Psalm 12:6, 7
In the previous sermon, we examined evidence for the inspiration of the Word of God. We learned the blessed truth that God literally “breathed” His Word through human personalities to give us an inerrant, infallible, and inspired record of His revelation of Himself and of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.
To this list, I would like to add the word “preservation.” This is the process by which God has supernaturally protected His Word through many reproductions and translations. The idea of preservation holds that God has faithfully superintended His Word down through the ages so that, even today, many years after portions of the Bible were written, we can say that what we possess, what we love, and what we read are the very words of God!
Now, we have already discovered the tremendous truth that the original autographs (the writings of the original authors) were divinely inspired. Sadly, none of those original autographs have survived to this day. In other words, you can’t go anywhere in this world and find a scrap of paper containing the actual writings of Paul, John, Moses, Peter, James, Daniel, Isaiah, or any of the other biblical writers.
Since that is true, how can we be confident that the Bible we possess today is accurate and is the very Word of God? Let’s examine this issue of “the preservation of the Holy Scriptures.”
I. SCRIPTURE HAS BEEN PRESERVED BY GOD’S PROMISES
Let’s examine the internal evidence from the Bible itself. The Bible contains several passages that affirm God’s intention to preserve His inspired Word for all generations.
A. Old Testament promises of preservation: Numbers 23:19; Psalm 12:6, 7; 89:34; 119:89; Isaiah 40:8.
B. New Testament promises of preservation: Matthew 5:18; 24:35; Titus 1:2; 1 Peter 1:25.
The conclusion from these verses is clear: God had indeed promised to preserve His Word! The question I have for you is this: How many times does God have to say anything before we can conclude that He means it? Once! We have the promise of God, who cannot lie (Heb. 6:18), who identifies Himself as the “Faithful and True Witness” (Rev. 3:14), that He will forever perfectly preserve His Word, and that is good enough for me. However, while that may be all The conclusion from these verses is clear: God had indeed promised to preserve His Word! The question I have for you is this: How many times does God have to say anything before we can conclude that He means it? Once! We have the promise of God, who cannot lie (Heb. 6:18), who identifies Himself as the “Faithful and True Witness” (Rev. 3:14), that He will forever perfectly preserve His Word, and that is good enough for me. However, while that may be all the evidence Bible believers need, that is not all the evidence we have!
II. SCRIPTURE HAS BEEN PRESERVED BY GOD’S POWER
A. Jeremiah 36:1-32 tells the story of God giving Jeremiah revelation and inspiration to write a portion of the Word of God. Jeremiah writes as he is commanded, and King Jehoiakim listens to the Word of God. He receives illumination from the Lord, but he rejects the message. He takes the scroll Jeremiah has written and literally cuts it to pieces and burns it in the fireplace (Jer. 36:23). Apparently, he thinks that destroying the written word will erase what God has said. However, God’s Word is settled not on earth but in heaven (Ps. 119:89). God merely sent His Word again through the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 36:28). Despite the actions of Jehoiakim, God preserved His Word!
That is just one example of what God has always done to protect and preserve His Word down through the ages.
B. The following are several concerted efforts by pagan unbelievers to eradicate the Word of God:
In A.D. 303, the Roman emperor Diocletion ordered the confiscation and destruction of all Christian scriptures. Thousands of early copies and possibly some original autographs were burned. However, the Word of God was not eradicated! Earnest believers protected the Word and hid it away in catacombs, caves, and graves. Thus, the Word of God survived that attack!
The French humanist Voltaire once said, “Another century and there will not be a Bible on the earth.” Two centuries have come and gone, and the circulation of the Bible is one of the marvels of the age. After Voltaire died, his old printing press and the very house where he lived was purchased by the Geneva Bible Society and made a depot for Bibles.
For thousands of years, the enemies of truth have sought to destroy the precious Word of God. Every attempt to do so has failed miserably as the Bible continues to be read and loved by millions of people.
III. SCRIPTURE HAS BEEN PRESERVED BY GOD’S PROVIDENCE
Despite the fact that God promised to preserve His Word and that He has exerted His divine power to preserve His Word, there still may be some doubt in a few minds about whether or not we have an accurate record of God’s inspiration in our hands today.
A. The authenticity of the Old Testament text has never really been appropriately questioned. The Jewish scribes were faithful copyists of the divine text. They actually had men whose only job was to count the letters in the copies. They counted the “jots and tittles” (Matt. 5:18) or the “little horns” that formed parts of the letters themselves. If the number of letters, jots, and tittles did not match the number in the original, the copy was destroyed! If there was even one error—no matter how small—in the text, the copy was destroyed, and the copyist started over. These Jewish scribes were so faithful to the Word of God. When they came to the name of God, they would wash themselves and get a new pen before they wrote God’s name. Then they would discard that pen and use another to proceed. Due to their meticulous care of and reverence for the Old Testament Scriptures, the Hebrew text, called the Masoretic text, has never been appropriately questioned.
B. The issue we face is more related to the New Testament. The question is this: Can we really say with confidence that we have a copy of the inspired Word of God? Ellen G. White says, “Every part of the Bible is given by inspiration of God and is profitable. The Old Testament no less than the New should receive attention.”1 She also says, “The Old Testament sheds light upon the New, and the New upon the Old. Each is a revelation of the glory of God in Christ. Christ, as manifested to the patriarchs, as symbolized in the sacrificial service, as portrayed in the law, and as revealed by the prophets, is the riches of the Old Testament.”2
I have merely scratched the surface of this matter of the preservation of the biblical text. However, I hope you are now confident that you hold in your hands, and hopefully in your hearts, the very Word of God.
I close with this question: Has God perfectly
preserved His Word to this day? All the evidence
says He has! Therefore, read your Bible with
1 Ellen G. White, Education, 191.
———, Counsels to Teachers, 462.
CORRECTION: Incorrect concepts were used in the sermon “The Perfection
of the Holy Scriptures” on page 15 in the July/September 2017
issue of Elder’s Digest. It was printed that there are no contradictions
in the Bible, that the words and not the writers are inspired, and that the
Bible is inerrant. The correct words are, The Bible is reliable and trustworthy.
In the center column, also, was included a quotation taken from
the book A Survey of Bible Doctrine by Charles C. Ryrie that reveals a
Protestant point of view, but it oversighted the Adventist point of view
previously published on pages 4-6 in the July/September 2016 issue of
Elder’s Digest in the article entitled, “Some Thoughts on the Inspiration
of the Bible,” by Dr. Gerhard Pfandl. He includes there a quotation taken
from the book Selected Messages, volume 1, p. 21, by Ellen G. White
that we want to reemphasize as the Adventist point of view sustained by
Elder’s Digest. Our apologies for this oversight.—Editor