The Pilgrim Life

A Double Reason 

That the Bible is the Word of God and not simply the word of man is so clear that every pilgrim, even pilgrim children, can understand it. There is, first of all, a negative reason. . . . “it came not in old time by the will of man.” Scripture did not have its origin in the will of man. Man’s will had nothing to do with the Scriptures. Whether there would be a Bible, when it would be written, by whom it would be written, what form it would take, what its contents would be . . . man’s will had nothing to do with these things! Let that be impressed upon us in such a way that it never be forgotten. The truth is that God determined there would be a Bible; God determined to reveal Himself as the God of salvation in Jesus Christ. The Scriptures came by the will of God, and, therefore, His will decided the matter from every point of view! So important is the will of God in this matter that if He had not graciously decided to reveal Himself to us, we could never, never know Him. Oh, we would have a certain knowledge of Him that works fear, but we would never know Him as Father, and as the God of covenant friendship and life! But God be praised, He was pleased to uncover Himself in human language, and that revelation we have in the Bible. 

This blessed fact implies, first of all, that the Bible is the Word of God from beginning to end. Oh, it was written by man in human language, but that does not make it less Divine. They contain no word of man at all. The Scriptures in their entirety are the revelation of the mighty God of our salvation! Secondly, this means that the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word. The original manuscripts, which are now lost, contained no errors, no contradictions, no untruths. And what about the Bibles we use today? Are they to be trusted? I know there are a lot of versions being pressed upon us today, and I am aware of many differences in translations, some of which are deliberate perversions of the clear meaning of the text. But as God’s people we ought to be impressed by this fact: if we concern ourselves with the best version (which I am convinced is the King James or Authorized Version) and if we understand that variations in this translation according to the best manuscripts are very minor and do not touch a single doctrinal issue or an article of the Christian faith, we can be sure that what we have in our homes and churches and schools is the inspired, infallible Word of God. Because the Spirit poured out on the church not only gave the Word, but also preserves it, our copies today partake of the infallibility that the original manuscripts enjoyed. The Holy Spirit sees to it, and will see to it, that the Pilgrim stranger in this world always has a guide-book that does not err! 

All this is being denied by many, by the instigation of the Devil. It has become fashionable to say that the Bible contains the Word of God. The idea is that if you want to discover the Word of God in the Bible, you must first strip away the trivia and the myth. Get rid of the human framework and figures. In this way, much of God’s precious revelation to usward is discarded at the whim of man. He will judge what is God’s Word and what is not. Others say that since the Bible is the revelation of salvation- and contains covenant history, it is infallible only in matters of faith and doctrine. But in matters scientific and historical it obviously errs and cannot be trusted. Thus, God’s own Word concerning creation is thrown out, and evolution or theistic evolution with its period theory is introduced. (The reasons for this will not be discussed here, but one cannot escape the feeling that the desire of many theologians to be accepted by academe is prominent here.) It is said that there are errors in the genealogies, historical accounts that do not harmonize, misconceptions concerning the solar system, inconsistencies in the gospel accounts. It is no coincidence that those who deny the infallibility of the Bible continue to chip away, and imagine they find more and more errors. If the child of God is aghast thus far by the attacks upon the Scripture, let him be warned that he has seen only the beginning. The point is, if you deny one part of the Bible as God’s Truth, you have denied the whole Bible. The Word stands in toto or it falls in toto. Is it not clear that if you cannot trust God’s Word in respect to creation, you cannot trust His Word regarding recreation in Jesus Christ (confer Rom. 4:17)? If you deny the existence of Adam, you deny the Last Adam, the Lord from Heaven? If you deny Paradise, you deny Heaven? If you deny that all men died in Adam, you deny that the elect are made alive in Christ? But the Bible does not err! It contains no mistakes and no word of man because it came not in old time by the will of man. 

