Dear brother G.
Introductory to the study of a Book of the Bible, especially of an epistle, it is customary and very helpful for the commentator to give the setting and, when possible, the situation that confronted the author of the Book, his probable state of mind, his circumstances, and what he hoped to accomplish by his writing.
However, would it not also be well to point out that back of the human author writing for an immediate audience to accomplish an immediate purpose is the Holy Spirit, unfettered by human limitations, omnisciently aware of the needs of all who shall read the Book, omnipotently able to control every thought of the writer’s mind and every scratch of his pen, and omnipresently with all who shall seek His aid in understanding the Book ?
Beyond the human writer, guiding, directing, protecting from all error, sometimes if not always teaching beyond the immediate grasp of the writer, is the Holy Spirit. He speaks not alone to the one or more named in the salutation, but as well to readers far distant in space and in time; even to us, and to those who come after.
Yet this Divine Writer in no way obscures or nullifies the human author. It certainly is not as in the deception of Isaac: the hand, the hand of Esau, but the voice, the voice of Jacob. The full flavour of the character of the human writer is retained: indeed, emphasized, amplified, refined. The voice of God truly speaks in the epistle, but it is His voice blended with that of the human writer, and with the latter it is the voice of experience. Every writer in the Word might say in a measure with our Lord Jesus Christ, “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen.” Yet they may need to confess at times with the Old Testament prophets of whom Peter speaks that “not unto themselves but unto us they did minister the things” about which they write.
Even as our Lord Jesus Christ was God manifest in the flesh, so are the words of these epistles the breathings of God through human minds.
Indeed, we might digress to say, if it be a digression, that our gospel in its full scope is far more than a dogma, far beyond the mere tenets of a belief. It is a living reality that can be told out adequately only through human lips and lives. Words alone cannot fully express it. It must be lived. Mental consent alone does not make a convert; but, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Observe, by the way, that our Bible is not a mere table of laws; it is composed of histories, songs, wise sayings, narratives, chronicles, dramas, prophetic utterances, letters both personal and circular. It is the mind of God told out through events and circumstances and worked out in the hearts and thoughts of men.
It must follow surely that the writers of the epistles therein more really, more truthfully express themselves than they could in any other way or by any other mode. The tools of the heavenly Potter, heredity, environment, circumstance, occupation, and the gospel, have moulded their thoughts; consequently, their epistles convey to us the distilled essence of what they have learned in the school of God.
To sum up; men are men, even though their writings be in the Canon of Scripture, and therefore to grasp their message it is well to know what we can of their temperament, circumstance and purpose, but yet as immediate authors of the Word of God they have been borne along by the Holy Spirit, and consequently the words they have written are His inerrant, efficacious messages to us.
I trust that we shall soon see each other again.
Yours in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Dear brother D.
Many thanks for your helpful letter. Your emphasis upon the Divine Author of Scripture is much appreciated. This has not been sufficiently stressed in former letters during the recent discussion, therefore, I have felt that your entire remarks should be published.
It is a fact of Divine authorship that produces in the human heart the expectancy of Divine substance in the Bible. To us a divine writer must communicate divine truth. Moreover, we anticipate in our approach to the Bible that the Divine Author would not only express such truths, but that He would do so by a Divine method. This He surely has done, for He expresses Himself in human language, by human mouths and hands. He accomplishes this with exacting precision and positive accuracy in a progressive manner throughout many centuries. A perfect unity thereby results that makes the Holy Book one precious revelation of God to mankind.
May we personally realize that in the Bible, God is speaking particularly to each of us.
Sincerely in Christ,