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Jeremiah 36:21-26


Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it from the chamber of Elishama the secretary. And Jehudi read it to the king and all the officials who stood beside the king. It was the ninth month, and the king was sitting in the winter house, and there was a fire burning in the fire pot before him. As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot. Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments. Even when Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them. And the king commanded Jerahmeel the king's son and Seraiah the son of Azriel and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel to seize Baruch the secretary and Jeremiah the prophet, but the LORD hid them.



Deceiving and Being Deceived

Thursday of Lent 4

3 April 2014

There is but one touchstone of truth in the church: Holy Scripture. It is incapable of deceiving or being deceived. It is a strange statement to say that Scripture is not able to be deceived. Normally, only persons are said to be deceived, not books. Yet, Augustine of Hippo, a master rhetorician, pointedly used precisely these terms. Augustine attributes this to Scripture not because it seems a nice rhetorical flourish, but rather to testify to his belief that Scripture was the speech of God Himself; that in it there is only the truth. How different the modern take on Scripture is. It is not any longer the living word of the living God. It has become a historical artifact capable of all manner of personal re-interpretations. The Bible today is a book that is not only presumed to be full of untruths and deceptions, but more significantly, is able to be deceived when interpreters put it in the vice of their interpretive skills. This thinking has dribbled down into Christian practice in the churches today, through the penchant for asking those who study the Bible this question: "What does this passage mean to you?" It doesn't really matter what the Bible means, as long as it means something to me; in which case, we are telling the Bible what it means; deceiving the Word of God.


Augustine believes that the Christian has no choice but to concede the truth of Scripture. There can be no argument in which Scripture would suffer defeat, because it is the unfailing truth. It may not be manipulated by our polluted hands, which would use Scripture only to deceive. We must not contort its content and so attempt to deceive the text. This would be an attempt to deceive God Himself. The only contortions that could occur in the Christian use of Scripture is that it should reshape and remold us. We are bent and deceived. Scripture is not. It is the rule by which we are given the proper shape for the life that God wants us to have.


The Word of God has an independent authority. It is self-authenticating and does what it says. This is why it is incapable of "being deceived" in Augustine's pattern of thought. It must be that way, because, although God's Word can neither lie nor deceive, we ourselves are more than capable of lying and deceiving; our depravity is always sticking out from under the wig of our piety. God must correct our bent views, not merely for the sake of being right, which He always is, but for the sake of our salvation. Without this divine self-revelation we would never have the capacity to conceive of the divinely worked way of salvation in Christ, who is the atonement for our sins, and indeed for the sins of the world. What no one could conceive, God conceived in His living Word. All men are sinners and therefore are deceivers and the deceived. Only Holy Scripture is true. The truth of Scripture gives to us Him who is True.


Augustine of Hippo


"Let us give in and concede assent to the authority of Holy Scripture, which does not know how to be deceived or to deceive. Since we do not believe that the unborn have done any good or evil for raising a difference in their merits, so let us not doubt that all men are under sin, which came into the world by one man and has passed through unto all men; and from which nothing frees us but the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.


"His healing advent is needed by those who are sick, not by those who are well. For He came not to call the righteous, but sinners. Into His kingdom shall enter no one that is not born again of water and Spirit (Jn 3:5); nor shall anyone attain salvation and eternal life except in His kingdom, since the man who believes not in the Son and eats not His flesh shall not have life (Jn 6:53), but the wrath of God remains on him (Jn 3:36). Now from this sin, from this sickness, from this wrath of God (of which by nature they are children who have original sin, even if they have none of their own on account of their youth), no one delivers them, except the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29); except the Physician, who came not for the sake of the well, but of the sick; except the Savior, concerning whom it was said to the human race: 'Unto you there is born this day a Savior' (Lk 2:11); except the Redeemer, by whose blood our debt is blotted out. For who would dare to say that Christ is not the Savior and Redeemer of infants? But from what does He save them, if there is no malady of original sin within them? From what does He redeem them, if through their origin from the first man they are not sold under sin? Let there be then no eternal salvation promised to infants on the basis of our own opinion, without Christ's baptism; for no other salvation is promised in Holy Scripture, which is to be preferred to all human authority and opinion." 


Augustine, On the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins and Baptism of Infants, 1.33



Lord Jesus Christ, author and perfecter of our faith, we thank and praise You for continuing among us the preaching of Your Gospel for our instruction and edification. Send Your blessing upon the Word, which has been spoken to us, and by Your Holy Spirit increase our saving knowledge of You, that daily we might be strengthened in the divine truth and remain steadfast in Your grace. Give us strength to fight the good fight and by faith to overcome all the temptations of Satan, the flesh, and the world so that we finally receive the salvation of our souls; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


For Juanita Duffala, who is recovering from pneumonia, that the Lord would grant healing and a full recovery of strength


For Tom Cedel, who is undergoing therapy for Hodgkin's Lymphoma, that the Lord Jesus would send him strength and healing


For Luke George, that doctors and nurses would provide the proper therapies for his needs


For Tim Quill, who has undergone emergency surgery for an aneurysm, that he would recover fully and that those who rush to his bedside in Australia to be with him would be strengthened and encouraged by God's unchanging goodness

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)

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