The positive reason why the Bible is in all its parts the Word of God is given us by Peter in the words: “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” To show how little man had to do with the coming of the Scriptures, we are instructed here that even that small part that God allowed man to play in the production of the Bible is actually thoroughly God-determined and God-controlled. Before the foundations of the world, He set apart and qualified each writer of the Scripture. He gave, in His counsel, to each one certain gifts and abilities, a certain position and circumstance in life. David, whom God determined should write the Psalms, grew up as a shepherd of his fathers sheep on the hills of Judah. Moses had to be educated in the palace schools of Pharaoh. Paul was taught at the feet of Gamaliel. These circumstances and preparation exactly enabled each sacred writer to write a certain, fore-ordained, part of the Bible. Thus, the Spirit did notfind men in this world that He would use, but these men were raised up and prepared by God for that work! 

Secondly, these men spoke and wrote in a very special way . . . “being moved by the Holy Ghost.” The idea is that they were carried by, borne along by the Holy Spirit. The sacred writers were caught up in the Spirit! So inspiration is that act of God whereby he breathed His Word into the hearts and minds of chosen men, so that, under the infallible direction of the Holy Spirit, they were guided and directed to record that Word. It follows that this implies a verbal, or graphic inspiration. God did not simply convey to his chosen writers the general idea or broad outline of revelation, and then trust they could carry on from there. No, every line, every word, every letter, is God breathed! Consistency demands of us, that with such a view, we do not engage in debates about the human and Divine factor in the Bible. The Bible is not the product of God and man. It is not necessary to speak of a human and Divine author. The Holy Scriptures are all Divine. The Bible as it presents us with the living Word of God, which is Jesus Christ, is fully inspired in all its parts. It comes to us directly from the mouth of God, Who cannot lie and Who cannot err. “He is the Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are judgment. A God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is He.” (Deut. 32:4). 

Hence, concerning the doctrine of inspiration, the child of God may and must believe, first, that God’s Word was given in such a way that it is infallible and inerrant: it cannot err because it is the Word of God, don’t you see? That means that any attack on the Word of God is an attack on God Himself! When you say something about the Bible, you are saying something about the living God! And, therefore, modern attempts to derogate the Bible are an attack on Theism itself, for a God Who errs is no God at all. With Jesus we must say, “Father, Thy Word is Truth!” And if that invites persecution and ridicule, let it be so! Secondly, such a Word of God is authoritative, of course! That’s so important for the pilgrim. In future issues we hope to consider various aspects of the pilgrim’s calling, and we will discover that the calling is often contrary to the flesh. How important for us to understand, then, that the authority of the Sovereign God of heaven and earth is embodied in His Word. The ring of its authority must be heard and recognized in every area of life. To it we must bow! And, thirdly, such an infallibly inspired Record is completely trustworthy. The pilgrim may give himself over to its promises without fear of disappointment! The Word will not lead astray, will not cause unnecessary suffering; rather, it will guide him to Heaven and Home. 

The Result of Knowing This 

The apostle Peter assumes that these things may be known by the church, and that this knowledge lives in the consciousness of the believer. How may we know concerning the Divine origin of Scripture and wonderful truths of inerrancy, authority, and trustworthiness? As the late Dr. E.J. Young of Westminster Seminary puts it in his excellent book,Thy Word Is Truth (Eerdmans, 1957, p. 18), “If a foreigner comes to our shores, and we should desire to know his nationality and something about his background and history, there are many ways we might proceed to obtain this information. We might call in a number of people and engage in a guessing game on a large scale. We might ask different individuals to make a thorough study of the man’s appearance and clothes, and then give us their ‘unbiased’ judgment as a result of such ‘scientific’ study. There is also another way in which we might proceed. We might ask the man himself to tell us the answers to our question.” Dr. Young’s point is that the Bible itself tells us all we need to know about the doctrine of Scripture. We ought not ask the scientist or the philosopher to formulate this doctrine, God Himself is the only One to be trusted in making statements about the Word of God. Go to the Bible believing that! What a wide range of proof you will then find. The text we have been considering belongs at the heart of this body of proof. What beautiful evidence that every word of the Bible comes to us from the mouth of our loving, caring Father! There is II Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Countless times we read, “Thus saith the Lord,” or, “The word of the Lord came unto me saying. . . .” We pass over this lightly, but these phrases hammer home the fact that God is speaking! 

