Vol. VIII — No. 28 July 16, 1967


Question Mark or Period?

Isaiah 43:1; Genesis 3:1

“Thus saith the Lord” —Isaiah 43:1 and many other places

“Yea, hath God said?” —Genesis 3:1

In Christ Jesus the Lord, who today yet speaks through the words of the prophets and apostles, Fellow Redeemed:

“What is truth?” That is a question that haunts and torments the spirit of man. That it did long before Pilate asked the question in despair the day he condemned the innocent Son of God to death, and that it has down through the ages to our modern day. As each age seeks to answer the question, “What is truth?” man is forced to ask himself, “What is the source of truth?” and “What is the method by which we learn the truth?”

The most common and widely used method of learning and determining truth today in the more highly developed nations of the world is the scientific method. That method originated in our era with John Locke who established the principle that truth and knowledge must be determined by the senses of man. And so it was, over the course of years, that observation, experimentation, analysis, establishing cause and effect, verifying by repetition became the methods and tools for creating the marvelous technological civilization of which we are a part. This scientific or empirical method for solving problems, harnessing nature, discovering and applying the laws of nature, establishing scientific truth over against superstition has made the mind of man the master of the world. Given sufficient time and sufficient money modern man is quite confident that he can solve any problem that remains unsolved in this world.

About a century ago this scientific or empirical method was applied to the study of the Bible. A host of scholars approached the Bible from many different directions: the archeologists, the historians, the linguists and grammarians, the anthropologists and philosophers, and of course the theologians. It wasn’t long before this army of scholars, applying the evolutionary theory to the development of religion and using the methods of comparative study of religion and culture, began to make decisions as to what was the Word of God in the Bible and what was a human product of contemporary times in which the writers of the Bible lived. What gradually happened was that the mind of man asserted itself as the supreme master of the Bible, deciding what was to be accepted as the Word of God and what was but the word of man, what was history and what was myth, what was reliable and what was the product of human error. The results of this process of a century suddenly imposed itself upon you people here in the form of the new Sunday School Series that was being forced upon you.

Is there a source of divine truth, other than the mind of man? Is there another method for learning that truth? We have no quarrel at all with the scientific method, when used in its proper place. we all use that method every day and daily enjoy the fruits of science. We wouldn’t want to be without it. But our objection comes when the scientific method is applied to the divine truth in such a way that the mind of man is made the master of the Holy Scripture. In this area we embrace an alternate method—that of revelation recorded by inspiration in the Scripture and learned by the use of the mind. who was there when God created the world? No one! If man is to know how this was done, God had to reveal these things and record them, as He has. How can man learn of God? How can man with his senses learn what must be known of God, who is a spirit? God has revealed Himself to some extent in nature, but more was needed. So God revealed Himself in the Bible. How can man discover the way of salvation when no human eye has seen it and no human ear has heard it? God revealed the plan—the sending of His Son to be the Sin-Bearer for mankind. Thus the source of divine truth is not the mind of man, but the revelation of God, recorded by divine inspiration in the Holy Bible. The mind of man becomes an instrument, a servant, for learning divine truth from the Bible; it dare never assert itself as lord and master over the Bible.

You see, then, that we today are confronted with alternate methods and sources of learning and knowing divine truth. we want to face these alternatives directly this morning. They may be expressed in more than one way. Ask yourself what you want in your home and church and what you want your children taught:



Again and again the prophets of old introduced their utterances with the solemn words, “Thus saith the Lord.” They spoke as instruments of the Holy Spirit in the name and in the power and with the authority of God Himself. Yea, God spoke through them. And when they recorded the message given them for the benefit of future ages, for our benefit also, they wrote under the direction of the Spirit of God. Since that time children of God of all times have approached the Holy Bible with fear and trembling, for they know that every page, every chapter, every verse, every word is prefaced with that same introduction, “Thus saith the Lord!” Period! That is the rock on which faith builds, for faith must rest upon the Word of God.

The alternative is “Yea, hath God said?” You recognize those words as the words that Satan used to create doubt in the heart and mind of Eve. God had said, “The day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” The Hebrew expression is extremely strong, “Thou shalt die death!” Satan countered, “Is that so? Did God really say that?” So did he put a question mark in the mind of Eve, caused her to doubt, shifted her footing from rock to sand, and so plunged her and the whole human race into sin and damnation. Whenever man questions the words of the Bible, he is fostering doubt, causing children of God to shift from the rock of the word of God to the sand of man’s opinion.

So it is that the alternatives remain to this day and confront each and every one of us. What do you want in your personal life and in your church: “Yea, hath God said?” or “Thus saith the Lord!” Let us apply these alternatives to some specific cases.

