influence of the necessity to defend and formulate carefully the truth. There are all kinds of influences which bring the church to clarify and crystallize the truth in her consciousness. Historically, heresy is the greatest stimulus. When heresy arose concerning the Being of God, then the church began consciously to formulate the truth that God is three Persons in one Being. When heretics denied that Christ was God, then the church was forced to examine God’s Word and on the basis of that Word derived the truth that Christ is both God and man.
Therefore each child of God works with the dogmas of the Church universal and with those of his own particular church or denomination. He critically compares those dogmas with Scripture, thereby to establish their authority.
Now then, why is it that the truth which the Church derives out of God’s Word is an organic unity? Why is it that within that organic unity all of the individual doctrines are inter-related one with another? The answer must be found in the fact that the Scriptures are one. That the Scriptures are one is because they are the revelation of God, Who Himself is one. Therefore much of what is characteristic of the Word of God is equally characteristic of the body of truth which is derived out of it.
That Scripture is one and unified in all its parts implies that there is no possible contradiction between one part of God’s Word and another. Then what seem to be discrepancies are capable of resolution; if not now in time, then in eternity. Scripture has perfect inner harmony, always in agreement with itself. The fact that Scripture is one also implies that it is its own interpreter. One passage of God’s Word interprets another. To interpret Scripture with Scripture is to let the Holy Spirit do His own work. The church does not interpret Scripture. I do not interpret Scripture and you do not interpret Scripture. Scripture interprets Scripture. One takes clear and lucid passages and with them sheds light on the obscure and difficult passages. Thus Scripture stands in its own light and explains itself. The reformer Martin Luther agrees with that when he says, “It is impossible that Scripture should contradict itself; it only seems so to foolish, coarse, and hardened hypocrites”(2). When Scripture is allowed to interpret Scripture one does not run the risk of being what Luther calls an ostrich. “Well known is the stupidity of the ostrich, which thinks it is totally covered when its head is covered with some branch. Thus a godless teacher seizes upon one particular saying of Scripture and thinks his notion is fine, not noticing that he is maintaining his position as one who is bare and unarmed on every side.”(3).
Proof for the fact that the Scriptures are one is seen from I John 4:1-3. There John gives a confession which serves as a test as to whether a spirit was of God or not. John sets forth a simple and general, though fundamental confession. That confession is: “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” At first glance this looks very simple and we would question how we can test every spirit on the basis of this brief little phrase. But a close examination reveals the opposite to be true. Examine the word “Jesus”, first of all. Our catechism tells us that Jesus means Saviour, Who is our complete and absolute and only Saviour, so that one cannot and may not find help for his salvation in himself or in saints or anywhere else. That, of course, immediately eliminates all Arminianism. And so one could continue to examine every word in this confession. The point of this confession is that the truth of this confession pervades and permeates the whole body of truth. This confession limits and determines all the truth. You confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh and you confess that the Word of Christ is the Word of God. You make this confession and you confess the cross to be the bearing away of the curse due to God’s people. You make this confession and you confess that the death of the Son of God was an atonement for sin. You confess that Jesus Christ is come into the flesh and you must confess His resurrection and His exaltation. You confess He is come in the flesh and you confess the application of all the blessings of salvation by the Holy Spirit to the individual child of God by irresistible grace. You make this confession and you must also confess that the reason why confession and you must also confess that the reason why is because of total depravity. Also the reason why is the sovereign love of God, the election of God to make Him come into the flesh. You make this confession and you say that He has come into the flesh for those given Him of the Father before the foundations of the world. Thus we can see that John means to set forth a confession which serves as the foundation of the whole body of truth.
Thus when we speak of the organism of the truth, it can be said that Christ crucified is the center and heart of that body of truth. Once again, turning to Martin Luther, we can see that he agrees with this idea when he describes Christ as the Sun which is the source of all light. “All Holy Writ points to the fact that Moses must proclaim the law, but that Christ will abolish and obscure the message of the law, just as the sun dims the light of the moon and stars. You can see that the stars are not shining during the day, though they are fixed in the heavens before your very eyes. The sun deprives them of their light. When the big light vanishes, the lesser lights begin to shine and gleam. But if Christ, the Sun, should go down, then may God help US!”(4). Christ is the perfect revelation of God. He is Himself the Word, the speech of God. He is the essential content of all Scripture.
The truth is an organism that implies that the logical system is not only in the mind of the child of God, but also in the truth itself. What we mean when we say that is this. When God reveals Himself as the God of our salvation in Christ and by grace we embrace Christ by faith, our embracing of the truth is not piecemeal. Rather we receive the whole Christ and then in Him we receive at once all the blessings of salvation. The systematization of those truths into a dogmatics occurs when the child of God enters into those riches of the whole Christ, piece by piece, step by step so that he may apprehend the depths of those riches. Objectively, that means that because the truth is organically one, all the aspects, all the sub-truths, are in their relation to the one truth inter-related with each other. Therefore it is so horrible to delete any part of God’s Word, eg. the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Subjectively it means that God has given us minds and reason which enable us to apprehend that truth and the riches of that truth in their inter-relations, and not as a conglomeration of individual facts.