From a slightly different point of view, consider the amazing unity and harmony that the Bible displays: sixty-six books written over a period of hundreds of years by scores of different men. Yet, there is not one conflict, or discrepancy, or loose end! This objective proof no man is able to gainsay! The Belgic Confession, Art. 5, states that the Scriptures carry the evidence in themselves that they are the Word of God. That evidence is simply overwhelming! 

And yet, all that proof means nothing to you and me personally, unless the same Spirit Who gave it testifies in our hearts that these things be true! God works faith in His Word; God engraves them upon the tablets of our heart! Thus, the pilgrim child of God, living out of faith, is not shaken by the so-called discoveries of science and modern theologians. Heknows the Bible is the Word of God. He knows it is without error. Therefore, nothing can shake his confidence in the Word, not even the gates of hell. 

The importance of all this cannot be over-emphasized, for the church as a whole, nor for the individual believer. Notice that Peter places the truth of this text in the category of a basic principle by insisting that we know this first. The truth that the Bible is God-breathed is fundamental to Christianity, to pure and undefiled religion, and to a faithful pilgrimage! Establish this, by God’s grace, as an immoveable fact in your lives. Hold on to it, teach it to your children, and never let it go: for if this is allowed to slip away from us, then we have nothing left. If you wonder if the Word of God be true, then you will wonder if you are a pilgrim, and even if being a pilgrim is all that important. You will not be inclined to bow before the Word when it comes to you and says, “Pilgrim, this is your calling. This is how I would have you walk in the midst of the world.” You will begin to wonder if Christ is really going to return, to receive unto Himself His redeemed Church, and to give her the eternal inheritance, the new heavens and earth in which dwelleth righteousness. Let no man say that the doctrine of inspiration with all its implications is something cold and hard, or perhaps out of date. It is vibrant and warm. It is a matter of life and death. If the gospel is to have power, if it is to giveconsolation, if it is to save, then it must be the Word of God! And it is! 

It is sad and it is inexcusable that in the nineteen-seventies the church on earth dares to take a new look at this doctrine. As one of the first principles of religion, it may not be questioned or even investigated. It may only be believed; and if an attack is launched against the Bible, this doctrine must beapplied. Before this Word of God Satan will flee. 

What a treasure, then, the Bible is for the often-weary pilgrim. He may trust it with all his soul. In a world of change, of darkness and the lie, he has Light and Truth for every possible situation. He cleaves to its promises as they all center in Christ. He is willing to suffer loss of all earthly things, he is willing to endure affliction and even die, he will go where that Guide-book sends him . . . all because that Word cannot be broken! 

For this reason pilgrimage is a matter of joy! I am afraid we are inclined to view the pilgrim life as a negative type of thing. As if it is all deprivation, denial, and sadness. Sometimes our children react that way when we instruct them in the ways of the covenant: “Why can’t a Christian have fun?” How can we fail to see that being a pilgrim is a privilege, and thus a matter of great joy? Because he can trust in the Word of God, the psalmist sings: “Thy statutes are my song in the house of my pilgrimage!” That joy may be ours, because Father’s Word is Truth! The first sin of Adam and Eve injured neither one of them bodily.

There was no violence of the one upon the other in that deed. No painful blow was struck to injure each other’s flesh. No cutting words were spoken that wounded their souls. The eating of that forbidden fruit had no more painful effect upon their bodies that the eating of any piece of fruit from any other tree in the garden.

To any of us fallen children of Adam, could we have been there to witness that first sin, it would have been nothing more than the eating of a piece of fruit from a tree that arbitrarily had been designated as one having forbidden fruit. The fruit of that tree was good for food. That tree did not bear poisonous fruit. Consider once what a weak poison that would have been. For then it did not kill Adam (though he ate of it only once) until nine hundred thirty years later! A piece of fruit that takes that long to bring to death can hardly be called poisonous. 