Who wrote the Torah, the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible? Did Moses write these books under the guidance of the Holy Spirit or were there other men, one or two or three or four or more that wrote parts of these books and finally fused them together as a whole, long after Moses was dead? The child of God has always believed in his simplicity that Moses wrote these books. The internal evidence is strong. But what is more, our Lord Jesus referred to Moses as the writer of the law. Think of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man lived without the Savior-God. He died and opened up his eyes in hell. He saw Lazarus afar off in bliss. He pleaded with father Abraham to send Lazarus as a special emissary from the dead to warn his brothers on earth. Abraham responded that such a special mission was not necessary, for they had “Moses and the prophets.” Luke 16:29. The Jews commonly referred to the Old Testament writings as “Moses and the prophets.” Sometimes they would speak of three divisions, as Jesus did when He appeared unto His disciples following the resurrection and assured them that all, that happened, had to happen for “all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” Luke 24:44. Thus the Lord Jesus freely expressed what every Jew took for granted in those days—that Moses was the author of the law, which we know as the first five books of the Bible. So when we are asked, “Who wrote the first five books of the Bible?” we answer without a bit of hesitation, “Moses.” Period, for “Thus saith the Lord!”

But when men apply the so-called scientific method of study to the Scriptures, they have come up with a multiple authorship of the first five books of the Bible. And then they must give these “ghost writers” names. They have. They call one the Jahwist because he is supposed to have liked and used the name Jahwe for God. The next they call the Eloist because he is supposed to have used the generic name Elohim or simply God. The third is called the Deuteronomist, who is supposed to have written the second law or Deuteronomy at a much later date, presumably about the time of Ezra. And then finally there is the priestly editor or redactor, who is supposed to have colored the document in the interest of and with prejudice for the priestly traditions. Now all of this sounds most learned. It makes an impression. But what is it but substitution of a question mark for a period, of doubt for faith, of sand for rock, of man’s opinion for God’s Word, of “Yea, hath God said?” for “Thus saith the Lord!” As for me and my ministry, I stand on “Thus saith the Lord!” believing and teaching that Moses wrote the first five books of our Bible.

Permit another example. One of the books of the Old Testament that is considered just a story or a myth, but not a historical record of an actual event, is the book of the prophet Jonah. The reliability of the account is attacked both within and without the church. As a matter of fact the man of the world seems to take for granted that the story of Jonah is just a “fish story.” Last Sunday’s issue of “The State” carried an editorial by James Reston entitled “Modern Deception Does Not Deceive” (June 25). He was reporting and commenting on some of the lies being told at the UN in connection with the recent Middle East crisis. He wrote, “For example, the Russian argument that Israel mobilized on the Syrian frontier in mid-May is the biggest fish-story since Jonah and the whale.” Now we take for granted that outsiders may consider the book of Jonah just a big “fish-story,” but we should be able to expect that people within the church who call themselves Christians would simply accept and believe, for “Thus saith the Lord!” But what do we find? He find church leaders and people, who call themselves and consider themselves to be Christians, denying the facts of the account and claiming that the whole book is just a “fish-story” with a moral for us. Is God actually so weak and helpless that He could not create or use a fish to swallow Jonah and regurgitate him after he had learned his lesson? Is God a liar that He would cause His Spirit to record a “fish-story” and pass it off as His word? Was Jesus the victim of the superstition of His day when He referred to the story of Jonah as a historic event? God forbid! And yet we have church leaders and religious educators filling the hearts and minds of children and adults with doubts instead of certainty. As for me and my ministry, the book of Jonah is a divinely inspired account of an historical event, for “Thus saith the Lord!” Period. Away with these doubt-breeders, who place a “Yea, hath God said?” behind more and more of the revealed and inspired record of our God!

Jonah is not the only one to suffer. The Lord Jesus is also attacked. His miracles are questioned. The very incarnation, resurrection and ascension are questioned. Always questions marks, doubts, man’s opinion rather than the certainty of the Word of the Lord. This ministry is dedicated to the truth that the Bible is the living Word of God, for “Thus saith the Lord!” We intend to oppose and combat without quarter every “Yea, hath God said?” of man, both within and without the church.

Why is this battle so important? Why is it worth our time, our energy, our zeal, our property, our lives? Because our eternal salvation may depend upon it. The doubt-breeders in the church today are trying to separate the Word of God from the word of man in the Bible. They want to separate the temporary from the eternal. But they never have and never will agree on what is the word of God and what is the word of man. They are only agreed on this that man must decide what is or what is not the eternal word of God. That method of learning divine truth plays right into the hands of Satan. with all the question marks that are being raised about first one and then another portion of the Bible, Satan sees to it that question marks are raised about the way of salvation. When men put a question mark behind the virgin-birth of our Lord, Satan rubs his hands in glee, for he knows that only a human savior will save no one. When men put question marks behind the resurrection, Satan smiles knowingly, for he knows, as St. Paul knew, that “if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” 1 Cor. 15:16. When men emphasize deeds not creeds, Satan couldn’t be made happier, for he knows that the faith of men will be shifted from the redemption of Christ to the individual’s own doings. When man so trusts himself, he loses all. Every question mark raised against the Bible indirectly aims at questioning salvation by grace through faith in the atonement of Christ for us. When that is lost, all is lost! That is why we would stand on the rock of “Thus saith the Lord,” and combat the sands of doubt that Satan keeps on raising with his, “Yea, hath God said?” Amen.

—Pastor Paul F. Nolting

Preached - July 2, 1967
Holy Trinity Independent
Evangelical Lutheran Church
West Columbia, South Carolina

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