The truth is one because it is based upon the Word of God, which itself is one because it is the revelation of the one God. This has rich implications for the child of God. It means that in the development of the truth and in the explanation of God’s Word, he does not need reason or science. Neither is going to help him, but on the contrary, they will lead him astray.
Applicable here is the idea that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. Leaven is a small lump of sour dough similar to our yeast. This sour dough, through fermentation, gradually works its way through the entire mixture of batter until the whole lump of dough is leavened. The woman who put this lump of leaven into the dough would be confident that, given time, the yeast would effect every particle of bread dough. Paul uses this phrase in I Cor. 5:6-7 where he is admonishing the Corinthians for allowing a man who had committed fornication to remain with them. The individual congregation is an organic unity also, and Paul is telling the Corinthians that a rotten apple will destroy the whole bushel. That fornicator allowed to remain in that congregation is going to affect the whole church, unless he is disciplined. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
Paul says this also to the Galatians in Gal. 5:9. In his commentary on this text, John Calvin says, “I refer this to doctrine, not to men. It warns them how mischievous is the corruption of doctrine, so that they may not overlook it (as is common) as something of little or no danger. Satan goes to work with cunning and does not obviously destroy the whole Gospel, but taints its purity with false and corrupt opinions. Many do not consider the seriousness of evil and therefore make a less determined resistance. The apostle therefore protests that once the truth of God is corrupted, nothing remains sound. He uses the metaphor of leaven, which however small in quantity transmits its sourness to the whole mass. We must be careful not to allow anything to be added to the pure doctrine of the Gospel.”(5). The point is that if false teachers succeed in making even a small beginning in the work of imparting to us erroneous doctrines or false principles, this will develop itself into the corruption of our whole Christian faith and life. As Calvin pointed out, this does not happen overnight. The devil is much wiser than that. He is not going to enter into a church or the body of truth and make it false at once. He is going to start in a little, inconspicuous, hidden corner. There he is going to take a lie and he is going to paint it so it looks good.And once it is incorporated into that organic whole, so it is part of the organic unity, it will begin its work. Slowly but surely it will work its destructive work of destroying and discarding one doctrine after another.
This work can begin with the subtle lie that the Scriptures are not one. Again let us turn to Luther. “At first they deny only one article, but afterwards all must be denied. It is as with a ring; if it has only one defect, it can no longer be used. And if a bell cracks in only one place it does not sound any longer and is useless.”(6) “When the devil has succeeded in bringing matters so far that we surrender one article to him, he is victorious, and it is just as bad as though all of them and Christ Himself were already lost. Afterwards he can unsettle and withdraw others because they are all intertwined and bound together like a golden chain, so that if one link be broken, the whole chain is broken, and it pulls apart.”(7). The same idea Luther brought out when he explained Matthew 4:4. There Christ says to the devil that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. “But why the phrase ‘by every word?’ Because by disbelieving one single word you no longer live by the Word of God. For the whole Christ is in every word, and He is wholly in all single words. When, therefore, one denies in one word Him Who is in all words, one denies Him in His totality.”(8). Then to settle it once and for all Luther says, “Faith consists of something indivisible: it is either a whole faith and believes all there is to believe, or it is no faith at all if it does not believe one part of what there is to believe. This is why our Lord likens it to one single pearl and one single mustard seed, etc. For Christ is not divided; therefore, one either denies Him in His totality when one denies Him with respect to one point or affirms Him in His totality. But one cannot at the same time deny and confess Him now in this, and then in that, word.”(9).
This means that if total depravity is denied it can be shown that this is really a denial of Christ crucified. Deny creation is six literal days and you can very clearly show that to be a denial of Christ. The truth is one.
Therefore we must take heed to God’s Word. We must examine every spirit and every wind of doctrine to see whether it is of God. The only test which can be used is God’s own Word. If an error is found, it will inevitably affect the whole of the truth as well as the life and walk of him who holds that truth. If error is found, then we must do all that is in our power to rid ourselves of that error, before it is too late. And if all attempts to get rid of that error fail, then we must get out. Then it is time for us to go and find a church home where we can find the whole body of the truth of God’s Word.
The truth is an organic unity because the Scriptures are a unity. Scripture is a unity because it is the revelation of God, Who is One. The organic unity of the truth is very important. The Lord willing, in a later issue we shall attempt to show the importance of that unity as it affects the walk of the individual and of the church which holds it.