Yet, though the deed brought no physical pain or grief to Adam and Eve, and though it seemed like a very arbitrary decision to single out this tree as one with forbidden fruit, it was a most vicious sin that Adam and Eve committed when they ate of that tree! 

It was man’s declaration of hatred against God, because of which he would set himself on a course of fighting Him in order to rob Him of His glory! 

It was unbridled hatred! 

It was bold rebellion! 

It was attempted robbery! 

That was Satan’s goal, and it was also his very approach as well. He had turned in hatred against God. He had rebelled in heaven. And he had also sought to rob God of His glory. Paul tells us in I Timothy 3:6 that Satan was lifted up with pride, which means that he sought to exalt himself above God. It means that he died spiritually before man did, and being spiritually dead the only joy he could find was in spreading that hatred to God’s image bearer. And he found the serpent to be a valuable tool for working hatred into the heart of man, and the scheme of robbing God of His glory into man’s mind. Eat, he said, and you can rob God of His position in which He tells you what is good and what is evil! Eat, that you may be able to decide for yourself what is good for you and what you will consider to be evil! 

Understand well, then, that this first deed of Adam touches the very sovereignty of God. For if He cannot decide anymore what is good for His creature and what is evil, if the creature does obtain this right and power, then God loses His sovereignty, must step aside, and that will be a God beside Him. And that simply means that God is dead! It is inherent in being God that one is God alone. Two gods would nullify and limit each other, and both would lose the very characteristic of being God. It is, therefore, as far as Satan’s approach is concerned, Jehovah or Adam, and not both. When Satan suggested being like God, he lied, of course. But in his lie is the alternative to Adam and Eve: Let Jehovah continue to be God and control your life, or rob Him of this and take that place yourself! Adam and Eve did not eat in the thought that now they would be like God in the sense that they would be on His level. No, when they would know what is good and evil (after Satan’s suggestion) they would be above God. They would rob Him of that which He now had. They would wrest from His hands the control He now had over them. They could go their own merry way without being troubled by Him. They would rob Him of His glory as God! 

That apparently harmless act of eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a root sin that has brought forth all the hatred against God that is in the world today and will develop to greater heights in the remaining years of this world. All the rebellion against God man has ever committed, or will commit, came out of this sin. You see, that tree was not arbitrarily chosen to be the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil. It was created by God to be His means of teaching man, made in His image, what was ethically good and what was ethically evil and would, therefore, bring him material good or material evil. Adam knew the good but had to know it as opposed to evil. He had to live antithetically. He had to serve God in love with a complete hatred of all that which did not serve Him and did not glorify Him. And eating of that tree would mean that man had begun to hate God, refused to serve Him, would declare, or indeed in that eating did already declare war on God, and that he was out to rob Him of His glory of being the sovereign ruler of heaven and earth! 

We do well, then, to cast far from us all this silly talk about little and big sins. Look at that sin of Adam! It is in every sin we commit whether from our viewpoint it is called big or little. Every time that we sin we simply say, I will decide for myself what is good and what is evil. I want no God above me to tell me what I have to do! I want the forbidden, and I am going to get it! 

The friend-servant relation in which we were created we have in Adam changed to one of enemy-rebel. And we have carried it on into every sphere and department of life. We are out to rob God of His glory. We want Him dead and are going to behave as though He is. But since we are quite sure that He is not, we are going to fight Him with everything that we have. 

Of course we do not rob Him. We speak of attempted robbery, because it did not and could not succeed. It was all Satan’s lie, and he knew that it was not true. He had not succeeded himself. He knew that God is God and God alone. The creature that depends upon God for every breath of his life cannot get God out of his way, cannot rob God of any of His glory. God is glorified in that very attempt of man to rob Him of His glory. His almighty power to maintain Himself as God shines all the more strongly through that very sin of Adam. That He still is God, and that He is God alone became so very plain in the punishment that at once came upon them for their sin. They robbed God of no glory. They robbed themselves of all their glory. They lost their life and all of their spiritual gifts to become enemies of the God Who still continued to determine for them what is good and what is evil. They lost all their ability to call the good good, and the evil evil, and to choose the good and to reject the evil. They took nothing from God, but God took from them the excellent gifts which in their creation He had given to them. 

