I recently read a missionary letter where the man was telling how they want to make the Scriptures available to the people of the region he plans to work with in their own language. He said, “1 Peter 1:23 states, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” And Romans 10:17 states, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” In modern English, If you do not have the Bible (the Word of God), you cannot see people saved. WE WANT TO SEE PEOPLE SAVED!”
I know this man personally and there is no doubt that he has a heart for people and is concerned about their eternal destiny. My question for this post concerns his view of Scripture – How accurate is he?
We must recognize that we have developed the habit of reading our own definition into the words of Scripture. We take our “Christian jargon” and then read it back into the text. For this post, the specific instance I am speaking of would be the word, “word”. Like in the quotation above from my missionary friend. He quotes 1 Peter 1:23 and Romans 10:17 and then concludes this as biblical proof that people cannot be saved without the Bible. But is this correct? For example, in Acts 10 we have the account recorded for us where Peter went to Cornelius’ house and told them the good news of Jesus Christ. Verse 44 says “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.” Check the context of that… go ahead, grab your Bibles, I’ll wait. Back? Okay, now start at the beginning of the chapter. Read through verse 43 and stop for just a second… Notice how Peter spoke to Cornelius and all that were there. Verse 36 says that God sent a word to the children of Israel, preaching the god news of peace through Jesus Christ. Verse 44 says that the Holy Spirit fell on those who heard the word. This word of good news was not the New Testament as it had not yet been penned, It was the word of truth – the good news of Jesus Christ that they heard.
Let’s go back to the text of I Peter that my well meaning friend used. Remember the New Testament had not yet completely been penned, nor had it been compiled to where all could have it in a single unit. Peter tells us in verse 25 exactly what this imperishable, abiding, living word is. The interesting thing is he doesn’t tell us it is the Scriptures. Nope. The imperishable, living, abiding word of God that we are born again as a result of is the the good news (aka gospel) that was proclaimed to them. See, we often times forget that there was no New Testament at Pentecost when 3,000 people believed, the gospels were written after people had already been saved and were continuing to tell and re-tell the truth of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Books such as Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, etc were written because there were already Christians who needed instruction. These people were saved without a Bible in hand or being passed around.
It is not the Bible that makes salvation possible. A believer could go into the darkest, most secluded place, where people are illiterate and tell them the historical truth of Jesus’ life and all His works. He could call them to believe on The LORD and The Holy Spirit could move on them, just like we see happen in Antioch among the Gentiles in the book of Acts. The Bible records the events that happened, but the power is not in ink and paper. It is the message conveyed. The story it tells us is true and it is that truth that changes hearts. Historically, people were saved before the first gospel was ever penned, they were living in it! They saw Jesus, talked with Him, watched Him die and saw Him resurrected. It is not the written word that somehow magically saves us, it is the truth of the Gospel.
So as we clearly see in Scripture, one does not need Scripture to see people saved. To say otherwise is to make an idol out of the Scriptures, for it attributes power to a book that only resides in Jesus Christ. Jesus did not say all authority has been given to the Bible, He says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. ” In other words, In the word of God, “word of God” is not talking about the word of God, but the gospel. =)