Let us clearly understand that, whether we are speaking of spiritual death, by which we mean that man is completely unable to do what is spiritually good (and into this Adam did fall the day that he ate); or physical death, which is the separation of body and soul, with the body beginning to return to the dust; or the eternal death, which is the suffering of the everlasting wrath of God in hell, death is punishment! It is God’s punishment upon the sinner, and not a natural consequence of eating forbidden fruit. The tree did not kill Adam, but God did. The wages, the payment of sin is death. That is saying much more than that death is the result of sin. And so, without minimizing that awfulness of their sin, the truth expressed in our title that it is attempted robbery declares the folly of man’s deed, and the impossibility that God could be robbed of His sovereignty. Man meant to rob. With him it was not a mere attempt. He had been deceived into thinking that he would succeed. He ate because he was convinced that his sin would bring him advantage, not disadvantage. He rebelled because he was convinced that he could become like God to know good and evil. But the outcome of the deed is that it was only a foolish attempt that failed completely. 

And the Saviour of this fallen man, and of mankind, will have to earn life before this God. He will have to obtain it from the same God Who took it from us. He will have to satisfy His, not the devil’s, demands. He will have to buy us from His justice by suffering fully our punishment and by fulfilling completely God’s demand to us of unswerving obedience and love. There is no tree whose fruit we can eat and thereby restore ourselves to the life we lost: There must be the tree of the cross that serves to inflict this punishment upon that Saviour and that serves as an altar where He may offer up a perfect life to God. 

Very beautifully Paul writes of Him in Philippians 2:6 that He thought not the robbery to be equal with God. That is a better translation than the one which declares that, “He thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” In His pure mind and holy will the thought and desire of taking from God His sovereignty was never entertained. Satan spoke also to Him, and that on many occasions. But he never succeeded in getting the Son of God in our flesh to entertain in His thoughts or harbor in His heart the robbery of God. Always when Satan suggested it, He spewed it out of His mouth, and condemned the very thought as a loathsome, evil thing. He always maintained and manifested a love for God as the Sovereign One. And because He did, the world robbed Him of His Life at Calvary. 

Let the fact of Adam’s sin then open our eyes to the holiness of God and the awfulness of our sin. We are so inclined to view God as less than holy. At least we like to consider Him to be less than holy. O yes, we do! We try to console ourselves and deceive ourselves into thinking that He will condone a little heresy and a little sin. He will overlook, we like to think, a few points of false doctrine. And we even dare to say that for one sin He will not cast us into hell. If we continue, and if the pile gets too big, then He will lose His temper and say, “Now, that is enough!” How often do we not hear those who despise the means of grace on the Sabbath and serve the flesh instead, who drop a word that takes His name in vain, that pull off a shady business deal, say, “The good Lord is not going to put me in hell for just one sin.” 

Better that we remember that He killed Adam and Eve for one sin. Better that we look at sin from His point of view and not from our sinful position. Better that we judge with His pure eyes rather than with our evil eyes. Do we not in Habakkuk 1:13 read? “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.” 

Follow not the philosopher who declares that if you lead a good, clean life there is a certain place for you in God’s kingdom, and then by a good, clean life means one of keeping the second table of the law, as though this were possible without keeping the first table. Adam and Eve broke not that second table in their first sin, and all hell broke loose upon them as far as what they deserved is concerned. Your hands may be ever so clean as far as that second table is concerned, that is, in man’s opinion and according to his judgment, but are you denying God His sovereignty? Are you denying Him the right to tell you what is good and what is evil? Live in peace with men but fight God, and death is the wages for that sin, regardless of how nice you were to men. 

Confess God to be sovereign both by your mouth and your deeds. And then run to the tree of the cross for healing, since so often we seek to rob Him of that honour and glory. Attempt not the robbery of God, but cast yourself in humility before Him and seek His sovereign grace.